Archive for June, 2011

Well, lying continuously has worked in the past…

Jun 30, 2011 in Politics

If you give a speech and almost nothing in it is true, you just might be a Republican presidential candidate. Today, Mitt Romney.

-hw

I’ll tell anybody who will listen-

Jun 30, 2011 in Culture, Curiosities

HOAs are the devil.

In a less horrible story, a local HOA made an elderly lady stop playing cards and watching TV with her friends in her garage, because the rules said garages could not be living spaces. I’d like to find the persons responsible for moments like these and unleash a verbal tirade that would completely, totally ruin their day.

-hw

Republican economic terrorism.

Jun 30, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Constitution, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit, Economy

As the kids say nowadays, this.

Over at Dana’s blog the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of the validity of the US debt has produced a sort of nervous chuckle without anybody really willing to explain how Republicans could force the US to default without violating the Constitution. Something tells me they’re feeling a bit blindsided.

But when your only goal is to do whatever hurts President Obama, even if that means tanking the economy, you gotta be careful of those blinders.

Sounds to me like Democrats just need to show a little spine to save the country and themselves.

Ah, shit. We might be screwed anyway then.

-hw

UPDATE: Fourteenth Amendment fever popping up here and here.

Ungrateful little monkeys!

Jun 29, 2011 in Deficit, Politics, Taxes

Suzanne Mettler wrote this timely and interesting article on how little people appreciate government assistance when it comes in the form of targeted tax breaks:

Growing up during the Depression, Sam Marchesi had to drop out of school after eighth grade—soon after his father died—to work and help support his mother and his seven younger siblings. When World War II began, he enlisted in the Army and served in the Pacific. Upon his return, he took advantage of the educational and training benefits of the G.I. Bill, joining the 52 percent of fifteen million returning veterans who did so. He acquired vocational training in architectural drawing and on-the-job training as an apprentice carpenter, skills that enabled him to become a successful custom builder. When I interviewed Marchesi in the late 1990s for a study of the G.I. Bill, he reflected, “I think it was a great thing that the government did, to give us this opportunity to pick up where we left off. We had to face the world. We had to make a living. Thank God the government had the doors open for us.”

The G.I. Bill’s transformative effects on the lives of men like Marchesi have become legendary, but just as striking in hindsight is the clearly visible role that government played as the source of those opportunities. In more recent decades the federal government has expanded its efforts to provide college aid to all Americans. But instead of delivering a straight benefit, like the original G.I. Bill, most of that aid has come through roundabout means, like payments to banks to provide students with loans, or loopholes in the tax code to subsidize families to save for or pay for college. Generations of Americans have now graduated with the help of these costly-though-indirect programs. Yet over the years, in conversations with my own students, I’ve noticed that, unlike Marchesi, few of them recognize that they’ve received benefits from government. It’s hard to imagine them reflecting on their HOPE Tax Credits, or their 529 and Coverdell college savings plans and saying, “Thank God the government had the door open for us.”

And it’s not just my students. In 2008, I conducted a survey to gauge the degree to which Americans who had received various government social benefits recognized them as such. Not surprisingly, most beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill who took part in the survey acknowledged that they had been given a leg up by the government. But of the respondents who made use of tax-advantaged Coverdell or 529 education savings accounts, 64 percent said they had “not used a government social program,” as did 59.6 percent of those who used HOPE and Lifelong Learning Tax Credits.

Now if the government wanted, it could simply tax and then hand checks out, and everybody would recognize that as assistance. But much like the income tax is for most folks relatively painless or even a bonus because the money is taken out before they ever see it, tax expenditures appear in people’s wallets without them realizing it was ever gone. And it leaves you with some whiny tax-obsessive bitching about how IT’S MY MONEY THE GOVERNMENT NEVER HAD A RIGHT TO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE SO IT MEANS NOTHING even though the financial effect is no different at all than cutting checks. All that ungratefulness accumulates and then you have these people acting like they did it all themselves, thus they should pay even fewer taxes…

So the government really should quit trying to be a Secret Santa and just stick its hand out, letting people know Uncle Sam is offering to help. Name the benefits. Make people see their taxes go out, then let them see the benefits roll back in. Put it all on the table. When people get a Social Security check, they have to be a very special kind of brainwashed Republican to forget who it came from.

