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

The Koch Brothers Read Angry Bear! [links fixed]

Yep.  As I said, a monkey could beat Rubio in the general election.  So maybe the Republicans should urge a monkey to run as a third-party candidate.  Someone who works for the Koch brothers’ super PAC, maybe? — Me, here, Feb. 24


Okay, if you think the timing of this is a coincidence you are soooo wrong.


UPDATE!: Reader Amateur Socialist and I have exchanged the following comments in the Comments thread:

Amateur Socialist

February 27, 2016 2:16 pm

… meanwhile the twitter machine spewed this relevant scenario:

“Donald we convinced all of your delegates to vote for Marco Rubio on the second ballot”

“Ok well it was a good run give my best to Marco!”

I guess I can moderate my disappointment at Madame Secretary’s coronation with the unholy war of egos at the center of the GOP this weekend.


February 27, 2016 5:59 pm

Ah. Well, that’ll save the Kochs the trouble of finding a monkey. Trump’s best to Marco will be a third party run. Meaning Marco will play the role of spoiler for Trump. Unless of course Trump’s delegates decide instead to vote for a REAL monkey on the second ballot.

Something like that. It’s all so confusing.

Just wanted to make sure y’all didn’t miss this.  Because I know you would not have wanted to miss this.

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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.


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Sooo …. which of Obama’s economic policies do you want to repeal or defeat, Repubs?? And replace those policies with whose–I mean, what–economic policies, exactly? Do tell!

Barack Obama wanted to galvanize Democrats when he insisted this week that his economic policies are on the ballot in November. Instead, the soundbite has already become the centerpiece of new Republican attack ads.

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell uses the clip in a new commercial, shared first with POLITICO. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts turned his own ad earlier Friday morning. And New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown is using the clip in a web video against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“Alison Grimes says this election is not about her support for Barack Obama and his failed policies,” a narrator says over footage of a Grimes commercial that showed her shooting a gun. “But Obama himself says a vote for Alison is a vote for his policies.”

Obama’s comments Thursday came in front of a supportive crowd in Illinois during a speech billed as an attempt to refocus the national discourse on his economic agenda.

“I am not on the ballot this fall … But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot — every single one of them,” he said.

GOP ads pounce on Obama’s economy comments, James Hohmann and Kyle Cheney, Politico, today

The article goes on to say that Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and New Hampshire Repub. Senate nominee Scott Brown will run similar ads in their respective states.

To which I say: Please do.  It is, after all, Obama himself, not Obama’s actual economic policies—which most people have no clue about—that creates the problem for the Democrats.  Much less is the problem for the Dems the Senate Democrats’ proposed economic policies— which most people have no clue about.  The economic policies that the Senate Republicans are blocking.

Obama prefaced those comments with some actual specifics about the results thus far of one set of his policies, Obamacare. Justic Sink of The Hill reported yesterday (H/T Paul Waldman):

“There’s a reason fewer [Republicans] are running against ObamaCare — because while good, affordable healthcare might still be a fanged threat to freedom on Fox News, it’s working pretty well in the real world,” the president said.

The day after the anniversary of rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, Obama argued that a “dramatic slowdown in the rising cost of healthcare” had led to more individuals being covered and prices staying lower.

“If we hadn’t taken this on, and premiums had kept growing at the rate they did in the last decade, the average premium for family coverage today would be $1,800 higher than they are,” Obama said. “That’s $1,800 you don’t have to pay out of our pocket or see vanish from your paycheck. That’s like an $1,800 tax cut.”

And, Obama said, the cost of government healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid are decreasing alongside the costs of private insurance.

“Healthcare has long been the single biggest driver of America’s future deficits,” Obama said. “Healthcare is now the single biggest factor driving those deficits down.” …

“In just the last year, we’ve reduced the share of uninsured Americans by 26 percent,” Obama said. “That means 1 in 4 uninsured Americans — about 10 million people — have gained the financial security of health insurance in less than one year.”

