Far too much media coverage of politics focuses on the horserace angle--who's ahead, who's behind, who's up or down. It relies on false equivalency: if Politician A says X, then the reporter goes to Politician B, who's sure to say Y. That's lazy journalism, and it doesn't actually inform the public about which position (if any) is actually true, or adheres to the facts as we know them. At TWiA, our mission is to discuss politics through the prism of policy--to look, in other words, at the real-world implications of the things that politicians say and do, to make connections others might miss, and to explain it all in language a lay person can understand. Also to offer suggestions of how you can help somebody in need, to report on what's awesome, and to keep tabs on bears. If you like TWiA, share or repost or tell a friend, and be sure to leave comments, even if they're arguments. Especially if they're arguments.
This Week in France
TWiA's stated brief is the United States (though we occasionally veer into Mexico or Canada). But this week, we have a few more words to say about France, terrorism, Charlie Hebdo, et al.
We think President Obama, Vice President Biden, or Secretary of State John Kerry should have gone to Paris to join in the Unity March last Sunday, and if it was absolutely impossible on such short notice, should have dispatched a surrogate popular with the French, like Bill Clinton or Jerry Lewis. When the US was attacked on 9/11, most of the world stood with us, including France (our oldest national ally). We obviously stand with France now--but that standing is mostly demonstrated by individuals, or by statements from the president, who also made a phone call to French President Hollande and offered American support for anti-terror activities.
The visual of the president or VP walking with the other world leaders, arm in arm, would have been a powerful reminder that as human beings, we're all in this together. Every nation, large or small, should be safe from terrorists (some of the heads of state there seem to believe they should be safe from a free press, making their attendance more than a little hypocritical). Charlie Hebdo is a gratuitously offensive magazine, but nobody deserves to be murdered for expressing an opinion, no matter how offensive it is. People should not be murdered because they do or do not worship in a certain way. And every country, from the strongest to the weakest, needs to make clear that such activities won't be tolerated. Our absence makes us look like we consider ourselves above the fray, when we're clearly not.
Belatedly, the White House admits they were wrong.
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It's possible to criticize the White House without going completely stark raving mad--a nuance apparently lost on Fox "News" commentator Ralph Peters, who claimed it means that Obama "chose the side of the terrorists;" and Rep. Randy Weber (R/TX), who Tweeted, "Even Adolph Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris. (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons.” Yes, he meant Adolf, but when an elected member of Congress is undignified and unbalanced enough to compare the president of the United States--any POTUS--with Hitler, spelling is the least of his worries. (Weber released an apology the next day, which included the obvious falsehood: "It was not my intention to trivialize the Holocaust nor to compare the President to Adolf Hitler." It was also the classic non-apology apology, in that he apologized to those who were "offended," instead of just taking the blame for saying something incredibly stupid.)
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Here in the US, some conservatives are looking for ways to blame President Obama for the attacks in Paris, which is not only nonsensical, but disgusting. The murders of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices, and the ensuing murders around Paris, have nothing to do with anything the president has done or said. Those French-born Muslims didn't decide to go shoot cartoonists because they believed Obama is weak on foreign policy, or, as Rush Limbaugh suggests, because of a line in a speech he made in 2012. Bryan Fischer of the hate group American Family Association says it might be God's retribution. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League says the magazine basically invited the murders. Charlie Hebdo "truthers" are blaming Israel or US intelligence services. Conservative pundit Laura Ingraham blames "multiculturalism."
None of these claims have any tether to reality.
The fact is, France has suffered from Islamic terrorism for decades. When we lived in Paris in the early '60s, we had tiny "firecrackers" that were ignited by throwing them against any hard surface. They still exist, and they probably have a name. But in 1961-64, we called them "Algiers Bombs," not really understanding that Algerians were actually planting bombs around France, and those bombs were going off. Why? Because until then, Algeria was officially part of France. Not a colony, but an extension of the country. No passport was required to move from one to the other. And the Algerians, reasonably enough, wanted to be independent of France.