In the meantime, Congress can close a lot of revenue gaps not by increasing taxes heavily (not that returning to Clinton-era levels is a heavy increase), but by eliminating a lot of tax expenditures that go to the upper middle class and the wealthy. It’s at least a bit more politically palatable for Republicans who know spending cuts alone won’t get the job done.

-hw

The last line of defense.

Jun 27, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit

Over at Dana Pico’s blog I’ve noticed that when all arguments about why we must ONLY cut spending and not increase revenue are dismantled and packed into little boxes and shipped to the Bad Idea Depot, Dana and others fall back on an excuse that rests mostly on belligerence, suspicion, and megalomania. Let me explain.

The excuse is, roughly, “If Democrats succeed in raising taxes, they’ll just spend the money!”

Now, let’s look at the ways this is all the things I described it as and more. Perhaps most importantly, Dana and the Republicans don’t seem to realize something: They aren’t in complete control of the government. They have the House, not the Senate, and not the White House. Yet notice something funny about these debt ceiling “negotiations”? Yep, every Republican is dead set that there will be no tax increase. Sound like a compromise to you? Republicans get everything, Democrats get nothing (deficit doesn’t get fixed)? In Republicanland, that is exactly their definition of compromise. Any fair American must reject this approach.

Let’s look at the flipside: If we cut spending, Republicans will just cut taxes more and we’ll be in more deficit trouble. Is that true? Well, considering the Bush tax cuts are the biggest single contributor to our deficit problems today, and that they were enacted at a time when we were just starting to get ahead of our deficit problems, I’d say it’s a very real risk. In other words, since it just bloody happened and we’re still paying the price, I’d say the inverse of Dana’s statement is far more true.

Another point: Right now, there’s not much room for more spending. Our deficit has grown so large and we have such problems ahead keeping Medicare in the black that it’s unlikely we’ll see any new programs soon, and that’s a shame as one thing we could spend on would be more jobs programs, but Republicans are dead set against that. Dana doubts Democrat sincerity about wanting government to be solvent, but Dana also wanted Dick “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” Cheney as president in 2008. The historical record suggests that Republicans tend to be most foolhardy when it comes to deficit spending, not Democrats. Democrats want government to be solvent and functional so that it can be robust and ready when problems arise. We could have been so much better prepared to handle the crash of 2008 had we not already been neck deep in Bush credit card spending. So the realistic order of events is we cut spending sensibly, raise revenue, pay down the debt, and then where there’s extra money and good use for it, we spend.

Finally, this is barring a concrete solution now over prejudicial insults. Whereas Democrats are trying to meet Republicans in the middle in a fiscally smart manner, Republicans are threatening to let the US default on its debts and bring on an economic Dark Ages that will make 2008 look like a boom. Yet Republicans have no ground on which to stand to claim to be more fiscally responsible than Democrats, and if one insists on being completely fair, both parties have sinned. It’s nice that Dana doesn’t trust Democrats, but why should anybody trust Republicans? It’s supposed to be a bipartisan negotiation, so bite the bullet, give the other guy some of what he wants, and get some of what you want.

Failure to do so will only underscore Republican irresponsibility, and the country will soon see that the price of the 2010 amnesiac vote returning Republicans to power has been to ensure at every step we will make things worse than they could have been. If Republicans can’t grow up, and do so quickly before the US gets downgraded further, they’ll prove what I’ve been saying along, that Republicans have played the part of arsonists jeering the Democrat firefighters for not putting out the fire, meanwhile they’re still running around spraying lighter fluid and calling it holy water.

