I thought that Senate Republicans would avoid the issue of Sotomayor's race, leaving that to wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh. I was wrong. Here's Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
Graham has been critical of Sotomayor’s 2001 statement in which she suggested that a Latina woman would reach better conclusions than a white male. Her statement prompted conservatives to charge her with racism, an attack that former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) apologized for Wednesday.
Although Graham said he would not use the word racist to describe Sotomayor, he indicated that her past statements raise concerns that, as a Supreme Court justice, she may not treat white males fairly. “Being an average, everyday white guy, that doesn’t exactly make me feel good,” Graham said.
First, if Graham would read the whole speech he'd see that there's no basis for a freakout. Sotomayor was simply arguing that those who've experienced racial discrimination have a perspective that those in the majority lack. It is impossible to imagine, for example, an African-American who would have agreed with this absurd statement from the Supreme Court's 1896 upholding "separate but equal" in Plessy v. Ferguson:
We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.
Instead of fastening on one sentence from a single speech, Sen. Graham might also look to Judge Sotomayor's extensive judicial record to see if, as he fears, a white man can't catch a break from Judge Sotomayor. If he did, his fears would be relieved:
In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.) She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.
But not so absurd that Lindsey Graham won't express his concerns as "an average, everyday white guy".
It's no accident that nearly 90 percent of self-identified Republicans are white. The party of Lincoln has already given up on the African-American vote, and the ugliness triggered by Sotomayor's nomination has pretty much ended the Hispanic outreach. As Nate Silver notes, this is steadily driving the GOP deeper and deeper into a hole:
Consider this remarkable statistic. In 1980, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Democrats (or at least white Carter voters) -- likewise, in 2008, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Obama voters. But whereas, in 1980, just 9 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Carter voters, 21 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Obama voters last year. Thus, Carter went down to a landslide defeat, whereas Obama defeated John McCain by a healthy margin.
In certain ways, I wonder if the GOP isn't paying a price for a strategy adopted years ago -- namely, the Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy undoubtedly won the GOP many elections over the years, but it was adopted at a time when probably less than 10 percent of the electorate was nonwhite (if minorities were allowed to vote at all), whereas now about a quarter of the electorate is. The steady drumbeat of demographic change, coupled with an inability or unwillingness to adapt to it, has steadily made the Republicans' job harder and harder.
Nevertheless, thet just can't seem to help themselves. As Julian Sanchez observes, "They really have no idea how they sound to anyone else."
Of course he is. He's an opportunist, and he always has been.
But after the GOP gets done excoriating him, they would do well to note that Specter's self-interested calculations were undoubtedly correct. He couldn't win the Pennsylvania Republican primary, but no one who could win the Pennsylvania Republican primary could win the general election in Pennsylvania. If the Republicans want to find a "real" traitor they should blame Pat Toomey, who never had any realistic chance to become Senator, but did have what turns out to have been a great opportunity to turn Pennsylvania blue.
The GOP's loss of Specter's seat is just another step in a decades long political realignment. First the GOP captured the South, and now the South is capturing the GOP. Good luck with that.
In response to criticism from South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn of his decision to reject $700 million in stimulus money, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford evoked Zimbabwe:
"What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have and send it to different states, we'll create jobs," he said. "If that's the case, why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?"
Zimbabwe has been in the throes of an economic meltdown ever since the southern African nation embarked on a chaotic land reform program. Its official inflation rate topped 11 million percent in 2008, with its treasury printing banknotes in the trillion-dollar range to keep up with the plummeting value of its currency.
After Clyburn said Sanford's Zimbabwe reference was "beyond the pale", Sanford explained that he hadn't intended to bring race into it -- that he merely intended to refer to a country with hyperinflation, regardless of race. Regardless of his intentions, David Kurtz points out, Zimbabwe was an unfortunate choice:
If you're the governor and a prominent black congressman from your state says refusing to take stimulus money will disproportionately hurt black citizens of your state, would you turn around and compare the stimulus plan to the economic policy of ... Zimbabwe?
