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

There are limits to the analogy between Clinton’s 2008 primary contest with Obama and Sanders’s primary contest now with her. Clinton doesn’t get that. But she needs to figure it out because the differences matter.

We got to the end in June, and I did not put down conditions. I didn’t say, ‘you know what, if Senator Obama does X, Y, and Z, maybe I’ll support him.’ I said, ‘I’m supporting Senator Obama, because no matter what our differences might be, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Republicans.’ That’s what I did.

At that time, 40 percent of my supporters said they would not support him. So from the time I withdrew, until the time I nominated him — I nominated him at the convention in Denver — I spent an enormous amount of time convincing my supporters to support him. And I’m happy to say the vast majority did. That’s certainly what I did and I hope that we will see the same this year.

— Hillary Clinton, at an MSNBC town hall-style event, Apr. 21

That is true.  Six days after she lost the California primary to Obama in early June 2008 she made a gracious speech strongly endorsing Obama and urging her supporters to support him, and repeated it in a primetime speech at the Convention.

Which almost certainly is what Sanders will do, almost exactly.  But what he also will do is attempt to play a role in the drafting of the party platform.  And when he endorses Clinton and then campaigns for her he will point out both that Trump’s actual fiscal-policy and healthcare policy proposals, published on his website, are geared toward gaining favor with the Republican Party elite, especially the donors who have been (very) effectively financing the so-called think tanks that draft and dictate Republican Party dogma and have been doing so for several decades now.

And Sanders also will remind the public that he remains a senator, as does Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and three or four others–among them now Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he made clear a day or two ago in an eloquent statement–who comprise the Senate’s contingent of what’s often referred to as the Warren wing of the Party.

Which is why it is so off-base, so missing the point, for Clinton and many pundits to claim that Sanders’s primary campaign and his decision to remain an active candidate seeking additional elected delegates in the remaining primary and caucus states endanger Clinton’s, and the down-ballot candidates’, chances in the general election.  Because of critical distinctions between the nature of Obama-vs.-Clinton in 2008 and Clinton-vs.-Sanders now, the very opposite is likely true: There were few significant distinctions between Obama’s and Clinton’s domestic-policy proposals, but fairly large distinctions between some of Clinton’s and some of Sanders’.

The main policy distinction between Clinton and Obama in 2008 was on foreign policy. Clinton as a senator had voted in favor of the Iraq war authorization.  Obama, not yet a member of Congress, nonetheless had publicly voiced opposition to it.  The virulently angry Clinton supporters—the 40 percent of her backers who, if the poll she referenced was accurate, thought in June 2008 that they would not vote for Obama that November—almost certainly were mostly middle-aged women, many of them upscale career women like her, and older women, who were angry at Obama for halting the road to the presidency for a woman.  They were not, suffice it to say, pro-Iraq war voters; instead, for them the chance to see woman elected president was paramount. Policy differences, such as they were between two candidates, were secondary.

As Paul Krugman often reminds, the key domestic policy difference between Obama and Clinton was Clinton’s support of an individual mandate to obtain healthcare insurance as a key part of her detailed healthcare-insurance proposal, and Obama’s rather craven opposition to the mandate in his own proposal.  As someone who supported John Edwards in 2008 until it became clear that the race was between Clinton and Obama, but who remembers well that it was Edwards who brought healthcare insurance into the primary contest, proposing a plan that Clinton quickly adopted almost in full as her own because Edwards was gaining media and voter admiration for making it an issue—and who was not pleased that Obama needed to be prodded to propose his own plan and then proposed one that clearly was weaker than Edwards’s and Clinton’s—I seriously considered switching my allegiance to Clinton rather than to Obama.

The deciding factor for me then in choosing Obama?  That I didn’t want another triangulator as a Democratic president, and figured that while Clinton surely would be that, Obama only might be one.  He wasn’t particularly specific about most domestic-policy positions, something that annoyed ad concerned me.  But he was promising change.

Clinton fails at her own (rather large) risk to recognize the differences between the 2008 primary contest and this one, and why Sanders’ campaign is helping her own chances in the general election—a well as those of down-ballot candidates.  To illustrate the key differences between then and now, I’m selecting excerpts from two campaign reports, one by Baltimore Sun political reporters Kate Linthicum and Chris Megerian, from April 24, the other a lengthy Campaign Stops blog post by New York Times correspondent Emma Roller. Both reports are from

Linthicum and Megerian write from the campaign trail in Reading, PA:

In recent months, Bernie Sanders has transformed Dennis Brandau from a guy who hated politics into a first-time voter. On Tuesday, the 29-year-old line cook will proudly cast a ballot for the Vermont senator in Pennsylvania’s Democratic presidential primary.

But the bruising campaign this year also has turned Brandau into a fierce opponent of the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He says he has a hard time imagining backing her this fall if she wins the nomination.

“I don’t know if I can vote for her,” Brandau said. “I don’t even want to hear her talk.”

Sanders’ chances of winning the nomination have dimmed since his 16-point loss to Clinton in last week’s New York primary. Polls show he faces an uphill race in several of the five Eastern states that vote on Tuesday, as well as in California’s June 7 primary.

Some of his supporters remain so steadfast, however, that a #BernieOrBust movement has picked up momentum on Twitter. So has an online pledge for supporters who vow to vote for Sanders as a write-in candidate if he loses the nomination.