-hw

Why are we so afraid to call it what it is?

Jun 27, 2011 in Crazy Tea Party People

Michael Tomasky takes note of the elephant in the room, rigging the economy with dynamite.

I started looking for a great block quote, but I’d just have to steal the entire thing. Every word is worth reading. In short, there’s just too much evidence that anything that’s good for the economy is good for Obama, so even if it used to be a Republican idea, they’re against it now. Please, please just read it.

Sound familiar? Yes, of course, that was the same drill for the Affordable Care Act, which was modeled on Republican counter-proposals to the Democrat’s ideas of the nineties. As Tomasky notes, when Mitch McConnell stepped into the role of House Speaker, he broadcast his complete agenda entirely, and it wasn’t about jobs or the deficit, it was to make sure Obama was a one-term president. Given that a vision so bankrupt and obvious isn’t likely to succeed, voters have to wonder, what the hell was it all for?

-hw

“President Obama is against what just happened.”

Jun 25, 2011 in Barack Obama, teh gay

Rachel Maddow had to go take a dump on tonight’s festivities by pretending Obama isn’t just reticient about admitting his support for gay marriage openly, but that he is actually actively against New York legalizing gay marriage.

Y’know, the whole circular firing squad on the left thing sometimes needs to happen, but for someone usually so good about the facts, Rachel, you kind of blew it on this one.

The President has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples. That’s why he has called for repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” and determined that his Administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens. The process in New York worked just as it should.

Say what you want about Obama playing it safe, he has never said anything whatsoever to suggest he was against New York legalizing gay marriage, and that is merely reaffirmed tonight. I understand gays who might still feel some frustration over the president’s language, but President Obama has been, without any doubt whatsoever, the most pro-gay president in the history of the United States, and he’s racked up quite a record for gays to be whoopin’ proud of. Slamming him like this is just unfair, and I hope tomorrow Rachel apologizes for her slander. It just ain’t right.

-hw

It depends on what your definition of “hostilities” is…

Jun 20, 2011 in Barack Obama, Politics

Obama’s waving away of Congress on Libya is unfortunate, poorly reasoned, and unnecessary, perhaps illegal to boot. To those in the HE IS THE SAME AS BUSH camp, this is ironclad proof. To anybody with a scrap of sense, it’s true that this is more rebel support than a full blown war, but hearing that it doesn’t qualify as “hostilities” will force instant guffaws, groans, or other various incredulous noises. And to Congress, it must seem strange to see such little faith that they would support the Libya effort. Most would be happy to provide assent. Ultimately, this choice to not ask Congress for an extension is an affront even to those who agree with the Libya intervention.

That said, Obama has done what he’s done and guess where the ball is? In Congress’ hands. They should hold a vote on an extension, and if it passes, fine. If it fails, then Congress should assert its power, but we all remember how that went during Bush II, so I wouldn’t expect much. If Congress forfeits its check on the executive branch, that doesn’t excuse the executive branch, but it sure as hell doesn’t excuse Congress either, and that’s precisely what I expect people to do while moaning about Obama. If Congress doesn’t protest, then Obama already has its assent.

-hw

Why bother pretending privatization would be cheaper?

Jun 15, 2011 in Politics

Because otherwise nobody in their right mind could be convinced to let hedge fund managers gamble away their retirement at the racetrack:

A confidential report at the center of the debate over Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to privatize state employees’ health insurance has been leaked. The so-called “Chaffe report,” published Tuesday by the Baton Rouge Advocate, seeks to “establish the fair market value of the operations” of the state’s Office of Group Benefits (OGB), which provides health care insurance for around 250,000 state workers, retirees and their dependents.

The Advocate reported that the Chaffe report “concluded that premiums would increase under privatization.” The paper also published the complete report online.

