You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV. Please forgive the delay in posting!
[…] Last week, NPR’s “This American Life” did a special on Apple’s manufacturing. The show featured (among others) the reporting of Mike Daisey, the man who does the one-man stage show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” and The NYT’s Nicholas Kristof, whose wife is from China.
You can read a transcript of the whole show here. Here are some details:
- The Chinese city of Shenzhen is where most of our “crap” is made. 30 years ago, Shenzhen was a little village on a river. Now it’s a city of 13 million people — bigger than New York.
- Foxconn, one of the companies that builds iPhones and iPads (and products for many other electronics companies), has a factory in Shenzhen that employs 430,000 people.
- There are 20 cafeterias at the Foxconn Shenzhen plant. They each serve 10,000 people.
- One Foxconn worker Mike Daisey interviewed, outside factory gates manned by guards with guns, was a 13-year old girl. She polished the glass of thousands of new iPhones a day.
- The 13-year old said Foxconn doesn’t really check ages. There are on-site inspections, from time to time, but Foxconn always knows when they’re happening. And before the inspectors arrive, Foxconn just replaces the young-looking workers with older ones.
- In the first two hours outside the factory gates, Daisey meets workers who say they are 14, 13, and 12 years old (along with plenty of older ones). Daisey estimates that about 5% of the workers he talked to were underage.
- Daisey assumes that Apple, obsessed as it is with details, must know this. Or, if they don’t, it’s because they don’t want to know.
- Daisey visits other Shenzhen factories, posing as a potential customer. He discovers that most of the factory floors are vast rooms filled with 20,000-30,000 workers apiece. The rooms are quiet: There’s no machinery, and there’s no talking allowed. When labor costs so little, there’s no reason to build anything other than by hand.
- A Chinese working “hour” is 60 minutes — unlike an American “hour,” which generally includes breaks for Facebook, the bathroom, a phone call, and some conversation. The official work day in China is 8 hours long, but the standard shift is 12 hours. Generally, these shifts extend to 14-16 hours, especially when there’s a hot new gadget to build. While Daisey is in Shenzhen, a Foxconn worker dies after working a 34-hour shift.
- Assembly lines can only move as fast as their slowest worker, so all the workers are watched (with cameras). Most people stand.
- The workers stay in dormitories. In a 12-by-12 cement cube of a room, Daisey counts 15 beds, stacked like drawers up to the ceiling. Normal-sized Americans would not fit in them.
- Unions are illegal in China. Anyone found trying to unionize is sent to prison.
- Daisey interviews dozens of (former) workers who are secretly supporting a union. One group talked about using “hexane,” an iPhone screen cleaner. Hexane evaporates faster than other screen cleaners, which allows the production line to go faster. Hexane is also a neuro-toxin. The hands of the workers who tell him about it shake uncontrollably.
- Some workers can no longer work because their hands have been destroyed by doing the same thing hundreds of thousands of times over many years (mega-carpal-tunnel). This could have been avoided if the workers had merely shifted jobs. Once the workers’ hands no longer work, obviously, they’re canned.
- One former worker had asked her company to pay her overtime, and when her company refused, she went to the labor board. The labor board put her on a black list that was circulated to every company in the area. The workers on the black list are branded “troublemakers” and companies won’t hire them.
- One man got his hand crushed in a metal press at Foxconn. Foxconn did not give him medical attention. When the man’s hand healed, it no longer worked. So they fired him. (Fortunately, the man was able to get a new job, at a wood-working plant. The hours are much better there, he says — only 70 hours a week).
- The man, by the way, made the metal casings of iPads at Foxconn. Daisey showed him his iPad. The man had never seen one before. He held it and played with it. He said it was “magic.”
Importantly, Shenzhen’s factories, as hellish as they are, have been a boon to the people of China. Liberal economist Paul Krugman says so. NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof says so. Kristof’s wife’s ancestors are from a village near Shenzhen. So he knows of what he speaks. The “grimness” of the factories, Kristof says, is actually better than the “grimness” of the rice paddies.
1.4 million: American jobs saved through President Obama’s decision to extend emergency loans to GM and Chrysler in 2009
- 1 in 25: Number of U.S. workers whose jobs rely on a healthy auto industry
- $1.7 trillion: Amount consumers will save at the pump thanks, in part, to new fuel economy standards proposed by the Obama administration
Download the fact sheet to learn more the auto industry’s turnaround—then share it with your friends out on the campaign trail.
The Obama administration has signaled to allies that it will take a more aggressive role this year in protecting homeowners from foreclosure, a posture that fits with Obama’s populist campaign stance.
Housing is poised to become a significant issue in the 2012 campaign season and President Obama’s allies acknowledge the administration’s efforts to help homeowners, while well intentioned, have fallen short. […]
The administration could dramatically speed the pace of home mortgage refinancings by clearing obstacles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency, which has oversight of the mortgage giants, has been hesitant to take an activist role. Obama’s hands are tied because Senate Republicans refused to confirm his nominee to replace DeMarco.
A White House official said Obama has taken the housing crisis seriously since the start of his term and will look to augment the effort in the months ahead.
“From day one the President has worked to stabilize the housing market and help responsible homeowners stay in their homes, including through refinancing efforts, foreclosure prevention programs and programs directed at the hardest hit states,” said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage.
“The President will continue to expand on these efforts and look at new ways to help homeowners, just as he has over the past few months with new programs to help underwater homeowners and expanding forbearance so more unemployed homeowners can stay in their homes,” she said.
The Center for Responsible Lending estimates the nation is only halfway through the disclosures stemming from the 2008 housing market bust.
“It’s not good for the economy,” said Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the non-partisan group.
Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which has played a leading role in advocating for homeowner relief, said the administration is gearing up for action.
“They’re examining all the options that can contribute to a solution,” he said. “The administration is beginning to look at how its influence can encourage” lenders to help underwater borrowers.
He expects “more over pronounced oversight and some interventions consistent with the market.”
[…] But now a new study released Wednesday shows that $12 million ain’t nothing in the age of the imperial CEO. GMI, a well-regarded research firm that monitors executive pay, looked at the largest severance packages ex-CEOs have received since the start of 2000.
William D. McGuire lasted much longer as longer as the CEO of the UnitedHealth Group. He served in that post for 15 years before he was forced to resign in 2006 over a stock-options scandal. The company forced McGuire to give up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of UnitedHealth stock, but GMI found that he still walked away with a pay package worth $286 million.
[…] The infographic HERE, which draws from Hacker and Pierson’s book, explains how our politicians — on both sides of the isle — fell under the spell of corporate dollars and re-engineered our economic system to favor the wealthy. The dark green line shows the income trajectory for the top 1 percent since 1970, while the light green line shows the bottom 90 percent. Click on the orange triangles to learn about turning points that helped create the skewed system we have today.
This is why your vote matters.
The Oil Goes to China, the Permanent Jobs Go to Canada, We Get the Spills, and the World Gets Warmer
You’ll hear the GOP, the American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce make wild claims about the job creation potential of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Don’t be fooled. The pipeline company itself admits only “a few hundred permanent jobs” are created by Keystone XL.
The debate over whether Keystone XL creates jobs is a convenient diversion from something oil company backers don’t want you to know: this is an export pipeline to help them access foreign markets and bypass the United States. Oil companies will make bigger profits and oil prices for Americans will increase. That’s not a project that helps Americans. It’s a project that helps Big Oil.
CNN posted this interview with a TransCanada executive who admits that permanent jobs would only number “in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands” from Montana down to Houston:
The oil industry is pulling a bait and switch scam with Keystone XL – offering it as a path to economic and national security when the pipeline is mostly meant for export. According to theState Department, only 20 permanent jobs will be created by the pipeline. Even the pipeline company acknowledged that only “a few hundred permanent jobs’ will be created. Claims the pipeline will created 100,000 jobs are false. The U.S. State Department estimates no more than 6,000 temporary construction jobs will be created over the two years. We need better from Republicans when it comes to a jobs plan than a single project with jobs that won’t last.
While the debate over job creation from Keystone XL has attracted a lot of attention, long-term real job creation on which Americans depend is occurring in the clean energy industry. In just a six week period in September and October 2011, Environmental Entreprenuers, a national community of over 850 individual business leaders, identified the creation of 32,000 clean energy jobs by 100 companies including manufacturing plants, power generation project, renewable energy, and energy-efficiency retrofits.
More than 2.7 million people are working in the U.S. clean energy economy right now – more than the entire fossil fuel industry put together. Every month new clean energy jobs are announced that are shovel-ready and lead to long-lasting permanent job growth in America. Clean car manufacturers have created over 151,000 quality long term jobs in the United States while saving consumers billions of dollars at the pump. Between 2003 and 2010, the clean energy sector grew nearly twice as fast as the overall economy.
If we are going to truly debate national job creation, we should be working on measures that will create jobs on a national scale while achieving true energy independence for our country. And we’ve already made tremendous strides on that front.
Steven M. Anderson, retired Army brigadier general, argues the Keystone XL pipeline will not help America cut its petro-addition and will detract from building a clean energy economy:
This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight. It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today.
The laser-focus emphasis on Keystone XL by House Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others is nothing short of politics. They are conveniently avoiding a more important point about how the Keystone XL pipeline that provides tar sands oil companies a platform to export oil while making billions of dollars in profit. Instead, the pipeline will take the dirtiest oil on the planet, put America’s heartland at risk, and then send that oil to the highest bidder around the world.