The more fundamental problem, though, is that Sanford's comparison reveals that he has no idea what's actually going on. Our problem isn't an overheated economy. Our problem is that spending has fallen off a cliff, causing the economy to plunge into a recession. Unlike Zimbabwe, the United States is at no risk of hyperinflation. Indeed, there's virtually no inflation at all here. There is, however, a very serious risk of deflation, which we're trying to prevent by increasing government spending to stimulate the economy.
It's remarkable that Sanford doesn't get this, because unemployment in South Carolina has risen to 10.4 percent, leaving Sanford's state with the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, behind only Michigan. Meanwhile, Sanford is trying reject money that would stimulate South Carolina's economy and get people back to work -- based on the bizarre notion that our main problem is hyperinflation.
No matter what they may call themselves from time to time, there are really just two parties in this country: the Silly Party and the Stupid Party. Mark Sanford illustrates why the GOP is today's Stupid Party.
Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president's economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.
The high-speed rail line, a topic of discussion for years, would require $110 million to upgrade existing freight lines and terminals to handle a passenger train operation, said Mark Lambert, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
So, to review, a nonexistent high speed rail line from LA to Las Vegas proves that the Recovery Act is full of wasteful "pork", while a high speed rail line from New Orleans to Baton Rouge is vitally necessary infrastructure spending. This is reason No. Eleventy to ignore Republican complaints about the stimulus.
As I posted below, Republican claims about fiscal responsibility have been baseless since Ronald Reagan decided that deficits don't matter. But like Otter in "Animal House", House Republicans have decided that "this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part." For their futile and stupid gesture, House Republicans have decided to combat the recession with . . . a spending freeze:
“We’re advocating that Congress freeze all federal spending immediately,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference, during a Tuesday luncheon at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “People out there are hurting, and they understand what you do when times are tough. You make hard choices. Today House Republicans are urging the Democrats to do the same. We think it’s time that the Democrats put our money where their mouth is.”
. . . Pence’s argument for a spending freeze is widely accepted within the Republican conference. On Monday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) asked Democrats to “abandon their plans” to push through an omnibus bill “and instead pass a clean bill that freezes spending at current levels.” Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) has decried the economic stimulus package because, in his words, “when times go south you cut spending.” In a conversation on Monday, freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) concurred with party leaders.
This is really, really stupid, even by the standard of House Republicans. Of course it makes sense for financially strapped consumers to cut back on their own spending, but that doesn't mean that the government should also cut back its spending. In fact, it's precisely because consumers have cut back their spending that the government should increase its spending to make up for the lost demand.
Republican claims that the government should take whatever actions would be prudent for individual consumers exhibit the fallacy of composition:
In Keynesianmacroeconomics, the "paradox of thrift" illustrates this fallacy: increasing saving (or "thrift") is obviously good for an individual, since it provides for retirement or a "rainy day," but if everyone saves more, it may cause a recession by reducing consumer demand.
Similarly, the government's decision to freeze its spending during a recession would make everyone worse off by exacerbating the recession. This is true even though it makes sense for individuals to cut back on their own spending. The lesson, once again, is that it's best to ignore what Congressional Republicans say about the economy. The odds are it's wrong.
First Republicans claimed that the stimulus bill included a $4 billion grant to ACORN. That was false. Then Republicans claimed that the bill included $30 million to save the "marsh mouse" in Nancy Pelosi's district. That was false. Then they started complaining that Harry Reid had inserted $8 billion to construct a high speed rail line between Disneyland and Las Vegas. Here's John Boehner:
“Tell me how spending $8 billion,” asked House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) on the floor, “in this bill to have a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is going to help the construction worker in my district.”
Always eager to pass along misinformation, John McCain dove in:
There was $2 billion in the Senate bill of the stimulus package for light rail; there was zero in the House. It came out of conference - only Democrats, no Republicans in the room - with $8 billion for light rail. And guess where it’s going to go? A light rail between Las Vegas and L.A. Everybody knows that.
Like the ACORN grant and the marsh mouse program, this claim is utterly false -- even though McCain thinks "everybody knows" it's true. It might be a good thing to construct a high speed rail line between LA and Las Vegas, but in fact the bill makes no mention of one, nor, as far as I can tell, has anyone proposed one. No such line shows up in the Federal Railroad Association's high speed rail corridor designations:
Railroads made Chicago, and now a Chicago-rich White House wants to return the favor: remaking rail with a huge new federal investment in high-speed passenger trains.
