Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Why does Clinton keep getting away with saying that gun manufacturers are the only industry in America that is immune from being held accountable for criminal acts by the purchasers of their products? Almost NO manufacturers are, by law, accountable for criminal acts by purchasers of their products. Someone should ask her to name one that is.

Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady Bill. Since it was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented. He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn’t complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America — everybody else has to be accountable but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say, “Enough of that.”

 Hillary Clinton, at Tuesday night’s debate

It was pretty straightforward that Sanders was going to vote to give immunity to gun manufacturers for crimes committed by purchasers of their guns.  It also, I assume, was pretty straightforward to her that no other industry is liable for crimes committed by customers using their products.  She does, after all, have a law degree from Yale, and practiced corporate law in Arkansas.

It also, of course, was straightforward to her that although most people do know that, she could make this statement, unchallenged, in a debate forum in answer to a question that she knew Sanders would have no opportunity to respond to, since she was being asked to respond to his answer to a question.  And she knew that, in the moment, it would sound correct to the public.*

But, folks, gun manufacturers are not the only industry in America — actually, almost nobody else has to be accountable.  Maybe in the next debate, the moderator will ask her to name, maybe, two or three manufacturing industries that are held liable for wrongful use of their products by customers.  Can’t wait to hear the answer.

This is, of course, a different issue than the one O’Malley mentioned: that gun shop owners and others who sell guns and ammunition are not held liable when they themselves commit acts of gross negligence by selling several guns and huge amounts of ammunition to a single person, or failing to conduct a background check before selling guns or ammunition to someone.  I believe that this is what O’Malley said occurred in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012.

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Why does Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan think liberals support bottlenecks for small business loans? And does Clinton REALLY think that if Corrections Corporation of America and its chief competitor (Marco Rubio’s tacit business partner, GEO) reduce their prices, mass incarceration should continue?

“People often talk about the electorate moving left,” said Clinton senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan. “I think it’s more that the electorate is just getting more practical. For Hillary Clinton, that matches her evidence-based approach. The arguments that persuade her are evidence-based and progressive.”

He cited the growing consensus that mass incarceration is expensive and unworkable, and that the country is never going to deport all of the more than 11 million people who are here illegally.…

Sullivan also noted that some of Clinton’s early proposals “cut against the grain” of political liberalism, such as her emphasis on improving the playing field for American small businesses.

Clinton will debut policy proposals to ease lending bottlenecks for small businesses on campaign trips to Iowa and New Hampshire this week. The impetus came largely from conversations Clinton had in the run-up to the campaign and a six-month policy review led by Sullivan that looked at how Clinton might address a variety of national concerns.

“The thing she is most interested in is not what position is most popular, it’s what do people worry about,” Sullivan said.

— Clinton is banking on the Obama coalition to win, Anne Gearan, The Washington Post, today

Hmmm.  Okay, Dems.  We need to realize that we’re in trouble.  No, we’re not gonna lose the general elgection.  But our likely standard bearer thinks she’s boldly challenging her party’s base, Sister-Soulja-style, by emphasizing improving the playing field for American small businesses.  As against, say, Walmart. And JPMorgan Chase’s investment banking clients.

I mean … like … Wow.

So Clinton, or at least her senior policy adviser, has never heard of the Durbin Amendment.  Or else thinks that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is a Republican.  Or maybe a centrist Democrat rather than a very liberal one.  And that Clinton, who her campaign chairman, John Podesta, elsewhere in the article assures that “[s]he’s a proud wonk, and she looks at policy from that perspective,” thinks liberals were up in arms back in early 2010 at the idea that the federal government would interject itself into the by-then-long-running controversy between the credit card/ATM card companies and small retailers (including franchisees such as gas station owners) about the usurious charges that Visa and Mastercard were charging businesses for processing even very small purchases by their customers.

Apparently neither one of them had causal conversations with the three or four small business owners in the Ann Arbor, Mich. area that I happened to chat about it with back in, oh, 2009, 2009, 2010.  Including one I remember, the owner of an independent dollar store, who said that while Walmart could afford the charge for processing small credit/ATM card purchases, those charges cut significant into his profit.  And I guess neither one of them—Clinton nor her senior policy adviser—ever drove, back then, say, north on Pontiac Rd. from Ann Arbor and noticed the family-owned gas stations with signs highlighting the $.10-per-gallon, and then occasionally the $.20-per-gallon, discount for paying in cash.  That’s too bad.  But then, although it’s now lost in memory, Michigan had no Democratic primary in 2008 that year, because of a controversy concerning the state Dem Party’s decision to try to move its primary ahead of New Hampshire’s.  (Something like that; I can’t remember the details.)  So Clinton didn’t campaign in the state, and her current senior policy adviser, who had a high position in her 2008 campaign, would not have visited the state either.

Nor, obviously, are Clinton and her senior policy adviser aware of Paul Krugman’s columns and blog posts explaining the tremendous edge that the mega-banks, which no longer deign to actually make business loans to small businesses because, well, they’re doing just fine with their hedge fund and investment banking operations (I mean, well, usually they are), have over regional or local banks that do so deign.  And since they’re getting their take on liberals from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, they also apparently don’t know that Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Jeff Merkley have used their positions on the Senate Banking Committee to try to enact legislation to break up the mega-banks by prohibiting banks that have standard so-called retail banking operations from engaging also in hedge fund and investment banking functions.  Which Clinton, wonk that she is, would understand would itself make it easier for the banks that would be operating as, y’know, banks to make loans, on decent terms, to small businesses.

Maybe Clinton and her senior policy adviser think Krugman and those three senators and, say, Durbin and Bernie Sanders, are Tea Party members.  Or centrists.  Or maybe they know of other liberals who are demanding justice for JPMorgan Chase and Citibank.

Or maybe they should get out more among, say, real live liberals.

For that matter, they also should get out more among moderates.  Most of whom, probably, think this country’s three-decades-long mass-incarceration policies raise profound concerns beyond the exorbitant direct expenditures, many of whom, probably, would question Clinton’s basic judgment if they knew that she thinks state governments should just drive a harder bargain with Marco Rubio’s tacit business partner, GEO, and its main competitor, Corrections Corporation of America—both of which, it turns out, have contracts with state and county governments in which the governments promise to keep the prisons or jails at or near capacity, or pay the corporations for the empty beds.  I mean, cots.

Both Clinton and her senior policy adviser hold law degrees from Yale.  So, who knows? It might even occur to one or the other to suggest that such contracts constitute wholesale violations of Fourteenth Amendment due process guarantees. And state constitutions’ separation-of-powers structure.  Perhaps Samuel Alito, who is deeply concerned about the constitutionality of public-employee unions’ very existence because of unions’ power to determine such things as the size of state government, can assist with legal theory.  Maybe they could ask him for suggestions.

I mean, they’re wonks, right?  How else would they know that mass incarceration is expensive?

And if Clinton doesn’t inform the public of that fact, they won’t know that fact.  luckily, she plans to tell the public, and support this assertion with detailed information about the math formula she used to discern that fact. And really, it is a fact.  Mass incarceration is very expensive. And that money could be used for … other things.  Good thing she’s a practical wonk.

