Politics

Show 'Em Whatcha Got.

Today, the Senate is expected to vote on the DISCLOSE Act , a bill aimed at countering the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United . To address the new problem of direct corporate spending in elections, the DISCLOSE Act would institute a mixture of disclosure measures and restrictions on certain kind of independent expenditures. Corporations would be required to disclose their involvement in independent campaign spending, and would ban spending by federal contractors, domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations, and federal bailout recipients that haven't repaid the government. Moreover, the bill would require corporations to file electronic spending reports to the FEC, as well as provide a public searchable database for those reports. The bill does have its problematic elements; most notably, its exemptions for massive organizations like the NRA. On the whole though, the DISCLOSE Act is a good bill, and it has earned strong support from reform-minded organizations like the...

Who's the Extremist?

As a progressive, I tend to think the Republican Party is much more ideologically extreme than the Democratic Party. There are many reasons, some of which may be more legitimate than others. But it turns out that my opinion isn't representative. According to this research from the Pew Research Center, the typical Democrat thinks the GOP is kind of conservative, while the typical Republican thinks the Democratic Party is really, really liberal. This isn't something new -- as one influential study put it in 1985, "Liberals do not like conservatives; however, they do not dislike them nearly as much as conservatives dislike liberals." But you can really see it in this picture: It's a little fuzzy, but if you look at the dark brown dots, you see that people of all stripes put the Republican Party at pretty much the same place -- somewhere between "moderate" and "conservative." But if you look at the gray dots, you see that Democrats think the Democratic Party is kind of moderate,...

My Sour Lord.

Adam , along with many others , has criticized Jeffrey Lord 's appalling smear of Shirley Sherrod. But apparently this isn't the first time that Lord has tried to run interference for Andrew Breitbart 's vile, dishonest attack campaign on Sherrod. His previous effort isn't quite as offensive as asserting that the extrajudicial, state-sanctioned murder of an African American doesn't count as a "lynching" if it isn't done in the right way, but it is equally untenable. Lord cites the case of Earl Butz , the Ford administration agriculture secretary who was forced to resign after telling a disgusting racist joke to several people (including John Dean and Pat Boone ). To summarize the argument, according to Lord, liberals have a double standard when they object to Sherrod's forced resignation on completely bogus charges of racism because a Republican Cabinet member was forced to resign after entirely accurate charges of racism. You'll forgive me if I don't see the liberal double standard...

Unqualified?

Reading Kevin Drum 's post on class-based affirmative action, this bit popped out at me: Beyond that, there's another benefit: for all the good it does, there's no question that race-based affirmative action has drawbacks as well. It makes employers suspicious of minority graduates, wondering if their degrees were really fairly earned. It provokes a backlash among working class whites. And it's open to abuse on a number of fronts. Class-based programs don't solve all these problems at a stroke, but they go a long way toward addressing them. [Emphasis mine] I have no doubt that this is true, but I've always found it a little odd. Even if affirmative action were little more than a glorified quota program -- which, it should be said, it isn't -- it's still the case that it only applies at the point of admission. Once in school, affirmative action doesn't give you a better class schedule, provide a more lenient curve or improve your grades; put another way, there are affirmative action...

It's the Unemployment, Stupid.

On Friday, the Obama administration released its annual mid-session budget review, which contains its short-term and long-term predictions for economic growth. The media has focused most of its attention on the White House's deficit projections -- $1.4 trillion deficits for 2010 and 2011 -- but on the whole, deficits are the least worrisome thing about the report. After all, the current deficit owes most of its size to the recession, TARP, and the Bush tax cuts. Assuming the economy grows at a healthy clip for the next few years -- as the administration does -- the deficit is expected to drop to 3.9 percent of GDP by 2015. By contrast, the administration's projections for unemployment are genuinely worrisome. For 2011, the administration expects unemployment to remain high at 9 percent and drop to 8.1 percent in 2012. From there, the White House expects 7.1 percent unemployment in 2013, 6.3 percent unemployment in 2014, and 5.7 percent unemployment in 2015. The administration doesn't...

Is the Left Capable of Spreading Misinformation?

Today, E.J.Dionne takes on everyone's propensity to pick up bogus stories from the right, especially Fox News, which raises a point I've been thinking about: This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had. There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that last August, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates. The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream...

CBO Says Public Option Would Reduce Defict; No Minds Changed

Sorry for the cynical headline, but the news that the Congressional Budget Office scored Rep. Pete Stark 's proposal to add a public option to the coming insurance exchanges as reducing the deficit by $53 billion through 2019 is all well and good, but it won't change the minds of anyone who opposed it the first time around. First of all, there is virtually no such thing as a true "deficit hawk" in Washington. Concern about deficits is a handy excuse everyone uses to justify cuts in programs they already don't like. Democrats are at least a little more honest about it, pointing out that there are times you need to increase the deficit in the short term, while Republicans just say that we need to cut programs that help ordinary people so we can reduce the deficit, but things like defense spending and tax cuts for the wealthy just don't count. So saying, "This program you don't like would cut the deficit" isn't going to persuade anyone who didn't already support it to come on board. If...

Send 10,000 National Guardsmen to Disneyland Instead.