The president also argued that the availability of insurance through ObamaCare meant young entrepreneurs were freed “to strike out on your own and chase that new idea,” rather than remaining in jobs that provided medical coverage.

It’s great that Obama finally deigned to speak publicly about the specifics—including specific results—of one of his policies, Obamacare.  He generally doesn’t do speaking publicly about the specifics (and certainly not specific results) of his policies, or, regarding most of his and the congressional Dems’ economic policies, even the existence of their policies and policy proposals.  Which may be why no one knows the specifics, or even the generalities.

But, the press being the press, and the political punditry being the political punditry, what matters is that Obama said the words, “I am not on the ballot this fall … But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot — every single one of them.”  “These policies” could mean … well … it doesn’t matter.

As it happens, a majority of the public, even in “red” states, aren’t all that keen on the prospect of the Koch brothers’ policies becoming Congress’s blatant policies.  So the new Republican ads about Obama’s policies being on the ballot should be countered not only with a demand to know which specific economic, fiscal and regulatory policies these candidates want to repeal but also with reminders that the Koch brothers’ policies are on the ballot, too.

Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

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Ted Olson Wants Congress to Bar the Koch Brothers’ Contributions to Incumbents. I Say: Good Idea!

Post updated below.


Forty-six Senate Democrats have concluded that the First Amendment is an impediment to re-election that a little tinkering can cure. They are proposing a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and state legislatures the authority to regulate the degree to which citizens can devote their resources to advocating the election or defeat of candidates. Voters, whatever their political views, should rise up against politicians who want to dilute the Bill of Rights to perpetuate their tenure in office.

Led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, these Senate Democrats claim that they are merely interested in good government to “restore democracy to the American people” by reducing the amount of money in politics. Do not believe it. When politicians seek to restrict political speech, it is invariably to protect their own incumbency and avoid having to defend their policies in the marketplace of ideas.

—  Harry Reid Rewrites the First Amendment. When politicians seek to restrict speech, they are invariably trying to pr otect their own incumbency.  By Theodore B. Olson, Wall Street Journal, today

Hmmm.  The McCain-Feingold campaign-finance statute, which the Supreme Court largely eviscerated in Citizens United v. FEC in early 2010 and all but completed the job earlier this year in McCutcheon v. FEC, was enacted in 2002.  In 2006, the Democrats unexpectedly gained control of both the Senate and the House, largely by defeating, y’know, Republican incumbents, and substantially increased their majority in both houses in 2008, mainly by defeating, um, Republican incumbents.  Citizens United certainly helped the Republicans gain control of the House in 2010, but failed that year and again in 2012 to recapture the Senate.  Harry Reid won reelection in 2010, despite the Kochs’ and Karl Rove’s very best efforts.

Led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans, as Koch puppets, claim that by defeating the proposed constitutional amendment to nullify Citizens United and McCutcheon, they are merely interested in good government to “return democracy to the American people” by continuing to allow unlimited amounts of money in politics. Do not believe it. When politicians seek to have Congress and state legislatures controlled by plutocratic puppeteers who actually draft legislation secretly and then deliver the finished draft to their legislator puppets, it is invariably to protect their own incumbency and try to gain or retain a stranglehold on mechanisms of government and avoid having to defend their policies in the marketplace of ideas.

That said, if Ted Olson’s real concern is that a return to pre-Citizens United, McCain-Feingold-like campaign finance laws would just serve to strengthen incumbency, the obvious answer is to demand that Mitch McConnell, an incumbent currently running for reelection, step up to the plate, return his Koch contributions, and propose legislation that would restrict contributions to incumbents in order to give challengers a stronger voice.  That’s something that McConnell and his challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, might agree on.

It’s all about the First Amendment, see.

What a moronic op-ed.