Building pipelines to the Gulf Coast, in addition to providing oil companies an avenue to export, also increases oil prices. There is concrete evidence (pp. 27-28) that building Keystone XL will increase oil prices in the Gulf Coast Market and the Midwest.
In the end, real job creation won’t come from approving a foreign pipeline. The evidence shows the future of job creation is in global clean energy markets. And that the real purpose of this pipeline is to give tar sands producers access to international markets.
[Please see original for massive links.]
The Good Human:
Climate change promises to have a very big impact on water supplies in the United States as well as around the world. A recent study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental group, and carried out by the consulting firm Tetra Tech found that one out of three counties across the contiguous U.S. should brace for water shortages by mid-century as a result of human induced climate change. The group found that 400 of these 1,100 or so counties will face “extremely high risks of water shortages.”
According to Tetra Tech’s analysis, parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas will be hardest hit by warming-related water shortages. The agriculturally focused Great Plains and arid Southwest are at highest risk of increasing water demand outstripping fast dwindling supplies.
While the mechanisms behind this predicted dwindling of water supplies is complex, key factors include: rising sea levels and encroaching ocean water absorbing lower elevation freshwater sources; rising surface temperatures causing faster evaporation of existing reservoirs; and increasing wildfires stripping terrestrial landscapes of their ability to retain water in soils.
Researchers have already begun to notice dwindling water supplies across the American West in recent years, given less accumulation of snow in the region’s mountains as temperatures rise. According to a 2008 study out of the Scripps Institute for Oceanography and published in the journal Science, Western snowpack has been melting earlier than it did in the past thanks to global warming, leading to markedly longer dry periods through the late spring and summer months in states already suffering from extended droughts. Given that the length and strength of these changes over the last 50 years cannot be explained by natural variations, researchers believe human induced climate change is the culprit.
[…] According to T.R. Reid, author of the widely read book “The Healing of America,” an individual mandate exists in “every nation that relies on health insurance” to fund medical care — except the U.S.
But the mandate has become the lightning rod in the health care debate, and nearly two dozen states (including Maine) plan to challenge the law in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The nine justices will be asked to decide whether the mandate is unconstitutional and try to divine what the framers would have thought of the idea.
Interestingly, history has left us a clue.
In 1798, Congress adopted an “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.”
The problem at the time was that sailors often returned from voyages with injuries or exotic diseases which were expensive to treat.
The solution was simple. The Seamen Act created the Marine Hospital Service and built a series of hospitals in port cities.
And the law featured what looks for all the world like an individual mandate: a 1 percent tax on each sailor’s wages, to be withheld from his pay. No options, no exceptions.
Ships were not allowed to enter or leave ports unless this tax, the first payroll tax in our nation’s history, was paid.
Later, the tax was extended to commercial vessels on the nation’s rivers and lakes.
John Adams was president and signed this mandate into law. Thomas Jefferson was president of the Senate when it was adopted, while another signer of the Constitution, Jonathan Dayton, was speaker of the House.
All were present in that hot summer of 1787 in Philadelphia when the Constitution was written, and Adams and Jefferson were among its chief architects.
Their reasoning for supporting the new law is as clear today as it was then: If society is compelled by its collective humanity to provide medical care to sick people, those people have an individual responsibility to help pay, if they can, for the cost of that care.
By the way, this historical anecdote was first uncovered by Rick Ungar, a health care consultant who also writes for Forbes magazine. At least one historian has suggested the “Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen” shows the founders had no qualms about government-run health care plans.
Of course, the current Supreme Court will be the final arbiter of the mandate issue. In a way, the court will be ruling on whether the founders themselves understood the Constitution they wrote.
[…] A handful of states are using the health reform law to test out various government-run health plans.
NPR’s Sarah Varney reports on the Alameda Alliance for Health, a nonprofit health plan run by a county in Northern California that plans to compete against private insurance companies when the state’s health insurance exchange launches in 2014:
In 2014, under the federal health overhaul law, millions of Americans will be able to buy coverage through state-based insurance exchanges. In California, government-run public plans, like the Alameda Alliance for Health, will go head-to-head with private insurance companies to compete for all those new customers, and those who run the county plans believe they can offer a robust network of doctors and hospitals to bargain shoppers looking for low-cost coverage.
“I think when some people get to make a choice,” says [Alameda Alliance for Health CEO Ingrid] Lamirault, “having local offices they can walk into and get help with things and get their questions answered, and when they call customer service they get their calls answered in under two minutes. Those kinds of things are important to them.”
Other states, too, are taking some steps toward similar approaches. Montana is exploring how to open up its Medicaid program to public employees and, eventually, to any citizens in the state, although it’s unclear whether the state will receive waiver authority to do so. Oregon is toying with a similar approach just as Vermont moves forward on its plan to go single-payer. The public option may not have much political traction, but in terms of state policy it isn’t dead either.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cut state prison spending next fiscal year for the first time in nearly a decade, a departure from the goals of recent administrations, which consistently increased corrections spending and pushed for prison expansion.
Brown’s budget would save California $1.1 billion on housing inmates and hundreds of millions more by allowing the state to halt some prison construction – savings largely due to his administration’s recent overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.
General fund spending on prisons nearly doubled under Brown’s Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, from $5.2 billion in 2004 to $9.5 billion in 2011, when Brown, a Democrat, took office. The increase in spending was largely caused by an exploding inmate population and a court order to improve medical care in prisons.
The general fund is backed by statewide taxes and pays for most of the government’s basic programs, including schools, police, welfare services and other programs. A cut in prison spending makes more dollars available for other programs.
“We’re knocking it down, and we’ll knock it down further,” Brown said Friday of the prison budget. “A lot of the problems come from the fact that they built (too many) prisons in 20 years – it was too fast, they didn’t know what they were doing, and now we have to clean up that mess. We made good progress the first year.”
$1 billion savings
Under Brown’s spending proposal, released Jan. 5, general fund spending on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would decline from this year’s budget of $9.8 billion to $8.7 billion, largely because the state prison population has fallen nearly 1,000 a week since Oct. 1, when the state shifted responsibility for lower level offenders to county law enforcement, a policy known as realignment.
“I don’t think there’s any question we’ve turned a corner here … just by the fact that we are significantly reducing the prison population,” said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, a nonprofit that conducts policy analysis on criminal justice issues.
But Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, a former parole board chairman who has been a vocal critic of realignment, predicted the savings would not last, particularly without more investment in rehabilitative services for criminals. He said that counties will ultimately have to raise local taxes to fully pay for realignment, eliminating any savings for taxpayers.
“It’s frankly not a long-run savings for the state,” said Nielsen, of Gerber (Tehama County). “Corrections spending will go down a little and then creep back up.”
Just one year ago, California was grappling with a court order to reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates and was moving forward with 13 construction projects to expand prison capacity.
Now, the prison population is at 130,000, a decrease of 11,000 in six months. State officials met the first benchmark set by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce the prison population and say they are on track to meet the next one as well, as thousands of offenders that would have flowed into the overcrowded system are staying in county jails instead and being supervised by local probation officials rather than state parole officers.
In addition to halting construction projects, Brown next year wants to begin phasing out the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice and place the state’s most violent youth offenders in county facilities. And after years of cuts to rehabilitation programs in prisons, Brown wants lawmakers to restore about $100 million in funding for drug treatment, education and other services.
The governor’s budget proposal, like most criminal justice issues, has prompted mixed reactions.
The Raw Story:
The state legislature passed nearly the same measure last year, but the law was ruled unconstitutional in court because it didn’t go through the committee process, violating the Florida Constitution.
The second largest private prison company in the world, GEO Group, has donated $822,000 to political campaigns in Florida, according to the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in Politics. The company also spent $25,000 for Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) inauguration party.
Newsweek’s Cover Story:
Greg Sargent, WaPo:
Yesterday the Romney campaign distributed a memo to reporters that attacked Obama’s record on jobs as a “failure.” To support this conclusion, the memo cited, among other things, the “net” job loss that has occurred on Obama’s watch.
“In January 2009, some 22 million Americans were unemployed, underemployed, or no longer looking for work. Today, that number has risen to nearly 24 million Americans,” the memo said. “Nearly 1.7 million jobs have been lost.”
This use of that “net” job loss number, which is technically true in the most narrow sense, is at best highly misleading and dishonest. That’s because it factors in the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs the economy was hemorraghing in the months just after Obama took office, when the economy was in free fall — beforeObama’s policies kicked in. Yet the Romney camp has again and again presented this “net” job loss number as proof that those same policies have failed.
Today on CNN, Candy Crowley confronted David Axelrod with this same number — and presented it as a meaningful one, just as the Romney camp continues to do. Per CNN’s transcript, she asked whether it explaines why Romney is polling better on the economy than Obama is:
CROWLEY: Couldn’t that huge gap, which is a pretty big gap between those who think he can handle the economy, as opposed to Mitt Romney, couldn’t it also be that from the day — from the month the president took office, we still have 1.7 million fewer jobs … in the marketplace.
AXELROD: You know what, I’m happy to have that discussion. Do you know that when he was campaigning for president in 2007 and 2008, Governor Romney had nothing but praise for the economic policies that were in place at that time, as America was sliding into the worst recession since the Great Depression, after eight years in which we…
CROWLEY: But this isn’t Romney, this is a fact.