But back to the nitty-gritty of using us liberals as foils to assure moderates that she’s not really so liberal even now, what with her cutting against the liberal grain of proposing to end bottlenecks to small-business loans, and all.  I will oblige her, and have my brick ready to throw through the window of a neighborhood Thai restaurant nearby that plans to expand after it gets a new loan.

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The ‘Brook Hill Dog’ Lithograph–With Update (albeit not on the subject of the original post)

Some of AB’s regular readers might have picked up on the fact that I’m obsessed with animal rescue.  (Dan Crawford sure has!)  And since AB is mostly an economics/fiscal-policy blog, it probably has readers who buy art and antiques.

Soooo …. I thought I’d pass this along.  The key sentence is near the end of the article: “The ‘Brook Hill Dog’ print will be auctioned on eBay from April 3rd to April 10th by Braden River Antiques.”

And let’s hear it for Maureen Flaherty of Summerfield, Florida!

—-

UPDATE: Well, what I thought would be a sweet little post about a generous woman and animal rescue took a decidedly political turn in the Comments thread to the post, in the following comments:

Little John

March 31, 2015 5:33 pm

Would it be a cheap shot to ask you if this is an example of Southern-Brutality Culture?

Bruce Webb

April 1, 2015 2:35 am

Little John it is a picture of a dog looking through a hole in a fence. Or maybe half poking through that fence. I don’t think the implication is that somebody JAMMED the dog THROUGH that fence.

Then again people who know tell me I have little sense of humor.

Little John

April 1, 2015 10:21 am

Bruce you didn’t get the joke. Recently Ms. Mann had a post about an episode of animal abuse in Florida that she believed was emblematic of “Southern Brutality Culture”. But this post contradicts her stereotype of “Southern Brutality Culture”.

Bruce Webb

April 1, 2015 11:30 am

Well in all seriousness it doesn’t do that at all.

There would be nothing odd in knowing that some afficianado of dog fighting or cock fighting or bull baiting or fox hunting also loved their own horses and dogs. In fact that is more typical than not, I would suspect that most participants in ‘field sports’ are at least dog lovers.

This picture even in that context is about as ironic as one of Hitler giving candy to and accepting a flower from a little girl. In fact the very ability to separate pets from blood sport dogs in ones own mind is what is disturbing. No wonder I didn’t get the joke.

Beverly Mann

April 1, 2015 12:09 pm

Little John, my post about Southern Brutality Culture referred to a particular strain of Southern culture, not to all Southerners. People in other parts of the country don’t go around hanging black men, and never did, but it was commonplace in the Deep South for many decades and still occurs albeit rarely.

The woman who bought the lithograph lives in the Tampa Bay area and well may not be originally from the South. But obviously many, many people who are from the South are not part of the Brutality Culture. I know of a wonderful animal rescue organization based in a small, rural, very Republican north Florida county. I also know a woman in her late 40s who has lived her entire life in north central Florida and who until about a week ago, when one of her dogs died, had two rescue dogs and a rescue cat. The dog who died was elderly and had had a hugely enlarged mammary gland that this woman, who is decidedly non-upscale, could not pay to have surgically removed. The doggie always wore a coat in chilly weather and was carried from place to place when she couldn’t walk from, say, the curb back to her house, and was regularly petted and kissed. This woman’s other rescues are treated lovingly as well. Nor would this woman be caught dead harming animals, at all.

But there’s no question at all that a particular strain of Southern culture is in-your-face brutal, and that strain has gained control of the Republican Party, whose primary purpose is to destroy the social safety net. As Scott Walker demonstrates, it’s not limited to the South, but it does spring from a John Birch, KKK culture imported from the Deep South. Killing the social safety net is not an obsession that a majority of Americans, or, as the 47% thing showed, a majority of American voters in presidential elections, harbor, so I doubt that a Republican will be elected president any time soon. But most of the electoral votes that the Republican nominee will garner will be from the South.

Little John

April 1, 2015 3:55 pm

Yes it does Bruce. Go read her post. In that post she paints the South as a racist, violent, abusive place. There aren’t any qualifications regarding particular “strains” as she tries to explain in her recent comment. And there is no qualification that Southerners could actually love their pets but still love to hunt for example. The post is very black and white. Maybe I am being too literal but I thought words mattered.

As to Ms. Mann’s assertion that other parts of the country didn’t hang black people, well that’s patently false. And to say that the John Birch Society was imported from the South is also completely inaccurate. As for saying that Republicans primary purpose is “destroying the social safety net”, well that’s as ignorant as blanket statements about the South. I actually know some Republicans. They don’t want to destroy the social safety net. Of course they aren’t the entire GOP so maybe they are outliers.

Beverly Mann

April 1, 2015 4:44 pm

The John Birch Society was not founded in the South, and I did not mean to suggest that it was. It was, at least in the Midwest, where I grew up, well known to be virulently racist in the manner of the KKK (but without the physical assaults), and just as virulently anti-Semitic (as in, No dogs or Jews allowed). Its culture, again at least in the Midwest, was in essence a Southern transplant. It was very big in rural Indiana, for example, which has a large population of people whose family roots were in Kentucky and Tennessee.

And while I’m sure lynchings of black men weren’t unheard of in rural areas outside the South, it wasn’t anything remotely like accepted practice anywhere outside the states that comprised the Confederacy.

You do make an interesting point, though, when you say that Republicans you know don’t want to destroy the social safety net. That doesn’t surprise me; that seems to be an obsession of a small percentage of very active Republicans who, clearly, have gained a stranglehold on their party.

I read a day or two ago that Walker’s plan is to appeal to white men, some of them in key non-Southern states—Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania—where many, many white men have deep ties to labor.  Since Walker’s cri de coeurs are destroy labor and kill the social safety net, he apparently plans to gain the delegates he needs to win almost entirely in the South.  I don’t think Iowa has a lot of delegates, and most whites who are supportive of labor unions aren’t all that cray about the kill-the-social-safety-net thing, or at least don’t place a priority on it.  This positively awesome issues combo didn’t work all that well for Mitt Romney in the general election in those states, or even for him in the primaries in those states, if I recall correctly.  And four years later, more millennials and substantially fewer Reagan worshippers will be voting.  It isn’t the ‘80s any ore, although huge swaths of the Republican Party haven’t noticed.

Meanwhile, about two weeks ago Jeb Bush suggested to an interviewer that he does not support the federal minimum wage.  When this piqued the interest among political journalists (barely, but enough for him to realize that he needed to clarify, i.e., backtrack on this), Bush issued a statement explaining that he’s okay with the federal minimum wage as long as it’s never raised.  Seriously; that’s what he said.  I checked Wikipedia to see what the original Fair Labor Standards Act, enacted in 1938, had set as the minimum wage.  It was $.25.  I planned to post a post here at AB titled “Jeb Bush Says the Minimum Wage Should be $.25.  Seriously.”  Which I had done that, but I didn’t get around to it. Good thing its walker and not Bush who plans to appeal to white men.  Not all white men are the Koch brothers or Art Pope.