UPDATE: I posted the following comment in the Comments thread in response to some comments there indicating that some readers missed the specific intended point of this post:

The intended point of my post is that Olson’s claim is clearly false that removing restrictions on contributions by the very wealthy and corporations hurts incumbents. This is a canard that the right is using to try to tamp down anger about Citizens United and McCutcheon and the unlimited amounts of money that are now purchasing elections, candidates and elected officials—and to undermine attempts to nullify those opinions.

Clearly, the Kochs and other very, very wealthy people are individually paying huge amounts of money to finance McConnell’s campaign. McConnell is an incumbent. So are the current Republican House members whose reelection campaigns these people are funding. McConnell’s opponent isn’t an incumbent; she’s a challenger. So are the Democrats trying to unseat House Republican incumbents. This is a sleight-of-hand that Olson and the others think no one will notice. I noticed. It’s a false statement of fact.

9/9 at 12:09 p.m.


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Libertarian? Or Fascist-Light?

The shooting death by police of Ferguson, MO teenager Michael Brown, and what has happened in the aftermath, has been blanketing the news for the past few days. It’s a story about race, but it’s also become a story about the power of the state and how it’s wielded, and against whom.

So my question is this: Where are the libertarians?

Why aren’t libertarians talking about Ferguson?, Paul Waldman, Plum Line, Washington Post, yesterday

The answer to the question that the title to that post asks is: they are. Libertarians are talking about Ferguson.Waldman’s question addresses a linguistics problem, a misappropriation of a particular ideological term, “libertarian,” by those who ascribe to a narrowly prescriptive ideology that adopts extreme economic libertarianism and certain aspects of fascism.

It is a curious brand of fascism that is peculiarly American, in that it artificially distinguishes between federal powers and state and local ones. A veritable foundation of this ideology formally or tacitly authorizes the use of state and local government police powers—by police, prosecutors, judges, prison guards–to engage in wholesale violations of American constitutional and international human rights. Federal prosecutors and federal judges engage in abuses, including on presumably-rare occasions of actual illegality, but now, finally, at least there’s the possibility of actual scrutiny of federal prosecutorial excess. There remains no working mechanism by which federal or state judges will be investigated for actual illegality in relation to their judicial office, unless the conduct involves an overt monetary bribe or express monetary extortion; judges themselves operate within a statutory system whose very essence is cover-up by their colleagues, and every attempt, including by members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, to change this statutory sham vis-a-vis federal judges is batted down with cries from several Supreme Court justices, including the two Clinton appointees, about judicial independence. (Freedom! Liberty! Judicial Independence!)  As if an independent office of inspector general, as statutory proposals would establish, couldn’t distinguish between unethical or outright illegal conduct and, well, everything else.  And wouldn’t be forced to do that.

About a month ago, Simon Lazarus of the Constitutional Accountability Center wrote an article in The New Republic titled “John Roberts’ Supreme Court is the Most Meddlesome in History” and subtitled “How radical libertarianism is reshaping the bench.” I remember thinking when I saw that article that the primary title is correct but the subtitle is not. Certainly there are some radical libertarians—those who want to eliminate virtually all taxes, federal and state, an virtually all government regulations and civil and criminal prohibitions, federal and state, and who also are, as Waldman puts it, talking about Ferguson. And who want to dismantle the prison-industrial complex. But best as I can tell, they’re not Republicans, and they’re certainly not federal judges, much less federal Supreme Court justices. Accepting their pose as libertarians, without the modifying adjective “economic,” is buying their marketing campaign.

Freedom! Liberty! Libertarianism! The new and improved variety, marketed as the late 18th century strain. Back from the future. I guess.

What most of this crowd actually is is sort of classic-fascist-light, not libertarian. By which I don’t mean that they’re Nazis; Nazism was (and is) only one brand of fascism. I mean fascism more along the lines of the Benito Mussolini or Francisco Franco variety—a pairing of a muscular state police force left to its own (and the dictator’s) devices, and moneyed interests whose support the dictator an his party needed. Modern U.S. neo-federalism, a.k.a. “states’ rights!”–i.e., the right of state and local government officials and employees to violate individual, non-Republican humans’ constitutional rights—is libertarianism only in a George-Orwell-comes-to-Madison-Avenue sense, but it underpins much of Tea Party/Supreme Court libertarianism, if only ostensibly.