Roller reports, also from Reading:

KEITH MANDICH had been to this theater before, to see John Mellencamp.

Now Mr. Mandich, a retired steelworker, was back in downtown Reading, Pa., to see another guy he thought of as a hero for working-­class America: Senator Bernie Sanders.

In his bid for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Sanders has nurtured vocal support from young, college-­educated liberals. But he also has fervent support from people who remember the era of well­-paying union jobs at manufacturing plants — and who are very aware of how far we are from that time.

“I just like Bernie because he’s old like me,” joked Mack Richards, 70, another retired steelworker at the Reading event. Pennsylvania is among the five states holding a primary on Tuesday, and it has the most delegates at stake. Since neither party has locked up its nominee yet, the state’s white working­class voters have more of a voice in the primary process than they have had in years past. In 2008, they were considered Biden voters — the white working-­class denizens of Scranton, Pa., and places like it — whom Joe Biden, Scranton’s own, was supposed to win over for Barack Obama.

This time around, the fight for these voters has focused significantly on a somewhat unlikely contender for juiciest campaign issue: international trade deals and their repercussions.

Any presidential candidate on the stump knows how to work a good metaphor into a speech, and Mr. Sanders knew to use the very ZIP code he was rallying in.

“In many ways, what is happening here in Reading, what has happened over the last several decades, is kind of a metaphor for what’s happening all over this country,” Mr. Sanders told the crowd. “We have seen a city which once had thousands of excellent-­paying jobs lose those jobs because of disastrous trade policies.”

He went on to list corporations, including the Dana Corporation, that had shut down plants in Reading and moved overseas. Mr. Mandich, the Sanders supporter and Mellencamp fan, said that he was laid off from his job at the Dana Corporation, which manufactured automobile frames, when the company closed its Reading plant in 2000. The Dana Corporation was one of the companies that supported the Clinton administration’s effort to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, which activists and liberal economists argue did more harm than good to the United States economy.

Kevin Wright, a high school physics teacher in line to see Mr. Sanders, saw parallels between the populism on the left and similar sentiments on the right. “We’re the response to the Tea Party,” he said.

His sister, standing next to him, laughed nervously. “Careful!” she warned.

“The Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party,” Mr. Wright continued. “I think our movement’s stronger, and has more numbers, and is more rational and grounded in reality. And you can see that just based on the people here.”

The crowd in Reading skewed a bit older than a typical Sanders rally — possibly because it took place on a weekday afternoon. Fritz Von Hummel, 55, a self­-employed appliance technician who was laid off from his previous job in November, canceled a couple of appointments to come to the event. He said he had not had health insurance for the past seven years because he could not afford it, and he was eager to talk about the shortcomings of President Obama’s signature health care law.

“I’m just furious with the situation the way it is,” he added.

Roller went on to report from a Trump rally a few miles away.  Some of the people she spoke with there echoed refrains similar to those of the Sanders’ supporters.  Here article is titled “CAMPAIGN STOPS: Pennsylvania, Where Everyone Is ‘Furious’.”  The Linthicum and Megerian piece is titled “Voters’ ‘Bernie or Bust’ efforts persist despite Sanders’ vow not to be another Ralph Nader.”

I myself think there’s little danger that most millennials like Dennis Brandau and perhaps-millennials but anyway youngish Sanders supporters like Kevin Wright and his sister won’t ultimately vote for Clinton.  I think they’re more likely to fear Trump than the middle-aged and elderly working-class Sanders supporters.  And I think that thanks in part to social media, they’re more likely to know or learn before November, simply from their web use, that Trump’s fiscal-policy platform is drafted by standard-issue Republican operatives, borrowing from Republican lobbyists and the Club for Growth/Koch brothers’ think-tank-payroll folks.

I think this is so even though Clinton effectively wrapped up the nomination by winning by 16 points in the New York primary in which only those who were registered as Democrats by early October 2015 were able to vote in that primary, and large percentages of young and younger New Yorkers were independents.  Clinton, understandably, doesn’t mention that publicly.  But it is a fact.

And what about the middle-aged one-time factory workers who support Sanders now?  And the middle-class white collar workers whose kids will borrow, or have borrowed, large amounts in student loans?  What about those who pay high healthcare premiums with out-of-pocket expenses that to Clinton may seem negligible but seem less so to the ones who pay these?

These are not people who are livid that Clinton is keeping a Jewish 74-year-old male from gaining the nomination.  They are people who care, deeply, about the policy differences between the two candidates.  And I’m pretty sure that many of them care, as I do, that Clinton keeps feigning ignorance about what people mean when they use the phrase “the establishment.”  And that Clinton has campaigned against Sanders largely using a playbook seemingly co-opted from a used-car-salesman sales manual, pre-lemon-laws.

I myself harbor not so much as a second of doubt that I will vote for president in November, and about whom I vote for.  It will not be the Republican nominee.  And I absolutely know that I will be joined in that by many, many millions of Sanders primary supporters.

And I dearly hope that Sanders will follow the playbook I say above that I expect him to.