I don’t see how these people expect to actually win the general election. Sure, as Paul Krugman noted in his column yesterday, most of the public has no actual idea of critical facts about critical policy, because no one (e.g., our president) deigns to disabuse the public of the incessant false claims of fact about … well … not just the cost of Obamacare but about, like, most economic and fiscal policy.  And, yes, prominent and highly respected political journalists from major news outlets publish puff-piece articles about interviews they just had with, say, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, in which the interview subject generically—but only generically—trashes Democratic fiscal and regulatory policy as, um, causing the spiraling inequality, but doesn’t pause during the interview to, y’know, ask the subject, say, what specific regulations and fiscal policies he has in mind how exactly this causes increased inequality.

But we are heading into a presidential campaign in which progressive groups will be presenting television and web ads that will educate the public about what these Republican candidates have said and done. The candidates’ goal of destruction of collective bargaining, and their thoughts about the concept of a federal minimum wage might even be subjects of a few of the ads.  I mean, like, y’never know.  And some of this information might even make it to the television and computer screens of white men.  In Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And, who knows, maybe elsewhere as well.

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Why are so many Dem-leaning pundits so profoundly clueless? [Updated.]

Today, Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who has been talking about challenging Clinton from the left, was repeatedly asked by reporters to comment on Clinton’s emails, and he repeatedly refused. Not because he doesn’t think there are legitimate questions here, but because his advisers say raising them might reflect badly on him:

“His advisers say there’s no benefit to him criticizing Clinton at this point. She’s already on the defensive, they reason, and die-hard Democrats are likely to be turned off if O’Malley sounds too much like Clindeiton’s Republican critics.”

Well, I hope that isn’t the real rationale. I suspect most Democratic voters and activists want to hear a spirited debate about Clinton’s emails; in fact, such a debate among Democrats could be more illuminating than whatever results from Republican criticism of her over it, which is likely to be polluted by overreach.

Maybe it’s time for a real Democratic presidential primary, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today

Of course!  I’ve been dying to hear a spirited debate about Clinton’s emails! Because there’s obviously a lot of room for disagreement on whether or not it was a good idea for Clinton to set up a separate, private email server and commingle all her personal emails about her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral with her State Department-related emails.  And because this is, unquestionably, the issue I care most about.

So please, Mr. O’Malley, keep me and all of us Dems in suspense no longer: Would you, as president, require your Secretary of State to use the State Department email system for State Department-related emails?  And if not, would you require that your Secretary of State comply with the Federal Records Act and related laws?

Such a debate among Democrats absolutely could be more illuminating than whatever results from Republican criticism of Clinton over it.  Which obviously is saying quite a lot.

Yup.

Last weekend, O’Malley appeared at some Dem functions in New Hampshire and discussed the types of issues that Elizabeth Warren talks about, and even the types of issues that Paul Krugman talks about—and deigned to allude to the latest actions by Scott Walker and economic-policy statements from Jeb Bush.  Reading some of the specifics of his comments, I was delighted.  And I assumed that most Dems would be, too.  Maybe we’ll start gaining some traction on these things, instead of constantly having to settle for more Clinton silliness and more Clinton banalities, clichés and hints about the approximate month of her formal announcement, I thought.  Hurray! Hurray!

Then I read that some New Hampshire state senator and a few other attendees at one or another of the functions was disappointed that O’Malley effectively demurred when asked to comment on the Clinton email mess.  If he’s going to run, he has to comment on what the big issue of the moment is, the state senator said.

Which sure seems right if the big issue of the moment is, say, a substantivepolicy issue.  But best as I can tell, email policy for federal officials isn’t, really.

Then there was Dana Milbank’s comment a few days ago comparing O’Malley with the tooth fairy.  Or, more precisely, comparing people who think O’Malley could beat Clinton for the nomination with people who believe in the tooth fairy.  And this evening he has a more detailed follow-up, the thrust of which is that O’Malley was just a governor and, before that, mayor of Baltimore.  As opposed to, say, Scott Walker, who is a governor and was, before that, a County Executive.  And as opposed to, say, Jeb Bush, who was a governor and, before that, a president’s son.

I certainly get that only the Republican Party is entitled to nominate such folks for president. Which, of course, they did, in 2012.  Minus the big-city-mayor/big-county-executive part.  I’m not sure what percentage of the public outside of Wisconsin knew anything about Walker until two months ago, but many more people sure do now. For better or for worse, but that’s beside the point.  Walker didn’t have to compete for the media’s notice with someone whom the press has been obsessed with for a quarter-century—the members of the press, that is, who were covering politics in the ‘90s.  Or who followed stuff like that when they were in elementary school.

But O’Malley does have to compete for the media’s attention with Hillary Clinton.  A political media, that is, whose members apparently almost universally believe that the minimum voting age is 42.  And so competing, it appears, is impossible.

I keep reading political commentary that “we” all have already made up our minds about Hillary Clinton. Each of us either loves her or hates her, having decided which one all the way back in the ‘90s.  When some of “us” were in the primary grades in school and others of “us” were adolescents or teenagers. And when a small percentage of “us” were still in diapers.

But some of us do remember the ‘90s, if not all the specifics.  I speak as someone who does remember ‘90s politics, but who had forgotten such specifics as that Clinton said during her “pink sweater” press conference in 1994 that she had thought that her husband’s and her own unusual financial pursuits that depended upon friendships and connections during her husband’s terms as governor should have been viewed as within a privacy zone.  She couldn’t distinguish then between land development deals and cattle-futures trading, on the one hand, and buying, say, Vanguard Index Fund shares, on the other.  And so her law firm’s billing records for the Whitewater land deal (or whatever) remained hidden for two years in a White House closet until things got wackily out-of-hand, politically.

What I, unlike Sargent, suspect is that most Democratic voters and activists want to hear a spirited debate about the subjects that we actually care about. Including a spirited response to Scott Walker’s and Jeb Bush’s economic’fiscal/regulatory policy positions and their counterfactual justifications for them, and Paul Ryan’s ahistorical claims about supply side economics, financial industry regulations, and federal budget deficits in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Some discussion of what’s happening with, say, Kansas’s budget and economic growth, and maybe even Wisconsin’s, and Europe’s—and why—would be very, very welcome.

There are only two reasons why most of us want a meaningful primary debate, forced by a meaningful candidacy—and neither of those reasons is to make Hillary Clinton a stronger candidate.  One reason is to have the option to vote for a genuine economic-policy progressive.  The other is to enable our party to actually put forward the arguments for progressive economic policy, and that means ending the constant focus on this silly woman, her huge “circle,” her incessant calculations and decisions-by-committee about absolutely everything, and waiting for the next shoe (and the next, and the next) to drop.

The very, very, very, very last thing most Democrats want is a spirited debate about Clinton’s emails.  We don’t want to debate Clinton’s emails.  We want to debate actual substantive-policy issues, especially but not solely economic/fiscal/regulatory policy issues.  Government email policy isn’t on our list.  If Warren were planning to run, would anyone claim that she needed to take a break from those economic-policy/bank-deregulation/policy-of-by-and-for-the-mega-campaign-donors things and talk about the more important issue of government officials’ email-procedure?  Really?