One of the most stunning sentences I’ve ever read in a Supreme Court opinion, a sentence that has not received nearly the amount of attention in the general news media or by Democrats that it deserves, is John Roberts’ express statement in the majority opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC, this year’s Citizens United sequel, that extremely wealthy campaign donors become “constituents”–constituents, in the literal election-law, voter-ID sense–of members of Congress not by living in the senator’s state or in the representative’s district but instead by buying access and the right to author proposed legislation. Ordinary folk are constituents only of the elected officials in whose voting jurisdiction they have their primary (for most people, their only) residence, but the Koch brothers are the constituents not just of Kansas’s senators and Wichita’s congressional representative but also of any other senators and congressional representatives that they choose to co-opt as their legislative proxy, for a fee. This, Roberts said, is at the heart of our democracy.

Which indeed it now is, formally and officially, as per the Supreme Court. It’s at the very heart and soul of our democracy these days–our democracy, alone among democracies, since ours is the only democracy in which this flavor of freedom!, liberty!, is packaged as libertarianism. It’s a specialty flavor that would be recognized by 1930s Europeans for the albeit-milder iteration of the political ideology that it really is. And that is recognized, I’d bet, by most close observers of the Supreme Court’s state-courts’-and-state-prosecutors’-and-local-police-officers’-and-state-and-local-prison-guards’-rights-to-violate-individuals’-constitutional-rights-because-the-Constitution’s-structure-requires-it jurisprudence.

This ideology is libertarian only as some characters in Lewis Carroll’s novels, or the Koch brothers, would define that word.  Or as five current Supreme Court justices do, as suits their focused interest of the moment.  Or of the Conservative Legal Movement era, which has in fact been very focused for more than three decades now.  So any moment will do.

Pick your moment.  Any moment.  They sure do.  Just call what you’re doing anything but what it actually is.

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The Secretive Democracy Alliance’s Secret Is Out: Some of its members are elitist, racist and self-serving.

Clarification appended below.


[David] Brock, a former “right-wing hit-man”-turned-top-big-money-Democratic-operative, is part of a behind-the-scenes campaign to convince donors it’s OK to attack the Koch brothers for spending millions of dollars while doing the exact same thing for the left.

“You’re not in this room today trying to figure out how to rig the game so you can be free to make money poisoning little kids, and neither am I,” Brock told donors this month at a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to someone who attended the conference, but who declined to be identified because it was closed to the press.

“Subscribing to a false moral equivalence is giving the Kochs exactly what they want: keeping us quiet about what they’re doing to destroy the very fabric of our nation,” added Brock, whose deep-pocketed nonprofit groups are leading the charge to make the conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch an issue in the 2014 midterms. …

But Brock’s pitch … isn’t sitting well with some major liberal donors and operatives, who worry the anti-Koch strategy could backfire big time. It has not yet been proven effective at motivating key Democratic voting blocs like unmarried women and minorities, and liberal critics also worry it risks undercutting more important issues, smacks of class warfare and opens themselves up to hypocrisy charges.

“The Democrats’ problem is off-year turnout, and I’m not clear how emphasizing the Koch brothers gets more black and brown folks to the polls,” said Steve Phillips, a member of the secretive Democracy Alliance club of major liberal donors. “My sense for voters of color is that the issues of income inequality, housing, education, immigration reform, health care and criminal justice reform would resonate more.

— “The existential crisis of the liberal millionaire,” Kenneth P. Vogel and Tarini Parti, Politico, today

And since voters of color are too stupid to recognize that the issues of income inequality, housing, education, immigration reform, health care and criminal justice reform would have, maybe, a little something to do with legislative and executive-branch policy on the issues of income inequality, housing, education, immigration reform, health care and criminal justice reform, it definitely would not resonate with them to point out that the Koch brothers are among a tiny group of billionaires and multi-millionaires who actually write legislation for their bought-and-paid-for elected officials to enact.