Much of northern Africa had been colonized by the French. And people who live in colonies have a tendency to want to throw off the yokes they're living under. That's often opposed by the colonial power, and the result is asymmetric warfare, which is what you get when a small, poor nation fights a big, rich one. They can't mass an army and invade, so they rely on smaller attacks--terrorism--to make their point. That was the case with Algeria until they won their independence in 1962. (This article provides considerably more detail, and makes explicit the link between Algeria and Charle Hebdo.)
But when France and Algeria were one country, moving from one to the other was easy. It wasn't immigrating, it was just changing your address. Many Algerians who recognized that the standard of living was better in France than in Algeria moved over. Other northern Africans did, too. Over time, those populations swelled, until now France has the largest Muslim population in Europe.
Then there was WWII and the Jews. Before, during, and after the war, Jews who could escape Europe often headed to what would become Israel. Those who couldn't still wanted to get out of Germany, and France, as the most prominent anti-Nazi country on the continent, attracted a lot of them (as did Russia). Partly as a result of that, France also has Europe's largest Jewish population.
There's a lot of racism/anti-semitism in France today (and elsewhere in Europe), in part as a reaction to the size of those communities. And there are plenty of bad feelings within those communities about how they're treated. Unemployment is high, discrimination is common. So part of the terrorism that takes place is simply because undereducated, unemployed or under-employed young people are easy prey for religious extremists. They don't feel connected to the country they live in, but they want to be connected to something. Radical imams have an easy time radicalizing people like that.
And part of it, on a more strategic level, is meant to increase the power of France's right wing. Jihadists in Yemen--where one or both of the brothers who committed the Charlie Hebdo murders apparently received training and funding--want to increase the sense of alienation from France within its large Muslim community . Marine Le Pen's far right Front National (FN) is widely expected to benefit politically from last week's attacks. That party has been blatantly racist, under Le Pen's father, and although Marine has played that down, their anti-Islam, anti-immigrant stance remains strong. If Marine wins the presidency of France, that nation's Muslims will live in ever worsening conditions--which is just what radical Islamists in Yemen and elsewhere want. Not only will it increase the likelihood of terrorism in France, but it will make it easier to radicalize disaffected Muslims elsewhere. (So will insanity like this diatribe from Fox "News" host Jeanine Pirro.)
So France is, in many ways, unique when it comes to Islamic terrorism. Not that other countries don't suffer from it, too. Obviously, they do. We do. But it's foolish to blame the situation in France on any American politician's words or actions, or on the intelligence apparatus of any other nation. There's a long, complex web of history there that can't be ignored.
Side Note 1: Vox.com argues that Islamophobia is commonplace across the cable news spectrum (though the one MSNBC example they cite is from Morning Joe, the channel's most conservative program).
Side Note 2: According to this HuffPost piece, "In fact, if you are an American, you are statistically in less danger of dying from a terrorist attack in this country than from a toddler shooting you. And by the way, you're 2,059 times more likely to die by your own hand with a weapon of your choosing than in a terrorist attack anywhere on Earth. You're also more than nine times as likely to be killed by a police officer as by a terrorist."
Obviously, terrorism remains a concern all over the world, but here at home, it's far from the most extreme danger we face.
More on guns, race, jobs, crazy, and bears below the fold. Keep reading!
This Week in Gun Safety
This parallel has been drawn before, but here's another study showing that gun violence tends to spread in much the same way as an infectious disease. If we were allowed to treat it like a public health issue, we might be able to make more progress in controlling it.
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Part of what prevents realistic efforts to stem gun violence are the people who fetishize guns, and think the right to own them translates to the "right" to carry them anywhere and everywhere.
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Do people really use guns to defend themselves? Not so much, according to all the available evidence (which is often misinterpreted by the pro-gun forces), and far less often than guns are used for criminal purposes. "But the evidence clearly shows that our lax gun laws and increased gun ownership, spurred on by this myth, do not help 'good guys with guns' defend themselves, their families or our society. Instead, they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis. And more guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer."