Look. Hillary Clinton should not run for president.  Her life, her husband’s life, her family’s foundation’s life, all are too complicated for her to be able even to concentrate on serious, specific policy issues other than the women’s-movement issues whose clichés she cites, mantra-like, and has for the past 40-plus years.  These are by no means trivial issues.  They are, though, by no means what most people think should be the end-all-and-be-all of the Democratic nominee’s concerns.

I myself agree with Bill Clinton’s comments a few days ago that, on balance, their family’s foundation has done more good than harm—thanks in large part to Chelsea Clinton’s efforts to make the foundation into what it should be: something far more important than just a Bill and Hillary Clinton ad and a well-paying landing place for their many hangers-on.  Hillary Clinton should put her time and effort into furthering the meaningful goals of that organization, and wind up her career with something truly special. She should not impose so upon those who need to have this election be about what it should be about. Which is to say, about things more important than her.

I can assure Dana Milbank, and Martin O’Malley, that I don’t believe in the tooth fairy.  Even though Clinton will of course run.

—-

UPDATE:

Probing, persistent questions like these from the political press corps at Tuesday’s news conference are the sort that rival candidates would be expected to ask on the campaign trail or in televised debates, as Barack Obama did against Mrs. Clinton in 2007 and 2008 over the Iraq war and other issues.

Unlike then, however, Mrs. Clinton is not expected to face comparably aggressive opponents for her party’s nomination. Among the possible Democratic field, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland has shown little taste for cutthroat tactics.

Early in 2016 Race, Clinton’s Toughest Foe Appears to be the News Media, Patrick Healy, New York Times, today

Uh-huh.  Can’t beat Clinton unless you use cutthroat tactics.  Talking just about economic-policy/bank-regulation/big-money-dictating-policy issues hasn’t worked well at all for Elizabeth Warren.  Which is why, much as a huge swath of Democrats cares deeply about those issues, there’s no movement to draft Warren to run for the nomination, and why no one pays attention when she speaks, right? She doesn’t use cutthroat tactics against Clinton, instead using cutthroat tactics only against the Republicans.

Mr. Healy, talking about economic-policy/bank-regulation/big-money-dictating-policy is a cutthroat tactic. It’s just that the political-news media hasn’t noticed.

Updated 3/12 at 12:12 p.m.

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Scott Brown Solves the Mystery of What All Those Mega-Corporations Are Doing With Their Record Profits

They’re spending it on lawyers!

I’m not kidding.  Brown told a 27-year-old Fidelity Investments retirement specialist that big corporations can’t afford to hire people because they’re spending so much money on lawyers.  Which they have to do because of all those regulations.  Which is why he wants to “loosen regulations on big companies”: “So they could spend more money on hiring instead of on lawyers.”

And to think that I thought he wants to loosen regulations on big companies because the owners of one of the biggest companies of all—Koch Industries, which can afford to hire as many people as it wants, despite its big attorneys’ fees—wants loosened regulations and is spending huge sums of money to buy his election.  Silly me.

Obviously, I’m wrong about that, because the 27-year-old Fidelity Investments retirement specialist—her name is Erin Henson—accepted this and now plans to vote for Brown.

Although there also is another reason she’s decided to vote for him.  His opponent, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, has been highlighting her support for small businesses.  “Her ads show her walking around Main Street, America — that means nothing to me,” Henson told Associated Press reporter Holly Ramer, who’s in New Hampshire covering the race.  “I don’t think small businesses are going to be the wave of the future for people of my generation. I think she’s a little too focused on the little guy, and I’m not the little guy.”

No, she’s not the little guy. But her clients will be if they don’t change financial advisers, since their current one doesn’t keep up with corporate-profits news.  And if her supervisors at Fidelity read the AP article and realize that she’s clueless about current corporate profits and about what big corporations do with those profits, she might soon become a little guy herself.

Unless, of course, Paul Krugman’s been pulling my leg.

Shaheen should point this out.  If Brown isn’t aware that U.S. corporations are seeing record profits, and if he actually believes that the reason that companies aren’t hiring more than they are is that their regulatory lawyers’ fees are so high, he’s probably not someone most people would want in the U.S. Senate.  I mean, what if he becomes chairman of the Banking Committee or the Finance Committee?

Then again, Ms. Henson’s a Fidelity Investments retirement specialist, and she thinks Brown is onto something.  Although on second thought, I’m guessing that if Brown wins, Henson plans to recommend that her clients invest in those derivatives that bet against the stock market.

____

ADDENDUM: Does anyone know how to reach someone high up in Shaheen’s campaign or in the DSCC?  I saw Ramer’s report on Yahoo News yesterday; it’s my opening page on Chrome.  But it certainly wasn’t a big political story–I just happened to catch it—and neither the Shaheen campaign nor the DSCC may be aware of Brown’s comments.  But this is exactly the kind of thing that the voting public should be told of, because it really does get into the essence of public policy.

So, please, if anyone knows how to reach someone high up at the Shaheen campaign or at the DSCC, and cares about the outcome of the Senate elections: Can you contact whoever and pass along the link to my post here?  Even reaching someone important in Harry Reid’s office might work.

Political pundits, our-side economists … anyone who can reach someone, directly, who matters ….

I mean it.

Thanks!

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The Confidence Fairy v. John Roberts (circa Apr. 2, 2014)

UPDATE: Wow. That tree limb I walked far out onto in my post below turned out to be sturdy after all.  A postscript is added below.

Update posted 10/9 at 10:45 p.m.

____

There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. Citizens can exercise that right in a variety of ways: They can run for office themselves, vote, urge others to vote for a particular candidate, volunteer to work on a campaign, and contribute to a candidate’s campaign. This case is about the last of those options.

The right to participate in democracy through political contributions is protected by the First Amendment, but that right is not absolute. Our cases have held that Congress may regulate campaign contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. See, e.g., Buckley v. Valeo424 U. S. 1, 26-27 (1976) (per curiam). At the same time, we have made clear that Congress may not regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others. See, e.g., Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, 564 U. S. ___, ___ (2011) (slip op., at 24-25).

McCutcheon v. FEC, Chief Justice John Roberts, Apr. 2, 2014

Thus did the Supreme Court hold, finally and unequivocally, that the right to vote is a fundamental one guaranteed to American citizens who have attained the age of 18, as prescribed in the Twenty-sixth Amendment.