The administration has said that privatizing OGB will net a big upfront payment, perhaps as much as $150 million, and save millions of dollars a year. Officials have further argued that privatization would only really affect the 62,000 OGB members who participate in the agency’s self-funded and self-administered preferred provider organization (PPO) program. But critics have countered that OGB is well-run overall, and have worried that a private company would raise premiums for members of the PPO. Some have raised questions about the fate of OGB’s $500 million surplus fund.

Governor Jindal had seen the Chaffe report but still continued to insist that privatization would save money and then went on to attempt to have the report scuttled. Whatever the reasons for his devotion to the free market fairies it is safe to conclude that costs savings wasn’t one of them.

Privatized tyranny.

Jun 14, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

While looking through the comments on Paul Krugman’s column I cited yesterday, I noticed a great insight:

If you stop and think about it for a while I think you will conclude the Republicans also want a single payer health care system. Their single payer would be a huge privately owned insurance conglomerate. This entity would exist because of a series of mergers and buyouts that Republicans would be loath to oppose. This insurance giant could make the kind of political donations that would effectively neuter congress and any future president who might want to break it up.

This single payer privately held company could protect its bottom line by denying benefits who don’t follow its recommended diet and exercise program. It could also insist that in utero testing be done to identify any fetuses that have a high risk of needing expensive health care during their lifetime and recommend either abortion or a life time of much higher premium rates. Those too poor or too sickly would be expected to die early.

Since this is a private company protected by a myriad of laws passed by a compliant congress the only option for the average citizen is to leave the country if he doesn’t like it.

Those who advocate giving away the power of government to the private sector should consider where this road leads. At some point any semblance of democracy ends and we like the Romans enter a new period of our history.

Precisely. The idea that power in private hands is always preferable to power in public hands is inane. Free market principles don’t work in delivering cheaper health care, and in Republican deregulatory paradise we’ll be left with fewer and fewer options, until all health care is under the pervue of a few major corporations, and it is doled out at their whim for one express purpose, maximizing profit. This is the case already, but in a free market it could get so much worse.

Whenever I say I’m a socialist libertarian, Republicans fall out of their chairs and their eyeballs do this sort of googly rolling-around bit, sometimes worse. It violates every bit of dogma they’ve been huffing for the past several decades, it makes no sense to them whatsoever. Yet it’s a simple principle: I’m against all forms of tyranny, and will not welcome it merely because, “inc.” appears after the name of the entity. In a post-Citizens United world, private entities more than ever are capable of bending the will of our elected representatives to represent them instead of the people.

Sure, it becomes sort of obvious, but that’s what Republicans are for. Through advertising, think tanks, rightwing radio, Fox, and the various loyal disciples lurking on the internets, you are told, “Be responsible, work hard, don’t whine, don’t be a parasite, be a Republican!” Money is speech (how come if I give a cop a hundred bucks while asking him not to arrest me I get arrested for bribery then?), and don’t you read the Constitution? It is a constant grift, but one that pays well…at the top.

-hw

Quick question about Romney…

Jun 14, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

He seems to be willing to talk the most smack about Obama, but has anybody noticed anything in his punch lines that involves any substance whatsoever?

It’s obvious Republicans have one strategy for 2012: Hey, look at those job numbers, Obama failed! But where’s the beef?

Republicans have held the veto pen since the beginning, using the filibuster to unprecedented levels when they had only 40 votes in the Senate, and now they control the House. Obama has only been able to get a weak stimulus that was mostly tax cuts that Republicans hate and weak financial reform. Oh, he saved GM, but Republicans hate that too. Anything, anything whatsoever that could be classified as “spending” was verboten.

So what is the Republican plan for jobs?

More tax cuts. Because we know how well those worked the last ten years.

You can’t attack Obama for the slow job growth (after suffering the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression on Bush’s watch with GOP deregulatory policies), when you stopped him from doing anything effective and all your plans are worthless.