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It's also worth remembering that gun suicides are more common than gun homicides, and the trend in that direction is growing, although the number of gun deaths in the US is staying basically constant, in the 32,000-a year range. Violent crime in general is down, though, and we're still not reducing the number of gun deaths. Living in a house that has guns increases the chances of gun death, and controlling access to guns really does reduce suicides.
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Because in a state with an educational system as poor as South Carolina's, what's really needed is for students to spend three weeks every year studying the Second Amendment--with a curriculum developed or approved by the NRA--more time than they spend studying slavery or WWII, state Rep. Alan Clemmons has introduced a bill to make it so. This is an especially classy touch: "The law would also require that every December 15—the day after the anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook school in Newtown—be designated 'Second Amendment Awareness Day.'"
This Week in Race
A new book explains how liberalism helped create the prison-industrial complex that incarcerates black Americans in horrific numbers. As this piece says, "More people are under correctional supervision in the United States than were in the Gulag archipelago at the height of the Great Terror; there are more black men in prison, jail or parole than were enslaved in 1850. How did this happen?"
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When it comes to economic activity (and many other aspects of modern life) for black Americans, we've made undeniable progress, but we have a very long way to go. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this a long time ago, and also understood the roots of that inequality. "This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor," he said. “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson writes, "Paying homage to King as one of our nation’s greatest leaders means remembering not just his soaring oratory about racial justice but his pointed words about economic justice as well. Inequality, he told us, threatens the well-being of the nation. Extending a hand to those in need makes us stronger."
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This Week in the Economy
This visual, of necessity, oversimiplifies the point, but its truth is clear. As the Brookings Institution puts it, "Employers added 252,000 to their payrolls in December capping the best year for employment gains since 1999. Over the course of the year nonfarm employment climbed 249,000 a month, or 2.1% for the full year. This was the fastest pace of growth since the end of the 1990s economic boom."
Brookings also tells us about a new study by Standard & Poor's Economic Research division, which concludes that "a $160 billion increase in U.S. infrastructure spending in 2015 would increase economic output by $270 billion and create roughly 730,000 jobs over the next 3 years." Good luck getting this Republican Congress to approve infrastructure spending, though.
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Here's a rundown of Republican lies about the economy. Do they believe these things, or are they just trying to tear down the president? It's hard to tell, but either way, the facts tell us (as they have for ages) that Democratic administrations are better for jobs and better for the economy than Republican ones.
This Week in the Presidency
President Obama doesn't leave office until January 2017, but historians and pundits are already arguing about his legacy. New York Magazine assembled 53 historians, liberal and conservative, and asked them to answer a questionnaire about the president's accomplishments. Some judge him harshly, some not so much, some vary from issue to issue. Along with the results, the magazine published a piece by Obama critic Christopher Caldwell of the conservative The Weekly Standard, and one by NYM's own Jonathan Chait.
Caldwell is stinging in his assessment, concluding, "Obama’s reputation will also have something in common with that of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who believed history and technology have a direction and that his job was to align his country with it, no matter how illogical or undesirable it might appear to his countrymen. Like Gorbachev, Obama will be esteemed in certain quarters a generation from now, but probably more by foreigners than fellow citizens, and more by his country’s enemies than its friends."
Chait's analysis is considerably longer and more thorough, going point by point through Obama's major accomplishments, which are many. He paints a picture of a president who, though capable of brilliant oratory, has skimped on the communication part of the job while focusing on the pragmatic part. Obama comes across not as the socialist his critics so often claim, but as a moderately progressive leader who achieved important goals that allow the nation to move forward in a positive way. Chait writes, "What cannot be questioned is the administration’s effectiveness, to date, at carrying out the tasks Obama identified at the outset. His administration has made the United States dramatically more prosperous, more egalitarian, and more sustainable. In a remarkable reversal from his predecessor, he has made the government functional and placed it on the side of those who most need its help."