And I will say this: Far from hurting down-ballot candidates’ fundraising chances for the general election, those of us who have contributed to Sanders’ campaign—we’ve done so through—will continue to receive, as we already have, ActBlue’s solicitations for contributions to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  We’ll click the buttons and fill in the blanks, like we have done for Bernie Sanders.  We’ll do so upon our own accord, and also at Bernie Sanders’s urging.  We will be reminded that the Warren wing, the Sanders wing, of the Democratic Party badly needs to grow.  Into a majority in Congress.

Turns out that millennials already have figured this out, according to dramatic results of a newly released poll taken by the Harvard Institute of Politics.  And many progressive older folks know this, too.  At least those who aren’t New York Times op-ed columnists or the like.


ADDENDUM: Just want to add that once Trump chooses Scott Walker as his running mate–he seriously seems headed in that direction, and recently hired Walker’s campaign manager as his campaign’s deputy director or something–the Dems’ problems will take care of themselves, thank you very much.

Added 4/27 at 4:29 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (14) | |

The Oklahoma Republican Party calls Walmart and the mega-corporate fast-food and hospitality industries animals dependent on food stamps. And its chairman wants a national discussion about it. Oblige him, Democrats.

In any event, it’s completely unclear where people will stop in for hamburgers and fries, and where they will buy extremely cheap household items, once the fast food industry and Walmart have ceased to exist because there no longer are Americans who lack the skills and qualifications for good jobs and they’ve all found good jobs because we elected a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get good jobs is for people to get good jobs.  Rather than, say, electing a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get full-time jobs is for people to get full-time jobs although with no promise that they will be good jobs and instead might be full-time minimum-wage ones.

— MeScott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO, yesterday


Am I reading too much into this, or did Oklahoma’s Republican Party call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks?

Whoa. If the Republicans keep this up, the Walmart family and fast food chain executives will start their own Super PAC.  To help Democratic candidates!  If a Republican wins the White House, their companies might have to start paying their employees enough for them to afford groceries.

— Me, in an update to Scott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO, later yesterday

This actually is a really serious matter: Apparently, most people do not know that a substantial percentage of people on food stamps work—including many who have full-time, very-low-paying, no-benefits jobs.  Much less do most people know that most of the people who work yet receive food stamps are employed by mega-corporations or franchises of mega-corporations in the fast-food industry, in retail stores and in the hospitality industry, and have dependent children.

Prominent Democrats—Obama, Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and others—need to engage in a mass education campaign on this.  Especially now, in response to Scott Walker.

Key to this is to point out that the food stamp program is, to a surprising extent, corporate welfare—to which these companies have, like the animals in our national parks who have become dependent on the government (or at least on people visiting the parks, which are funded by the federal government) food handouts.

The article I linked to above is from Politico, and explains:

The Monday post, which has since been taken down, first sarcastically declared that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is proud to be distributing a record number of food stamps. It then said, “Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because ‘The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.’ Thus ends today’s lesson in irony ?#?OKGOP?”

To answer my own question, yes, Oklahoma’s Republican Party did call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks.  Sort of.  The Party said that Walmart and fast food chains and the hospitality industry are like national parks, in that many of their workers receive food stamps.  The Party also said that Walmart, the fast food industry and the hospitality industry are, themselves, like animals who live in national parks, because these business are subsidized significantly by the food stamp program.

They’re right about Walmart, the fast food industry, and the hospitality industry.  I mean it.  And Democrats need to say this, again and again and again, when discussing the minimum wage or the social safety net.

Again and again and again.  No Democrat should ever talk about the minimum wage or about social safety net programs without saying this.

The Politico article, by Eliza Collins, goes on to say:

On Tuesday, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Randy Brogdon apologized.

“Last night, there was a post on our OKGOP Facebook page, and it was misinterpreted by many. I offer my apologies for those who were offended – that was not my intention,” Brogdon said.

He said the original statement was supposed to compare two separate situations and illustrate “government dependency in America.”

In addition to the apology, Brogdon used the new statement to continue the discussion on welfare programs.

“However I do think that it’s important to have conversations about government welfare programs since our dependency on government is at its highest level ever,” it said. “Quoting President Reagan, ‘We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.’”

Do oblige him, Democrats.  Give the man the conversation he wants.

Tags: , , , , , , , , Comments (36) | |

Scott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO

The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage. Instead of focusing on that, we need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go well beyond minimum wage.

Scott Walker, yesterday

Yep, raising the minimum wage and instituting policies that get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage definitely are mutually exclusive.  Which I presume is why “the left” never, ever talks about getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage. They’re talking about raising the minimum wage instead!

When Clinton, Sanders, Obama, whoever, proposes free community college and free or low-tuition state university access, they always make clear that those proposals are alternatives to, not in addition to, raising the minimum wage.  It’s one or the other; not both.

So really, it comes down to three alternative choices: (1) raise the minimum wage (the Democrats); (2) or make community college and state universities free or low-tuition, by supporting them through state and federal funding (the Democrats); or gutting state funding for state university and community college systems (Scott Walker).

We do indeed need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And talk, we will.  Or at least the Democratic primary candidates will; not sure that the Republican ones will, since neither Walker nor any other the others has, yet.  But, I mean, maybe Douglas Holtz-Eakin has some ideas that he can pass along to one or another of them.  Who knows?  Maybe to Scott Walker!  Ideas about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage, while further gutting the federal and state tax bases, at least for the wealthy and for corporations.

