Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Predictable Change Of Heart

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are among the co-sponsors, all Democrats, of S1917, which includes a surcharge on millionaires with extension of the payroll tax cut and its extension to employers. Two days ago, The New York Times reported

Republicans — who have adamantly defended a renewal of the so-called Bush tax cuts, which also expire at the end of 2012 — have been lukewarm on extending the payroll tax holiday, arguing that it would not stimulate the economy. They are particularly displeased with the Senate proposal to pay for it: the bill calls for a 3.25 percent tax on gross income over $1 million for single filers and married couples filing jointly.

Liberals have been battering Republicans (see video of Rachel Maddow and Demos Distinguished Fellow Bob Herbert, below) because they have opposed continuation of the payroll tax cut, whether because of an animus to the middle class or a simple-minded opposition to anything supported by President Obama.

They should have taken the GOP's superficial opposition and considered themselves, and the American people, lucky.

Currently, at Obama's insistence, there is no loss to the Social Security trust fund because it receives a transfer equal to the hit it otherwise would have taken. I had planned for a few days to argue in this space that once there is a Repub-dominated government (de jure, rather than simply de facto, as at present), the cut would be temporarily extended or made permanent- but without reimbursement of the trust fund. Its reserves would decline as the Social Security trustees find that, without an increase in funding or a decrease in benefits, the Social Security trust fund no longer will be able to pay full benefits until 2037. Conservatives, having bled the trust fund, would declare that Social Security is in greater danger than ever and will not pay benefits unless it is seriously reformed- by privatization or some other scheme intended to eviscerate the system. Firedoglake's David Dayen explains

....if you don’t return the payroll tax to its full rate in 2012, it becomes harder to do so down the road (it’s always a “tax increase,” in the Obama parlance, when it goes away). Then the general fund is picking up some of the Social Security costs, and Social Security is contributing to the deficit in a roundabout way, making it easier to argue that it needs to be “fixed” (i.e., have the benefits cut) in some way.

"Why would they be against, Maddow asks Herbert, " something that would help the middle class?" Gee, might it have been a negotiating tactic? Alternatively, they have suddenly, inexplicably, changed their mind. As the smartest man in Washington (not to be confused with the man who believes he is the smartest person in the western world, Newt Gingrich)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday opened the door to extending the payroll tax holiday, just two days after his top deputy suggested Republicans would not support a renewal of the temporary cut.

"In all likelihood, we will agree to continue the current payroll tax relief for another year," McConnell said Tuesday.

And of course this agreement to consider what Republicans wanted all along comes with a price, all the higher after Democrats complained for weeks about GOP opposition. Dayen reports McConnell "vowed that Senate Republicans will come up with their own offset, and based on the offsets they have proposed in the past, expect it to be completely unacceptable, something on the order of drastically reducing near-term spending across the board. "

Note to Maddow et al.: the Pentagon budget will not be among that which Senate Republicans will demand be slashed. Digby argues

it appears the plan is to demand something odious in return to pay for it and then blame the Democrats for raising taxes when they refuse. (Sound familiar? It should, it worked beautifully last December. Look for them to hold up the Unemployment extension too, just for kicks. It's Christmas. They deserve a little fun.)

The idea that the GOP would demand something intolerable and then blame Democrats for raising taxes when they predictably refuse never had occurred to me. But then, it seems that the idea that top Republicans would end their opposition to this tax cut, portray themselves as tax-cutters, and take a major step toward their goal of ending Social Security as we know it never occurred to Maddow, Ed Schultz, and a whole passel of Democrats in Congress.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Calling Him A Liar

It was the obvious question for Romney surrogate Tim Pawlenty, and Lawrence O'Donnell asked it yesterday:

Newt Gingrich says about Mitt Romney, what will you tell me next time? That is the fundamental problem Romney has with the Republican electorate, isn`t it?

Undeterred by Pawlenty's decision not to answer that question- you couldn't really blame him, could you?- O'Donnell prefaced his next question with

Now, but in the past he`s been on the other side of a lot of those issues.