We tend more toward the latter viewpoint than the former. It's hard to know now how history will view the first black president, who steered the country out of its worst recession and greatly expanded access to health care (albeit in a market-oriented way that still separates us from the world's other developed nations). History, Chait reminds us, likes stories, and Obama's accomplishments don't exactly lend themselves to a single cohesive, soothing narrative.
He still has two years to go, during which an antagonistic Congress will do its best to thwart him and to impose its own will on the country. Maybe in the end, that will be his story--the tale of a man who wanted to unite a divided nation but came along at the wrong time, when the rise of media/internet bubbles and the increasing power of political extremists worked against the unifying impulse. If the final assessment is "He did what he could," that would still rank him above many presidents, whose contributions to our history have come down on the side of negative impact rather than positive.
Side Note: Caldwell wrote that Obama is suffering from approval ratings at "Nixonian lows." We guess he hasn't been watching the news lately, because the more the president aggressively pursues a progressive agenda, the more popular he becomes. He's in the high 40s now, and still climbing.
This Week in Social (In)Security
During almost every election cycle, Democrats talk about Republican threats to Social Security, and Republicans respond by decrying Democratic "scare tactics." The trouble is, in between election cycles, Republicans often threaten Social Security, as they're doing now. Conservatives have never liked the program (note in that piece the various conservative economic predictions that haven't come true--some things never change), which most analysis shows is one of the most effective and popular government programs ever. If they can't get rid of it entirely, they'd like to dismantle it piece by piece. Obviously, that would force millions of the most vulnerable Americans into poverty, a fact Republican plans never seem to address. Last week we wrote a little about their latest attempt to manufacture a crisis, but here's a longer piece that describes it in much more detail.
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Sen. Rand Paul (R/KY) has decided that the topic of disabled Americans is a good subject on which to display his typical ignorance and lack of understanding. This week, he told a New Hampshire audience, "The thing is, in all of these programs there’s always somebody who’s deserving. But everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system. What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting your disability check. Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts. Everybody over 40 has a little back pain.”
If we looked like Rand Paul, we wouldn't get out of our truck at all, but that's beside the point. The real point is, Paul is completely wrong. Yes, a certain proportion of those who receive disability checks suffer from what Paul calls "anxious" and Social Security terms "mood disorders." A goodly number of those are combat veterans with PTSD. Paul, having never done anything more taxing in his life than creating his own opthalmalogical board so he could certify himself and start taking on suckers--we mean, patients--probably doesn't know any more about PTSD than he does about...well, anything. But to dismiss the suffering of those people as "a little anxiety" is thoughtless, ignorant, and unpatriotic.
Paul says those with back pain and anxiety make up "over half" of people who receive SS disability benefits. According to this article, the Social Security Adminstration--which keeps better records than Sen. Paul--says that 14% of recipients suffer from mood disorders, and "27.7 percent had diseases of the musculoskeletal system or connective tissue, which would include back pain." If Paul thinks 41.7% is "over half," he might need his own eyesight checked.
As for fraud? The Inspector General of the SSA did a survey and found that 99.8% of disability benefits are paid to legitimate recipients. The nonpartison Government Accountability Office did their own study, and came up with about the same number. Yes, there are people taking advantage of the system, as there always are with any system, but they amount to fewer than 0.3% of recipients. It would be good to identify them and stop their checks, but it's hardly worth trying to kill the whole program over.
There's fraud going on here, all right--but it's the fraud perpetrated on Kentucky voters when they were led to believe that Rand Paul might be reasonably competent and deserved to be sent to Washington.