Which is nice, because although the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-sixth amendments to the Constitution refer to “the right” of citizens “to vote,” and appear to presume that that right is one conferred by the Constitution rather than by, say, your county’s elections commission or even your state’s legislature, Justice Scalia began claiming well more than a decade ago that no such constitutional right exists, because, he says, “we” (meaning a majority of justices in a single case) have never pronounced the franchise a constitutional right.  Scalia first asserted this publicly in late 2002, during argument in Bush v. Gore, and has reiterated it occasionally through the years in speeches and interviews.  His effort bore fresh fruit in June 2013, in a case called Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, when he and four of his colleagues formally adopted that pronouncement as a prerequisite to their voiding a key section of the Voting Rights Act in that opinion.  See, longstanding Supreme Court jurisprudence holds that under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, states can’t infringe upon the constitutional rights of individuals—at least if the Supreme Court has pronounced the constitutional right at issue a “fundamental” one—unless the infringement passes a rigorous test known as “strict scrutiny.”

The beauties of “strict scrutiny” scrutiny are that the infringement must serve a compelling governmental interest and must be as narrowly tailored so as to infringe no further than necessary to accomplish that purpose.  And the government bears the burden of identifying a particularized harm and a compelling governmental interest in addressing it, and in establishing that the remedy instituted is the narrowest possible and does not infringe on rights that are not necessary to address the compelling interest. Normally—i.e., at least until now—that has required the state to provide, in response to a court challenge, some actual evidence of a particularized harm, as well as a compelling governmental interest in addressing that, and show that the remedy instituted is the narrowest possible and does not infringe on rights that are not necessary to address the compelling interest.

Not all constitutional rights are “fundamental.”  Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute explains:

Fundamental rights are a group of rights that have been recognized by the Supreme Court as requiring a high degree of protection from government encroachment.  These rights are specifically identified in the Constitution (especially in the Bill of Rights), or have been found under Due Process.  Laws limiting these rights generally must pass strict scrutiny to be upheld as constitutional.  Examples of fundamental rights not specifically listed in the Constitution include the right to marry and the right to privacy, which includes a right to contraception and the right to interstate travel.

That’s a bit out-of-date, of course, because these days a fundamental right is one that Justice Kennedy says is one, and Kennedy has repeatedly made clear that he believes that states have a constitutional right to violate individuals’ constitutional rights, including Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights, since states are people, my friend, although there are certain exceptions to that, such as, well, state-law restrictions on campaign financing.

Rights that the Supreme Court has not pronounced fundamental may be infringed if the government has a “legitimate governmental interest” in furthering; i.e., if there is a “rational basis” for the infringement.  And it is the statute’s or policy’s challenger who bears the burden of showing the absence of any rational basis.  Good luck.  That explains, somewhat, what happened in Crawford, which enunciated a sort of middle-between-rational-basis-and-strict-scrutiny standard, and presumptively kept the burden of proof on the challengers.  But Kennedy has now said, by signing onto the opinion in McCutcheon written by Roberts—who has changed his mind since he wrote that opinion in Shelby County in June 2013—that the franchise is, after all, a constitutional right accorded to human individuals.  It’s a basic right—one to which there is no right more basic.  It is, in other words, at least presumably, a fundamental right.  And infringements of that right are subject to strict scrutiny.

Which means that the states that have enacted voter ID laws that will disenfranchise citizens within that state, at least in the upcoming election because of the chaos created by (very) late court orders—say, court orders issued only a few weeks before the November election, lifting lower-court injunctions that had barred enforcement of the statute in that election—must, in light of McCutcheon, meet the burdens of strict-scrutiny analysis.

Or they would, if only the challengers—including the ones currently challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law, in a case called Frank v. Walkerwould this point out: McCutcheon, as well as Citizens United v. FEC, the Kennedy-authored opinion which McCutcheon parleyed, both were issued after Crawford v. Marion County, Ind.

Crawford is the 2008 Supreme Court opinion upon which these states—and exactly half the members of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court for Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin—base their claim that voter ID statutes pass constitutional muster.  At issue in Frank is the constitutionality of the Wisconsin voter ID law that Gov. Scott Walker pushed through the state’s legislature roughly three minutes after he and the newly-elected Republican legislative majorities were sworn into office in January 2011.

Monday’s opinion in Frank was issued by the three judge appellate panel originally assigned to the case, and was the culmination of an unusual month-long procedural odyssey that included an oral argument to that panel on Sept. 12 and a three-paragraph emergency order issued by that panel late that day dissolving a stay of enforcement of the statute that was put in place several months earlier by a federal trial judge in Madison.  The order said that a full opinion would be forthcoming.  But before that opinion came forth, the statute’s challengers filed what’s known as an en banc petition—a petition asking that the panel’s order be dissolved and that that appellate court’s full membership of 10 judges hear the case.  That petition was denied on Sept. 30, on an even-split vote. Last Thursday, the statute’s challengers filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court requesting a stay of the appellate court’s order lifting the stay.

The identified author of Monday’s opinion is a Reagan appointee and Federalist Society leading light who reportedly was recommended to Reagan White House Counsel Edwin Meese by Antonin Scalia. His two concurring panel colleagues areGeorge W. Bush appointees.  Walker’s in a very close reelection bid—a bid in which the polls following the final ruling by the full Seventh Circuit Court late last month began showing him pulling ahead.  The “likely voter” pool now is limited to people who already have a statutorily-approved photo ID or the documents necessary to obtain one.  No one born in a rural home in Mississippi during the Great Depression need apply for a ballot.  Especially if that person is, say, black and no longer drives or never did.

Nor travels to Canada.  Which not all Wisconsinites do–the state’s proximity to the border notwithstanding.  Although that surely is what the opinion’s author had in mind when he noted in the opinion that a special state-issued photo ID or a passport is needed, to travel to Canada and return to the United States. (He also might have had in mind the need to rush the opinion out in light of the challengers’ Supreme Court filing of that emergency petition for stay of the ruling last Thursday, although that’s just a guess.) But in case the reference in his opinion to the need for a state- or federal-government-issued-photo-ID-to-visit-Canada point doesn’t nail it for his side, that judge also said you need a state-issued photo ID to board an airplane.

Which you don’t, in this country, although many elderly people born in the rural South and now living in Wisconsin are known to vacation regularly in Israel, so maybe that’s what he has in mind.  He also wrote that you need a state-issued photo ID to pick up a pharmaceutical prescription at your neighborhood pharmacy, which also is not accurate, although you probably do need some form of ID in order to pick up a prescription for narcotic pain killers and certain psychotropic drugs.

I’ll refrain from jokes about which of the latter this judge uses, and whether he needs a change in medication, since mental illness is not funny.

To me, the opinion has the feel of desperation to justify its result, and although it seems throughout most of it to be leading inexorably toward one particular justification—the one that the credited author advanced at oral argument, if a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter’s account is accurate (I haven not read the argument transcript)—it ultimately rests for its justification on another, somewhat contradictory one. In his report on the argument, published online shortly after the argument’s conclusion, Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley quoted the Scalia-protégé judge as saying, “He took evidence and found the Supreme Court was wrong!”  The “He” is District Judge Lynn Adelman, a liberal Clinton appointee and the trial judge who had issued the injunction.  The exclamation mark is mine; I added it.  The problem is that Crawford did not find voter ID statutes constitutional irrespective of the evidence presented to a trial court showing a resulting disenfranchisement of citizens qualified to vote.  Three justices—Scalia, Thomas and Alito—in a concurring opinion written by Scalia, urged that result, but the remaining justices, including the majority opinion’s author, explicitly rejected it.