Yes, that is a fact — one that the Romney campaign repeats again and again — but it’s being used in a highly misleading way. And it’s a bit surprising to see a neutral journalist validating this use of it. I hope Crowley takes a look at at Paul Krugman’s explanation and chart, which details how absurd it is to use this figure in isolation as a metric to judge Obama’s policies and as evidence that theydestroyed jobs. Indeed, the statistics show that once the stimulus passed, private sector job loss declined from month to month andturned around in the spring of 2010, after which there have been over 20 straight months of private sector job growth. Crowley might also check out Steve Benen’s charts, which make all this very simple to understand.
There’s no denying that Obama’s policies have not engineered the recovery as fast as we would have hoped, and by all means, Obama advisers should be pressed on that. But the Romney campaign’s ongoing use of this figure in this way is just absurd. Journalists like Crowley really should be pressing the Romney campaign on why their “net” job loss figure proves Obama’s policies failed, when the metric it uses includes so many jobs lost before those policies kicked in. This claim, which has become central to Romney’s whole argument, deserves scrutiny, not uncritical amplification. You can bet that Romney aides broke out high fives when Crowley echoed it on national television. If this is how this debate is going to be covered, it’s going to be a very long campaign.
State of the Union With Candy Crowley: Gov. Rick Perry (R); Rev. Brad Atkins (R); Bob Jones III, Bob Jones University (R).
Meet the Press: Newt Gingrich (R); Sen. Harry Reid (D); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R); Rep. Tim Scott (R).
This Week With George Stephanopoulos: Stephen Colbert (D); Rick Perry (R).
Face the Nation: Newt Gingrich (R); Rick Santorum (R); Sen. Jim DeMint (R); author Jodi Kantor (“The Obamas”).
It’s time to do the math:
Red Rs + Red Rs, carry the pi, divided by D, times Bias, minus even-handedness… calculating…
Total: 10 Rs, 2 Ds. Please feel free to check the addition and political affiliations.
There it is: Your librul media at work.
CNN political analyst Dana Loesch celebrated the U.S. Marines who appear to have urinated on the bodies of dead Taliban members during her radio show on Thursday.
“Now we have a bunch of progressives that are talking smack about our military because there were marines caught urinating on corpses, Taliban corpses,” Loesch said during her radio program on FM News Talk 97.1. “Can someone explain to me if there’s supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter? Someone who, as part of an organization, murdered over 3,000Americans? I’d drop trou and do it too. That’s me though. I want a million cool points for these guys. Is that harsh to say? Come on people, this is a war. What do people think this is?”
Loesch’s comments were first noted by St. Louis Activist Hub, a website for progressive activists. Official audio of Loesch’s remarks is also available on her show page, beginning four and a half minutes prior to the end of part one of Thursday’s show.
CNN hired Loesch, a co-founder of the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition, to join the “Best Political Team on Television” in February of last year. “I’m excited to be working with CNN and am appreciative of their efforts to showcase diverse political thought on their airwaves,” Loesch said at the time. “I look forward to the discussions.”
CNN, which has looked to bring in voices from across the political spectrum, also prides itself on being positioned in the center of the more ideologically driven Fox and MSNBC networks.
I’ve reached out to CNN to ask for their response to Loesch’s comments, and whether or not it will have any impact on her role at CNN. Updates here if and when I hear back.
UPDATE: CNN spokesperson Edie Emery emails:
CNN contributors are commentators who express a wide range of viewpoints—on and off of CNN—that often provoke strong agreement or disagreement. Their viewpoints are their own.
For the record: Loesch is a paid CNN contributor.
The United States and Israel have postponed an upcoming joint military exercise until later in the year, but sources in both countries denied on Sunday that the move was taken to avoid further escalating tensions with Iran.
Israeli media reports originally said it was cancelled due to budgetary constraints. But some pundits speculated that the real reason was fear of creating further friction with Iran, which is showing signs of deepening isolation over its refusal to halt nuclear activity.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen in recent weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill on New Year’s Eve that, if fully implemented, would make it impossible for most countries to pay for Iranian oil.
Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil shipping lane, if sanctions prevent it from exporting oil. The United States has said it will not tolerate such a move.
General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military officer, is due to travel to Tel Aviv for talks later this week in which Iran is certain to be one of the topics of discussion. It will be Dempsey’s first trip there since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September.
In a November 30 interview with Reuters, Dempsey said he did not know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take unilateral military action against Iran. He also acknowledged differences in perspective between the United States and Israel over the best way to handle Iran and its nuclear program.
“The governor and his family, at this point in the race, decided it was time for Republicans to rally around a candidate who could beat Barack Obama and turn around the economy,” Huntsman adviser Matt David said in a statement. “That candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.”
While its certainly true that Martin Luther King, Jr is a hero to President Obama, the two of them made very different choices during very different times about how to work for change in this country. MLK specifically rejected the idea of running for office and instead chose the role of organizer and agitator. On the other hand, one of my favorite quotes about Obama comes from his wife, Michelle.
Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He’s a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.
But both of them share what Rev. Joseph Lowery called “good crazy.”
Here’s Ta-Nehisi Coates making the connection.
Here is where Barack Obama and the civil rights leaders of old are joined — in a shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity, something that subsequent generations lost. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. may have led African Americans out of segregation, and he may have cured incalculable numbers of white racists, but more than all that, he believed that the lion’s share of the population of this country would not support the rights of thugs to pummel people who just wanted to cross a bridge. King believed in white people, and when I was a younger, more callow man, that belief made me suck my teeth. I saw it as weakness and cowardice, a lack of faith in his own. But it was the opposite. King’s belief in white people was the ultimate show of strength: He was willing to give his life on a bet that they were no different from the people who lived next door.
As much venom and violence as poor white people in the south dished at MLK, he never hated them. He stood firmly against what they did, but he also understood where they were coming from and had empathy for them. Here’s one of my favorite passages from his famous Drum Major Instinct sermon.
The other day I was saying, I always try to do a little converting when I’m in jail. And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. So I would get to preaching, and we would get to talking—calmly, because they wanted to talk about it. And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”
Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out.
Here’s how President Obama conveyed that same message when he spoke at the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial.
And just as we draw strength from Dr. King’s struggles, so must we draw inspiration from his constant insistence on the oneness of man; the belief in his words that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” It was that insistence, rooted in his Christian faith, that led him to tell a group of angry young protesters, “I love you as I love my own children,” even as one threw a rock that glanced off his neck.
And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain. He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships.
To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo. As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.” They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.
How cutting-edge text analytics can help the Obama campaign determine voters’ hopes and fears.
“Share your story,” Barack Obama’s Pennsylvania website encouraged voters just before the holidays, above a text field roomy enough for even one of the president’s own discursive answers. “Tell us why you want to be involved in this campaign,” read the instructions. “How has the work President Obama has done benefited you? Why are you once again standing for change?” In Obama’s world, this is almost a tic. His transition committee solicited “[a]n American moment: your story” on the occasion of his inauguration. The Democratic National Committee later asked people to “[s]hare your story about the economic crisis.” It’s easy to see where this approach fits into the culture of Obama’s politicking: His own career is founded on the value of personal narratives and much of his field staff takes inspiration from Marshall Ganz, the former labor tactician who famously built solidarity in his organizing sessions by asking participants to talk about their backgrounds. But might a presidential campaign have another use for tens of thousands of mini-memoirs?
That’s the central thrust of a project under way in Chicago known by the code name Dreamcatcher and led by Rayid Ghani, the man who has been named Obama’s “chief scientist.” Veterans of the 2008 campaign snicker at the new set of job titles, like Ghani’s, which have been conjured to describe roles on the re-election staff, suggesting that they sound better suited to corporate life than a political operation priding itself on a grassroots sensibility. Indeed, Ghani last held the chief-scientist title at Accenture Technology Labs, just across the Chicago River from Obama’s headquarters. It was there that he developed the expertise Obama’s campaign hopes can help them turn feel-good projects like “share your story” into a source of valuable data for sorting through the electorate.
At Accenture, Ghani mined the mountains of private data that collect on corporate consumer servers to find statistical patterns that could forecast the future. In one case, he developed a system to replace health insurers’ random audits by deploying an algorithm able to anticipate which of 50,000 daily claims are most likely to require individual attention. (Up to 30 percent of an insurer’s resources can be devoted to reprocessing claims.) To help set the terms of price insurance marketed to eBay sellers, Ghani developed a model to estimate the end-price for auctions, based on each sale item’s unique characteristics.
Ranking members of the Obama administration have published a memo condemning the approach taken in SOPA and PIPA, the punishing, pending Internet bills that establish and export a censorship regime in the name of fighting copyright infringement:
We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.
Yet, there is another version of the Bain way that I experienced personally during my 17 years as a deal-adviser on Wall Street: Seemingly alone among private-equity firms, Romney’s Bain Capital was a master at bait-and-switching Wall Street bankers to get its hands on the companies that provided the raw material for its financial alchemy. Other private-equity firms I worked with extensively over the years — Forstmann Little, KKR, TPG and the Carlyle Group, among them — never dared attempt the audacious strategy that Bain partners employed with great alacrity and little shame. Call it the real Bain way.