Black and brown folks are just fine with Citizens United and McCutcheon, if they’ve even heard of those Supreme Court rulings.  It’s only white people who know about the rulings and understand such complexities, like dot-connecting.  Well, white men and white married women do, anyway; white unmarried women don’t.

Got it!

I’m glad the Democracy Alliance is secretive.  Rather than, say, openly demeaningly elitist, racist and maybe even manipulatively self-serving.

Dan has asked me to clarify that this post is sarcastic. So: This post is SARCASTIC. REALLY. It’s SARCASTIC.

Yiiiikes. (And I’ve corrected the typo, too.)


I wrote in the Comments thread, in response to reader Cindy K, who said she’s glad I clarified that this post is sarcasm:I actually thought the title alone indicated satire, sarcasm. Silly me, I guess. As I told Dan in an email last night, I guess I’ve been reading too many Alexandra Petri and Gail Collins columns.

Updated 6/25 at 2:21 p.m. 


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David Brat, et al. v. John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, the Koch Brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, et al.

Uh-oh, hedge fund managers and Goldman Sachs partners.  Obviously, few of you are evangelical Christians.  So this guy, who wants good markets, has his sights set on you.  But, luckily not on that carried-interest tax-benefit thing y’all get to use, praise the Lord.

So maybe you hedge-fund types can skip church again this Sunday, after all.

— David Brat’s Golden Rule, me, Angry Bear, Jun. 13

I was wrong. The dust is all but settled now, six days after Brat’s highly unexpected defeat of Eric Cantor, and it looks like what defeated Cantor was not that he was too liberal for Tea Party tastes.  It was instead that he was too Establishment-Conservative for a spontaneous, makeshift coalition of Tea Partiers, liberal Democrats (it was an open primary; it was not limited to Republican voters), and others who reject the practice–and the now-formal claim by five Supreme Court justices–that it is necessary and desirable in our constitutional democracy that legislation and other government policy be dictated by those who can afford to buy it.

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 Houstonor 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.

Actually, even before I wrote my post last Friday I had read an article in the Washington Post by Jia Lynn Yang, titled “Why Cantor’s loss is especially bad news for big business,” detailing Brat’s campaign and challenging the presumption that he won mainly on a  standard-issue far-right anti-immigration, Cantor-is-too-liberal-for-the-Tea-Party platform.  But because his cliche-ridden Ayn Rand, anti-tax, anti-government-regulation positions and loopy justifications for them–which were the subject of most of my Friday post–are, let’s just say, hard to reconcile with such things as, y’know, regulation of banks and hedge funds and objections to the fact of legislation being written by the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce, I figured that the initial analyses were right: Cantor was defeated because he voted to end the government-shutdown and to increase the debt ceiling and wasn’t quite hard-line enough on immigration, and therefore flunked the purity test.

particularly jarring hallmark of the current Supreme Court majority’s aggressive Movement Conservative restructuring of American law in the image of 1980s Republican Party platforms is these justices’ spontaneous, unsupported declarations of fact upon which they claim to base the rulings.  These are statements of fact for which there is no support in the case record. Facts such as what motivates elected public officeholders, and also facts about people’s opinions, perceptions, conclusions concerning matters such as the effect of huge campaign contributions on the politician-beneficiaries, that are, most people recognize, contrary to actual fact.  Most people who are not a Movement Conservative Supreme Court justice and who are not named the Mad Hatter consider the idea of large campaign contributions in exchange for legislation that they offer the very essence of political corruption in a Democratic system.