O'Donnell stayed on that theme, of course, prompted by the remarks earlier in the day of Romney's chief rival, Newt Gingrich, who maintained

I wouldn’t lie to the American people. I wouldn’t switch my positions for political reasons. It’s perfectly reasonable to change your position if facts change. If you see new things you didn’t see – everybody’s done that, Ronald Reagan did that. It’s wrong to go around to adopt radically different positions based on your need of any one election, then people will have to ask themselves, ‘What will you tell me next time?’

The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and Mitt Romney changes his positions for political reasons. That's not unlike Newt Gingrich, who might be asked what facts changed between his expression (with Speaker Pelosi) of support for addressing global warming to his loss of faith in the reality of climate change.

Attacking Gingrich for himself taking both sides on an issue would be risky for the former Massachusetts governor, given his own, er, ideological flexibility. He would, however, benefit from noting that lifelong conservative George Will has pithily identified Newt as "the classic rental politician."

And he would benefit even more by confronting the former House Speaker on the latter's aforementioned remarks. Far from merely pointing out that Romney has switched positions, Gingrich also strongly implied that Romney routinely lies. In asserting "I wouldn't lie to the American people. I wouldn't switch my positions for political reasons," Newt is drawing a double distinction with the GOP front-runner: he wouldn't switch his positions for political reasons, nor would he lie to the American people.

Whether Mitt Romney "lies to the American people" is immaterial to the charge having been made, and to Romney's strategic advantage in noting that Gingrich has made such a claim. Romney would appear to be whining by responding to Gingrich as Bob Dole responded to George HW Bush- "stop lying about my record." But he needs to invoke the legendary 11th commandment of St. Reagan, "thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Romney might casually refer to his friendship with Nancy Reagan, suggest that President Reagan would be appalled, and call for a show of unity among Republican candidates in opposition to Barack Obama.

It is, not ironically, a tactic Gingrich has used to his advantage in the debates. He has quite consiously attacked the press for allegedly trying to divide the GOP candidates and failing to recognize that they have much more in common with each other than differences. No Republican ever has lost a vote by attacking the dastardly, albeit mythical, liberal media, by name or otherwise.

The Romney campaign is smart enough to understand that voters in the macho party adore confrontation (and by invoking Reagan, a twofer is achieved). By the time the next debate concludes, we'll know whether they were sufficiently courageous enough to take the gamble, minimal though it is.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Straw Man

"For a more substantive, honest and mature discussion of border security -- and the larger immigration issue that has been bound to it -- you had to turn to Newt Gingrich." Continuing, CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes "The former House speaker in pointed language, challenged the idea that the United States should be in the business of destroying families and uprooting people who have lived here, albeit illegally, for a quarter century or longer."

Frank Sharry, The Executive Director of America's Voice, a pro-immigrant organization, argues "Gingrich, while hardly a reformer in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, at least deigns to acknowledge the reality that it is neither practical nor humane to drive 11 million people out of the country."

And Bill Clinton, praising Gingrich's approach, commented "On the other hand, a lot of those people have been here for years, they worked hard, they paid taxes, they’ve got kids in the schools, they’re not criminals, we’re going to have a hard time sending them all home, there’s millions of them."

Destroying families and uprooting people. Drive 11 million people out of the country. Sending them all home.

CNN didn't report it. Neither did the other 24-hour news cable channels, MSNBC and GOP TV. The major commercial networks- ABC, CBS, and NBC- missed it, as did public television. Apparently, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security have been cooking up a scheme to gather together all families containing illegal immigrants, lure them to the Rose Bowl, and send them via special charters back to their homeland. Or perhaps this was done, on a more limited scale, in the Bush Administration amid a media blackout imposed to enable future administrations to employ the same tactic.

No, probably not, because in this country at least, we do not resort to mass deportations- of murderers, rapists, car thieves, burglars, or immigrants. But you would never know it, given the constant reminder that we cannot "round up," as it's sometimes termed, millions of illegal immigrants,a s if it ever has been done, is being done, will be done, or under any circumstances would be done to illegal immigrants. (Japanese-Americans were rounded up during World War II, but they were here legally allowing for easier detection, it was rationalized as wartime necessity, and was sufficiently abhorrent that it would not be repeated.)