Of course, we also need to talk about how we get people jobs that employ those newly acquired skills and qualifications—the ones they needed to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  Presumably jobs that pay more than the minimum wage.  Scott Walker apparently is unaware that there are huge numbers of people who have skills and qualifications for good jobs but haven’t found a good job, some of them who lost the one they had.  Or maybe he’s aware of it and wants government to get out of the way.  Let Detroit go bankrupt!  Kill the National Labor Relations Act!  And the Fair Labor Standards Act!

In any event, it’s completely unclear where people will stop in for hamburgers and fries, and where they will buy extremely cheap household items, once the fast food industry and Walmart have ceased to exist because there no longer are Americans who lack the skills and qualifications for good jobs and they’ve all found good jobs because we elected a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get good jobs is for people to get good jobs.  Rather than, say, electing a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get full-time jobs is for people to get full-time jobs although with no promise that they will be good jobs and instead might be full-time minimum-wage ones.*

And certainly rather than electing a Democratic president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law significantly increasing the minimum wage, thus precluding persuading Congress to enact legislation than would assist people in getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And precluding even talking about it!

The good news for us Dems is that if Walker wins the nomination, we won’t have to worry about Walmart and McDonald’s exercising their First Amendment speech rights by donating to Walker’s campaign or Super PAC, since if he wins he will put them out of business.

*Paragraph edited slightly for clarity. 7/15 at 10:09 a.m.


ADDENDUM: Okay. Just want to clarify, with the following exchange between reader Carol and me in the Comments thread:


July 14, 2015 3:11 pm

I was just curious, maybe I haven’t been listening closely, but when do Democrats state that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive? The minimum wage would be a short term solution to the fact that we have more and more people working in minimum wage jobs (that require a lot more skills than hamburger flipping, but hey, who cares about that discussion?) who can’t even feed their family, including those who have been pushed out of jobs that paid OK into jobs that don’t during this last and current depression. Education and training are long term solutions to meet a work world that (foolishly in most cases) wants more and more certification for jobs that don’t warrant the training. OJT really should be what should be provided, but most employers are too short-sighted and stupid to invest in their workers (see how many tolerate huge turnover when the real solution would be adequate pay and OJT). Whether education really should serve as the free training ground for employers who don’t even know what is needed is dubious. Education is always a good, but jobs training? Each business has specific skills, and from where I sit no one wants to take the time to show their employees what those are, preferring the sink or swim method. I see the massive stupidification of management as a big issue, and employees suffer.


Beverly Mann

July 14, 2015 3:56 pm

Damn. I forgot to say that this post is sarcasm. It’s sarcasm, Carol. The Democrats have not stated that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive. Scott Walker said that; the Democrats have not. The Democrats do understand that raising the minimum wage for people who right this very minute have minimum wage jobs—a large percentage of Walmart employees, fast food and other restaurant workers, hotel workers, and many, many others—does not actually preclude training people for non-minimum-wage jobs.

As [commenter] Denis Drew points out, the Germans have figured out how to train most of their workforce for non-minimum-wage jobs. And, largely because German labor has a big say in how businesses are run there, through co-determination worker councils that bring the workers into the design and manufacturing process throughout, Germany has managed also to actually have non-minimum-wage jobs available to their skilled workers, through increased productivity (the kind that economists talk about; not the kind that Jeb Bush talked about a few days ago).

Now that that’s clear ….

Added 7/14 at 4:10 p.m.


UPDATE: Am I reading too much into this, or did Oklahoma’s Republican Party call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks?

Whoa. If the Republicans keep this up, the Walmart family and fast food chain executives will start their own Super PAC.  To help Democratic candidates!  If a Republican wins the White House, their companies might have to start paying their employees enough for them to afford groceries.

Added 7/14 at 5:45 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , Comments (18) | |

The Bizarre Attempt to Present Bernie Sanders As the Democrats’ Donald Trump

Stranger things have happened in American politics, but the sudden surge of Democratic/populist Bernie Sanders and Republican/populist Donald Trump puts one in mind of alternate universes.

And I don’t mean Miss Universes.

Both men are holding second place in some polls behind Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, respectively. And both are steadily ascending in the polls at a greater pace than anyone could have predicted — or imagined.

Sanders, a socialist running on a platform that should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, drew his largest crowd of the season — nearly 10,000 — in Madison, Wis., last Wednesday night. The anti-establishment candidate, who wants to break up big banks and redistribute wealth, makes President Obama (and Clinton) look like robber barons by comparison.

— The unexpected rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, Jul. 3

Stranger things have happened in American political journalism, but really, it’s not a shock that political pundits equate Sanders and Trump.  Not all political pundits.  Just some of them.  Several, actually; Parker’s piece is one of three or four commentary or analysis pieces I’ve read in the last few days that suggests not simply that the surge of attention and poll recognition is, in each case, unexpected, but that these two both are on the crackpot fringe.

Since Trump is appearing mentally unhinged, Sanders must be borderline-crazy, too.  After all, neither is part of his respective party’s establishment, and therefore, necessarily, both are extremists.  And equally so, since they both rose dramatically in their party’s polls during the same short period of time.