Romney, a Gordon Gekko type who made what fortune he didn’t inherit by butchering companies and destroying jobs, can run around with his smile and his scolding tone all he wants. He’s got nothing, and if he emerges as the GOP nominee, he’s not going to like the scrutiny he’s going to get. It’s a lot easier up there on the stage with a bunch of Republicans who refuse to attack each other. And it’s easy to look like a contender when you’re up against Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Tim Yawnplenty, and Ron Paul. By merely being the only candidate who wasn’t a complete disaster, Romney walked away with the debate.

Go ahead, Romney, tell me what you’re going to do for jobs without spending a dime or raising a dime in taxes. Cutting Medicare and SS payments is going to stimulate the economy, is it?

-hw

Quick charging for electric vehicles figured out?

Jun 13, 2011 in Energy, Global warming

Electric goo!

One important characteristic of the new design is that it separates the two functions of the battery — storing energy until it is needed, and discharging that energy when it needs to be used — into separate physical structures. (In conventional batteries, the storage and discharge both take place in the same structure.) Separating these functions means that batteries can be designed more efficiently, Chiang says.

The new design should make it possible to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system, including all of its structural support and connectors, to about half the current levels. That dramatic reduction could be the key to making electric vehicles fully competitive with conventional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, the researchers say.

Another potential advantage is that in vehicle applications, such a system would permit the possibility of simply “refueling” the battery by pumping out the liquid slurry and pumping in a fresh, fully charged replacement, or by swapping out the tanks like tires at a pit stop, while still preserving the option of simply recharging the existing material when time permits.

Caveat:

Gogotsi cautions that making a practical, commercial version of such a battery will require research to find better cathode and anode materials and electrolytes, but adds, “I don’t see fundamental problems that cannot be addressed — those are primarily engineering issues. Of course, developing working systems that can compete with currently available batteries in terms of cost and performance may take years.”

Sounds like the far bigger challenge is getting America’s solar power grid up and running…not a technical challenge, a political one that will not be broken until the grip of Big Oil either weakens or decides it can profit off the transition.

-hw

Paying less in taxes excuses paying more out of pocket?

Jun 13, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit, Health Care

Andrew Sullivan and his readers have been speculating about the precise moment where America became a decadent nation. The Lewinsky impeachment hubbub, Bush vs. Gore, torture legalized, etc. have all popped up. Let me nominate one, as much as I was happy with the result: “Read my lips: No new taxes.”

Now Bush I got rightly cornholed for getting caught violating a very explicit campaign promise. Except two things: He shouldn’t have made such an irresponsible promise, and the anger directed at him over lying to the public was transmutated into a dogmatic commandment on the far right that spread throughout the entire Republican party that taxes must never be raised, and whenever possible should be lowered ever further.

Today? Massive deficit spending because our political establishment has lost all will to adjust tax rates in any direction but down, while demand for government services remains the same or larger.

Republicans dogma constructs this as some kind of moral failure, where poor scumsuckers siphon off the wealthy heroes of capitalism to provide for them. All increased spending is intrinsically bad, while all lowered taxes are intrinsically good. Moral certitude has replaced accounting.

Yet health care spending is something nobody can get away from, and so it makes no sense to make a moral distinction between health care paid for with taxes vs. health care paid for with private dollars. Almost everybody, even the well off, pays for their healthcare out of a collective insurance program, whether private or public. The question is, which is a better use of the money?

The idea of Medicare as a money-saving program may seem hard to grasp. After all, hasn’t Medicare spending risen dramatically over time? Yes, it has: adjusting for overall inflation, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009.

But inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent over the same period. So while it’s true that Medicare has done an inadequate job of controlling costs, the private sector has done much worse. And if we deny Medicare to 65- and 66-year-olds, we’ll be forcing them to get private insurance — if they can — that will cost much more than it would have cost to provide the same coverage through Medicare.