And some of those people live in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District and voted in the Republican primary there last week, for Brat, entirely or largely because he campaigned against Cantor as Evidence Exhibit A belying Kennedy’s and Roberts’ weirdly loose pronouncements of fact in Citizens United and McCutcheon.  The lobbyists and big-money donors that Cantor met with for breakfast on the first Tuesday of each month and that he dined with at steakhouses were indeed his true constituents, and Roberts’ pretense that they or their corporations reside in the Richmond, VA area is not even just a syllogism like so much else Roberts claims; it’s patently, tangibly false.

Sure, the pronouncements of fact in Citizens United and McCutcheon were just window dressing, sort of a nod to the idea that they were not really overturning Supreme Court precedent, just refining it–a John Roberts routine that has become an eye-roller.  But actual people do see through it.  As long as the Tea Party was united in going along with this, all was fine.  But now something has happened: the Tea Party itself is split.  There is a growing contingent, apparently now reaching a politically significant number, that is anti-plutocracy.

I’ve thought ever since McCutcheon was released in early April that the Democratic congressional candidates should simply read two or three sentences from that opinion at their rally and include the sentences in some of their ads.  Brat himself didn’t do that, exactly, but statements made throughout his campaign directly countered the factual claims of the Supreme Court bare-majority.

Ultimately, because that part of his message can’t be reconciled with the standard Tea Party dogma or with the part of the pro-corporate Republican message that he parrots, his political message is incoherent.  And in some respects, as in the quotes from an academic paper of his that were the main subject of my post last Friday, they’re weird and flaky. I don’t know how statements like those I quoted from his academic paper manage to pass as academic research; they were overt statements of his political and religious beliefs, not the result of economic or political science research, but they were in a purported academic paper and not (apparently) repeated in his campaign. The fact is that you can’t reconcile Ayn Rand’s philosophy of little or no regulation of corporations and Wall Street, no social safety net, and extremely low taxes with Brat’s campaign promise to represent ordinary people as against the policy dictates of oligarchy and plutocracy.  And it is a fact; you can’t.

Nor can you reconcile it with the mindless states’-rights cliches, whether issued by Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts or by David Brat.  Apart from the aggressive three-decades-long states’-rights-to-violate-fundamental-constitutional-rights-of-individuals-as-long-as-those-rights-aren’t-part-of-Movement-Conservative-dogma dogma–which is now, finally, being rejected by fairly broadly by younger libertarians (read: too young to believe that it’s still the Reagan era) even of the right–the fact is that ALEC writes swaths of legislation for Republican state legislators.

In a June 12 Politico article, this one titled “Dave Brat and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism,” the writer, Geoffrey Kabaservice, points out that Laura Ingraham, “appearing on Brat’s behalf at a campaign event on June 3, even rejoiced that ‘Some people on the left are gonna work with us! I’d rather work with some people on the left today than work with some people in the GOP establishment who scorn us.’” The article’s subtitle is “Cantor’s loss isn’t about immigration or personality. There’s a bigger story.”

There certainly is.  And several similar articles make the same point, in detail. One, titled “Why Big Business Fears the Tea Party,” a June 15 Politico article by Michael Lund, says:

The primary election defeat of House majority leader Eric Cantor by the little-known Tea Party conservative David Brat has shocked business and financial elites as well as politicians and pundits. Conservative intellectuals such as Tim Carney have been arguing for a while that the right should adopt a new populism that targets “crony capitalism” and the collaboration of public and private elites at the expense of workers and small businesses. Brat is the first conservative candidate to have achieved a major electoral success by taking this line. He denounced Cantor for being too close to Wall Street and K Street, explained business support for immigration reform as a ploy for cheap labor and demonized the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

In his views about the minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare, Brat is a fairly conventional libertarian, but he became the first candidate to oust a sitting House majority leader since the post was created in 1899 not by speaking the libertarian argot of Ayn Rand and Friedrich von Hayek but by deploying the populist language of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and William Jennings Bryan.