Okay, so this federal appellate judge of nearly three-decades’ duration, this a leading intellectual light of the Conservative Legal Movement, thinks a largely evidence-based Supreme Court ruling is a categorical law-based preclusion of later evidence-based trials invoking the same legal issues.  We’ll take his word for that.  (Actually, I do.)

But apparently sometime in the hours after the Sept. 12 oral argument, the Scalia protégé’s two Republican panel members pointed that out.  Late that day, the panel issued an emergency three-paragraph order lifting the stay and allowing the voter ID law to be implemented for the November election. But the order relied entirely upon a fact.  A new fact, in fact—one that occurred after Adelman had issued his stay: The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a ruling on July 31, 2014, in another case, Milwaukee Branch of NAACP v. Walker,* had effectively altered the statute to require that the state assist people, financially and logistically, to obtain the necessary documentation and the state ID. This could not be accomplished by November, but, in what appears to be in direct contravention of a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Purcell v. Gonzalez, that prohibits major changes to voter registration and voting requirements and procedures shortly before an election, the federal appellate panel lifted the stay.

That order did not mention Purcell nor the issue of shortness of time.  Crawford must be rigidly interpreted rigidly, see, but Purcell need not be interpreted at all, or even mentioned.  But the full opinion issued Monday, of necessity, did.  The emergency order had been roundly pilloried for casually lifting the stay without addressing the issue of the proximity to the November election, and the challenger’s emergency petition to the Supreme Court of course dealt at length with this issue.  The panel’s answer: Forget that legal challenges to the statute have been ongoing almost since the statute was enacted in 2011.  And forget that the Wisconsin Supreme Court had effectively amended the statute in July, less than four months before the election, to require that the state take certain actions that could not even conceivably be completed before the election. The statute was enacted more than three years ago, for heaven’s sake!  That was plenty of time to “scrounge”—the Scalia protégé’s word; seriously—up out-of-state or foreign birth certificates (including the money to pay for them) and the ride over to the nearest DMV.

Sometimes, it takes much less time than three years to scrounge up something you really need, or really want.  A mere four weeks after floating that “He took evidence and found the Supreme Court was wrong!” trial balloon, and after seeming in paragraph after paragraph to revive it in the final opinion, this judge (apparently with assistance from his panel colleagues) was able to scrounge up a new excuse: what matters is voter confidence in the integrity of elections.  Or what my idol Paul Krugman would call … the Confidence Fairy.

Sure, there’s no actual evidence of voter-impersonation fraud in Wisconsin.  But some Wisconsin citizens believe there is rampant voter-impersonation fraud in Wisconsin.  And that belief undermines their confidence in the integrity of the electoral process, and might dissuade them from voting.

But McCutcheon holds expressly that belief alone cannot justify upholding the statute that infringes upon political speech.  Which is what McCutcheon says voting is. McCutcheon pancakes what formerly had been two separate, and separately protected, concepts: actual corruption and the appearance of corruption, both of which the Court had held throughout the preceding 40 years or so justify statutory restrictions on campaign donations. McCutcheon holds that only actual corruption can create the appearance of it.  A Supreme Court ruling that nonetheless permits state voter ID laws to infringe upon the right to vote, absent a showing by the state that voter-impersonation fraud exists and objectively—i.e., actually—undermines the integrity of elections, would be beyond-the-pale partisan manipulation by a bare majority of the Court.  Which is not to say that that’s not a possibility. It is a possibility.  But I’ll come close to very edge of the tree limb I’m on and predict that the Court will stay the Wisconsin statute until after the November election.  Luckily, my healthcare insurance policy covers orthopedic surgery to repair broken bones.

Crawford’s six-justice majority noted that the State of Indiana had failed to produce evidence of voter-impersonation fraud, and no one (to my knowledge) has disputed the accuracy of the Court’s claim. That’s probably because apparently no evidence existed.  The outcome in Crawford relied instead upon a claim the unfounded belief among some voters that voter-impersonation fraud is rampant is itself the justification for upholding the voter ID statutes, because these people lose faith in the legitimacy of the voting process and consequently may decide not to vote.  The state has a legitimate interest in encouraging voting.  Ergo, the belief itself sufficed as justification for the Court to uphold the statute.  In 2008, the Supreme Court had not yet pronounced the right a fundamental constitutional right.

Now, six years after Crawford, there are, according to an apparently thorough recent research, exactly 31 documented instances of voter-impersonation fraud.  In other words, for Wisconsin, North Carolina, and other Tea Party-captured state governments, it’s the Confidence Fairy or bust.  And McCutcheon, at least taken at face value, indicates a bust.

McCutcheon does not clarify whether the right to vote is a basic constitutional right independent of the First Amendment’s speech clause or instead is a basic constitutional right emanating from the First Amendment’s speech clause.  But that doesn’t matter. Voting is speech.  Y’know, just like giving a huge donation to a party, candidate or Super PAC is speech.  The latter is speech of such importance in a democracy that, McCutcheon actually says, the speaker—the donor—must be considered a “constituent” of the officeholder once he or she wins the election, irrespective of how far from that new or reelected member of Congress’s state or district the donor lives.  (Seriously; McCutcheon actually says that.)  And if some people are less likely to vote if they lack confidence that in the integrity of the political process and the political system—that is, if they decide not to vote because they themselves can’t afford to buy the status of constituent from even their own senators or House representatives, much less from ones representing states and congressional districts where neither their main home nor their vacation home is located—so be it. Speech is speech.  And this is a democracy.

McCutcheon, it certainly seems to me, killed the Confidence Fairy. A war veteran, it deserves a decent burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

And Democrats, especially those of us who think of ourselves as constituents of our own members of Congress without first purchasing that status, and have been rapidly losing confidence in the integrity of elections, will attend the funeral. But first there must be a death certificate issued.

*Name of case, and specific date of decision, added. 10/11

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POSTSCRIPT:  The order issued tonight by the Supreme Court reads in full:

The application to vacate the September 12, 2014 order of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit presented to Justice Kagan and by her referred to the Court is granted and the Seventh Circuit’s stay of the district court’s permanent injunction is vacated pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari respecting case Nos. 14-2058 & 14-2059. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court

JUSTICE ALITO, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA and JUSTICE THOMAS join, dissenting.

There is a colorable basis for the Court’s decision due to the proximity of the upcoming general election. It is particularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted. But this Court “may not vacate a stay entered by a court of appeals unless that court clearly and ‘demonstrably’ erred in its application of ‘accepted standards.’” Planned Parenthood of Greater Tex. Surgical Health Servs. v. Abbott, 571 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 1) (SCALIA, J., concurring in denial of application to vacate stay) (quoting Western Airlines, Inc. v. Teamsters, 480 U. S. 1301, 1305 (1987) (O’Connor, J., in chambers); some internal quotation marks omitted). Under that test, the application in this case should be denied.