By the way, we have direct evidence about the higher costs of private insurance via the Medicare Advantage program, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to get their coverage through the private sector. This was supposed to save money; in fact, the program costs taxpayers substantially more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Krugman nods to Bruce Bartlett, who notes that Americans have lower taxes but most of the benefit is really due to health insurance costs being handled privately. The article contains a lot of numbers, but this stood out:

The impact on the tax burden can be dramatic if one views family allowances as negative taxes. For example, in Luxembourg, an average married worker with two children pays a nominal income tax rate of 16.5 percent (including state and local income taxes), while an American in the same situation would pay 5.2 percent. But once family allowances are subtracted from the Luxembourg worker’s income-tax payment, the effective tax rate falls to just nine-tenths of 1 percent.

More importantly, almost every other country has some form of national health insurance that covers, on average, 72 percent of all health costs. The comparable figure in the United States is 46.5 percent, and almost all of that is accounted for by Medicare and Medicaid, which largely benefit the elderly and the poor.

Average American workers must pay for health care out of their pockets, or through their employers in the form of lower wages. Europeans prefer to pay higher taxes and get government health care for every resident in return.

Conservatives universally believe that whenever the government provides a service it will be vastly more costly than if the private sector does so. This is why they support the plan offered by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, to essentially privatize Medicare. Conservatives believe competition will drive down health costs for the elderly.

But O.E.C.D. data show that Americans pay vastly more for health care than the residents of any other major country. In 2008, we paid 16 percent of G.D.P. in total health care costs, public and private combined. The people with the next heaviest health care burden were the French, who paid 11.2 percent of G.D.P. Indeed, at 7.4 percent of G.D.P., the governmental share of health spending in the United States is about the same as total health care costs in many other countries, including (as a percentage of G.D.P.) Luxembourg (6.8 percent), Israel (7.8 percent), Japan (8.1 percent), Britain (8.4 percent) and Norway (8.5 percent).

Indeed, the American experience in the last decade is best summed up as: Hey, nice tax cut! Hey, my health care costs doubled! Hey, I got fired and have a crappy job with no health insurance!

Americans are paying through the nose for health care. Why should they be happy to pay more in premiums than they would in taxes? Or pay the ultimate price by not being able to afford health care at all?

Are taxes inherently evil? Of course not. You’re either getting your money’s worth or you’re not, and few people have the luxury of feeling better about paying more just because it’s going to Aetna and not Uncle Sam.

-hw

Trusty handybits.

Jun 09, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit

Great compilation here:

Here, then, are 10 Inconvenient Truths About the Debt Ceiling:

1. Republican Leaders Agree U.S. Default Would Be a “Financial Disaster”
2. Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt
3. George W. Bush Doubled the National Debt
4. Republicans Voted Seven Times to Raise Debt Ceiling for President Bush
5. Federal Taxes Are Now at a 60 Year Low
6. Bush Tax Cuts Didn’t Pay for Themselves or Spur “Job Creators”
7. Ryan Budget Delivers Another Tax Cut Windfall for Wealthy
8. Ryan Budget Will Require Raising Debt Ceiling – Repeatedly
9. Tax Cuts Drive the Next Decade of Debt
10. $3 Trillion Tab for Unfunded Wars Remains Unpaid

Click through for the details. It’s pretty frustrating trying to have deficit debates with Republicans when they simply refuse to acknowledge the basic realities and fundamentals of the problem. They got their spin, and they don’t want to unlearn it, even if the good of the country depends on it.

-hw

The thing in front of your nose.

Jun 09, 2011 in Military Industrial Complex

It seems to me that Americans keep hearing what this graph illustrates, but the idea of defense cuts always sets off a sense of alarm. Why are we so unable to maintain perspective here, especially in times of such financial distress?

To be fair, defense cuts are one of the most popular choices for fiscal conservation in polls, far more popular than cutting Social Security or Medicare, but our government lags far behind. Politicians essentially don’t trust the populace when it means potentially facing an opponent demagoguing on defense. Looking “weak on defense” can cost precious percentage points, and “fiscally smart defense” never seems to add as many back.

