Posts Tagged ‘republican’
Dean Baker gets an excellent catch in what, upon first glance, I thought to be rather solid Washington Post article. Quality from the Post is such a rare beast that I think you’ll forgive me for the mistake. It’s like a guy who gets excited over a bigfoot sighting, but it just turns out to be some hairy guy.
As you probably know, President Obama has hundreds of positions left unfilled within his administration. This is partly due to his not getting around to them, but in large part also due to “Republican” obstructionism, wherein certain senators have placed holds on several key appointments, tossing them into the bureaucratic abyss.
The Post article purports to be about three major posts that Obama has yet to fill in the Federal Reserve and the candidates who may fill them. Now, I’m all for calling attention to Obama’s unfilled administrative positions. They’re a major bottleneck in the bureaucracy and are causing his administration to move sluggishly on matters that urgently need attention – ironically, Federal Reserve issues. It looks as though he’s finally going to bite the bullet and make these appointments during Congress’ recess, which he should have done all along.
So far, so good – it’s all newsworthy. But was it really necessary for The Post to inject yet another ode to Fed Chief Ben Bernanke in its already too-long article? We know how they feel about Bernanke – they’re all for him. If anyone doubts it, I invite you to visit their editorial page. On any given day I guarantee you’ll find some apology for Mr. Bernanke’s malfeasance from one of their establishment cheerleaders.
The phrase in question describes Mr. Bernanke as having “led efforts to make the Fed’s bank oversight more effective and focused on broad risks to the economy that arise out of banks’ decisions.”
Not only is that so vague as to be rendered meaningless, but it is also patently untrue. “More effective”? “Broad risks”? “Bank’s decisions”? How effective? What risks? Which decisions? These are mistakes one goes over in Reporting 101.
They’re sloppy mistakes, too – and they betray a complete vacuum where the writer’s knowledge of history should be. Aside for Lawrence Summers (current National Economic Adviser, who authored the bill that got us into this mess), Timothy Geithner (current Treasury Secretary, who was #3 at the Fed while the banks turned into casinos), and, of course, Alan Greenspan, Mr. Bernanke is the single biggest reason why 1/4 of the workforce is desperately seeking work.
He actively campaigned against oversight, was completely blind to the risks facing our economy (“The subprime mess is largely contained“), and, in fact, actively encouraged those risks by keeping interest rates at almost zero for three straight years after the dot-com bust. This is a matter of public record. A five minute Google search and articles from The Post itself were enough to reveal this.
What’s worrying is that The Post seems to be unaware of this – or if they are aware, put a willfully misleading clause in their “news” article. I can understand it when journalists lie in the Op-Ed pages; that is, after all, what they’re for. But to put a factually ignorant opinion in a serious news article betrays, I think, some very perverse ethics.
Ed Kilgore over at The New Republic has a pretty good primer on the upcoming Republican primaries: The Republican Civil War
In a string of GOP primary elections stretching from now until September, the future ideological composition of the elephant party hangs in the balance. Many of these primaries pit self-consciously hard-core conservatives, often aligned with the Tea Party movement, against “establishment” candidates—some who are incumbents, and some who are simply vulnerable to being labeled “RINOs” or “squishes” for expressing insufficiently ferocious conservative views.
An enlightening interview of historian Will Bunch by Scott Horton:
1. Your book describes itself as a deconstruction of the myth of Ronald Reagan. But how successful has the effort at myth-making been? How does Reagan now stack up among the presidents among historians and the public in general?
It’s interesting–Reagan’s reputation has risen with both the public and historians the further we get in memory from his actual presidency–which I think is a huge tribute to both the myth-making machinery created by the likes of Grover Norquist and the mainstream media’s willingness to embrace the myth. For example, in March 1990, some 13 months after Reagan left the Oval Office, Reagan’s popularity (59 percent) had dipped below that of Jimmy Carter (62 percent). Two major surveys of historians in the mid-1990s rated Reagan’s presidency as below average, not one of the all-time greats.
Ironically, it was those historian rankings that inspired Norquist, the Heritage Foundation, and others to begin what became the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project–the group that aims to name schools, roads, etc., for the Gipper in every U.S. county–and related activities. A key part of that myth-building was the notion that Reagan was largely responsible for “winning the Cold War”–a premise that was rejected, according to a USA Today poll in 1989, when it was actually happening, by Americans crediting Mikhail Gorbachev for the reforms instead. You see the fruits of that effort today; professors–arguably eager to show they’re not tools of liberal bias–now rate Reagan as high as the Top Ten of U.S. presidents, and public opinion of the 40th president is fairly high as well.
I’ve largely refrained from commenting on this psuedo-movement, this “populist” Republican party front, this celebration of know-nothing, bible-thumping, war-mongering, “small-government” loving vacuity, because, well, of all the things I just mentioned. But CNN just did a poll of this “movement” and the results are revealing and hilarious.
“Of this core group of Tea Party activists, 6 of 10 are male and half live in rural areas,” CNN reports. “Nearly three quarters of Tea Party activists attended college, compared to 54 percent of all Americans, and more than three in four call themselves conservatives.”
Sixty-six percent of the tea party activists reported an income higher than $50,000 per year. Among the overall sample in the poll, that figure was 42%. The group is 80% white, as opposed to 71% among all respondents to the poll.
Politically, the figures are not a surprise. Forty-four percent of tea partiers called themselves “Republican,” while 52% said they were independent. Among all those polled by CNN, 25% were Republicans while 44% were independents. A third self-identified as Democrats.
So this “movement” consists of rich, white, male, educated “conservatives” who happen to identify with the Republican Party. Oh, and they also hate Obama. But they’re not racist!