The idea that we should turn a blind eye to those illegally in the country admittedly raises interesting possibilities. Moving vehicle violations are rampant; perhaps police should throw up their hands, recognize that at that very moment, there are probably 12 million or more people driving at a faster rate than the speed limit, and ignore that guy blowing by him at 80 in a 55 mile per hour speed zone. And there are millions of Americans who smoke marijuana; perhaps law enforcement will forego enforcing its prohibition. Arguably, the state should look the other way, but try telling the cop who detains you for possession that it's okay because everyone does it.

Declare defeat and go home! It is an unusual argument, that individuals in the country illegally should stay put in part because they are so numerous, as if enforcement would be more pressing if there were fewer breaching the borders.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Supporting The Chameleon

The Manchester Union Leader today endorsed Newt Gingrich in the first-in-the-nation primary. New Hampshire's influential conservative paper does not pretend to be anything but staunchly Republican- its editorial is not entitled "For the Nomination, Newt Gingrich" but rather "For President, Newt Gingrich." In so doing, the editors hail Gingrich's views on..... nothing.

While claiming "we look for conservatives of courage and conviction," the Union Leader concludes

Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate. But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running. In this incredibly important election, that candidate is Newt Gingrich. He has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times. He is worthy of your support on January 10.

The editors might be looking for the Newt Gingrich who cut a commercial (created by Al Gore's Climate Reality Project) with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in which the duo urged national attention to global warming. Perhaps they are seeking the one who later condemned Pelosi as "a trivial politician, viciously using partisanship for the narrowest of purposes...." or who earlier this month called the appearance "probably the dumbest single thing I’ve done in years."

The Union Leader may be looking for the Newt Gingrich who in 2007 endorsed "mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system" or the one who denounced President Obama in 2009 for proposing it.

Or maybe they are seeking the Newt Gingrich who tried (albeit unsuccessfully) as House Speaker to repeal the Glass Steagall Act (which separated commercial and investment banks), legislation passed in the wake of the Great Depression and revoked in December, 1992, helping usher in the Great Recession. Perhaps instead they are seeking the Newt who now says that revocation "was probably a mistake..... " and labels the less ambitious Dodd-Frank "a regulatory Tower of Babel that is paralyzing the American economy and depressing home values."

The Union Leader may be looking for the Gingrich who vented about "Chris Dodd and Barack Obama being the number one and two recipients of money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while they were going broke" and Dodd for being "a guy who’s totally in with all the people on Wall Street and all the people at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." Or perhaps for the Newt who recently has claimed he was serving as a "historian" while picking up a cool million from Freddie Mac for peddling his influence.

The right-wing Union Leader probably is looking for the Newt Gingrich who in a video says "I completely opposed to the Obamacare mandate on individuals. I fought it for two and half years at the Center for Health Transformation. I am against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional. " Or maybe instead for the Newt Gingrich who on the Center for Health Transformation website wrote (from 2008 before it was recently taken down) that the federal government should "require that anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond" (chart below from David Corn of Mother Jones).

Take almost any issue. Newt Gingrich was for it before he was against it. Or against it before he was for it. Or against it before he was for it before he was against it. He apparently has adopted Rick's motto: "I'm the only cause I'm interested in."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Boards, Too

Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo joined the chorus of progressives hailing the "humane" immigration policy championed by Newt Gingrich in last week's debate in Washington, D.C. Evan MCMorris-Santoro blogged

As expected, Newt Gingrich is taking a lot of hits from his opponents and the conservative right following his decision to risk it all by professing compassion for a subset of illegal immigrants.

Social conservatives are freaking out, and Gingrich’s decision to insert the word “humane” into an answer about illegal immigration at the last presidential debate seems to be putting some Iowa voters on edge weeks before the caucus vote.

You see, those rubes are "on edge" and even "freaking out."

They can put those fears to rest. Yahoo blogger Chris Moody notes

the campaign posted a plan that outlined several steps that would need to be taken before implementing the local board plan: Secure the border by January 1, 2014; make it easier to deport people; set up a guest-worker program; streamline the visa process; make English the official language of government, promote immigration among high-skilled foreign workers (especially those with skills in math and science); punish employers who hire illegal immigrants; require immigrants to take a comprehensive test on American history; and, finally, set up the boards to determine who can stay and who should leave.