Yup, reinstituting the Glass-Steagall Act separating deposits-and-lending banks from investment-banking-and-derivatives-speculation financial institutions, and federally insuring only the former, is just like accusing Mexican immigrants of bringing drug traffic to this country and raping American women!  Not to mention babbling incoherently. The resemblance is striking, although not to me.  Especially since Glass-Steagall was in fact the law for forty-six years until its repeal in 1999.  During which time this country had several Communist presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Elizabeth Warren may send shivers up the spines of most Americans, but a majority of Americans probably would vote for her as a presidential candidate.  Especially since she would be running against a Tea Party Republican or a George W. Bush Republican.  As will the eventual Democratic nominee.  Whether it’s Clinton or Sanders.

And while, in the opinion of many of the targeted wealthy, Parker among them, raising taxes on them to levels above those enacted under George W. Bush, and reinstating meaningful estate taxes to, say, inflation-adjusted 1960s levels, should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, including the ones who aren’t wealthy—at least the ones who don’t like safe and modern infrastructure and access to college by the non-already-upscale—it doesn’t appear, judging from poll answers, that these policy proposals would be deal-killers for a nominee who proposes them.

And while single-payer Medicare-for-all-type healthcare insurance—another of Sanders’ proposals— would solve, once and for all, problems such as these, it’s likely that most Americans shutter at the thought.  Especially those who think Medicare itself is socialized medicine and want it repealed.  And all those Democrats who considered Ted Kennedy and extremist because he fought for decades for single-payer healthcare insurance.

First among those Democrats being Claire McCaskill, who as a Clinton surrogate told an interviewer last week that Sanders couldn’t win the general election—against Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush—because he’s an extremist.  Luckily for her—and for Clinton—McCaskill wasn’t asked which of Sanders’ proposed policies she, and Clinton, thought a majority of the public would consider extremist.

And which of Walker’s, Rubio’s or Bush’s she thought a majority of voters wouldn’t consider extremist.  Rubio’s proposal to repeal the estate tax completely?  Walker’s to effectively end collective bargaining in the private as well as the public sector, and his attempt to turn Wisconsin’s state university system into a lightly-funded job-training apparatus?  Jeb Bush’s Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for his brother?  (Glenn Hubbard for Treasury Secretary!)  Every single one of the Republican candidates’ Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for Jeb’s brother?

Ah, I know!  It’s their completely-deregulate-the-financial-services-industry plans!  And as a bonus, their Koch brothers’-dictated environmental policy proposals.

The point here being that while the claim of a mirror-image symmetry between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is preposterous, an analogy of that sort between Sanders and Walker, Rubio and Bush would be pretty close to spot-on.  And this is so even though those three rose in the polls weeks and even months before Sanders and Trump did.

Don’t think so, Ms. Parker?  Strangely enough, it is.

Tags: , , , , , , , , Comments (6) | |

Yup. It didn’t take long for mainstream political journalists to misread the new poll on Rubio/Bush/Walker vs. Clinton.

Clinton is currently running ahead of all her likely Republican opponents, according to RealClearPolitics, but not by much: 4.2 points ahead of Marco Rubio; 5.2 points over Jeb Bush; and 6.8 points over Scott Walker.

These are not impressive numbers for a candidate with universal name recognition against candidates who are much less widely known.

Can Hillary Clinton Be a Woman of the People?, Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times, today

Might the reason that Rubio, Bush and Walker poll as well as they do be precisely that they—and the policies they espouse—are not widely known?

Just askin’.

Edsall’s comment is the second one along those lines that I read this morning.  And counting, I’m sure.

Tags: , , , , , Comments (5) | |

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (18) | |

Scott Walker Announces His Foreign Policy: Privatize Social Security and Medicare; end the food stamp program and CHIP, and repeal the National Labor Relations Act

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Two days after provocatively suggesting that standing up to organized labor in Wisconsin has prepared him to fight terrorists overseas as president, Scott Walker told a crowd of conservative donors on Saturday that “the most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime was when Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers. …

“Candidly, I think foreign policy is something that’s not just about having a PhD or talking to PhDs. It’s about leadership,” he said. “I would contend the most significant foreign policy decision in my lifetime was made by a president who was previously a governor. A president who made a decision that wasn’t even about foreign policy. It was in August of 1981, when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers.”

Scott Walker pressed for specifics at Club meeting, James Hohmann, Politico, yesterday

Turns out that that was the second time in a week that Walker said this.  The first time was in his speech at the private fund raiser in which Giuliani said Obama doesn’t love America, or love Giuliani, or love the donors in attendance at the dinner, later citing as supporting evidence that he (Giuliani) rarely hears Obama profess his love of country using the cants that Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt—er, Reagan and Bill Clinton—did regularly. (Free speech is for college students and human and corporate campaign donors, but not for presidents, who must recite a loyalty oath every few weeks.  Joe McCarthy was right!  That ole five-star general who conned his way into the White House in ’53 was a Communist after all!)  But Walker’s comment received little notice, because … well … you know.

But Larry Kudlow, one of the people whom Giuliani identified by group (Kudlow was an attendee) as someone whom Obama doesn’t love, and who reported on Walker’s speech for Real Clear Politics, did take note:

Noteworthy, Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as to our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Noteworthy, indeed.