Yes, under that test, the application in this case should have been denied.  But there’s a new test now: This Court may vacate a stay entered by a court of appeals that stayed a stay entered by a lower court. Frank v. Walker, on application to vacate stay, No. 14A352 (Oct. 9, 2014).

What an asinine comparison.  The appellate-court stay in the Planned Parenthood case served the purpose of preserving the status quo in order to prevent irreparable injury from implementation of the statute.  In this case, Frank v. Walker, the appellate-court stay was of a trial-court stay whose purpose was to prevent irreparable injury from implementation of the statute.  The trivialization, by that trio of justices, of the right of the franchise, and of the outcome of the election itself, is disorientingly weird.

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Dear Greg Sargent: “Re your Morning Plum reference to Krugman’s column today”

Update appended below.

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After a two-and-a-half-month hiatus from regular blogging here—most of my few posts this summer related to my passion about animal rescue and animal welfare—I’m once again feeling like posting about politics, at least more regularly than I posted this summer. (And maybe soon I’ll once again feel like posting about legal issues, but I don’t yet, so y’all who’ve been waiting for that with bated breath, well ….)

I wanted a break from all-politics-and-law-all-the-time, and (mostly) took one.  My active reentry here at AB began with two posts within the last few days—one that I thought would get some attention, but did, not; the other that I thought would get little attention, but got more than a little.

After reading emailed Greg Sargent this afternoon an embarrassingly long… eeeek … rant about that post of mine that got little attention—and, while I was at it, about two of my current political obsessions: the silly Hillary Clinton presidential-nomination anointment, by the press and (unwittingly, I think, courtesy of the press) the Democratic Party; and the silly six-year failure of our current White House standard bearer to ever trouble himself to … y’know … like … engage in any refutation of misinformation by … y’know … stating facts, coherently and specifically—I jumped all-in (to use an “in” cliché that really annoys me, but fits here) today.

But since emails from no-names are treated, I’m sure, as emails from no-names, and because, well, I’m just really in the mood right now, I’ll share my rant with all you AB readers, should any of you actually be interested:

Greg, you write this morning in the Morning Plum:

“REPUBLICANS AND THE ‘LAZY JOBLESS’:  Paul Krugman’s column today marvels at the ways GOP lawmakers continue to suggest the unemployed are choosing their plight, even as benefits have been slashed and we’re treating them with “unprecedented harshness.” But why?”

The answer to your question is, of course, that most people have no idea that unemployment compensation benefits have been dramatically slashed and are, as Krugman highlights, far lower than they have been in relation to the level of involuntary short-term and long-term unemployment in many decades.

Just as most people have no idea about one after another after another other facts concerning public policy—in Florida, for example, there is a TV ad asking people to vote for Rick Scott against Charlie Crist because “Obamacare has raised healthcare costs” and is “taking money from your pocket,” or words to that effect.

And of course most people think government employment—federal, state, local—has increased during Obama’s presidency; of course, actually, it has decreased, dramatically.

And on and on.  Which has been the case throughout Obama’s presidency.  Neither of our two current Democratic national standard bearers, Obama and Hillary Clinton, would be caught dead actually educating the public about, y’know, actual facts; neither one will speak in anything other than banal generalities.  Clinton, who probably could actually educate the public about such things as facts, instead talks incessantly about how excited she is about her daughter’s pregnancy—because, y’know, we’re all so deeply interested in this–and makes childish jokes about her failure to declare an intention to run for the presidency, deigning to add a few banalities about such things as income inequality so that we all know that her heart is in the right place.

And because the punditry insists that Dem presidential candidates are fungible, Clinton’s home free.  Clinton, Warren, and male longtime progressives such as Sherrod Brown, who can’t run because, well, Hillary Clinton probably will run, are all the same; one’s as good as the other.  After all, didn’t Clinton say in some speech back in November 2007 that, yeah, maybe income inequality has become a problem? I mean, who needs any more evidence that she’s an economics progressive than that?!

Giving speeches is, of course, what Clinton does.  In November 2007 she had been a senator for nearly seven years.  During which she voted for a really bad bankruptcy bill, and did nothing at all, at least to my knowledge (or, I think, to anyone else’s), that could matter to, say, people who aren’t upscale women trying to break corporate-hierarchy glass ceilings and such.

I’m a contributor to the blog Angry Bear, and last Friday, after learning about Boehner’s comments from Krugman’s mention of it on his blog, I posted an item about it titled “John Boehner Says the Obama Economy Has Eliminated Involuntary Unemployment!  Seriously; that’s what he said. The Dems should use this in campaign ads.”  The title was not facetious; I pointed out that Boehner’s representation of fact necessarily presumes a thriving economy in which jobs are available for anyone who wants one; in other words, we really have full employment now.  My post gained no attention, best as I can tell, so I’d like to see someone whose blog posts do get attention make the point—because it is an important one. Isn’t it?  My post is [here].

Apologies for this lengthy rant.

Beverly Mann

As for Obama, coherency and specificity, which require actual explanation rather than sound-bite-speak, are just not his thing; I understand that.  By which I mean that I understand that that is so—and by which I don’t mean that I understand why it is so, although I suspect that the culprit is a stunning lack of mental agility coupled with an apparently overriding belief that he need not do anything by way of outreach, education and persuasion, that he doesn’t really feel like doing.

As for Clinton … well … speaking in specifics is not her thing, either.  It doesn’t pay well, and policy specifics would entail her actually learning specifics (better late than never, but, whatever) and maybe even proposing specifics of her own.  Okay, specifics that someone in her quarter-century “orbit” (the media’s euphemism for closed circle of decades-long Clinton operatives) learning specifics.  Sorta like what Warren and Sherrod Brown have done by themselves!

We’re all, of course, tremendously happy for Clinton and her husband that they’re about to become grandparents.  It’s just that we’re interested in other things, as well.  And just that other thing that she’s interested in: ridiculous, cutesy, will-she-or-won’t-she games.

I’m a progressive who cares about more than 1980s-and ‘90s-era women’s issues. (And not just because I’m aware that it is no longer the 1980s or ‘90s; some of those issues remain potent and important, but they are not the end-all-and-be-all of progressive economic concerns, some of which actually have to do with men as well as women.)  I don’t want any more generic, look-at-who-I-am-rather-than-what-I’ve-actually-done theater-of-the-ridiculous. Been there, done that. (Okay, I was never a big fan of Obama, but supported him against Clinton because I feared another triangulator president—one who would be hemmed in by her husband’s 1990s policy choices, no less. One who still is hemmed in by her husband’s 1990s policy choices.)

I’ll end this rant by asking this question: Why have the progressives who want so badly to see a Warren draft not trying to encourage, say, a Sherrod Brown draft?  Wrong gender? Really?? Warren’s popularity comes not from her gender but instead from her economic population and deep knowledge of, emersion in, and passion for actual specific policy issues.  Brown has that, too.  And he, unlike Warren, may simply be waiting for someone to ask him to run.