Edward Schumacher-Matos has an op-ed in The Washington Post blaming the "extremists" who run the immigration debate for the deaths of illegal immigrants in the Arizona desert: [Border-enforcement proponents have] the louder voice today, making [them] the bigger culprit, but the latter -- humanitarian groups, for one -- share in the blame. They seem not to find any enforcement policy they like, abandoning responsibility. I assume Schumacher is including people like me in this critique, whom he characterizes as opposing "any enforcement policy" and thus "abandon[ing] responsibility." There is a meme among self-proclaimed reasonable "centrists" like Schumacher -- and that's that there's a pressing need to "secure our borders" and that those who care about immigrants, and think unmanned military drones along the border are unnecessary, are letting their hearts run their mind. Of course it's not that anyone in the immigrant-rights movement opposes any enforcement; it's that, as I and many...

Feldstein: Stop Spending With Taxes.

Conservative tax orthodoxy as outlined by Grover Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform -- and accepted by most Republicans -- requires not only opposition to tax increases but also opposition to closing tax loopholes: Any act that might raise revenue is forbidden. Unfortunately, this perpetuates a slew of subsidies and give-aways in the current tax code, often targeted at corporate interests, that distort its effects and are the equivalent of real spending. While Democrats have made this a campaign issue , now Martin Feldstein -- the former Reagan economic official -- has joined the likes of the Center for American Progress in critiquing the Republican stance. Here's Feldstein: [E]liminating tax expenditures does not increase marginal tax rates or reduce the reward for saving, investment or risk-taking. It would also increase overall economic efficiency by removing incentives that distort private spending decisions. And eliminating or consolidating the large number of overlapping...

The Little Picture: McDermott Tells It Like It Is.

Rep. Jim McDermott , Democrat from Washington state, is not buying the GOP's claim that they delayed and whittled down a six-month extension for unemployment benefits because of deficit concerns. "The Republican leadership in Congress has decided that the way to get the White House back is by denying unemployment benefits to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and show them that this government doesn't work," he said. After a grinding period of negotiation and concession , the legislative package, originally totaling nearly $200 billion in aid, finally passed both houses of Congress today, having been reduced to $34 billion. (Flickr/ seiuhealthcare775nw )

(Inaccurate) Quote of the Day.

"Big things don't happen in Washington on partisan votes," House Republican leader John Boehner said . Maybe not "big things," but in the modern Congress, Big F**king Deals seem to happen on partisan votes: Health-care reform, financial reform, the Bush tax cuts, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the enormous Medicare Part D boondoggle, and the list goes on. As wise observers understand, the increase in partisanship is a result of the realignment of the two predominant American political philosophies with the two predominant American political parties. While bipartisanship was the norm in the '60s, when liberals and conservatives could be found on both sides of the aisle, now it seems the only way to pass major legislation is with a partisan vote. -- Tim Fernholz

A Brief Historical Interlude.

Jonathan Chait makes a very good point about Newt Gingrich 's insistence that building a mosque near Ground Zero constitutes a "double standard" that allows "Islamists to behave aggressively towards us." Here's the full quote: There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. Chait notes that in this context, the "double standard" is the United States' tolerance and religious pluralism, which stands in contrast to the illiberalism of a country like Saudi Arabia. To Chait, what Gingrich wants to say is that since the United States is a "Judeo-Christian country," we should be allowed to prohibit Muslim places of worship, much in the same way that an Islamic theocracy like Iran would prohibit Christian or Jewish places of worship. I've always been struck by the disrespect some...

Let the Strategic Voting Begin.

In a proud American tradition, the majority party in Congress is poised to hold a series of votes designed to damage the minority party's electoral hopes. First up? A bill that extends President Bush's middle-class tax cuts while restoring higher income-tax brackets to Clinton administration levels. Policy-wise, it's a so-so move: A moderate tax increase on the upper-income brackets is a good deficit reduction, and keeping taxes low on the middle-class is good stimulus, but it won't substitute for real tax reform that would create new higher-income brackets and rates and broaden the tax base. The politics, though, puts Republicans in a bind: They obviously want to vote to keep the tax cuts, but they don't want to vote for a moderate increase in taxes on the wealthy, even though it is wildly popular -- as to why, see this graph . (Some Democrats are suggesting that we should temporarily extend even the upper-bracket tax cuts as a mode of economic stimulus, but it's not very effective...

The GOP's New Race Problem.

A little blast from the past. The date on this story is July 14, 2005, just five years and a few days ago: It was called "the southern strategy," started under Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue -- on matters such as desegregation and busing -- to appeal to white southern voters. Ken Mehlman , the Republican National Committee chairman, this morning will tell the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that it was "wrong." "By the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out," Mehlman says in his prepared text. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong." At the time, Mehlman undertook something of an apology tour, delivering that message to numerous...

How Russ Feingold Weakened Financial Reform.

Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold not only refused to support the financial-reform bill that President Obama signed into law yesterday; he also refused to support an up-or-down vote on the legislation, joining the Republican filibuster. At the time, I had some harsh words for his decision. Now, a group of scholars have done some data analysis and come to an interesting conclusion: Feingold "let principle get in the way of making the bill modestly more progressive. Ironically, by refusing to support a bill that he considered too modest, he ensured that the bill would be more conservative and favorable to banks." Their analysis identifies the pivotal vote -- in this case, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown -- and notes that if Feingold offered merely to support an up-or-down vote while still opposing the bill itself, Brown's negotiating position would have been weakened, perhaps preventing several loopholes from getting into the bill. The scholars choose to focus on the bank tax that the bill's...

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