With that kind of talk, Brat and like-minded militants on the right are undermining the philosophy of market populism that has united the Main Street and Wall Street wings of the Republican party since the days of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Market populism recycles the ideology of classic Jeffersonian populism—but expands the definition of the virtuous, self-reliant yeoman to include not only small business owners but also big business executives and capitalists.

“Sooner or later,” Lund continues, “the authentic Jeffersonians in the market populist coalition were bound to notice that the actual agenda of conservative politicians has less to do with the needs of small business owners and small farmers than with the desires of big companies and the financial industry.”  They’ve now noticed, he says, and want to swap business-friendly market populism for real populism, terrifying the business community.  And also terrifying Lund, who points out that conservative populists have the wrong answers, and that Jeffersonian populism is irrelevant in America and has been for a very long time.

Yes, for a very, very long time.  The theme that ties together the contradictory parts of Brat’s brand of populism is its inherent fallacy: the claim that what matters is not the goal or effect of the particular policy but instead whether it is the federal government that is promulgating the policy. Most people outside the rightwing bubble recognize this as ridiculous, at least when you are specific about the policy. Including so-called working-class whites under the age of about 36 (i.e., milliennials, few of whom listen to rightwing talk radio and what the national Fox News shows); a new, comprehensive poll confirms this. And also confirms that, increasingly, older Rust Belt blue-collar whites, too, recognize this.

Additional post-Cantor-defeat articles illustrate the point. In one, called “A Cantor Effect for Businesses and the G.O.P.,” published in the New York Times on June 14, the writers, Jeremy W. Peters and Shaila Dewan put together a list of similarities between what is increasingly referred to as the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party and rightwing economic and civil-liberties populism, and a list of where the two groups diverge (very substantially) on economic issues.  The left’s economic populism isn’t libertarian.  The goals of economic populism–however much they state as their goal bringing economic power back to ordinary people–can’t be achieved through the anti-federal-government mantras of the right.

Which is a fundamental reason why we are heading, at a fast pace, into a progressive political era that is, in most respects, the very antithesis of the legislative agenda thinly disguised as constitutional law pushed so obsessively by five of the nine Supreme Court justices, for whom it will always, always, be 1988.

Only the federal government can regulate the financial industry–not only hedge funds and banks but also credit card companies, the latter two groups which were gouging small businesses as well as consumers to their heart’s content before legislation was enacted during the first two years of the Obama presidency, by a Democratic Congress, circumscribing those practices.

Only the federal government can regulate the student loan industry.  Only the federal government can provide the states with funding to support state university systems sufficiently to render those institutions once again financially accessible to the non-upscale.

Only the federal government can provide healthcare coverage to the elderly, and a secure, if small, pension benefit.

Only the federal government can provide the vast sums for extensive long-term medical and other scientific research. Or did.

On point after point–those, and many others–it is the liberal position, not the Koch position or the Brat position, that has support from vast majorities of the public.  Most people want clean drinking and bathing water and clean air, the dramatic slowing of climate change, safe consumer and food and pharmaceutical products, national parks, public walking trails, endangered species saved, public schools that are competitive with those in other advanced economies.  Most people want safe highways and bridges and modern, efficient infrastructure.  Most people believe that the federal government should play a role in enabling efficient export trade.

Most people don’t want generic clichesgibbergish banalities, and non sequiturs by public officials and candidates–a point made by Matt Bai in another post-Brat-victory analysis and, pre-election, by astute local reporters covering that campaign. So many people are so very tired of that.  But that is necessity in a political system whose real constituents are–as John Roberts said–those who play outsized roles in funding political campaigns.  Out of the mouths of Movement Conservative justices claiming to speak for the Republic’s founders.

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.

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Paul Ryan Says Taxes Should Be Raised to Pre-Bush-Tax-Cut Levels. But the Republicans Will Opt Instead For the “Sequester.” Unless, Of Course, the Koch Brothers Intervene.

There were three big political stories that came out of David Gregory’s fabulously interesting interview of Paul Ryan aired last Sunday on Meet the Press.  One was that Ryan said:

Well, we can debate the efficacy of Keynesian economics or not. And I don’t obviously believe– I think the debt is pretty clear it doesn’t work.