This is outta control: 2000 self-identified “Republicans” share their political viewpoints. Some highlights:
Do you believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people?
Not Sure 33
Do you consider abortion to be murder?
Not Sure 16
Do you support the death penalty?
Not Sure 5
Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?
Not Sure 33
I really hope this is an improper sample or statistical error or something, because these results are frightening. 86% either think Sarah Palin is “more qualified” than Barack Obama, or consider the matter open to debate.
Apropos Mr. Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, I have already made clear my opinion that for all the endless debate and speculation surrounding this fiasco, very little will substantively change. It seems clear that the Senate will pass some version of the watered-down House bill (perhaps adding a little water themselves), and we’ll be stuck with a mandate nobody wants and uneven subsidies with which to pay for it. The “Democrats” will either tap Ms. Snowe, who has already indicated her favorable stance toward the House bill, or Mr. Brown himself will be persuaded to “flip-flop”, something which, given his voting record, is well inside the realm of possibility.
But I think the idea that Mr. Brown will do as he has hinted and bury this bill warrants consideration. The irony of Mr. Kennedy’s seat being used to block something for which Mr. Kennedy spent his life (albiet, ineffectively) attempting to achieve have seen wide discussion. But personality politics aside, this episode would lay bare the supreme paralysis of our legislative branch, its utter inability to accomplish anything substantial without the president’s intervention. This bill occupied a full year of time during an economic tsunami. It’s been stripped of much of what made it initially attractive. For it to fail would indicate beyond a measure of doubt that our elected officials are incapable of acting in the interests of their constituents.
(As a side note I want to make clear that the gutted, sham-“reform” now being debated in the Senate is precisely what Mr. Obama wanted. There is substantial evidence to suggest Mr. Obama never intended on a public option being in the final bill, and instead considered it an asset to be traded away like so many horses.)
None of this, of course, is new. Mr. Bush, you will recall, saw very little resistance from Congress in funding and prosecuting the Iraq War, massively cutting taxes to the rich, or giving himself wide authority to kidnap, wiretap, torture, etc. The “Democrats” simply went along with it, despite such actions being diametrically opposed to whatever is they believe in. Similarly, a “Democratic” president, Mr. Obama, has seen very little Republican resistance in prosecuting his wars, extending unlimited subsides to the financial industry, or enforcing a health-insurance mandate, something which he specifically campaigned against. “Republican obstructionism” has made itself felt only on issues placing popular interest above business interests, and “Democrats” quickly cave to such tactics. Of course, no anti-corporate “Democratic obstructionism” exists to counterbalance its “Republican” mirror.
So then what we have in the end is a de-facto single party system, wherein the “two” parties maintain their separateness in name only and conduct theatrical negotiations regarding issues on which there exists considerable agreement.
The “debate” over health-care reform fits this scheme perfectly. As a candidate Mr. Obama campaigned explicitly for a non-profit publicly owned health care provider (the so-called “public option”) and against an individual mandate, which would legally require all Americans to patronize our bloodthirsty private insurers. His opponent, Ms. Clinton, took the reverse position and so did Mr. McCain. Our vast pharmaceutical and insurance industry, unsurprisingly, supported the Clinton-McCain plan. Soon after election Mr. Obama reversed his position and embraced Clinton and McCain’s vision of “reform”, though he did so by degrees. Up until August he was still nominally for a public option. But we have known since then that Mr. Obama did not really favor a public option, from the moment he uttered those infamous words (“The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it…”). The health insurance plan now on the table strongly resembles what Ms. Clinton or Mr. McCain would have preferred, and, it would seem, what Mr. Obama wanted all along.
So many bloggers and “analysts” insist on viewing this race through the traditional “Republican-Democrat” dichotomous lens, endlessly arguing over what this means for “Democrats” in 2010, why Ms. Coakley lost (it is always due to ‘party’ considerations, never due to her piss-poor candidacy), and how this will help “Republicans” further obstruct Mr. Obama’s agenda (whatever that may be). Some of the cleverer commentators have demanded a return to majority rule in the Senate and an end to the “automatic filibuster“, something with which I wholeheartedly agree. But such gossip-driven “coverage” misses, I think, the defining feature of this imbroglio, which is the vast similarity between our two “ruling parties”.
Taking such into account, “Republican obstructionism” and “Democratic waffling” quickly transform into “corporate rule”.
Stephanie Mencimer has an amusing report in this week’s Mother Jones. The “Tea Party” group of September 12th fame, who rose in opposition to “Obamacare”, “death panels” (and let’s not forget) “socialism”, finds itself riven with factionalism and discontent, according to Mencimer’s article. A picturesque and characteristic study of a “grassroots movement” and its eventual co-option by moneyed forces, her article is valuable for shedding light on how money corrupts.
Would a true Tea Party patriot drop nearly $1,600 in donor money for a small meal at a fancy steakhouse? Robin Stublen says no, and he’s mad as hell about the profligate expenditures of a GOP political organization that has glommed on to his grassroots movement. Stublen is the organizer of the Punta Gorda, Florida, Tea Party and a member of Tea Party Patriots, a national grassroots organization that has no offices, no president, raises virtually no money, operates largely on volunteer efforts, and, most important, doesn’t endorse candidates.
The “Tea Party Patriots” are not to be confused with the “Tea Party Express”; the latter derives its funding from major Republican donors and is basically seen as an organ of the Republican party. The former, on the other hand, claims to be the true “grassroots” movement – underfunded and without an institutional voice, they are frequently mistaken for their well-funded cousins.