So the candidate's "humane" plan requires securing the border which, if ever accomplished, surely would not occur in the first 13 months of a Gingrich administration. English would become the official language of government, thereby (sarcasm alert) demonstrating the commitment of Repub politicians to legal immigration. Many individuals legally migrating to the U.S.A. don't know English and must, until they learn the language, find a way to communicate with someone in their native (usually Spanish) language. Good luck to them in any proceeding in any part of the legal system.

Newt's support for a guest-worker program, designed to bind immigrants tightly to their employers, should be enough to demonstrate that the plan is one intended to delight the business community and its increasingly successful quest for cheap labor. As if to clarify his motivation for all those who haven't noticed, Gingrich now is advocating local boards to give their blessing to an individual who has arrived legally, learned the language, and demonstrated proficiency in American history superior to that possessed by American students. How nice of him.

In putting forth his wage contraction plan during the GOP debate, Gingrich "urg(d)e all of you to look at the Krieble Foundation plan." Given that the Krieble Foundation plan does not mention local boards, it is impossible to determine what that added bureaucracy would entail. Boards established on the local level but under federal control might be attractive because they probably would grow very powerful and contribute to the effort of a Gingrich administration to gain dominion over Congress, the courts, and national life. Locally-controlled boards, however, would give conservative, generally Repub states, the opportunity to establish unrealistically high standards, thereby driving individuals they deem undesirable to Democratic states. Likely controlled by pillars of the community, the interests of local businessmen, or of wealthy and powerful corporations with outposts there, would probably predominate.

Compassionate and humane, we're told. But in the legendary words of a former NFL running back, "for who? for what?"

Friday, November 25, 2011

How Could We Be So Cruel?

Most of the millions (or perhaps dozens) of the readers of this blog no doubt will agree with the post (below) of the liberal, pro-Democratic establishment Center for American Progress criticizing the immigration policies of Mitt Romney.

And perhaps someone will explain to me why because the position expressed by the candidate's spokesman (aside from whatever else Romney has said on the subject, or believes) seems to make perfect sense. Amanda Peterson Beadle, in what very likely reflects CAP's position, blogged on

During last night’s national security debate, emerging GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich explained that he would support giving undocumented immigrantslegal status without offering citizenship. “If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out,” he said.

Former frontrunner Mitt Romney’s campaign immediately saw a chance to present their candidate as the anti-immigrant candidate to an increasingly nativist GOP electorate. After the debate, Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said Gingrich was setting up a plan to offer amnesty to undocumented immigrants like the 1986 amnesty act. But while attacking Gingrich for supposedly supporting amnesty, Fehrnstrom couldn’t explain what Romney’s plan would be— beyond creating a hostile environment, that is:

I followed up by asking Fehrnstrom whether Romney believed in deporting those immigrants who are already here illegally.

“He doesn’t believe in granting them amnesty,” Fehrnstrom responded. [...]

Finally, after I asked the question for a seventh time, Fehrnstrom responded by emphasizing employer enforcement as a way to get illegal immigrants to leave through attrition.

“Well, if you cut off their employment, if they can’t get work, if they can’t get benefits like in state tuition, they will leave,” he said. [...]

Just to be clear, I wanted to know about those that still could remain under such a scenario.

“I just answered your question Phil, and you keep hectoring me about it,” he snapped. “You turn off the magnets, no in state tuition, no benefits of any kind, no employment. You put in place an employment verification system with penalties for employers that hire illegals, that will shut off access to the job market, and they will self retreat. They will go to their native countries.”

Surprisingly, this is actually a significant move to the left for Romney. In 2008, Romney actually suggested that he could support mass deportations so long as undocumented immigrants with deep roots in this United States are given “enough time to organize their affairs and go home.” Nevertheless, Romney’s newest position still aligns him very closely with the far right. At the end of the day, Romney’s immigration plan boils down to the Alabama plan under HB 56: create conditions so terrible that they’d have to leave.