The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
. . . As a candidate for president, Obama spoke of high-speed rail as part of his vision of “rebuilding America.” Campaigning in Indiana, he talked of revitalizing the Midwest by connecting cities with faster rail service to relieve congestion and improve energy conservation.
. . . But the administration never emphasized high-speed rail when the House Appropriations Committee was writing its bill in January, so no money was included. The first real request came only days before the Senate Appropriations panel marked up, and the committee had to scramble to find room for $2 billion — in part by cutting other Obama priorities.
Last week, Emanuel greatly upped the ante, asking House-Senate negotiators for $10 billion for high-speed rail — far more than either bill provided.
“I put it in there for the president,” Emanuel said in an interview. “The president wanted to have a signature issue in the bill, his commitment for the future.”
Emanuel himself was excited by the idea, but the decision to wager so much on high-speed rail reflected the fact that other candidates for a signature Obama issue were fading.
Moderate Senate Republicans, whose votes were needed, were resisting the president’s school construction initiative. Modernizing the nation’s electric grid, another White House favorite, seemed to have lost some of its cachet.
High-speed rail sailed through with surprisingly little attention paid to the president’s role.
The same Maine and Pennsylvania Republican moderates who had criticized Obama’s school construction initiative were more accepting of the rail funds, since the Northeast corridor has a major stake in more improvements.
The Secretary of Transportation will have discretion to award grants based on an extensive set of criteria, including the legal, financial and technical capacity of the applicant to carry out the project; compatibility with relevant national plans; and anticipated economic, environmental and transportation effects.
Not a word about Las Vegas. Every project has to compete with every other project, and the decisions will be made by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the former Republican congressman from Illinois.
So, Republican complaints about an LA to Las Vegas high speed rail line are entirely fictional. Like the bogus claims about the ACORN grant and the marsh mouse project, Republicans have concocted this claim because there's an apparent shortage of honest arguments against the stimulus bill.
Good ideas don't require lies to sustain them, and when you hear proponents resorting to lies, it's best to dismiss them entirely. Their dishonesty tells you all you need to know about their position.
Once upon a time Republicans were fiscal conservatives, but those days ended with the election of the GOP's modern political hero, Ronald Reagan:
Republicans continue to talk about fiscal conservatism, but in fact the GOP cares only about tax cuts. Republicans want tax cuts when we have a surplus and when we have a deficit. When the economy is growing and when it's contracting. When incomes are rising and when they're falling. When it's sunny and when it's raining. On days ending in "y".
So naturally, with the economy suffering the equivalent of a 100-year flood, Republicans retreat to ideology and propose (what else?) tax cuts. In fact, they propose $3 trillion of tax cuts while claiming that the $800 billion stimulus bill amounts to "generational theft". Why, then, would anyone serious credit Republican claims of fiscal responsibility?
Andrew Sullivan attacks Congressional Republicans' implacable opposition to the stimulus bill:
The GOP has passed what amounts to a spending and tax-cutting and borrowing stimulus package every year since George W. Bush came to office. They have added tens of trillions to future liabilities and they turned a surplus into a trillion dollar deficit - all in a time of growth. They then pick the one moment when demand is collapsing in an alarming spiral to argue that fiscal conservatism is non-negotiable. I mean: seriously.
The bad faith and refusal to be accountable for their own conduct for the last eight years is simply inescapable. There is no reason for the GOP to have done what they have done for the last eight years and to say what they are saying now except pure, cynical partisanship, and a desire to wound and damage the new presidency. The rest is transparent cant.
I think Sullivan overstates the bad faith -- that stupidity and hypocrisy are as significant as cynicism -- but no one ought to take the Republicans seriously. They signed a blank check for a disastrous war while borrowing money from China to give tax breaks for the wealthy, almost doubling the national debt in the process. Whatever they say about fiscal discipline, the Bush tax cuts vastly exceed the cost of the stimulus, as does the $3 trillion package of tax cuts that over 90 percent of the Republican caucus voted for instead of the $800 billion stimulus bill. Sullivan says the correct response is contempt, but I think ridicule may be more appropriate. This is a clown show.