-hw

Republican paradise.

Jun 08, 2011 in Christian Right, Clueless Conservatives

Ali should enjoy this:

With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled. The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan.

It’s really not that difficult to notice that most of human history involves very concentrated wealth among a tiny group of elites while the bulk of humanity is left to toil away in poverty for the few crumbs necessary to keep the machine chugging along. It’s never in the nature of those elites to surrender wealth or power on their own. Far more often, the masses have to resort to revolution. Why should today’s dynamics be any different? Usually the answer is some incoherent ranting about America being exceptional, God’s preferred country, etc. The point that Pakistan is Muslim explains enough for most Republicans. Yet the Christian God exhorted each follower to reject wealth entirely, and was very explicit about this throughout the New Testament. Such sentiments did drive many of the efforts of the 20th century that gave America a prosperous middle class, but the climate today has turned quite sharply against any effort to redirect the flow of capital anywhere other than upwards.

Already that limp fool Tim Pawlenty is trying to stir up the base and score some points by saying Obama engages in “class warfare.” Naturally, “class warfare” is already underway, what Pawlenty means is the middle and lower class daring to fight back. The world is full of what happens if we don’t.

-hw

More “gotcha” questions about American history.

Jun 03, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Sarah Palin, things so depressing that categories shun them like wou

There’s the possibility that defending all of the stupidity that comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth will have such a draining effect on the right-wing that they’ll be too spent to continue on until the November 2012 presidential election. The other possibility is that the marks that have already contributed to her latest Tour de Grift will be all tapped out during the important final stretch. Both seem unlikely when you consider how much cash her preferred demographic has handed over to charlatans like Pat Robertson and Newt Gingrich over the years. One difference between these two and Palin is that I’m quite sure both of them are familiar with the story of Paul Revere’s midnight ride to warn the early Patriots that the British were coming.

Add elementary American history to the list of things Sarah Palin doesn’t feel compelled to read.

-mg

Just a friendly reminder…

Jun 02, 2011 in Politics

Debt ceiling, schmedt sheeling, you’re supposed to be talking about Anthony Weiner’s weiner.

-hw

UPDATE: Weiner confesses! What the hell was he thinking denying? Who knew he was so ripped? Anyway, one seriously boneheaded maneuver that damaged the brand of one of Congress’ best and boldest voices. At least he doesn’t blame the gays for screwing up his marriage…

It’s not privatization!

Jun 02, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

Republicans always have a difficult dilemma in front of them. Since they serve the rich and no one else, they have to devote extra time and attention to message control so that people who aren’t rich will vote for them. And since they serve the rich and no one else, their plans inevitably involve privatizing government social services and directing that money towards the rich while giving Americans the shaft. They start out talking about privatization with each other because to them privatization is a great word. Unfortunately, when their plan to privatize Social Security was unveiled by George W. Bush in 2005, the public hated the idea of privatization. The Republican solution? Demand people stop calling it privatization. Why? Who knows! It wasn’t polling well, that’s what mattered.

The Post: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

The Post: Yes, exactly. Scott has been —

THE PRESIDENT: We don’t want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

The Post: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes?

The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we’re in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

THE PRESIDENT: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

THE PRESIDENT: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.

THE PRESIDENT: When?

The Post: To describe it.

THE PRESIDENT: When, when was it?

The Post: Mike said it was right around the election.

THE PRESIDENT: Seriously?

The Post: It was right around the election. We’ll send it over.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m surprised. Maybe I did. It’s amazing what happens when you’re tired. Anyway, your question was? I’m sorry for interrupting.

Ah, gosh, if only we could have that guy back, right?