This Week in The Crazy
Speaking of Rand Paul, he also announced this week that he would like to dissolve the United Nations. This comes as no surprise--Paul believes in enough conspiracy theories to fill the pages of the National Enquirer for a year. Back in 2013, he argued against the Arms Trade Treaty then being considered. The treaty would "force sellers to consider how their customers will use the weapons and to make that information public. The goal is to curb the sale of weapons that kill tens of thousands of people every year – by, for example, making it harder for Russia to argue that its arms deals with Syria are legal under international law." The UN General Assembly approved it, 154-3. Who were the three holdouts Rand Paul stood with? Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Good company.
Why did he oppose a commonsense treaty (with no impact whatsoever on domestic arms sales; it specifically applied only to international sales, and left the enforcement up to each individual country)? As he wrote in a fundraising letter (crazy caps amd bold letters his):
“I don’t know about you, but watching anti-American globalists plot against our Constitution makes me sick. […]
"If we’re to succeed, we must fight back now. That’s why I’m helping lead the fight to defeat the UN “Small Arms Treaty” in the United States Senate. And it’s why I need your help today.
"Will you join me by taking a public stand against the UN “Small Arms Treaty” and sign the Official Firearms Sovereignty Survey right away? Ultimately, UN bureaucrats will stop at nothing to register, ban and CONFISCATE firearms owned by private citizens like YOU."
That was, to put it bluntly but honestly, alarmist bullshit being circulated by the pro-gun death forces at the National Association for Gun Rights. But Paul believed it. And now he wants to abolish the UN.
Paul really is the most dangerous kind of lunatic, because he's the kind some deluded Americans take seriously. Why? We couldn't possibly say.
This Week in Binders Full of 47%
A few weeks ago, we predicted that Gov. Mitt Romney (R/MA) would not subject himself to another bruising race for the White House. He lost badly in 2012, in no small part because he was a terrible candidate, incapable of honesty, whose contempt for the people he wanted to lead shone through everything he did. His own party turned away from him after that race, blaming him for losing an election that they should have won. The party's right flank--which is almost its whole self, these days--lumps Romney and Sen. John McCain (R/AZ) together as two men who were not conservative enough to win the White House, and has vowed to do better in 2016.
So it's hard to see why Romney is now making noises about running again. Does he believe in the aphorism "Third time's the charm?" We think, more than anything, it's his overpowering sense of entitlement. Anyone who runs for the presidency should believe that he or she is the absolute best choice for the job, the only one in the country who can do it right. But Romney adds another layer to that. He's not only the only one who can do the job, but it should be his by birthright. He has achieved financial success (though not without a good head start), he has been a governor, he has run (some say "saved") an Olympics. What's left? Retiring to his many homes, or vying, one more time, to be the nation's CEO?
2016 is shaping up to be an interesting year in Republican politics. If not quite the "clown car" of the 2012 primary season, the number of halfway-accomplished, halfway-bright contenders keeps growing. Romney's competition for whatever remains of the "establishment" vote could include governors and former governors Jeb Bush (FL), Chris (Bridgegate) Christie (NJ), and Scott Walker (WI). Meanwhile, Rick (Man on Dog) Santorum and Mike (Rape Jokes are Fun!) Huckabee will beat each other up for the evangelical vote. Ideologues Sen. Rand Paul (KY) and "Dr." Ben (ISIS rocks!) Carson (Toontown) will batttle for the plagiarist base, while Sens. Ted (Tailgunner Joe Jr.) Cruz (TX), Marco (Not a Scientist) Rubio (TX), and Govs. Bobby (Kenneth the Page) Jindal (LA) and Rick (Oops) Perry (TX) all try to outdo each other in pandering to the rightmost of the right wing. If his ratings are slipping again, Donald (Hair Club for Men) Trump might ooze back into the thick of it, too, and we might see a surprise appearances by somebody like Gov. Mike (boring) Pence (IN). (Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com offers his own analysis of the field, here.)