Here’s how it worked. Private-equity firms are always eager to find companies to buy, allowing them to invest chunks of the billions of dollars entrusted to them and from which they earn hundreds of millions in fees. One ready source of these businesses is Wall Street bankers hired to sell companies through private auctions. The good news is that when a banker puts together a detailed selling memorandum about a company, chances are very high that company will be sold; the bad news is that these private auctions tend to be very competitive, and the winning bidder, by definition, is most often the one willing to pay the most. By paying the highest price, you win the company, but you also may reduce the returns you can generate for your investors.
I never negotiated directly with Romney; he was too high-level for any interaction with me. Rather, I dealt often with other Bain senior partners, who were very much in his mold. In my experience, Bain Capital did all that it could to game the system by consistently offering the highest prices during the early rounds of bidding — only to try to low-ball the price after it had weeded out competitors.
By bidding high early, Bain would win a coveted spot in the later rounds of the auction, when greater information about the company for sale is shared and the number of competitors is reduced. (A banker and his client generally allow only the potential buyers with the highest bids into the later rounds; after all, you can’t have an endless procession of Savile Row-suited businessmen traipsing through a manufacturing plant if you want to keep a possible sale under wraps.)
For buyers, the goal in these auctions is to be one of the few selected to inspect the company’s facilities and books on-site, in order to make a final and supposedly binding bid. Generally, the prospective buyer with the highest bid after the on-site due-diligence visit is selected by the client — in consultation with his or her banker — to negotiate a final agreement to buy the company.
This is the moment when Bain Capital would become especially crafty. In my experience — which I heard echoed often by my colleagues around Wall Street — Bain would seek to be the highest bidder at the end of the formal process in order to be the firm selected to negotiate alone with the seller, putting itself in the exclusive, competition-free zone. Then, when all other competitors had been essentially vanquished and the purchase contract was under negotiation, Bain would suddenly begin finding all sorts of warts, bruises and faults with the company being sold. Soon enough, that near-final Bain bid — the one that got the firm into its exclusive negotiating position — would begin to fall, often significantly.
Of course, some haggling over price is typical in any sale, and not everything represented by sellers and their bankers is found to be accurate under close examination. But Bain Capital took the art of negotiation over price into the scientific realm. Once the competitive dynamics had shifted definitively in its favor, the firm’s genuine views about what it was willing to pay — often far lower than first indicated — would be revealed.
At such a late date, of course, the seller is more than a little pregnant with the buyer. Attempting to pivot and find a new buyer — which knew it had not been selected in the first place, but was now being called back — would be devastating to the carefully constructed process designed to generate the highest price. Once Bain’s real thoughts about the price were revealed, the seller either had to suck it up and accept the lower price, or negotiate with a new buyer, but with far less leverage.
Needless to say, this does not make for a very happy client (or a happy banker). By the end of my days on Wall Street in 2004, I found the real Bain way so counterproductive that I no longer included Bain Capital on my buyer’s lists of private-equity firms for a company I was selling.
The real Bain way may be nothing more than a clever tactic to eliminate competition from a heated auction in order to buy a business at an attractive price. After all, Bain Capital is seeking the highest returns for its investors. But Bain’s behavior also reveals something about the values it brings to bear in a process that requires honor and character to work properly. If a firm’s word is not worth the paper it is printed on, then its reputation for bad behavior will impair its ability to function in an honorable and productive way.
I don’t know if Bain Capital still uses the bait-and-switch technique when it competes in auctions these days (I’m told that it doesn’t). But that was the way the firm’s partners competed when Romney ran the place. This win-at-any-cost approach makes me wonder how a President Romney would negotiate with Congress, or with China, or with anyone else — and what a promise, pledge or endorsement from him would actually mean.
Would a President Romney, along with a Republican Congress, cut taxes for the wealthy even more than he has pledged to do? Would he not try to balance the federal budget, even though he has said he would? Would he protect defense spending, as he has indicated he would?
I have no idea how Romney might behave in office. I do believe, however, that when he was running Bain Capital, his word was not his bond.
Will Mitt’s CEO experience make him a good president? The New York Times Op-Ed columnists go to war
[…[ On Friday, two esteemed regular columnists, Paul Krugman and David Brooks, tackled the same question — will Mitt Romney’s business experience position him to be a successful president? — and delivered remarkably different answers.
Wait, no, that’s not quite right. Shockingly, on at least a superficial level, Krugman and Brooks agree: Mitt’s business experience as a private equity wheeler and dealer tells us nothing about whether he’d be a good president.
Krugman’s argument is simple: A country is not a corporation. What might make sense for the corporate bottom line — for example, cutting costs by laying off employees and outsourcing production to foreign countries — makes little sense for a nation. Krugman then moves into a familiar discussion of the downsides of austerity, a topic that, whether or not you agree with Keynesian economic policy, is at least relevant to the question at hand.
Brooks’ take is a little more difficult to follow. This is possibly because, after he introduces the question, he swiftly dismisses any in-depth consideration of how economic policy and business experience may or may not intersect and swerves in an utterly different (and ridiculous) direction.
What the United States needs, suggests Brooks, isn’t a CEO. We need an aristocrat.
First, successful presidents tend to be emotionally secure. They have none of the social resentments and desperate needs that plagued men like Richard Nixon. Instead they were raised, often in an aristocratic family, with a sense that they were the natural leaders of the nation. They were infused, often at an elite prep school, with a sense of obligation and responsibility to perform public service.
Whether it is a George Washington, a Franklin or Theodore Roosevelt or a John F. Kennedy, this sort of president enters the White House with ease and confidence, is relatively unscathed by the criticism of the crowd, is able to separate the mask he must wear for public display from the real honest self he knows himself to be.
With this column, Brooks settles, once and for all, the question of whether he himself is an elitist. And not just any run-of-the-mill elitist! No, Brooks is a heroic, truth-telling elitist, with the courage to say what conventional wisdom about American discourse declares verboten!
In sum, great presidents are often aristocrats and experienced political insiders. They experience great setbacks. They feel the presence of God’s hand on their every move.
Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to talk about these things openly these days. We disdain elitism, political experience and explicit God-talk. Great failure is considered “baggage” in today’s campaign lingo.
I wonder, why might Americans disdain elitism? Could it have something to do with our history, our defining identity as a people who rebelled against monarchy? Could it be that one of our core values, at least until recently, is the idea that anyone, no matter what family they were born into, or how wealthy they are, or what prep school they attended, has (at least theoretically) the potential and opportunity to rise to the highest office in the land?
Brooks doesn’t weigh in on whether Romney qualifies as a true blueblooded aristocrat — although, given the fact that his father was a governor and car company CEO, the implication is obvious. What’s equally obvious, however, is the slam at Obama, who was raised by a single mother and enjoyed none of the advantages that were mother’s milk to Romney.
Who is more emotionally secure? Who can best withstand the “brutal” (Brooks’ word) attacks that are now being directed at Romney and have been hammering on Obama for more than three years. I guess we’ll find out over the next 10 months of mudslinging.
But for now, excuse me while I look for some tea to dump in a nearby harbor. All this talk of benevolent aristocracy is making me want to start a revolution.
We’ve been told by Republicans for at least the last 30 years, since Reagan became President and even before that, that cutting taxes will create jobs, so I have a history lesson for you. Which Republican made the following statement:
“Nothing is more important than balancing the budget with the least increase in taxes. The Federal Government should be in such position that it will need issue no securities which increase the public debt after the beginning of the next fiscal year, July 1. That is vital to the still further promotion of employment and agriculture. It gives positive assurance to business and industry that the Government will keep out of the money market and allow industry and agriculture to borrow the monies required for the conduct of business.”
Not John Boehner or Mitch McConnell
Not Michele Bachmann or Paul Ryan
Hell, not even the demagogue of the trickle-down economics theory, Ronald Reagan, is the person who made this statement.
This statement was made by President Herbert Hoover, less than 5 months before Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated him in the 1932 election.
At the time approximately 1 in 4 Americans was unemployed, with the unemployment rate officially at 23.6%. In rural farm areas and the most poverty stricken areas people were driving what was referred to as a “Hoover cart”, named after President Hoover, which was essentially a car pulled by a horse or mule.
Americans are constantly told by Republicans that the best way to balance the budget and stimulate job growth is to lower taxes, but looking at history it is not hard to see that their theory doesn’t work.
Hopefully Republicans will learn before the next time the unemployment rate gets to over 20%.
The super PAC founded by Stephen Colbert, and now under the leadership of Jon Stewart, has released its first ad in South Carolina attacking Mitt Romney for his work at Bain Capital.
Money quote: “As head of Bain Capital he bought companies, carved them up, and got rid of what he couldn’t use. If Mitt Romney really believes ‘Corporation are people, my friend,’ then Mitt Romney is a serial killer.”
Here’s the video
Ann & Mitt Romney interview saying he is unequixocally pro-choice. Telling voters not worry about him on social issues.
Mike O’Neal, the Republican Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives sent the following email to his caucus about President Obama quoting Psalm 109 — a “prayer for the death of a leader”:
Let his days be few; and let another take his office
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.
I trust the Secret Service is investigating. Remember when the Republicans used to gripe about how it was unpatriotic to undermine the commander-in-chief while troops were at war? I wonder where threatening the life of the president falls in that equation.
This weekend, social conservative leaders from around the country are gathering in Texas (where else?) to see if they can coalesce around a Mitt Romney alternative. That will wrap up Saturday. The next day, the Tea Party groups of South Carolinawill convene in Myrtle Beach to, uh, see if they can coalesce around a Mitt Romney alternative. A week ago, all these people seemed like cranky sore losers. They’re still probably cranky sore losers, but one thing has changed: now that Romney is known as the King of Bain, their reservations about his electability don’t seem quite as crazy. In fact, they’re not crazy at all, because Romney is a stunningly weak candidate.