Take a look, progressives. I’m serious.  It’s time now to support an economic progressive who’s the real deal, not someone’s who really just a political celebrity.  My dream ticket is Brown and Jeff Merkley.  Both have been in the economic-progressive trenches for decades. Neither is the spouse of a former president, even a popular and still-popular one who actually knows how to make a point without using a denegrating, condescending manner to do it.

That said, if what Dems are looking for, and if Dem presidential candidates really are fungible, then how about Kim Kardashian?  Who knows?  She may even be a genuine economic progressive.

We economic progressives finally have the ear of a large segment of the population.  And we’re going to squander it by nominating for president someone who’s little more than just a professional political celebrity?  Why?  Seriously; why?

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UPDATE: Turns out that I’m a few days late to this party, at least as it’s host.  Molly Ball posted a piece on Sept. 19 on The Atlantic’s website titled “Does Hillary Clinton Have Anything to Say?” Ball reaches the same conclusion that I do: The anwer is, no.

But there are, as I noted above, national politicians in addition to Elizabeth Warren, who do.

I mean, look: Just because your husband was a popular president in the 1990s doesn’t mean that you get to be the Democractic presidential nominee yourself.  Your prsumption to the contrary notwithstanding.

Although Molly Ball, Bernie Sanders and I are, thus far, the only partiers. Want to join us?

Updated 9/22 at 4:10 p.m.

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John Boehner Says the Obama Economy Has Eliminated Involuntary Unemployment! Seriously; that’s what he said. The Dems should use this in campaign ads.

John Boehner says that unemployed Americans are pretty clearly malingerers, bums on welfare who have decided that they don’t feel like working:

“This idea that has been born, maybe out of the economy over the last couple years, that you know, I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around. This is a very sick idea for our country,” he said.

“If you wanted something you worked for it,” Boehner said, adding, “Trust me, I did it all.”

John Boehner’s Theory of the Leisure Class, Paul Krugman, NYTimes.com, today

Okay, Krugman goes on to point out that overwhelming economic evidence refutes Boehner’s believe that the actual unemployment rate among people who want a job is zero. And he adds:

[W]hat really gets me here is the fact that people like Boehner are so obviously disconnected from the lived experience of ordinary workers. I mean, I live a pretty rarefied existence, with job security and a nice income and a generally upscale social set — but even so I know a fair number of people who have spent months or years in desperate search of jobs that still aren’t there. How cut off (or oblivious) can someone be who thinks that it’s just because they don’t want to work?

When I see stuff like this, I always think of the opening of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:

“Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn’t know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world.”

It certainly is true that this idea that you know, I really don’t have to work–I don’t really want to do this; I think I’d rather just sit around–is a very sick idea for our country.

Which is why Boehner should have used a contraceptive rather than conceiving and giving birth to it.

But now that he has, the Dems should take this baby, remove it from the bath water, dry it off, and feature it in ads letting people know that John Boehner attests to the wild success of Obama economic policy.

The baby, by the way, has been christened Son of the 47%.  His birth father, who wants to work and therefore has a job, loves him very much, can afford to support him, and will fight the Dems for custody.

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Greece, Greece, I Tell You!

It’s not every day that a law professor has his book quoted by the Supreme Court, and so the University of Baltimore‘s Michael I. Meyerson was understandably intrigued when his 2012 work about the Framers’ views on religion made it into Monday’s decision on public prayer.

But the plug from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, was somewhat bittersweet. Meyerson says the decision misread the point of his book and took the quote out of context in a way that allowed the justices to draw an entirely different conclusion about how the Founding Fathers approached religion in public.

— Professor says Supreme Court drew flawed conclusion from book: University of Baltimore expert says Framers deliberately avoided sectarian language, John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun, May 10

No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to the bond-vigilantes/austerity/confidence-fairy crowd, but instead to (yet again) the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision issued last week in Town of Greece v. Galloway–and to what will be the rallying cry of the pro-Christian-prayer-at-government-meetings crowd, going forward.

Before I swear off posting on AB about that Supreme Court opinion, I want to make one more point, this one about the perniciousness of the Court’s conservative majority’s pretense that in order to understand the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights, or the Reconstruction-era amendments, or anything else about the Constitution, you presume that the framers intended to freeze things the way they were before the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction-era amendments, were drafted and ratified.

Which raises this question: Why engage in a laborious process of gathering a large number of people to draft a Constitution and shortly afterward draft and ratify amendments, or fight a Civil War and, after you win, draft and ratify amendments reflecting the outcome of the war, if your purpose is to solidify the pre-Constitution, pre-Bill of Rights, pre-Civil War, pre-Reconstruction-era status quo?

The answer is that you don’t, and you don’t pretend that others did.  Unless you’re a 1980s-era Conservative Legal Movement lawyer, judge or justice.*

But it also highlights what is becoming a hallmark of the Roberts Court’s conservative majority: misrepresentations of the very meaning of words, phrases, legal doctrines, and (now, apparently) academics’ writings.

I wrote here recently that we’re “witnessing here a concerted, unremitting restructuring of fundamental parts of American law under the guise of constitutional interpretation, employing medicine-man semantics gimmicks and other such tactics, including baldly false, disorienting declarations stating what others’ opinions are.”

The title of Meyereson’s book is Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America.  As I said here yesterday, town governments are people, my friend.

I do think the Supreme Court has crossed a threshold now.  This crowd observes no recognizable bounds of propriety in achieving the Conservative Movement’s policy goals via the Court’s transparent machinations of history, language, false analogy. Nothing–nothing–is sacred any longer. Except, of course, Christianity.

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[Next up, later this week: Why I believe that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will announce her retirement at the end the Supreme Court term in late June, pending confirmation of her replacement. And the UnElena Kagan who I expect will replace her–and why it would be a very good development, for once.]

 

*This paragraph and the one above were edited for clarity and inclusion of an inadvertently-missing clause after posting, 5/14 at 6:28 p.m.

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Krugman: If you don’t like the mandate, why not support single payer?

Bill Gardner at The Incidental Economist offers a rather decorous, mild reply to the people making [the argument that guaranteed health insurance is an assault on America’s freedom]. I’d put it more forcefully: the pre-ACA system drastically restricted many people’s freedom, because given the extreme dysfunctionality of the individual insurance market, they didn’t dare leave jobs (or in some cases marriages) that came with health insurance. Now that affordable insurance is available even if you don’t have a good job at a big company, many Americans will feel liberated — and this hugely outweighs the minor infringement on freedom caused by the requirement that people buy insurance. (Also, if you don’t like the mandate, why not support single payer?)

— Paul Krugman, Insurance and Freedom, NYTimes.com, today

I’ve said now here at AB too many times to count, but most recently five days ago, that the highlighting of Obamacare horror stories–real or fabricated–is really an argument for single payer. Every single horror-story problem–real, fabricated, or predicted down the road–would be cured by single payer.  But, to my knowledge, no one else was writing this in print for public consumption.  Now, Paul Krugman has done that.

But why aren’t the Dems pointing out that what the Repubs appear to actually be complaining about is the absence of a public option, or that the ACA didn’t establish single payer?  Maybe sometime before the election, they will–if others who have a wide readership make the point, as Krugman did there.

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