It's too small, Frankel says, because it will make up for less than half of the lost demand drained out of the economy by the recession. It isn't nearly big enough to provide the necessary stimulus. But at the same time, it may also be too big, because its size could be sufficient to frighten bond holders:
My feeling is that if the current stimulus package were to break the $1 trillion mark, it might truly alarm international financial investors, who would in that case stop acquiring dollar assets, thus precipitating the hard landing of the dollar that so many of us have feared for so long.In those circumstances, the Fed would lose the ability to keep interest rates low, and we could be in even worse trouble than today.
Let's just run a highlighter over that point:
Everything would be different if we had spent the last 8 years preserving the budget surpluses that Bill Clinton bequeathed to George Bush.Then we would have paid down a big share of the national debt by now, instead of doubling it.We would be in a strong enough fiscal position to undertake the expansion today that we really need.
In that light it is ironic, to say the least, that the politicians who are warning against the size of the stimulus bill (”generational theft”), particularly the Congressmen who are voting against it, are mostly the same Republicans who supported the original fiscal policies that gave us the doubling of the national debt:the huge long-term tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the greatly accelerated rate of government spending.What we need now is a fiscal policy that maximizes short-run demand stimulus relative to long-run damage to the national debt. Lots of bang for the buck. The Republicans supported fiscal policies that did the opposite. Lots of buck for the bang. They are still doing it today when they argue that tax cuts give stimulus and spending does not. One doesn’t even hear them give an economic argument in support of this proposition. They just close their eyes and endlessly repeat their “tax cut” mantra, like a religious cult that can’t even remember why.
There are reasonable people who oppose the stimulus bill, including a minority of economists. But there is nothing reasonable about the opposition of Congressional Republicans. For the good of the country, I hope that Barack Obama has learned a lesson about the limited utility of bipartisanship when the opposition is disconnected from reality.
The examples of Republican stupidity keep piling up. On Sunday's Meet the Press, for example, Barney Frank slammed the Senate's "centrist" cuts to the proposed stimulus:
“That’s the wasteful spending that my colleagues are talking about,” Frank said. “Money to go to the states to stop them from laying off cops and firefighters, money to help keep teachers going. Those are jobs.”
In response, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) called that "fearmongering", denying that any jobs would be lost:
To get back to what Congressman Frank said, is that we’re going to be laying off teachers and firefighters. You know, that’s just fearmongering. We’re not going to be doing that in any of the states. … [The states’] budgets are bloated, the federal government’s budget is bloated. What we should be doing is cutting back.
They have plundered reserves, enacted hiring freezes and engaged in all manner of budgetary voodoo to shield us from the pain.
But now state governments -- reeling from a historic free fall in tax revenue -- have run out of tricks. And Americans are about to feel it.
In some cases, they already have.
Nevada resident Margaret Frye-Jackman, 71, was diagnosed in August with ovarian cancer. She had two rounds of chemotherapy at University Medical Center, the only public hospital in the Las Vegas area.
Soon after, she and her daughter heard the news on TV: The hospital's outpatient oncology services were closing because of state Medicaid cuts. Treatment for Frye-Jackman and hundreds of other cancer patients was eliminated.
Luckily, Frye-Jackman's gynecological oncologist, Dr. Nick Spirtos, decided to open a tiny chemotherapy center in his office's empty storage room.
Today, he treats Frye-Jackman there, along with about 20 more cancer patients who were dumped by the hospital. Frye-Jackman's care is paid for with Medicare and supplemental insurance, but other patients can't cover the cost of full treatment. The doctor has considered putting donation boxes in the lobby.
"If this is what it's like in Nevada, with cancer stuff closing, is it like that everywhere?" said Frye-Jackman's daughter, Margaret Bakes, accompanying her mother to the doctor's recently. "Are all the other states closing stuff too?"
The answer, in at least 39 states, is "yes" -- or "soon." With personal, sales and corporate income tax revenue plummeting, state governments -- which recently trimmed their budgets to cover a cumulative $40.3-billion shortfall for the current fiscal year -- are now watching in horror as a $47.4-billion gap opens for 2009.