Those debate stages will be crowded, the ideas moldy, the antagonism toward science, toward fact, strenuous. They'll espouse economic principles that don't work, promise to restore Reaganesque glory to the nation (without mentioning the vast number of Reagan administration appointees who were indicted for various crimes or forced to step down, or his several tax increases), rattle sabers and deny evolution. Although there may be Republicans in the nation who are fit to be president, none of them are on this list. It is, some say, a deep bench--but it's a bench populated by some very shallow people.
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Not even the guy who had Romney's logo tattooed on his face in 2012 thinks Romney can win in '16.
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Back in the olden days of 2006, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. In the Senate, the vote in favor of reauthorization was unanimous. In the House, it was close to that. President George W. Bush was happy to sign the bill into law.
Since then, apparently, voting has become a partisan issue. Democrats remain in favor of voting, and would like a legislative fix to the gutting of key provisions of the Act by the Supreme Court. Republicans are determined to block it.
How and why did the right to vote become a political weapon? Why does one of America's two major political parties oppose voting rights? Could it have anything to do with a black man in the White House?
Side Note: Rep. Paul Ryan (R/WI) removed himself from the list of potential candidates this week, because as chair of the House Ways and Means committee, he finally has his hands on the real reins of power.
This Week in Health Scare
Speaking of Ted Cruz, he gave a speech to the so-far right they can't even see the middle Heritage Foundation this week. As the Dallas Morning News reports, "Obamacare, he asserted, has wrought 'devastation.' He called it a 'train wreck' that has cost millions of Americans their jobs or access to doctors of their choice, and forced employers to roll back working hours."
Cruz is many things, but "honest" appears not to be one of them. Steve Benen at Maddowblog responds:
"What is obvious is the law has quickly improved the uninsured rate while producing impressive results on premiums, customer satisfaction rates, the lowest increase in health care spending in 50 years, the growing number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces, high enrollment totals with consumers who paid their premiums, the efficacy of Medicaid expansion, the efficacy of the medical-loss ratio, and reduced medical errors system-wide.
"All of this, incidentally, comes against an inconvenient backdrop: the more the Affordable Care Act is implemented, the stronger the American economy becomes. This is not to say there’s a definite causal relationship between the two, but if 'Obamacare' were 'devastating' the economy – seriously, Ted, 'millions' of job losses? – the evidence is hiding extremely well."
New research also shows that fewer Americans are struggling with unbearable medical bills since the ACA went into effect, and fewer Americans are putting off needed health care because of cost.
Among Cruz's other policy prescriptions for the country, he wants to shut down the IRS, and repeal Common Core. These are probably good applause lines, but they reveal a fundamental disconnect from reality--either intentional, which is scary, or unintentional, which is terrifying. The country obviously needs some sort of tax-collecting agency, but it's not clear what Cruz would replace the IRS with, or how--without raising taxes--he would pay the astronomical costs of closing it down and opening a new one. And as we've mentioned before, Common Core was adopted by the states. If Crux believes in states' rights, he ought to keep his federally employed nose out of their business. And as a senator or a president, he couldn't "repeal" something that's not a federal law.
The only choice here is, is he ignorant or is he lying? Neither reflects well on Tailgunner Ted.
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A new Kaiser Health Policy poll shows that most Americans support most of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act, but there are still wide swaths of ignorance out there (not just in the Cruz household). "Americans also continue to hold misperceptions about some aspects of the law. For example, about 4 in 10 say the law allows undocumented immigrants to receive financial help from the government to buy health insurance or that it establishes a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare, and another 2 in 10 say they are unsure if the law does these things."
For the record, it does not do those things. But opponents of the law have spent millions of dollars telling Americans that it does do those things, so the confusion isn't surprising. Sad, yes. Those opponents want to take health insurance away from millions of Americans, to replace it with...well, they can't say, because they don't have any ideas that would be nearly as effective. For ideological reasons, they're willing to deceive Americans in order to persuade them to be complicit in having their own health care taken away. Lex Luthor couldn't do much worse.