And now here we are with Paul Ryan’s plan to kill Medicare and give seniors vouchers that they must use to buy private insurance, if anybody will have them. The public is already strongly rejecting the plan, which actually only polls around fifty percent among Republians. Solution? Ryan, quickly turning into the whiningest whiny-baby in a party of whiny-babies, is demanding President Obama and the Democrats stop calling his voucher plan a voucher plan. Why? Who cares? The plan isn’t going well, and when things aren’t going well for Republicans, they call things different names. See the “Tea Party” for further evidence.

Here’s Ryan admitting that the only reason he doesn’t think it should be called a voucher is because the check is sent directly to the insurer, so you can’t go sell it or something. Because that’s why people oppose a voucher program, right? Of course not. The point is you get a lump sum, that lump sum is for buying insurance only, and it won’t work at delivering good care or even guaranteeing care.

Did I mention the worst part of Ryan’s plan? Yeah, the whole thing isn’t even designed to reduce the deficit, it’s designed to offset the costs of even more tax cuts which will, this time they SWEAR, send the economy through the roof. Just like those Bush tax cuts did…

-hw

Every day is a good day to point out that Mitch McConnell is the sleaziest Senator.

Jun 02, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives

If you’ve ever listened to Mitch McConnell speak and thought you were hearing a single true word, you got your pancake flipped.

McConnell benefits from the lingering good feeling that still permeates the institution in which he serves—because people insist on presuming that the leader of the minority party speaks in good faith. But there’s no good faith here…Raising the ceiling is extremely unpopular in polls (of course it always has been, but that fact that didn’t prevent a certain M. McConnell from voting to raise it seven times during George W. Bush’s presidency).

McConnell has said one true thing, actually, confessing that his sole purpose from 2010 to 2012 was doing everything he could to making sure Obama had a one-term presidency. Likely futile, sure, but the damage he’s doing to the country will endure.

-hw

Taxes are low.

Jun 02, 2011 in Taxes

You’d think after ten years of the Bush tax cuts we wouldn’t have to argue with people claiming taxes are still high, but we are. You’d also think after the past ten years that we wouldn’t have to argue with people claiming tax cuts are a magic cure-all for the economy, but, yes, we’re doing that too. Sensible conservative (i.e. liberal) Bruce Bartlett is a stickler for reality. There are plenty of numbers in the piece, but this analysis of Republican dishonesty sticks out:

If taxes are low historically and in comparison with our global competitors, how are Republicans able to maintain that taxes are excessively high? They do so by ignoring the effective tax rate and concentrating solely on the statutory tax rate, which is often manipulated to make it appear that rates are much higher than they really are.

For example, Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal recently asserted that Democrats were trying to raise the top income tax rate to 62 percent from 35 percent. But most of the difference between these two rates is the payroll tax and state taxes that are already in existence. The rest consists largely of assuming tax increases that no one has formally proposed and that would be politically impossible to enact at the present time.

Ryan Chittum, in Columbia Journalism Review, responded with a commentary that called the Moore analysis “deeply disingenuous.”

In my experience, just about all Stephen Moore analysis is deeply disingenuous. If you’ve ever seen him on Bill Maher, he’s always giggling at his own words, like even he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, ala William Kristol anywhere outside the Fox bubble. Most of the recent debt ceiling conundrum is a product of cynical elites and the people they gladly deceive in order to make sure the rich people they service have a few extra million to brag about at the country club. And by service I mean dick-sucking, obviously.

Yes, our taxes were slashed by GWB, and in the meantime health care costs for families doubled, infrastructure crumbled, college tuition hyperinflated, and, oh yeah, our debt exploded. So no middle class or poor person has had a net gain because of any tax cuts. And now the jackasses responsible are unrepentant and demanding more. As always, they’re willing to say anything, unrestricted by shame or even basic math, to get more money in the hands of bankers and other financial swindlers while ordinary Americans are told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. No new taxes can ever be discussed, yet Americans are expected to see Medicare dismantled and retirement ages raised.

If you can’t tell you’re being conned by this point, you’re in on the con.

-hw