Another was that he said that if Bill Clinton were president, we would have solved the budget-deficit problem, a statement that he presumably bases on the fact that when Bill Clinton was president, he solved the budget-deficit problem.

The third headline-grabber from that interview was that the Republicans will allow the “sequester” to take effect, presumably because they think it’s pretty clear that Keynesian economics doesn’t work, and because Bill Clinton is not longer president.  If Bill Clinton were president, the Republicans would allow him to raise tax rates to the level he did in 2001, this time without having to have the vice president cast the 51st vote in the Senate for the tax increase, and with enough Republican votes in the House to allow a vote on the tax increase.  

In other words, if Bill Clinton were president, Ryan and his compadres would not keep refusing to allow the Bush tax cuts on annual incomes of less than $450,000, and tax cuts on corporations, capital gains, and dividends, to expire.  But because Obama, rather than Clinton, is president, they won’t. They should be allowed to expire, Ryan says.  But they won’t be allowed to expire, because Obama is president.

Instead, the Republicans will opt to test out the the efficacy of Keynesian economics, or not–depending, probably, on whether the Koch Brothers pick up the phone and disabuse Ryan of his belief that Keynesian economics doesn’t work.  Before Wall Street does.  

Here’s what I obviously don’t believe: That if Ryan actually obviously doesn’t believe–thinks the debt is pretty clear it doesn’t work–he has even basic knowledge of past and current economic fact.

I’ll take his word for it that he was being truthful about his belief. But I sort of expect that the Koch brothers and others will educate him and other congressional Republicans who hold that belief, very soon.

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Chuck Hagel Is a Threat to America’s National Security! And to the Koch Brothers’ Financial Interests.

The American Future Fund is an Iowa based 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization affiliated with the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which in turn has reported ties to billionaires Charles G. Koch andDavid H. Koch.

American Future Fund was founded by individuals who worked for Mitt Romney‘s 2008 bid for the Republican U.S. Presidential nomination. Nick Ryan, an adviser to Republican US Representative Jim Nussle, founded the organization in 2007, with Nicole Schlinger, a GOP leader in Iowa, as its president. Its current president is Iowa Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner.

The fund “advocates conservative and free-market principles” and energy positions that include support for drilling offshore and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.


In 2010 the American Future Fund reported over 9 million dollars of independent campaign expenditures to the FEC, and 100% of its expenditures benefited Republicans.

In 2012 the organization funded ads supporting Mitt Romney‘s bid for the U.S. presidency. In the same year, it also funded ads attacking Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and in support of California’s Proposition 32, which would prevent unions from collecting political contributions as paycheck deductions.

The organization does not disclose the names of those who have provided its funding.

Add to the Activities list an anti-Chuck Hagel TV ad.

Okay. So I happened to catch a segment on CNBC just now (don’t ask; catching segments on CNBC is not quite part of my normal daily routine) that ended with an ad blasting Hagel for … um … a whole lot of stuff geared toward making people think he would have lots of conflicts of interest if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, even if he sells all those financial interests in defense contractor companies that the ad says he has, and in that company that invests in Iran, and stops flying on corporate jets.

At the end of the ad, the viewer is told that it’s sponsored by The American Future Fund.  Which I couldn’t identify from memory, since the names of these organizations all sound alike.  And are all very interested in America’s future.  

But, having seen the ad, I now knew that Hagel would be a very dangerous guy to have as Defense Secretary.  I just didn’t know who exactly he posed a danger to.  But thanks to Wikipedia, I know now.

Sounds to me like Paul Ryan should have consulted the Koch brothers before he declared on Meet the Press last weekend that Keynesian economics has proved to be a failure.  If you get my drift. Those oil and gas subsidies and defense contracts that the Koch businesses receive are important to our national defense … and to the economy.*

*Edited for clarity after initial posting.

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