I started on this theme of Romney’s weaknesses last week when I wrote about his reactionary tax plan and his refusal to release his own taxes, and what an unfortunate (for him) cocktail those two ingredients will make for him. I then noted, after New Hampshire, how his victory speech was all wrong, and how easily rebuttable his arguments against Obama are. Now, the Bain attacks put into sharp relief another reason for his weakness. He has just one argument, and the Bain “creative destruction” narrative comes close to killing it.
Romney’s argument, of course, is that he has the know-how to fix the economy and put people to work. But as more and more people learn about what Bain did in private equity—the story will fade a bit now, but return with a roar this summer and fall—more and more people will come to realize the truth of the matter, which is that Bain wasn’t about creating jobs, it was about making investors who were usually already rich even richer. Jobs were sometimes created as a side effect, and they were sometimes destroyed as a side effect. But jobs were an ancillary consideration. Profit—for shareholders, yes, but mostly for Bain—was the idea.
Romney’s team has started its Bain pushback, and we’ll soon see gauzy testimonials from regular Americans who work at Staples and other places Bain helped. The “King of Bain” documentary has, of course, been seriously challenged, and the filmmakers incredibly used some stories that took place after Romney had left the firm. But there’s still enough material in one or two of those stories to make for some wrenching ads that are bound to pack more emotional wallop. And they’ll resonate more because of who Romney is and how he comes across—his gaudy net worth, his difficulty connecting with people, all of that. In some ways, the most damning thing in that documentary is that he tore down a $12 million beach house in La Jollabecause it was inadequate to his needs.
Toss in that ghastly remark about it being all right to discuss inequality in “quiet rooms,” which I feel certain we haven’t heard nearly the last of. Which quiet rooms did he mean? Not churches or funeral parlors. He meant corporate board rooms, where everyone would agree with him. An astonishingly frank moment, like the comment about liking to be able to fire people. I know he was talking about insurance companies, but here in the 99 percent, we don’t “fire” insurance companies, or usually doctors and certain other service professionals. We change them. It was a word choice that really did reveal a world view.
Is this really the man to make the case to middle America that he is their rescuer? It’s a joke. What Romney is depending on—the only thing that can elect him, really, along with I suppose a terrorist attack or some unforeseeable revelation or scandal—is a lousy economy. That can maybe elect him.
But let me pose this question. What if the economy is in pretty decent shape by the fall? The creation of 200,000 private-sector jobs in December is nothing to scoff at. In fact, Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, emailed me Monday morning in response to my question about the unemployment rate in this election year to say: “Based on the growth in the adult population, employment levels in Dec. 2011, and a couple of alternative assumptions about how fast the labor force will grow over the next 10 months, it appears to me than employment growth will have to average 155,000 to 170,000 over the next 10 months to hit” a joblessrate by Election Day of 8 percent. He cautions that the labor force participation rate (LFPR, explained here) could affect that a bit, requiring a somewhat higher number. Fair enough. But Burtless also told me in an earlier conversation that the LFPR rose over the last quarter of 2011, meaning more people participated in the work force and looked for jobs—which in turn means that “yeah, but people are taking themselves out of the labor market” is slowly becoming a smaller and smaller asterisk.
So—170,000 jobs a month? Consider this: We averaged 133,000 jobs per month in 2011, and the year gone by was certainly pretty crappy, especially the first seven or eight months of it. Is it insane to think we’ll average considerably better than that in 2012?
Romney is already a uniquely bad messenger for this particular year for the reasons laid out above. But if by Election Day we’ve been adding that many jobs a month every month for basically a year, Romney’s message will be irrelevant. Oh, he’ll get 47, 48 percent of the vote, because we’re a divided country, and he’ll take back a couple of states Obama picked off because of the singular historical circumstances of 2008. But a majority will not want to change horses, especially when the other horse is carrying Romney’s kind of personal baggage and is promising policies that are warmed over versions of the policies that created the economic crisis in the first place. I have no great confidence in the brilliance of Obama’s political team, but this should not be too hard, even for them, and Mitt can find himself a nice quiet room in La Jolla to go ponder the what-if’s.
“I think an intelligent conservative wants the right federal employees delivering the right services in a highly efficient way and then wants to get rid of those folks who are in fact wasteful, or those folks who are ideologically so far to the left, or those people who want to frankly dictate to the rest of us,” Gingrich said in response to a question from a federal employee at the forum (emphasis ours).
The gathering of more than 100 evangelical Christian leaders and activists in rural Texas this weekend was an 11th-hour effort to unite “movement conservatives” behind a rival to Mitt Romney and demonstrate their own power within the Republican Party.
Instead, it may well be a revelation of their weakness as a force within the GOP. Because if Romney still wins the South Carolina primary next weekend, this final flailing attempt to stop him will make his victory all the more important — and his eventual nomination all the more inevitable.
The Texas confab (at the ranch of a conservative judge and fundamentalist Paul Pressler) threw its collective weight behind Rick Santorum by a better than two-thirds vote. About one in four held out for Newt Gingrich, while a rump group stuck with the local boy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. There were apparently few votes if any for Romney, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.
Santorum was an improbable beneficiary of all this. He had been hanging on at the fringe of the field as recently as last month, then rose in Iowa to a virtual tie with Romney after some evangelicals coalesced behind him there. He got about three-fourths of the vote Baptist minister Mike Huckabee had enjoyed in winning the Iowa caucuses in 2008.
The hope at the Pressler ranch summit was that Santorum, bolstered now on a wider stage, will reproduce his Iowa miracle in South Carolina and beyond. That would spare the most doctrinaire social and economic hardliners a painful November choice between Romney and President Obama.
But the chances of Santorum achieving this remain remote.
It would be different if the decision of these self-appointed sentinels to settle on one candidate meant other contenders for the anti-Romney role would quit the race. But they won’t.
It would also be different if this late backing meant Santorum would have enough money overnight to be competitive on TV, not only in South Carolina but in the far costlier markets of Florida on Jan. 31. But that much money probably cannot reach Santorum in time.
And it would be different if Santorum had more of what you’d want in a “comeback kid,” such as charisma and momentum. But Santorum dissipated his Iowa bump by disappearing in New Hampshire (fifth place at 9 percent). And in public appearances he often leaves crowds less fired up than he finds them, giving long stem-winding answers to questions that dwell on ethical dilemma. The truth is, if he had shown the fire and the connectivity true conservatives have been looking for, they might have gotten behind him long ago.
Of course, the biggest difference might have been achieved if the organizers of the Texas meeting — including Judge Pressler and Tony Perkins of Family Research Council and James Dobson of radio fame — had held this sitdown months ago.
Back then, a big assist for Santorum might have brought millions of dollars in timely fashion. It might have given him more of the limelight in the debates. It might even have cut down on the inventory of candidates all competing for the not-Mitt lane.
No one should dismiss the miraculous effort by which these various evangelists, radio preachers and financiers were brought together and brought to a supermajority vote. It is usually far easier for religious activists to find points of distinction than to reach consensus.
Moreover, considering how few Catholics were at the Texas meeting, it is remarkable that those in attendance gave the lion’s share of their support to lifetime-Catholic Santorum and recently converted-Catholic Gingrich.
But the current field does not include a strong contender who fully fits the evangelical mold like Huckabee. Romney and Huntsman are, of course, Mormons. Perry and Ron Paul were raised in mainline Protestant churches (Methodist and Episcopalian, respectively). But Perry has been going to an Austin megachurch since 2010, and Paul now attends a Baptist church.
What about the voters?
It can be argued that just as many Americans today regard themselves as evangelicals — or religious conservatives or “values voters” or whichever label you prefer — as did in Ronald Reagan’s time. Some would say their numbers have grown, especially if you include in the category conservative Catholics, Mormons, Jews and members of other faiths with strict social and moral views.
The difference is that these voters do not have a single champion. In fact, no Republican presidential nominee has truly inspired movement conservatives since Reagan ran his last campaign almost three decades ago.
The closest anyone came was George W. Bush, although rather disappointing turnout among evangelicals cost him the popular vote in 2000 (and nearly the election). Some of these voters seemed disturbed by a report of a drunk driving conviction, and others never warmed to the younger Bush in the first place. More of these voters turned out four years later, in part because many states had ballot measures banning gay marriage that fall.
But Republican nominees George H.W. Bush in 1992, Robert Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008 all paid a big price for failing to unite and motivate these voters in November.
Preventing a replay of those three elections was the ultimate goal of the meeting at the Pressler ranch. But the organizers also hoped to show the party the best way to win was still to listen to them.
Even in South Carolina, a seat of conservative activism, the opposition to Mr. Romney appears to be fragmented and diffuse, as Matt Bai reports this weekend in The Times Magazine. Others have put the case more bluntly. “Where’s the Tea Party?” a headline on Politico asked last week.
This is all the more puzzling because the Tea Party movement did not lack for useful precedents or operating models. On the contrary, it is “the latest in a cycle of insurgencies on the Republican right,” as the historian Geoffrey Kabaservice writes in his new book, “Rule and Ruin,” a chronicle of half a century of internecine Republican warfare. “Even the name of the movement was a throwback to the ‘T Parties’ of the early ’60s, part of the right-wing, anti-tax crusade of that era.”
On its surface the Tea Party movement snugly fits this pattern. An organized grass-roots revolt, its influence was decisive in the 2010 elections, when an energized base propelled Republicans to enormous gains in the House, helped secure Senate victories for fresh faces like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and captured as many as 700 seats in state legislatures. The movement drove the Republican agenda to the right, making stars of legislators like Senator Jim DeMint and Representative Paul Ryan, and did much to shift the political debate from the jobless recovery to the growing national debt.
But even in those early, heady days there were signs of trouble.
What’s making for weak Tea? In this case, the formula seems to contain plenty of uprising, but few core beliefs. The only demand placed on Tea Party candidates is that they be rabidly mad at Democrats, for any number of mostly make-believe reasons. That may be enough to win an election cycle, but as it turns out, it’s not enough to sustain a movement. This party’s over.
Mr. Boehner began 2011 with the heady wave of victory and ended the year in disarray when the Senate forced him and his members to accept ashort-term extension of the payroll tax cut. Now, he begins the second session of the 112th Congress on defense, his leadership under scrutiny and his party facing an election-year attack from the White House.
His challenge is not only to rein in his restive conference but also to preserve his party’s majority even as he fends off President Obama, who is making Congress his central opponent in his re-election bid. And rank-and-file Republicans are itching for accomplishments, like reducing regulations and changing the tax code, to sell in their districts.
“He needs to be clear in what our strategy is,” said Representative Marlin Stutzman, a freshman Republican from Indiana. “I got chewed out by folks who said, ‘Why did you fold?’ I got scolded back home, and I don’t really like it.
“Leadership has to make decisions sometimes,” he added, “but we could at least be on the same page.”
The tensions among Republican lawmakers reflect the central problem that Mr. Boehner faced through several rounds of negotiations over federal spending last year. In his attempts to strike the kinds of bipartisan deals that voters say they crave, the speaker often gets ahead of his conservative membership and is then forced to retreat when he finds support lacking.
Mr. Boehner’s travails, which many Republicans and Democrats view as stemming from a fundamental misreading of what he can extract from his conference, have hurt his credibility both in his own ranks and with Congressional Democrats and the White House.
“I wish I could say it will be better in terms of more bipartisanship,” said Representative Michael G. Grimm, Republican of New York. “But I don’t think it will.”
Mr. Boehner, however, said he was confident that he had full control over his members.
“You know, I grew up in a big family and had my share of frustration trying to come to decisions within the family,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office. “And, my goodness, there are 242 of us in this family. You’re going to have divergent opinions.”
“Some people want to do more things, and they want to do them faster,” he added. “Othersthink we ought to take a more reasoned approach. My job is to listen to my members to make a decision about how we move forward, get everybody on the same page and go. It’s not easy.”
Asked if he sometimes wanted to shake members who would not listen to his appeals, Mr. Boehner laughed as he blew a curl of smoke and said, “Yes.”
Mr. Boehner’s problems on the Hill reflect the divisions within theRepublican Party, with the most right-leaning faction’s quest for ideological purity chafing against a desire among some members, including Mr. Boehner, to compromise in the name of legislative accomplishment.
“With a 25-seat majority,” said Representative Aaron Schock, Republican of Illinois, “you need to be together in order to govern. With so many new members comes the challenge of getting everyone’s expectations to be reasonable and having unified goals. I believe many members have more reasonable expectations now.”
The Republican presidential nominee, when he is selected, is certain to complicate matters further, adding another prominent voice to every policy battle.
In Mr. Boehner’s favor this year is an absence of the kind of mandatory legislation, like a bill to finance the government or raise the debt ceiling, that caused so much chaos last year.
But still awaiting Congressional action are long-term extensions of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits, which were abandoned in December over disagreements on how to pay for them, and a Federal Aviation Administration bill that got mired in a fight over labor unions. All of those debates raise the possibility of new clashes between the parties and within the Republican conference.
The bipartisan House and Senate conference committee assigned to deal with the payroll and unemployment benefit legislation could expedite and smooth the process, but Republican votes will be needed to pass any legislation it drafts.
“I am one of those conservatives who would have voted against the Senate bill and not voted to extend the payroll tax cuts at all,” saidRepresentative Dennis Ross of Florida, “because that is the better policy.”
Republican leaders seem dedicated to a plan of letting members vent any lingering frustrations in the days before their party retreat in Baltimore this week, and then moving on to a new set of bills related to the economy.
In a memorandum to members, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, said, “We will devote our time in Baltimore to looking forward, discussing our goals for 2012, and designing a plan to achieve them.”
Republicans hope Mr. Obama’s pronouncement that a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut was the last “must-do” piece of legislation for the White House will work in their favor, making them look as though they are trying to create jobs while Mr. Obama is busy campaigning.
“If I had the president’s record,” said Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, “I’d be looking for a scapegoat, too. When he says Congress, I wonder if he is including the Senate, which is run by his own party.”
In the new session, Mr. Boehner said, “we will have continued, relentless focus on getting our economy moving again and getting the American people back to work.” High on the agenda is a bill to remove many regulations on American energy production, with projected newrevenues from domestic production to be used to improve infrastructure.
Republicans will also continue to strongly support the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, which the White House is seeking to block.
“I want to wake up talking about Keystone pipeline and I want to go to bed at night talking about Keystone pipeline,” said Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas. “Because it shows everything that is wrong with this administration and everything that is right about conservatives in Congress.”
In interviews, a dozen House Republicans said that although they remained angry about the way the last year ended, they were ready to support Mr. Boehner and move on. “You will see a reinvigorated conference,” said Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado. “I don’t think you win the American people by discussing the past.”
But it is clear that some members, many of whom have been steadfast in their opposition to Mr. Boehner’s efforts for the politically possible, will continue to stir the pot. RepresentativeAllen B. West of Florida told a radio host that the leadership had sold the party “down the road.”
Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who sits in a far more comfortable re-election position than many of his colleagues, took the fight to them, saying he was “embarrassed by his fellow freshmen Republican lawmakers in D.C.,” according to a report in Politico.
Mr. Mulvaney added, “I would be embarrassed to tell you how many folks ran saying that they weren’t going to spend a bunch of money, they weren’t going to raise the debt ceiling, and then they went to Washington, D.C., and did exactly that.”
It is just that sort of infighting that many hope to avoid. “There is an expectation that we work together,” said Mr. Schock of Illinois. “We will be struggling to find common ground.”
As the Republican presidential candidates and their mouthpieces prattle on the TV from sunny South Carolina, I look up from the screen and out the window and sigh, a conservative heretic at rest, staring at all that cold Midwestern snow.
There’s a yellowed sketch tacked to the wall of my work space, a cowboy Ronald Reagansmiling in eternal optimism. And on a bookshelf is a dusty, dog-eared copy of Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind.”
Surrounded as I am by such dry artifacts of forgotten times, I sometimes wonder why I keep them. It could be self-mockery, or something like the way an amputee decides to keep the unused boot in the closet, out of sight, but near.
And still, I can’t ditch this feeling that I might be boiled in oil for the heresy I’m about to spout:
President Barack Obama will win re-election in 2012.
The reason he’ll win?
He knows who he is. And the Republican politicians don’t know who they are. They’ve forgotten what they’re about, or perhaps like some isolated tribe, they’ve lost the language necessary to explain it to themselves.
Their voters know this and don’t really believe them anymore.
And that’s why Obama will win.
And the Republican establishment that seeks to unseat him?
Their guy Mitt Romney calls himself a conservative. But he’s really a John Kerry in Republican clothing, right down to the phony laugh, and his past flips and flops will haunt him in defeat.
Shouldn’t the Romney types form their own party and call themselves the Corporatists? They’re often mistakenly called “pro-business moderates” by news organizations, but that’s not quite accurate.
For all the rhetoric about opposing regulation on business, they’re not opposed to those regulations that crush their competitors.
But do they know why their party is adrift? Can they even articulate the problem? I doubt it.
What’s bothersome is that I disagree with almost every single Obama policy, often vehemently, because what he’s doing amounts to feeding handfuls of steroids to the federal leviathan gorging on our individual rights and freedoms.
But being anti-Obama isn’t enough to vote him out. Republican voters have to believe, and I don’t think they do. They see the game unfolding. And they don’t want to be suckers again.
What’s illuminating is the recent fiasco with Romney’s investment firm, Bain Capital. He seized companies, gave out thousands of pink slips and made money for his investors. Now such layoffs are given a noble sounding name: “creative destruction.”
Obama will gut Romney with this. Picture the screeching outrage in the TV spots, Obama in shirt sleeves holding out his arms to comfort an America that just wants to make it through retirement without spooning dog food on a hot plate.
There are, of course, legitimate conservative critiques of the creative destruction so favored by Wall Street. Capitalism creates freedom, but it also destroys.
[…] The more President Obama talks about narrowing that gap, the more his popularity ratings have risen while those of Congress plummet. Two-thirds of Americans now say there is a strong conflict between the rich and the poor, according to a Pew survey released last week, making it the greatest source of tension in American society.
That makes Mr. Romney and his party vulnerable, as he clearly knows. He said on Wednesday that issues of wealth distribution should be discussed only “in quiet rooms.” And he accused the president of using an “envy-oriented, attack-oriented” approach, “entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”
Mr. Romney’s image of a country where workers have nothing but admiration for benevolent, job-creating capitalists (and no one is so impolite as to mention jobs destroyed) bears very little relationship to reality. But his suggestion that it is un-American to talk about rising populist resentment is self-serving and hypocritical. Republicans, in particular, have eagerly stoked such resentments against minorities and the poor.