And for fiscal year 2010, they will face a $84.3-billion hole, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The total shortfall through fiscal 2011 is estimated at $350 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.
Unlike the federal government, nearly all states must balance their budgets. So legislatures either have to raise taxes, borrow money from dwindling rainy-day funds, or cut. The last option is becoming increasingly common.
"The easy budget fixes are long gone," Corina Eckl, fiscal program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said in a statement. "Only hard and unpopular options remain."
The moral of this story, obviously, is: Do not believe anything Congressional Republicans say about the economy. They are ideologically incapable of knowing the truth, let alone telling the truth.
I'm getting more than a little tired of hearing Republican politicians say, "That's not a stimulus, it's just spending." This is moronic. It's like saying, "That's not a dessert, it's just a chocolate sundae."
Every dollar that the government spends to buy stuff stimulates the economy because it triggers economic activity. This is true if the government refurbishes the National Mall or extends broadband service to rural areas or purchases new cars for government use -- all measures Republicans have erroneously claimed aren't "stimulus". For each and every one of these measures, the government will buy stuff, directly injecting additional spending into the economy. The people who are employed to make and do the stuff that government buys will receive wages, which they'll spend on other stuff that still other people will be paid to make and do, and so on and so forth. Stimulus. This is true no matter what the government buys.
Of course, we should try to get the biggest bang for our stimulus buck, so by all means let's try to buy as many things as possible that will solve real world problems and help to create a greener, more productive, and more efficient economy that will take the fullest possible advantage of the eventual upturn. But the first priority of a stimulus is to stimulate the economy, and that's best done by spending.
Republican complaints about the individual elements of the current stimulus bill are incoherent and demagogic, but they're most starkly out of step with Republican attitudes toward tax cuts, which receive no skepticism at all. For example, Republicans stubbornly ignore that most of the tax cuts they propose would be saved, and not spent. Only those individuals who can't afford to save would spend a tax cut windfall, and businesses that already have excess capacity won't respond to a tax cut by investing more when consumers aren't buying the goods already stacking up in their warehouses.
Moreover, Republicans assume that all of the additional spending from individuals and businesses would be "stimulus". Unlike government spending -- which is only "stimulus" if it has obvious utility to Republicans -- private spending is always considered "stimulus", no matter what it's spent on. If Republicans are right about government spending being "stimulus" only some of the time, they're obviously wrong about private spending being "stimulus" all of the time.
As an initial matter, individual purchases of imports stimulate other countries' economies, not ours, so we can see from the start that some private spending won't, in fact, always be "stimulus". But what of the rest? Shouldn't there be some accountability here? How do we know that these people won't just go out and waste their tax cuts on booze and gambling? How would booze and gambling simulate the economy? (Since similar purchases by the government wouldn't be a "stimulus", it obviously wouldn't be "stimulus" if individuals landscaped their yard or signed up for broadband or bought a new car, right?) Maybe people should only get tax cuts if they spend the money on things that Republicans agree have utility.
Needless to say, that's not how the Republicans see it, but the point is that there's no rational basis for them to see it the way they do. When individuals spend money, it stimulates economic activity no matter what they spend it on. It would be better if they spent it on things like shoes for the kids instead of booze at the track, but it stimulates the economy either way. The problem is that individuals have cut way back on their spending, and to the extent they can afford to do so, they'll keep right on doing so. Therefore, in the short run, government has to increase its spending to make up some of the difference, so the economy doesn't fall into a deflationary spiral that no one knows how to get out of. We should get the biggest bang for the buck that we can, but every dollar the government spends is stimulus, just as every additional dollar that individuals spent would be stimulus -- if individuals were spending.
On Sunday ABC's "This Week" featured what the so-called liberal media considers a balanced panel (two CEOs, a Republican Senator, and a Democratic Congressman) to discuss the stimulus. Happily the Democrat was Barney Frank, who wiped the floor with the Republican, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). This exchange is an excellent example:
DEMINT: And so it really comes down to a basic argument: Do you want a government-directed plan or do you want the free markets to work?
FRANK: Well, yes, I do want -- I want highways. I want better medical care for people laid off. This notion -- and the one thing I would most disagree with is you say we overregulated. It was the complete absence of regulation in the financial area that led to the crisis we're in today.