Fehrnstrom says his employer supports "no in state tuition, no benefits of any kind, no employment." I have no clue what "benefits of any kind" refers to. (There was, significantly, no reference to the DREAM Act.)

But let's consider in-state tuition. Texas, in 2001, was the first state to extend this privilege to the children of legal and illegal immigrants and between fall of 2004 and summer 2008 granted $33.6 million in state and institutional financial aid to those students.

Suppose you are were born in Mexico and are a citizen of Texarkana, Arkansas, living on the east side of State Line Avenue, and work in Texarkana, Texas. Your daughter wants to be an engineer, has decided to attend Texas A&M University in Texarkana, and is not qualified for a scholarship or student loan. She (or you) will have to pay $12,304.26 in tuition and fees annually. If, however, your family had crossed into the U.S.A. illegally and now live across the street, on the west side of State Line Avenue, you would be residing in Texarkana, Texas. With tuition and fees, your daughter would be paying $4,609.26 per year.

Congratulations! You now are paying 267% more per year because you are an American citizen and living on the wrong side of the street.

At least you still have your job a few miles away, or perhaps even across the street. But your employer has the opportunity to lay you off and hire the illegal immigrant on the right side of the street, elsewhere in Texas, in Arkansas, or anywhere, and humanely pay him or her the minimum wage. Of course, the employer risks being the subject of a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an occurrence increasingly rare and which never would occur were it up to CAP.

Alternatively, we could be "humane" and give the illegal immigrant, who probably has come to the U.S.A. to find employment, your job. This would be advisable because we have so many jobs available in the nation now, a surplus of jobs to individuals looking for work.

Oops! We don't- rather, there has been approximately 4.7 unemployed workers for every job available. According to the St. Louis Fed (chart, from Business Insider, below), combine unemployed individuals, individuals working part-time who would like to work full-time, and persons who have given up looking for a job, and the unemployment rate would be calculated at 17%. But denying illegal immigrants employment? Inhumane, racist, and unconscionable!

While the Occupy Wall Street movement has brought attention to unemployment, underemployment, and a decline in mobility among Americans, issues the left has championed, some on the left are fond of encouraging what they believe is a right of illegal immigrants to employment. Still others believe taxpayers should pay for tuition for illegal immigrants (and/or their children) while American citizens continue to pay high tuition because they live in the wrong state. It is an impulse not without effect, however; it gives conservatives and moderates additional reason (or excuse) to believe that government is out-of-control and does not work for them.

A great, liberal triumph, that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Standard Of Decency

Republicans seem to be trying to set a new low on decency- or perhaps a new high in honesty, as reflected in a tweet from the 2008 Repub presidential nominee:

Wow, Dana strikes a nerve “@SenJohnMcCain : Dem mouthpiece Dana Milbank sinks to disgraceful & false attack on @SenJonKyl - a decent man.

What triggered Arizona Senator McCain's of- to be generous- dishonest sense of outrage was this column by Dana Milbank in which the Washington Post columnist called out Arizona Senator Kyl for his "cold and ruthless" and, apparently successful, effort to thwart whatever effort the GOP contingent on the debt commission may have made to reach a compromise.

Kyl, Milbank noted, also walked out in June on budget talks with Vice-President Biden. It is not surprising, then, to learn that the Arizonan is one of a number of Repub members of Congress bought and paid for by an infamous, single-minded, anti-tax extremist. Grover

Norquist, who worked to defeat a compromise, brags about his control over Kyl. When Kyl made remarks in May that appeared to leave open the possibility of tax increases, Norquist called Kyl and adopted “the tone of a teacher scolding a second grader as he recalled the conversation,” Politico reported. Norquist boasted to the publication that, after he upbraided Kyl, the senator “went down on the floor and he gave a colloquy about how we’re against any tax increases of any sort. Boom!”