Of course, our Soviet enemy abroad in August 1981 was led by a man who by then was spending much of his time in a hospital, and who died 15 months later at the age of 75, presumably having never recovered from the shock of having to deal with a U.S. president who fired his country’s striking air traffic controllers.  He was replaced with a man who, also elderly, died in office 15 months later after spending all but  the first three months of his presidency in such poor health that it was doubted at the time that he (or anyone else) was actually running the country.  He was replaced with an elderly man who lived only 13 months, not the full 15 months that his three predecessors each had managed while dealing with the stress of trying to oppose a U.S. president who had won his war against unionized air traffic controllers.  The next Soviet president, seriously concerned that Reagan was onto something with his unconventional, remote-control, foreign-policy tactic, and wanting to remain healthy for at least two years into his presidency, waved the white flag and declared glasnost and perestroika.

So I can see why Walker would contend that the most significant foreign policy decision in his lifetime was Ronald Reagan’s decision in August of 1981 to fire the air traffic controllers.  Walker’s lifetime began on November 2, 1967, and nothing much of importance has happened in foreign policy since then.  But even if that weren’t so, fending off four Soviet presidents in as many years simply by firing the striking air traffic controllers was indeed a significant foreign policy achievement.  As well as a major technological advance.  Computer science history books record all this as the first known instance of virtual reality.

But I don’t think Putin will be as easily dispensed with as Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko—he’s younger than they were, and looks pretty healthy—or as cowering as Gorbachev was.  And I definitely doubt that Jihadi John or ISIS’s military leaders follow U.S. labor law politics very closely.  So simply ending collective bargaining rights here probably won’t cause ISIS to surrender or Putin to end his attempts to annex Ukraine.

No, Walker would have to up the toughness ante.  Something that will grab ISIS leaders’ and Putin’s attention.  Something that they’ll understand.

Social Security.

Once President Walker starts privatizing Social Security and makes clear that next up is Medicare, Putin and ISIS will know whom they’re dealing with.  But President Walker, an impatient leader and a man of action, won’t wait to press the point further.  Ending the food stamp and student-lunch programs will provide awesome video of people who starved to death, and ending CHIP will yield perfect photos and stories for the administration’s foreign-policy messaging.  Walker may not even have to push through Congress a measure mandating the shooting on sight of all stray dogs and cats, to get ISIS to surrender.

He’s an irresistible candidate.  Sure, we don’t want those domestic policies, and we, and he, know that they can’t be justified to the public on their own merits.  But we do really want to see Putin end his military aggression in Ukraine, and we really, really want to see the demise of ISIS.  And we want these to happen without the assistance of U.S. ground troops.  So the trade-offs seem fair.

Uh-oh.  Poor Hillary Clinton.


POSTSCRIPT: As someone who has followed the Wisconsin political situation in the last four years fairly closely, I’ve been downright dismayed at the political news media’s facile adoption of the line that Walker is the candidate who can appeal both to the party’s base (pun intended; read the first few paragraphs of Alec MacGillis’s outstanding June 2014 longform article in The New Republic) and the party’s Establishment.  Hillary Clinton, and I, will keep our fingers crossed that the Republican Establishment doesn’t read the MacGillis article or is too clueless to foresee ads featuring audio clips from the two radio shows those first few paragraphs describe, broadcast days apart on some show hosted by someone named Mark Belling, in late 2013.  There is no possible definition of civilized society in which this would be considered a plus for someone campaigning to be its leader.

Then again, I’ve also been sort of chuckling at the Conventional Wisdom of the last few months among political news media folks that the Republican field is much stronger than their 2012 field.  Rick Perry is starting to look good, folks, especially since he’s now remembered the third Cabinet Department he wants to shutter.

Tags: , , Comments (14) | |

The Big Marquette Law School Walker/Burke Poll Coincidence

The latest Marquette Law School poll shows Scott Walker with 47 percent of likely voters, and Mary Burke with 47 percent of likely voters. Despite the last Marquette poll showing Walker up five points, the new poll, along with the polling average, shows this is very much a race.

— Paul Waldman, the Washington Post, this evening

Ooookay.  I’ll just sorta suggest—as I did here last week—that the difference between the two polls is that, y’know, it’s hard to be considered a likely voter if you don’t have the photo ID that your state requires you to produce at the polling place.  (Okay, well, in my post last week, I was addressing the five-point change in Walker’s favor between the poll two weeks ago and the one two weeks before that one.  But the premise is the same.)

The poll released two weeks ago was taken shortly after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had allowed Wisconsin’s voter ID law to be enforced in the upcoming election.  The poll released today reflects … this.

Then again, that five-point swing one way and then the other within four weeks could be just a coincidence.  That’s it! It’s a coincidence.

Tags: , , , Comments (7) | |

Chris Cillizza Misses the Point. (The most important point, anyway.)

Anecdotal evidence, the basis of so much journalism prior to the rise of the data movement and still, to my mind, over-relied upon — is just that: anecdotal. Roughly 65,000 people voted in the Cantor-Brat primary; Brat won by more than 7,200 votes. Assuming that what a non-scientific sample  of 1, 10 or even 100 people in the district thought about Cantor (or Brat) in the run-up to the race — the shoe-leather reporting prized by Carr — was indicative of how 65,000 people were planning to vote seems to me to be somewhat misguided. (Now, if all 100 people a reporter talked to in the district loudly derided Cantor as an out of step liberal, then I take back my previous point. But, my guess is that wouldn’t have happened.)