. . . FRANK: The policy was, yes, to put no restrictions on people outside the banking system who are extending themselves in the financial area into instruments which they couldn't back up. It was even within the banking system, letting people go with things that were off the balance sheet.
The complete absence of regulation in the financial area has, I think, been a disaster. And I think we're back to where we were when Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson stepped in or Franklin Roosevelt.
But beyond that, the notion that everything is solved by a tax cut, of course there are sensible tax policies you could have. But there are public needs we have in this society...
FRANK: ... that cannot be accomplished by a tax cut. No tax cut builds a road. No tax cut puts a cop on the street. No tax cut educates a child in -- in the way that it ought to be done.
So this -- only tax cuts, at a time when I think we have a deficiency in some areas that are important for the quality of our life is a big disagreement.
DEMINT: But, George, we -- we have programs. I mean, we're reauthorizing our highway bill this year.
FRANK: At too low a level.
DEMINT: And -- well -- well, let's talk about making it a higher level, but let's don't say it's a stimulus when it's a government spending plan. And all of these things, the needs in our society, education, these are things we debate every year.
FRANK: Spending can be stimulus. I don't understand what you think stimulus is.
DEMINT: But this is the largest spending bill in history, and we're trying to call it a stimulus when it's just doing the things that...
FRANK: Well, let me tell you what I think is the largest...
DEMINT: ... you wanted to do anyway.
FRANK: The largest spending bill in history is going to turn out to be the war in Iraq. And one of the things, if we're going to talk about spending, I don't -- I have a problem when we leave out that extraordinarily expensive, damaging war in Iraq, which has caused much more harm than good, in my judgment.
And I don't understand why, from some of my conservative friends, building a road, building a school, helping somebody get health care, that's -- that's wasteful spending, but that war in Iraq, which is going to cost us over $1 trillion before we're through -- yes, I wish we hadn't have done that. We'd have been in a lot better shape fiscally.
. . . FRANK: That's the problem. The problem is that we look at spending and say, "Oh, don't spend on highways. Don't spend on health care. But let's build Cold War weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don't need them. Let's have hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check." Unless everything's on the table, then you're going to have a disproportionate hit in some places.
DeMint's fatuous definition of the question ("Do you want a government-directed plan or do you want the free markets to work?") captures what's wrong with the Republicans' view. According to Republicans, there's this magical "free market" that will solve all our problems if only we get out of its way. I've written previously about this inanity, and that applies here. There's no such thing as the "free market" -- at least as DeMint imagines it -- and it's appalling that someone could live to DeMint's age and still believe in the equivalent of the tooth fairy.
Then there's DeMint's complaint that "let's don't say it's a stimulus when it's a government spending plan." Um, Jim? Spending is a stimulus. That's why, for example, it's stupid to ridicule the plan for the government to purchase $600 million in new vehicles. That will stimulate the economy with $600 million of new spending. To build those $600 million worth of vehicles, auto makers will have to pay people wages, and in turn they'll use those wages to buy things that other people will be paid wages to make. And so on. As a result of the multiple transactions that flow from spending, every dollar of spending produces about $1.50 of stimulus. In contrast, every dollar that corporate taxes are cut produces about 30 cents worth of stimulus. Republicans steeped in the voodoo of supply-side economics have forgotten that a demand side of the equation even exists. That disables coherent analysis when, as is true today, we have a demand side problem.
Frank's point about Iraq is equally well taken. According to Nobel-Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the Iraq war will ultimately cost us about $3 trillion. I'd say that every dollar of that is wasted, but it's worse than that because the Iraq war has been a disaster and made us worse off. Perhaps there's a higher and better use for $600 million than buying the government new cars, but unlike the Iraq war, buying the government new cars won't make us worse off than we are right now. Nevertheless, Republicans are standing in line to spend more on crazy wars.
Finally, Frank had an excellent response on the unfortunate "buy American" provisions of the House bill. He conceded that they're bad policy, but he explained why they're good politics -- there's a huge gap between the elites and the people on issues like trade, because the elites don't care that the burdens of a globalized economy fall disproportionately on those least well equipped to shoulder them. Ordinary people fear for their jobs, their pensions, their health care, and now even their homes. These aren't just statistics that net out to the greater good in some economic model, they're living, breathing American families who lack a decent social safety net, and they can't afford to care about disinterested theories of international trade. As Frank points out, business leaders who'd like a freer hand on trade and other issues have to back measures to protect the Americans whose lives are damaged and disrupted by the ensuing volatility.