That was the essence of the “Southern strategy” that Republicans, beginning with Richard Nixon, used to urge white voters to defect from a Democratic Party that supported civil rights. It continued for decades with attacks on busing, affirmative action, immigration and welfare, and was sounded most recently by Mr. Gingrich, with his attacks on Mr. Obama as “the food stamp president.”
Fanning resentment of the poor — and deflecting attention from the relentless Republican defense of the rich — is also central to the party’s current political strategy. That’s why so many Republican candidates and lawmakers keep talking so angrily about poor people not paying federal income taxes. That’s how the Tea Party got started in 2009, when Mr. Obama proposed lowering interest rates for homeowners who were behind on their mortgages and conservative activists saw an opportunity to pit the affluent against their struggling neighbors. And that’s why Mr. Romney constantly accuses the president of trying to create “an entitlement society,” which is simply a variant on Ronald Reagan’s welfare-queen anecdotes.
And yet if Democrats dare to point out that the income gains of the top 1 percent have dwarfed everyone else’s in the last few decades, they are accused of whipping up class envy. Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, noted in a speech on Thursday that the median income in the United States had actually declined since 1999, shrinking the middle class while the income of the top 1 percent soared. Such inequality is corrosive. And pointing it out has nothing to do with envy and everything to do with pressing for policies to help America’s struggling middle class.
Anyone who criticizes Mr. Romney’s business practices now faces the absurd charge of putting free-market capitalism on trial. No one is trying to end capitalism, but President Obama is calling for more effective regulation to protect consumers. While Republicans attack a supposed “entitlement culture,” Mr. Obama is calling for strengthening a desperately needed safety net. And he is calling for raising taxes on the wealthy, particularly for those on Wall Street and in private equity, to protect that safety net and reduce the deficit.
Mr. Romney has based his campaign on his business experience. Americans need to know how that experience was gained, and what values — if any — it represents. Class reality has nothing to do with class warfare.
Mitt Romney gave a handful of cash Saturday to a woman who had told him she was struggling financially after an event in Sumter, South Carolina.
An aide said the GOP candidate gave the supporter “what he had on him” – about $50 or $60.
The woman, Ruth Williams, met Romney earlier in the week and told him she was having trouble making ends meet. On Saturday, Romney recognized Williams while he was shaking hands with supporters after a rally, an aide said.
Romney spoke to the woman and handed her several bills.
“He was kind to me,” Williams said. “He held onto me and he made Gov. [Nikki] Haley and them come see about me.”
Williams told reporters that on Wednesday she had seen Romney’s campaign bus on the highway and followed it to an airport. Aides then invited her to come meet the former governor at an event in Columbia.
“I was on the highway praying and said, ‘God, tell me how to get [my] lights on, and I pulled up to a stop sign and his bus was there,'” Williams said.
Williams has been out of work since October and is caring for an ill son. She said that after meeting Romney she had also met South Carolina state treasurer and Romney supporter Curtis Loftis, and said he had given her money. She said she used the money to pay her light bill.
A Romney campaign aide confirmed Loftis had given Williams money.
Williams has been volunteering at Romney’s state headquarters in Columbia since the original meeting, she said.
“God didn’t tell me to go to nobody else,” she said when asked whether she had approached other presidential candidates. “He told me to pray for Romney.”
The cash gift is notable from a candidate who has said he would not give away “free stuff” as president but rather would focus on cutting back on federal spending and stimulating private sector growth.
“I know there are some people who run for president that will say, ‘Hey, I’m going to give you more. I’ll find a way to give you some more. I’ll change the rules and give you more money,” Romney said at a December event in Conway, New Hampshire. “I’m not that guy. If there’s a competition for who will give you the most free stuff, go vote for that guy.”
You’re just jealous. At least that’s how Mitt Romney sees it. The millionaire who posed for a picture with the boys at Bain Capital with the long green clinched between their teeth and poking out of their collars and jackets now says that people who question what he did there, and what rich people do now, are just green with envy.
In his New Hampshire victory speech on Tuesday, Romney lambasted his Republican opponents (who have raised real issues about his role at the private equity firm Bain Capital) for following the lead of President Obama, whom he described as a leader who divides us “with the bitter politics of envy.”
The next day on “Today” on NBC, Romney defended the statement, rejecting the notion that there were questions about Wall Street behavior, saying the whole discussion was about class warfare. He even went so far as to suggest that such talk shouldn’t even be openly entertained. When the interviewer asked, “Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?” Romney responded, “I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like.”
In quiet rooms? That’s the problem. Too many have been too quiet for too long. And, on this point, we must applaud the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It took income inequality and corporate responsibility out of the shadows and into the streets.
A report released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that about two-thirds of Americans now perceive a strong conflict between the rich and poor in this country. That was up 19 percentage points from 2009.
As The New York Times pointed out in regard to the report, “conflict between rich and poor now eclipses racial strain and friction between immigrants and the native-born as the greatest source of tension in American society.”
And this has nothing to do with envy and everything to do with fairness.
Elizabeth Warren, who is now running for the Senate seat that Romney ran for in 1994 and didn’t get, probably rebuts this myth of class warfare best by reframing the discussion in terms of a “social contract” between the rich and the rest of society. At one of her campaign events, she explained:
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But, I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
That is the corporate Contract With America: societal symbiosis. We create a society in which smart, hard-working people can be safe and prosper, and they in turn reinvest a fair share of that prosperity back into society for posterity.
But somewhere along the way this got lost. Greed got good. The rich wanted all of the societal benefits and none of the societal responsibilities. They got addicted to seeing profits go up and taxes go down, by any means necessary, no matter the damage to the individual or the collective. Those Maseratis weren’t going to pay for themselves.
And the resulting income inequality helped to stall economic mobility.
As The New York Times reported last week, “many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe.” The Times report speculated that: “One reason for the mobility gap may be the depth of American poverty, which leaves poor children starting especially far behind. Another may be the unusually large premiums that American employers pay for college degrees. Since children generally follow their parents’ educationaltrajectory, that premium increases the importance of family background and stymies people with less schooling.”
Indeed, a November report by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project pointed out, “In the United States, there is a stronger link between parental education and children’s economic, educational, and socio-emotional outcomes than in any other country investigated.”
Pew has found that most children raised at the top of the income spectrum stay there and most raised at the bottom stay at the bottom.
An equal opportunity to success is central to this country’s optimistic ethos, but income inequality and corporate greed are making a lie of that most basic American truism. The rich and their handmaidens on the political right have consolidated America’s wealth on the ever-narrowing peak of a steep hill and greased the slope. And they want to cast everyone at the bottom as lazy or jealous, without acknowledging the accident of birth and collusion of policies that helped grant them their perch.
Income inequality is a threat to this country and the middle class that made her great. If Romney wants to be president, he needs to understand that.
As Alan Krueger, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on Thursday, “I think it is clear that we can’t go back to the type of policies that exacerbated the rise in inequality and threatened economic mobility in the first place if we want an economy that builds the middle class.”
Not envy Mr. Romney. Opportunity.
[You might want to bookmark this. Long memorandum on Romney and Bain.]
[…] The ads, described by ABC reporter Jake Tapper as contaning “claims that are not tethered to facts,” will attempt to compare the bankruptcy of solar energy company Solyndra (who received federal funds) to the corporate raider career of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney.
The ad claims the Obama administration knew about Solyndra’s problems before they were given loans, but that isn’t true. By comparison, the companies that Romney ran were often shredded to the bone in pursuit of profit that was added to Romney’s rumoured $250 million net worth.
The Koch-backed ad also truncates a quote from President Obama on problems at Solyndra, making it appear as if he approves of the problems there. In fact, Obama is noting that most of the loan guarantees like Solyndra have worked out well for the government, as ABC reports. [ABC]
Paul Krugman noted this morning that Mitt Romney tells so many falsehoods so often, he seems determined to rehabilitate George W. Bush’s reputation “by running a campaign so dishonest that it makes Bush look like a model of truth-telling.”
Krugman added, “I mean, is there anything at all in Romney’s stump speech that’s true?”
Well, no, not really.
Last week, I launched a new Friday afternoon feature, highlighting the Republican frontrunner’s most offensive falsehoods from the previous week. Last week was a Top 5 list, but thanks to two debates and a victory speech, we had enough examples to fill a Top 10 list.
Let’s get started:
1. Romney told voters in New Hampshire, “I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re gonna get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.”
2. Romney argued in a debate, “[W]hat unfortunately happens is with all the multiplicity of federal programs, you have massive overhead, with government bureaucrats in Washington administering all these programs, very little of the money that’s actually needed by those that really need help, those that can’t care for themselves, actually reaches them.”
This is the exact opposite of the truth.
3. After winning the New Hampshire primary, Romney said of the president, “He lost our AAA credit rating.”
In reality, it was congressional Republicans who were responsible for the downgrade.
4. In the same speech, Romney said of Obama, “He apologizes for America”
5. Romney told a debate audience why he didn’t seek re-election as governor: “That would be about me. I was tryin’ to help get the state in best shape as I possibly could. Left the world of politics, went back into business.”