Should I have seen Eric Cantor’s loss coming?, Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, today

I assume that Cillizza is, as he says, responding to New York Times writer David Carr’s column on Monday, “Eric Cantor’s Defeat Exposed a Beltway Journalism Blind Spot,” rather than also to, say, my AB post from Wednesday, in which I discuss Carr’s column and note that what the national news media missed, but what the local political reporters Carr mentions recognized, was not simply local antagonism toward Cantor but, to an apparently substantial extent, local antagonism toward Cantor because he is the very embodiment of the politician who shares John Roberts’ particular view, stated expressly in his opinion two months ago in McCutcheon v. FEC, of who or what a politician’s “constituent” is.

In my post on Wednesday (picked up in full elsewhere, I’m glad to see), I noted that the in-depth analysis of it by political several political journalists now that the post-Canter-defeat dust has settled is that critical to Brat’s victory was an anti-plutocracy theme and that Cantor provided the perfect foil for it. Most of the articles discussing this say that the Chamber of Commerce–an explicit target of Brat’s during the campaign, and other major players among the Republican business constituency, who Roberts described in McCutcheon as constituents entitled to secretly help draft legislation by dint of their ability to purchase that right, concur and are springing into action.  As Gail Collins summarized it in her New York Times column yesterday:

The defeat of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, terrified many of the party establishment’s supporters, particularly since Cantor’s opponent ran against Wall Street, big business and bank bailouts.

It’s a problem, if you’re a big-money donor, to be worried that your party is being taken over by crazy people who will alienate the voters in a national election by opposing immigration reform and contraception. It’s a catastrophe to be worried that it’s being taken over by economic populists.

Cillizza and, I suspect, a number of other professional political analysts remain wedded to what is quickly becoming an outdated model.  They’re missing some important handwriting on the wall, which is that huge swaths of the public are dismayed at the meaning of “constituency” and “democracy” as defined in the New Dictionary of Supreme Court English, edited by Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.  As I said in my Wednesday post:

Call McCutcheon v. FEC the new poll tax. I do.  After all, John Roberts, in a surprising bit of honesty, described it in his opinion for the majority as pretty much that in his opinion in that case earlier this year. “Ingratiation and access . . . are not corruption,” he wrote, quoting Anthony Kennedy’s the Court’s decision in Citizens United, and then explained:

“They embody a central feature of democracy—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

But Cantor’s constituents–the ones that Roberts says should dictate Cantor’s policy positions and write legislation he proposes–couldn’t vote in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District last week. The district is too far away for them to commute to Wall Street, or to Wichita, KS, or downtown Houston, or Raleigh, NC.  And surprisingly, it turns out that Brat actually ran what was in large part a progressive economic-populist–an anti-plutocracy–campaign highlighting who exactly Cantor’s  constituents (to borrow Roberts’ term) are.  So, now that that is being widely reported and is sinking in, hedge-fund types and the Chamber of Commerce crowd apparently indeed are starting to pray.

Apart from the obvious reason for the definitional chasm between Roberts & Co. and most people embedded in that statement by Roberts–specifically, the definition of “democracy”–add to the rapidly growing list of Roberts’ casual redefinitions of common words this new definition of “constituent,” one disembodied from residency in the candidate or officeholder’s actual election jurisdiction.

Cantor was beaten, in substantial part, it certainly appears, by Citizens United and McCutcheon–by a backlash toward the political system that is now, bizarrely but expressly, institutionalized as a matter of constitutional jurisprudence.  Turnout was very heavy, far heavier than it was in the primary in that district two years ago, when apparently all the candidates were fine, thank you very much, with poll-tax democracy.

I titled that post “David Brat, et al. v. John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, the Koch Brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, et al.”  And in the last two paragraphs, I elaborated upon the title, writing:

Brat, for his part, appears to be about to run a general-election campaign consisting mainly of slogans and non sequiturs.  No surprise, of course; slogans, cliches, non sequiturs are the very essence of the current Republican Party–both factions of the Tea Party/Republican Party. The Paul Ryan/Koch brothers/Chamber of Commerce faction and also, because of the mutual exclusivity of its premises, the (newly named) David Brat faction. That’s simply the nature of this beast.

But the divorce case originally known as Movement Conservatives v. Movement Conservatives, filed June 10, 2014 in the Richmond, Virginia Court of Public Opinion, is a class action.  I just checked the docket for the case, and it’s now called Movement Conservatives, et al. v. Movement Conservatives.  And already, there have been several amicus briefs filed on behalf of the petitioners.  And the Supreme Court may not decide the outcome of it after all.

That last sentence is true; the Supreme Court has lost control of the narrative on this.  It has tried, but unsuccessfully, to decree new non-legal definitions of “corruption,” “democracy,” “constituent,” “person,” and “speech.”  It is losing its case in the courts of public opinion in most jurisdictions around the country; that much already is clear.  But the Court will decide, very possibly–in other litigation; actual imminent litigation, in Wisconsin state court and very possibly in federal court–whether or not two key provisions of Wisconsin state, and of still-standing federal, campaign-finance statutes violate five Supreme Court justices’ view of the First Amendment within the peculiar prism of their definitions of those words.