All of these issues illustrate why it should be virtually impossible to work out a bipartisan compromise with Republicans, who are ideologically incapable of comprehending what is necessary, let alone doing what is necessary. If there are spending measures preferable to those already included, then by all means do them instead. For example, there seems to be something of a consensus that more should be spent on infrastructure. Good. But there's no reason to reduce the size of the package or replace spending with ineffective or counter-productive tax cuts to create bipartisan agreement on a bad bill. Obama and Congressional Democrats should be prepared to work with reality-based proposals, but this is no time for a compromise between reality and ideology.
Gallup is rolling out analyses of the data gathered in the more than 350,000 interviews it conducted in 2008. In the first of the series, Gallup looks at party identification in each of the 50 states. The results should give Republicans a chill.
...just five states, collectively containing about 2 percent of the American population, have statistically significant pluralities of adults identifying themselves as Republicans. These are the "Mormon Belt" states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, plus Nebraska, plus Alaska. By contrast, 35 states are plurality Democratic, and 10 states are too close to call.
With Democratic support at the national level the highest in more than two decades and growing each of the last five years, Republican prospects for significant gains in power in the near term do not appear great. But the recent data do show that party support can change rather dramatically in a relatively short period of time.
If House Republicans are any guide, the GOP has learned nothing from its 2006 and 2008 losses. This suggests that Republicans will continue along the path that led them to electoral disaster in the hope that Democrats will fail. Rush Limbaugh is openly rooting for Obama to fail, and Republican politicians can't afford to say otherwise. In the short run, Republican prospects will improve only if things get much worse for the rest of us.
It's said that, whatever they may nominally be called from time to time, there are only two political parties: the Stupid Party and the Silly Party. Today the GOP is undoubtedly the Stupid Party, and as I've written before, ideologically blinkered Southern Republicans seem determined to make it the Even Stupider Party. As Exhibit A for that proposition, I give you South Carolina Gov. Mark Sandford:
Just hours before the unemployment benefits fund was to run out in South Carolina, the state with the nation’s third-highest jobless rate, Gov. Mark Sanford relented Wednesday and agreed to apply for a $146 million federal loan to shore it up, after weeks of refusing to do so.
The governor’s position had drawn rebukes even from fellow Republicans in the Legislature, one of whom denounced Mr. Sanford as “heartless,” and from newspaper editorial pages. On Wednesday, The State, the daily newspaper here in Columbia, accused the governor of playing “chicken with the lives of the 77,000” who are unemployed in South Carolina.
. . . “It’s absolutely unheard of, it’s insane, for a governor of any state not to request those funds,” State Senator Hugh K. Leatherman, a Republican who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said last week. “I can’t believe anybody would be this heartless, and create such a heartless act on these people.”
On Wednesday morning, at nearly the last minute, Mr. Sanford relented and said at a news conference in his office at the State House that he would request the money. South Carolina is one of three high-unemployment states, along with Michigan and Indiana, to ask for a loan from the federal government to ensure the unemployed continue to receive benefits.
. . . Mr. Sanford, a wealthy real estate investor, is often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, in part because he is seen as an exemplary adherent of the party’s low-government, antispending philosophy. He recently wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal saying he was opposed to a “bailout” for states.
So, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Sandford has to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept federal funds to extend unemployment benefits in a state with the third-highest unemployment in the United States, because he's ideologically opposed to a federal "bailout" for states. As a matter of basic economics, this is utterly stupid. Here's Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody’s Economy.com, saying what every economist knows:
“The most efficacious spending includes extending unemployment benefits, expanding the food stamp program and increasing aid to hard-pressed state and local governments."
Sandford therefore opposes the very measures that would most cost-effectively improve the economy of his state. In this way (and in many others) ideologues like Sandford are doing everything in their power to drive the Republican Party off a cliff. We can only hope they aren't allowed to take the country with them.