Milbank, further demonstrating Kyl's obstructionism and lack of common decency, unintentionally illustrates the Republican's impressive honesty. He notes

“Walking napalm” is how one Democratic aide involved in the supercommittee described Kyl this week. And if the senator makes some mistakes as he burns down the village — well, that’s just a cost of doing business. Earlier this year, when Kyl was leading an effort to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, he claimed on the Senate floor that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” The actual number is 3 percent. An aide to Kyl explained: “His remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”

We know about the right's ongoing effort against birth control and the places which provide it. But the combination of honesty and arrogance displayed by the Arizona senator during the debate over funding of Planned Parenthood was stunning: his "remark was not intended to be a factual statement." Perhaps it was a low in both honesty and indecency.

Or perhaps not, because this past week we got another extraordinary example, this from the camp of Mitt Romney. The likely GOP presidential nominee recently released an anti-Obama ad (video below) in which, Dave Weigel explains,

The offending moment comes when Obama says "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." That was a quote from a way-too-honest McCain adviser that Obama loved to repeat on the trail. By evening, the ad had been attacked, derided, parodied, and ruled "pants on fire" worthy by Politifact. The Romney campaign could have cared less.

"We want to engage the president," explained Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom in the spin room. "We look at him as our rival. It's all deliberate; it was all very intentional."

A Romney operative said the ad "worked" and, admittedly, it is dramatic and engaging, bothin sight and sound. Whether putting words in someone's mouth or boasting that a claim is "not intended to be factual," there is no admission of regret, of error, or even of serendipity. No, there is no subtlety here- just an in-your-face brazenness characteristic of the GOP's modus operandi, circa 2011.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Come Here, Work Here, Get Lost

One week the former House Speaker advocates child labor, the next he advocates what The Washington Post's Dan Balz and others in the Establishment consider a "humane" immigration policy.

At the Kennedy School at Harvard University, the former House Speaker responded to a question from an undergraduate student by suggesting

Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.

You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You're totally poor. You're in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I've tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising.

It is, instead, what CNN anchor John King, after last night's debate (transcript, here) at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., referred to as exemplifying the "Chamber of Commerce/grass roots divide."

Asked by moderator Wolf Blitzer about "these millions of illegal immigrants, many of whom have been in this country for a long time?" Gingrich responded

....If you're here, if you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. period. If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.

The Creeble Foundation is a very good red card program that says you get to be legal, but you don't get a pass to citizenship. And so there's a way to ultimately end up with a country where there's no more illegality, but you haven't automatically given amnesty to anyone.

After other candidates addressed the issue, Newt continued

....I don't see how the -- the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.

Just to be sure no one would mistake him for a liberal, Gingrich immediately after the debate reiterated his opposition to allowing the grunts to become citizens and his support for a temporary worker program.

Last week's Newt Gingrich and this week's Newt Gingrich are not at odds- they are one and the same, ideologically and morally consistent. Consider the beauty of it all: child janitors would be paid little- they are minors, after all, and maybe instead of money we can give them scholastic credit for doing the work or institute a public service requirement for graduation.. And as for unionization- don't even think about it.

Meanwhile, we can bring plenty of workers in from Mexico, pay them a pittance, all in return for not being granted citizenship. And if they complain about pay or work conditions, they can take a hike; they aren't citizens, after all. With the lowest percentage of Americans with jobs since the early 1980s (chart, from Business Insider, below), class warfare can really be encouraged, with increasing numbers of non-citizens competing against citizens for increasingly scarce jobs.

Immigrants who are in the United States illegally should not be in the United States. Those who are here legally should become citizens- fully American, the sooner the better, rather than kept in the shadows for the benefit of a candidate's business supporters or corporate benefactors.

Newt Gingrich's immigration policy is humane- for employers of cheap labor. For the rest of us, not so much.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If It's Good For The Goose....

Well, that's a start. Yesterday evening, Ezra Klein reported

In an unusually firm statement this evening, President Obama responded to the supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement. First, he said, the blame lies with the Republicans, who were unwilling to consider a package that balances spending cuts with revenue. Second, he said, he would veto any efforts to lift the trigger. “There will be no easy offramp,” he promised.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, which created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction in August, contained a "trigger mechanism" in which $1.2 trillion in cuts would occur if the supercommittee failed to reach an agreement by Thanksgiving on at least that much. Half of the cuts are required to come from defense. With $200 billion expected to come from savings on interest, $500 billion would be taken out of the Pentagon. A New York Times editorial explained Republicans

rejected the proposal from supercommittee Democrats to cut at least $3 trillion from the deficit, because a third of it would have come from higher taxes on the rich. When you hear Republicans claim that Democrats refused to touch their sacred cows of spending, remember that the Democratic offer would have cut $475 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years, nearly half of which would have come directly from beneficiaries. That’s more than the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan proposed, and eight times the level of Medicare cuts offered by President Obama in September.

These plans actually tipped too far in the direction of spending cuts. By comparison, the Republican offers were risible. One pretended to raise revenue by $300 billion, while actually calling for the Bush tax cuts to be permanent and even reducing the top bracket to 28 percent from 35 percent. The consequences of this failure are serious.

Republicans on the Armed Services Committee already have staked out their position. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, contending "these cuts represent a threat to the national security interests of the United States and cannot be allowed to occur," have announced they are writing legislation to undo those cuts. Committee chairman Buck McKeon of California vowed Monday "I will not be the armed services chairman who presides over crippling our military."

Determined not to allow anyone to exceed his irresponsibility, Mitt Romney declared "it was a very bad idea to put our national security on the chopping block and (I) will, if elected president, reverse those cuts."“ Given that the reduction would not take place until 2013, Romney's threat is a very real one.

So be it. McCain and Graham, tied together at the hip, are sincere military hawks and McKeon, as Armed Services chairman, understandably pals around with defense contractors. But there is no reason responsible Democrats can't play the same game and stake out a position reflecting their own preferences.

Half of the cuts are required to come out of discretionary spending. So while McCain, Graham, and others attempt to panic Americans into opposing any reduction in a bloated defense budget, Democrats ought to propose legislation to eliminate domestic, non-defense spending from consideration. It at least would be a good bargaining position, not starting at a position of compromise as has been the practice of President Obama and congressional Democrats. Pound the airwaves, social media, and all outlets with examples of the impact of a reduction in domestic spending. As Brad Plumer notes,

Third Way has provided examples of what would happen if the the trigger’s 7.8 percent cuts were spread evenly, across the board, in 2013. We’d have 608 fewer food-safety inspectors, which would likely lead to some 49,000 more cases of Salmonella, E. coli, and other food-related diseases. We’d have 1,200 fewer FAA air-traffic controllers, which could lead to an estimated 205,527 more flight delays. There’d be 2,326 fewer IRS agents, which would likely lead to $4.5 billion less in tax revenue collected.

Tom Toles had it right eight days ago. Being a responsible partner is responsible- as long as you have a partner. With no partner, however, it is only foolish and self-defeating.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No Fan Of The Homeless And Veterans

Why does Rush Limbaugh hate veterans?

President Obama signed today a bill giving businesses tax credits to hire veterans. Unimpressed, however, is Rush Limbaugh, maintaining

There are no new jobs in the American Jobs Act. There aren't any tax cuts in it. And he wants taxes to go up. Here he is acting like he doesn't want taxes to go up. The way to answer this, though, is how come tax cuts are good for veterans and nobody else? What's wrong with everybody else getting a tax cut, too? Why not tax cuts for hiring everybody? Why does somebody only get a tax cut for hiring a veteran?

In order: yes, there are, $245 billion worth (chart, from DailyKos, below); because these aren't "tax cuts" (note Limbaugh slight of hand from tax credits to tax cuts to jobs) but tax credits for hiring veterans of the United States Armed Forces; because Barack Obama and most of the Democratic Party support tax cuts (extension of most of the Bush-era tax cuts which by statute otherwise are slated to expire).

When Limbaugh argues "but why not a tax cut for hiring a homeless guy?" he gives it all away. To Rush, veterans are about as worthy as homeless individuals, never at the top of his party list. Republican Stepfords voted in lockstep against the American Jobs Act, which would have provided far-ranging tax credits to small businesses, but even Republicans find it difficult to vote against veterans, given that GOP legislators, unlike Limbaugh, do not dislike this class of courageous citizens.


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