Best as I can tell from news reports in the last 24 hours, the apparently forthcoming state prosecution of a few people involved on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state legislators in the Wisconsin recall elections in 2011 and 2012, and perhaps of Walker himself, will necessarily involve challenges by the defendants to the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s (and possibly eventually to the federal government’s) statutory prohibitions against consort between election campaigns and PACs purporting to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” and unaffiliated with a political party or candidate.

The PACs are not subject to donor-amount limits, and they also can qualify for non-profit tax status if they meet a low bar for what constitutes “exclusively for the promotion of social welfare”.

But whether operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, as “social welfare” is defined by most people, or instead as it will be defined in New Dictionary of Supreme Court English, these groups embody a central feature of democracy as defined in the April 2, 2014 edition of that Dictionary—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns. And Scott Walker and the Republican legislators who were subject to possible recall adopted the very definition of “constituent” included in the current edition of the New Dictionary. Most of the people and groups with which they appear to have been coordinating were Walker’s and the legislators’ constituents only in the newly defined sense.  They were not residents of Wisconsin and therefore could not show a valid photo ID at a polling place in Wisconsin. (They would have to vote by absentee ballot.)

But Walker & Friends still remain a bit too precocious in one respect.  The Court’s majority has not yet redefined “democracy” to include as a central feature a First Amendment right of constituents (under either definition, traditional or new) to hide their identity when contributing directly to a political campaign.  And it well may not do so.  Kennedy indicated in his opinion in Citizens United that he does not believe that secret donations to campaigns embody a central feature of democracy.  Uh-oh.

Ultimately, though, what matters most is the outcome that civil litigation, Movement Conservatives, et al. v. Movement Conservatives, because not all five of the current editors of the New Dictionary are young and healthy–and because of the political facts illustrated by the surprisingly high turnout in the open primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District and the predominant campaign theme of the winner.  But I don’t expect Chris Cillizza to get that.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (3) | |

Paul Ryan and Scott Walker Come Out for Repeal of Federal Child-Labor Laws, Because the Kids Insist. Coming soon: Talking polar bears pleading for more oil drilling.

Oh, my — not only was Paul Ryan’s hunger=dignity speech appalling on the merits, the anecdote he used to make his point was fake — a distortion of a real story with a completely different point.

I’m actually not happy with this discovery; the crucial point here should be that even if the story of the kid who wants brown bag lunches were true, it would be a terrible argument against school lunches and the social safety net in general. In a way it’s a bad thing to have the conversation shifted instead to Ryan’s failure to get simple facts right.

— Into the Mouths of Babes, Paul Krugman, today

Here’s what Ryan said yesterday in his speech to the CPAC convention, as related by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait:

In his vacuous, sloganeering speech today at CPAC, Paul Ryan argued that “the left” — the term he used to describe not the actual left, but the Obama administration — offers Americans “a full stomach — and an empty soul.” What soul-emptying ways is “the left” filling people’s stomachs? Ryan has a story from his fellow Republican, Eloise Anderson:

“She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.”

Anderson is a longtime anti-safety-net crusader and currently a member of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  Ryan was paraphrasing testimony gave to the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs, last summer.  Greg Sargent details the controversy here, and links to Glenn Kessler’s and Wonkette’s investigative reports on it from last night.

I initially had the same reaction as Krugman: that this under-oath fabrication of fact by a witness at a congressional hearing who is a key member of Walker’s administration, would become the news story, rather than that Ryan used the anecdote to come out for repeal not just of the school lunch program but also of child-labor laws.

But upon reflection, I think the revelation that this Walker appointee gave fabricated testimony to a congressional committee–stunning, in itself–is a net plus, because it brings far more public attention than otherwise to the premise of this Walker appointee (and therefore of Walker himself) and Ryan: that children from poor families, including, presumably, infants and toddlers–these people want to kill the food stamp program, too–should work for their food.

This odd conflation of parent and child, by both Anderson and Ryan, is so weird and ridiculous–and so stunningly offensive, surely, to most Americans–that its mere verbatim recitation will, I think, be a gift that keeps on giving during this year’s campaigns.  But it also highlights this: that the Republicans appear to be unaware that a large percentage of school-lunch-program or the food-stamp-program (or both) recipients come from households headed by someone who works, often full-time, at a very low-wage job or at a combination of low-wage jobs.

Or else these pols are claiming that no one should work at very-low-wage jobs, and should instead find a way up the socioeconomic ladder.  In which case, they are saying that Walmart and the fast-food and hospitality industries should pay their employees more.  I mean, shouldn’t be able to find employees. (Not ones who’ve fed themselves and their kids, anyway.)

Paul Ryan and Scott Walker turn out to be pro-labor, after all!  Who knew?  We Dems need to start appreciating the annual CPAC conference for it’s, um, newsworthiness.

These people’s weird obsession with killing the social safety net is shared by–what?–15%-20% of the public? They themselves seem to recognize that outrageous that the people who want this is small, and the people who obsess over it and privilege it over all other policy matters, is really, really small.  Which presumably is why they keep fabricating stories.

This is part and parcel of the genre that until yesterday most recently featured as its top stars Julie Boonstra and Emilie Lamb.  What’s next? Talking polar bears pleading for more oil drilling?


As an aside, I think that if Walker is serious about running for president, he needs to fire Anderson.  She fabricated a story, under oath, at a congressional hearing.  That’s not a trivial matter.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (8) | |