This Week in Arizona
As we feared, Doug Ducey, the new Republican governor of TWiA's home state, doesn't understand economics. He gave his first state of the state address this week, during which he made some foolish promises regarding the state's $1.5 billion deficit over the next 18 months:
1) "Ducey is vowing not to delay corporate tax cuts passed by previous legislatures despite a massive budget deficit."
2) "Ducey says he's freezing new state hiring as he moves to rein in government spending."
Corporations in the US are enjoying huge profits. In many cases, they're taking those profits and parking them overseas so they won't have to pay taxes on them. Also, in many cases, they have armies of lawyers and accountants working day and night to find ways to avoid paying taxes. Although the corporate tax rate is officially high compared to some other developed nations, the actual rate paid is generally far lower. If the corporations won't pay their fair share and they won't use their profits to hire more American workers, then governments are perfectly justified in increasing, not cutting, their taxes.
And freezing government hiring when unemployment is already too high is exactly the wrong thing to do. In 2008, candidate McCain wanted to freeze all federal discretionary nonmilitary spending--an idea that would have guaranteed that the Great Recession would turn into a second Great Depression. Stimulus was the way to go--and more government hiring, at federal, state, and local levels, would have made the recovery take hold much sooner than it did. Instead, governments cut hiring, and the results are clear--a long, slow recovery that still hasn't entirely reached the middle class.
Ducey wants to double down on that failed idea. He doesn't seem to understand that people with government jobs spend their paychecks in the community. Dollars that go to grocery stores are then used to buy produce, meat, and other goods to be sold, and to pay salaries of employees. Those employees go out and spend their money. And the suppliers of the grocery store use their profits to buy goods and services and to pay their employees, who go spend it, and so on. People with jobs spending money beget more jobs and more money spent--and more tax revenue all the way up and down the line. Freezing hiring instead of judiciously hiring does not increase revenue. Even if the state spends the same amount of money in other ways, hiring people has the greatest multiplier effect and does the most social good. Writing it off in his first week on the job is evidence of a serious lack of comprehension.
Conservatives like to compare government spending to household spending. It's a very faulty analogy, but let's play along. If a family realizes it's going to be $15,000 short on debt payments next year, but doesn't have that $15,000, they might indeed try to reduce spending in order to save more.
But when it becomes apparent that the reduction, in itself, can't be enough, they try to increase revenue. They'll borrow, they'll sell possessions, they'll take on more jobs. They do whatever they have to, in order to meet their obligations.
Refusing to increase revenue through taxation, while at the same time limiting your ability to do it in other ways--such as by blocking the economic growth that hiring creates--is not the way to fill a $1,5 billion gap.
Side Note: When he presents his first budget on Saturday, he's expected to ask for a 10% cut in funding to state universities, which were already slashed by the previous administration. He says he wants to bring business to Arizona, but he's already doing his best to drive it away.
This Week in the Constitution
We've often argued in this space that the far right, "states' rights" purists who claim Constitutional backing for their viewpoint simply don't understand the document. The Constitution was drafted to create a strong central government, not to give more power to the states (which, at that point, had all the power). Now historian/political writer Josh Marshall has devoted some attention to the same topic, and promises to go more in depth.
Here's his first post, which concludes, "At the end of the day, though, the federal constitution was created to battle and overpower the political ideals and devotion to limited, weak government that today's Tea Partiers and 'constitutional conservatives' embody. The history leaves no other possible conclusion. The central belief of the men who spearheaded the constitution was that only a strong central government could make America great and strong and thus safe. There's a lot in those ideas that today's liberals would not find welcoming at all. And the anti-Federalist, anti-constitutionalist strain in American history, which the Paulites and Tea Partiers of today embody, has played an important role as a counter-force. But the constitution, the aims, beliefs and goals of the constitution-makers are the polar opposite of what the Rand Paul types and Tea Partiers believe."
This Week in Bears
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering dropping federal protection for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears. Local tribes object strenuously, as does TWiA.
(Thanks to TWiA special Bears & Braves correspondent Marcy Rockwell for the tip.)