He’s lying — Romney didn’t re-enter the private sector after leaving the governor’s office; he transitioned to a presidential campaign.
Actually, that’s backwards. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would cost the nation billions and increase the deficit.
7. Romney argued that the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill “makes it harder for community banks to make loans.”
8. Romney argued during a debate, “[I]n the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.
9. After being pressed on ads being run by his Super PAC, Romney said, “With regards to their ads, I haven’t seen ‘em.”
Romney then proceeded to recite the attacks in the ad, almost verbatim, making clear he’d both seen and memorized the ad.
10. Campaigning in New Hampshire, Romney insisted “European-style welfare” countries end up with a system that “creates poverty.”
Not only is that wrong, but when asked to support his statement, Romney lied and pretended he never said it.
So far, the political world has been reluctant to call Romney out on his dishonesty, and some even seem taken aback when others, including Republicans, accuse the former governor of being deceitful.
I’m afraid we may be moving deeper into an era of “post-truth politics.”
When it goes before the Supreme Court to defend the health reform law’s mandate that every American buy health insurance or pay a penalty, the Obama administration essentially must convince the nine justices of one thing — that a decision not to purchase health insurance has economic consequences for interstate commerce. That means that Congress has the power to regulate a citizen’s decision on health insurance under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause — making the law Constitutional.
In an amicus brief filed Friday with the Supreme Court, Massachusetts health care advocacy groups make this case in an unusual way. They explored the health care costs that the Bay State incurs from out-of-state skiers showing up, getting injured and landing in Massachusetts emergency rooms:
The skiing industry figures prominently in the tourism economies of Vermont and New Hampshire, but also to an extent in Massachusetts. Because skiing is an activity with inherent safety risks and is often performed in relatively rural environments, it is unsurprising that hospitals are located in close proximity to major ski areas in Massachusetts.
Great Barrington and its surrounding communities are served by Fairview Hospital which is situated within eight miles of both Butternut and Catamount Ski areas and within twelve miles of the Connecticut and New York borders. Because of these characteristics, Fairview Hospital’s emergency department case mix reflects above-average numbers of visits by out-of-state patients, for medical issues relating to accidents and physical injuries, who lack public or private insurance….
Because [federal law] ensures access to emergency medical treatment, participating Massachusetts hospitals must conduct medical screenings and examinations, including ancillary services routinely available at the emergency room, for any person, including an out–of-state resident, who presents with an emergency medical condition. Whenever such an emergency condition exists, Massachusetts hospitals must stabilize the condition or transfer the patient to another facility with appropriate services.
All told, Massachusetts spends $19.9 million annually on covering the cost of out-of-state, uninsured individuals treated in its emergency rooms, according to the groups.
“Markets for health care and health insurance are enmeshed in interstate commerce because decisions individuals make in one state regarding whether to have and maintain health insurance inevitably affect other states,” they conclude. “As a result of such decisions, states such as Massachusetts cannot solve their health care financing and delivery problems alone, even after they enact broad reforms.”
The 26 states challenging President Obama’s healthcare law are facing several thorny dilemmas as they try to convince the Supreme Court to throw out the law’s Medicaid expansion.
Both of the lower courts that heard the Medicaid challenge ruled against the states, even as those judges struck down the healthcare law’s individual mandate. Legal experts on both sides of the debate over the mandate were surprised that the Supreme Court agreed to also hear the Medicaid piece of the states’ lawsuit.
Supporters of the healthcare law say the states made significant missteps in their initial brief on the Medicaid expansion, which was filed with the Supreme Court earlier this week.
The states say the healthcare law’s Medicaid expansion is “coercive.” Although states participate in the program voluntarily, the brief argues, the healthcare law made it impossible for states to actually opt out of Medicaid.
The brief makes a concerted effort to link the Medicaid expansion to the individual mandate, arguing that states couldn’t exercise their legal right to leave Medicaid because it’s the only way for Medicaid-eligible residents to satisfy the mandate.
“While the (Affordable Care Act) purports to leave States’ participation in Medicaid nominally voluntary, multiple aspects of the Act evince Congress’ keen awareness that, in fact, no State will be able to reject its new terms and withdraw from the program,” the brief says. “Most obviously, the ACA’s individual mandate requires Medicaid-eligible individuals to obtain and maintain insurance.”
But most Medicaid-eligible people would be exempt from the mandate, said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and a supporter of the health law.
People whose incomes fall below the federal poverty level are exempt from the requirement to buy insurance. The mandate also does not apply to anyone who couldn’t buy a specific type of plan without spending more than 8 percent of his or her income.
Those two exemptions will capture nearly everyone who’s eligible for Medicaid, Jost said.
The healthcare law expands Medicaid so that everyone who makes less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level — about $14,500 for a single person — is eligible for the program. But Jost said that, based on cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, a person would have to make about $56,000 before being penalized for remaining uninsured.
“Basically nobody on Medicaid is ever going to be required, by the minimum coverage requirement, to purchase insurance,” he said.
Mitt Romney, at a Fox News forum hosted by Mike Huckabee, said President Barack Obama’s recent recess appointments show that he “wants to jam through whatever he’d like to do.”
“I think what we’ve just seen with the president is extra-Constitutional action,” Romney said in response to a question at the forum. […]
“[H]e is taking his friends and putting them into positions of power,” Romney continued.
“[P]erhaps the most egregious example of that is what’s happened with the National Labor Relations Board. He basically is paying back organized … labor by taking unions’ stooges, putting them into the National Labor Relations Board, so they’ll do his bidding and they’ll follow his policies.”
After applause, Romney broadened his critique to Obama’s dealings with Capitol Hill throughout his term.
“He came into office with a Democrat House and a Democrat Senate and didn’t think he needed to work across the aisle to build relationships and trust and respect with Republicans,” Romney said. “And so he pushed through his agenda without respect of the feelings of the American people, and those that have been elected in the opposition party. And so now that you have a Republican House, he doesn’t like it anymore.
“He doesn’t want to have to work with both parties. He wants to jam through whatever he’d like to do without reference to the will of the American people and to our party. If I’m president of the United States, I’ve learned a lesson by being a governor in a state where there are few Democrats. My legislature was 85 percent Democrat. I learned I had to get along with the other guys and work with them. I will find common ground. I will follow the Constitution, and I will respect the people of America.”
On the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday in 2012, its hard for me to grasp that we’re even having conversations with those who call themselves liberals or progressives and think we should consider the ideas of a presidential candidate who’s position is that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unconstitutional.
It seems a little history is in order.
When we talk about the Civil Rights era, we often refer to sit-ins at lunch counters and boycotting bus companies. We frame the Jim Crow era as being about restrictions on where Black people could/couldn’t sit, which water fountain they could/couldn’t drink out of, where they could/couldn’t go to school, etc. That was certainly where many of the lines were drawn. But it isn’t the real story.
Perhaps the most poignant reminder of what Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement were all about was written recently by a Daily Kos diarist, Hamden Rice.
At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.
My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”
Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a whiteperson who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.
But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.
He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south…
It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.
You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.
It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves what that looked like.
I’m sorry if that is harsh or disturbing. But its the reality of what we’re talking about.
Since Rice describes what was happening with a word that now has some meaning for the rest of us in this country…terror, it reminds me of something Tim Wise wrote a few years ago during the Jeremiah Wright controversy.
What Jeremiah Wright knows, and told his flock–though make no mistake, they already knew it–is that 9/11 was neither the first, nor worst act of terrorism on American soil. The history of this nation for folks of color, was for generations, nothing less than an intergenerational hate crime, one in which 9/11s were woven into the fabric of everyday life: hundreds of thousands of the enslaved who died from the conditions of their bondage; thousands more who were lynched (as many as 10,000 in the first few years after the Civil War, according to testimony in the Congressional Record at the time); millions of indigenous persons wiped off the face of the Earth. No, to some, the horror of 9/11 was not new. To some it was not on that day that “everything changed.” To some, everything changed four hundred years ago, when that first ship landed at what would become Jamestown. To some, everything changed when their ancestors were forced into the hulls of slave ships at Goree Island and brought to a strange land as chattel. To some, everything changed when they were run out of Northern Mexico, only to watch it become the Southwest United States, thanks to a war of annihilation initiated by the U.S. government. To some, being on the receiving end of terrorism has been a way of life. Until recently it was absolutely normal in fact.
But white folks have a hard time hearing these simple truths. We find it almost impossible to listen to an alternative version of reality. Indeed, what seems to bother white people more than anything, whether in the recent episode, or at any other time, is being confronted with the recognition that black people do not, by and large, see the world like we do; that black people, by and large, do not view America as white people view it. We are, in fact, shocked that this should be so, having come to believe, apparently, that the falsehoods to which we cling like a kidney patient clings to a dialysis machine, are equally shared by our darker-skinned compatriots.
This is what James Baldwin was talking about in his classic 1972 work, No Name in the Street, wherein he noted:
White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded–about themselves and the world they live in. White people have managed to get through their entire lifetimes in this euphoric state, but black people have not been so lucky: a black man who sees the world the way John Wayne, for example, sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac.
So lets call it like it really was...the Civil Rights Act was an answer to the terrorism being practiced by white people in the Jim Crow South. That someone like Ron Paul would say it is unconstitutional is madness. To suggest that we should simply look past Ron Paul’s views about it is madness. And to “white-wash” it all as being about where someone sat at a lunch counter is part of our blindness.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.