Commenting on Barack Obama's nomination of respected moderate Ray LaHood (R-IL) to be secretary of transportation, David Broder notes that LaHood will be on the front lines in the battle over Obama's stimulus plan, which will include major expenditures on roads, bridges, and public transportation. Not only will the GOP oppose these projects, Broder says, but that opposition will come from a party now dominated by the old Confederacy:
All the signs are that the stimulus spending will be opposed by congressional Republicans, whose shrunken ranks are increasingly dominated by right-wing Southerners who care not what their stance does to harm the party's national image.
The spectacle of LaHood facing off in congressional testimony against those naysayers will dramatize a split that is crippling the GOP.
The danger became apparent as far back as 2007. With Bush weakened by the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and the midterm election losses of 2006, a Southern-led revolt killed his immigration reform bill. Junior senators such as Jim DeMint of South Carolina directed the rebellion, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, unable to stem the insurgency, joined it.
The price was paid in the 2008 presidential campaign. Despite his personal credentials as a sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform, John McCain was caught in the backlash of anti-GOP voting by Hispanics. It contributed to his loss of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida and other states.
The same thing happened this year when Bush supported a bailout for the Big Three auto companies. Led by Republican senators from Southern states where there are many foreign-owned auto plants, the Senate refused to cut off a filibuster against the bill to provide bridge loans to General Motors and Chrysler. This time, the opposition was led by Bob Corker of Tennessee and Richard Shelby of Alabama. When the Senate failed by eight votes to cut off debate, Southern and border-state Republicans voted 16 to 2 against the measure. On a similar vote on the 2007 immigration bill, the Southerners split 17 to 3 against.
Even though Bush later used his authority to provide the loan, the defeat of this legislation at Republican hands will not be forgotten when GOP senators run for reelection in 2010 in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. It will also echo in industrial states such as Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, New York and New Jersey, when Republicans try to challenge for Senate and House seats.
The Southern domination of the congressional Republican Party has become more complete with each and every election. This year, Republicans suffered a net loss of two Senate and three House seats in the South, but they lost five Senate seats and 18 House seats in other sections. No Republican House members are left in New England, and they have become ever scarcer in New York and Pennsylvania and across the Midwest.
LaHood, who witnessed but did not welcome the Gingrich "revolution" in the House, has watched with growing alarm the decimation of the GOP in Illinois and surrounding states. As point man for Obama's stimulus spending, he now poses the dilemma for his own party in the sharpest possible terms: Will congressional Republicans again sacrifice their political interest to satisfy their Southern-baked ideological imperatives?
The Republican and Democratic Parties have undergone both an ideological and a geographic realignment that began with the migration of Southern Democrats into the Republican Party during the Civil Rights Era. Popularized by Kevin Phillips and implemented by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, the "Southern strategy" transformed the "solid South" from a bastion of Democratic power into the modern GOP's political base. During the last three decades, this helped the Republican Party make major gains in Congress, win the majority of Presidential elections, and fill the federal judiciary with conservative judges (although never conservative enough for an increasingly conservative Republican base).
As a consequence, however, the modern GOP is now in danger of becoming a regional party, dominated by its most ideological, bellicose, authoritarian, and socially conservative elements. As Broder notes, this has all but driven the GOP out of the Northeast, and it will do the party further harm in the rust belt and the Great Lakes region. Meanwhile Democrats are making inroads into the big square states in the West, where demographic trends also favor the Democratic Party.
The Chinese character for "crisis" is the same character used for "opportunity", reflecting an observation that's useful in our current circumstances. We face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, but bold policies could not only prevent disaster, they could also build the foundation for sustainable future prosperity. Franklin Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression led to decades of Democratic rule, and our current crisis presents Barack Obama with a similar opportunity. If reactionary Southern Republicans insist on obstructionism, the GOP could be severely damaged for many years to come.
First, I found Dennis Prager's wingnutty essay explaining the importance of wifely duties in the bedroom:
A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men's natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman's nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.
This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.
TPMCafe hosted anexcellent discussion about Paul Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics and its applicability to our current situation. Bottom line: It's applicable, so pay no attention to John Boehner, who's trying to find economists who will claim otherwise: