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Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh-Six Redux? Ways of Shutting Down a Republican House



The 109th Congress didn’t end well for the Republicans. It began with Republican majorities in both houses to complement the George W. Bush White House. Though Bush had been reelected in 2004, faith in his leadership had immediately begun to erode after the election with such catastrophes as the attempt to privatize social security, Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, Republican discord on immigration, etc. In Congress, House Republicans and staffers were getting nabbed and sentenced for their involvement with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had stepped down in 2005 following an investigation into money laundering for which he was later convicted. And then it was revealed that Mark Foley, a Republican House member from Florida had been flirting inappropriately with underage male House pages.

The latter scandal was the clincher. It was gritty stuff people could sink their teeth into. All the other impropriety was the highbrow stuff for the Charlie Rose crowd to understand. It’s not that people did not know that Jack Abramoff existed. They had heard the name. They knew he was at the center of a Republican scandal, but that saga was defined by so many ins and outs involving laws and governance and… BOOOOOORING! The general public was obediently angry because of this series of political wrongdoing, but in the taste of Americans, it was far from intrigue. On the other hand Mark Foley was People Magazine material. Mark Foley made it concrete for flat-headed, bolt-necked Americans – Republican Congress, baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.

I want to take this moment to point out that this is not needless disparaging of the average voter. I genuinely believe that if you were to specifically survey angry Americans over what disgusted them about Congress, your ledger would be ink starved. The most common reason given for dissatisfaction would be ripped from the latest poll citing “a majority of Americans don’t think Congress understands their problems” or “a majority of Americans think Congress is corrupt.” Only a small minority of people can address why they are ever fed up with Congress or politics with any specificity whatsoever. As a result, Congress, specifically Republican led Congresses get to underperform in an environment of great permissiveness. Americans don’t understand the boring day to day dysfunction of Congress so they grouse and bear it until something really juicy like Mark Foley comes along. It’s not until that juicy item emerges that people understand the importance of letting go of the party in charge.

Before Mark Foleygate, it was discussed that a Democratic takeover of the House was possible, but  after all the recounts in the 2006 election, it was both houses that went to the Democrats. Democrats were given a go of it in the House from then until 2011 when the House flipped back to Republican leadership. The Democratic tenure was scandal free. The House, Senate, and White House worked together to pass landmark stimulative legislation including that which saved the American auto industry and that which created jobs in every Congressional district, even those represented by members who were adamantly opposed to the legislation.  Nancy Pelosi was regarded by many as one of the most effective Speakers of the House in history. Not only did bills pass, but those bills were aimed at the interest of the American middle class. After all that, Dems in the House were swept out. Clearly, it does not take the same momentum to oust Democrats as it does to oust Republicans.

And here we are two years later with Congress getting its lowest approval ratings ever. The 112th Congress has been defined by a recalcitrant and uncooperative Republican majority that fears any compromise with a Democratic president would be a victory for him and therefore lead to his reelection. The 112th Congress has passed one viable jobs bill since 2010 and spent the rest of its time passing bills it knows has no chance of passing in the Democratic senate. They have held multiple votes to repeal Obamacare including one following the Supreme Court decision finding Obamacare’s individual mandate constitutional. for the first time in history, the House was prepared to vote down an increase in the national debt limit with the nefarious noncredible goal of portraying the Democratic president as the most profligate spender to ever sit in the Oval Office. Republican Toadies such as Paul Ryan who had rubber-stamped ill-advised fiscal policy under George W. Bush including tax cuts and deficit spending had all of a sudden become outraged with federal spending to the point where they would risk everything including the nation’s credit rating before working with the president. Speaker of the House John Boehner, a born dealmaker has found himself at odds with his Majority Leader, who is led by the most extreme Republican House members. For the House of Representatives, the 112th Congress has been an abject failure.

Yet, amid all of this affrontery to our traditions of governing, no one has been forecasting another flip in House Leadership except for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who may have been just be making overtures of optimism as a party leader. And then on one Sunday, we got the People Magazine double whammy scandals for the masses. An anti-choice Republican in Missouri running to unseat Claire McCaskill in the senate declared in a taped interview that a woman’s body has ways of shutting down a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” Then it was reported that a week after Republicans in Congress tried to tank the credit rating of the U.S., a group of them went on a fact-finding mission to Israel which involved one night of revelry in which a member of the delegation ended up wasted skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee in the company of other members’ families.

As for indiscretion number one, I find it hard to believe that someone capable of making a statement so stupid has gotten as far as he had in his political career. The candidate, Todd Akin has been in Congress since 2001. He’s also a proponent of overturning the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which people in his district apparently don’t care about. To me, that’s way over the line as well, but I get it. I’m a little on the liberal side. Where there is consensus between me and the establishment Republicans is that you can’t 1) use the term “legitimate rape” in an electoral forum and 2) you can’t follow up your use of the term “legitimate rape” with a made up explanation of how women secrete natural spermacides in the case of said “legitimate rape” or whatever. This guy may still be popular in his own district at this point, but statewide, bets are on that he is toast. For the more moderate parts of Missouri (don’t laugh) Akin has failed the test of wisdom. There may be those Missourians who believe the Voting Rights Act should be repealed, but that Missouri also needs representation that won’t make them look like 100% ignoramuses.

The Republican party has dumped Akin like a Taco Bell crap. Akin is no help to a party that is trying skulk away from the notion that it is conducting a war on women. They aren’t just afraid of what will happen in Missouri, but how his presence will begin to effect the election in general. It is a particularly bad sign seeing as how Akin’s views on abortion are acutely similar to those of Paul Ryan. This does not hit a ten on the Mark Foley scale because it does not involve salacious behavior, but this item is not hard to comprehend for the flat-headed zombie mainstream. The media flood resulting from this boob’s “legitimate rape” flap is enough to make any swing congressional voter say “Republicans, baaaaaaaaaaaad.”

As for the Holy land hullabaloo, it lives as a head shaker. There is no overall outrage and it probably rates a three to four on the Foley scale, but the timing of the revelation has the same effect as another punch in a boxers combo. Having this being reported at the same time as the Akin offense fatigues the Republican brand all the more. In 2006 it took an aggregation of uncoordinated idiocy to get people fed up with the Republican brand. It is an idiocy to which Republicans are particularly prone. It’s not that Democrats don’t err. It’s that Republicans, by their criticisms of their opponents, set the bar so high for themselves and then fall further and harder when they stumble. Let’s take the BS hurled at Barack Obama regarding Mid-East policy. He has been considered an easy target for perhaps being a tougher negotiator than Israeli PM Netanyahu bargained for. He is described by some Republicans as being insulting and disrespectful to our closest ally in the Middle East. Then a Republican in Israel on official business gets drunk and goes skinny dipping. Was that insulting and disrespectful? Well, there was a reason why members of the delegation were dressed down by their majority leader upon their return.

It was Joe Scarborough, a Republican himself who referred to the Republicans as the stupid party earlier this week. I think that gives me some wiggle room to generalize so here we go. Republicans are kitchen-sink throwers. They fight dirty and are willing to say anything to try to control the national debate and mood. They talk as if anything they say to bolster their peevish opposition will fly. To say that they hold themselves to a lower standard would imply that they have standards at all. When Nancy Pelosi said she believed Democrats would retake the house this year, maybe she was counting on a certain Republican pattern that we can start setting our watches to. That pattern is a recipe of many unsexy missteps like fiscal hawk Paul Ryan (soon) falling on the sword with which he fought for higher deficits in supporting the budgets of George W. Bush. Add to that a gaffe such as a guy in Missouri coining the term “legitimate rape” and a party’s credibility crumbles. And with 70 days left to go, Pelosi is rubbing her hands and licking her lips for the next inevitable sexy ooops from Party Right. People are worrying that Akin could be the straw that broke the elephant’s back, but a little insurance would be great. What else could possibly happen between now and then?


Monday, August 13, 2012

AOTL Screening: The Warning

This Frontline documentary details how smart people let the crash of 2008 happen and how the one woman who tried to single-handedly avoid crises like this was drummed out by them. It should make you mean mad as Ma Joad would say.
[Seems Frontline has removed the video, but left the link below]


Watch The Warning on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Paul Ryan Introduces the Elderly Strategy


In the so-called budget plan named for him, Paul Ryan was sure not to immediately gut Medicare. Have no doubt, if he could end it tomorrow, he would. But as one of the “thinkers” of the Republican party, he just would not want to lose the geriatric vote for the Republicans the way Civil Rights lost the South for Democrats. So his solution was to phase it out eventually. Very courageous.

Why wouldn’t Democrats make commercials showing a presumable Paul Ryan throwing Granny off a cliff? Medicare serves a need and the Paul Ryan plan does not take that need seriously. Tax cuts for the rich, another main component of Ryanomics did not make it easier for the aging workforce to save for their retirement. As a matter of fact, the last installment of tax cuts ended up with a good chunk of the middle class getting their retirements decimated in the Great Recession. The good news is that rich people continued to get richer!

The con of Ryannomics is the stuff of good fiction. The economy collapses under his product with the middle class taking the brunt and he keeps on selling that product with new and improved features to screw those who are not wealthy.

The flow of old people is not going to stop. The fact that middle class retirees need government assistance isn’t going to change by killing Medicare. If Paul Ryan gets his way, people of his generation who were not fortunate enough to have been elected to Congress (or pay for college with their dead Dad’s social security benefit) will not get the care they need and die in their children’s homes in droves, if they are lucky. Otherwise they will die alone. Perhaps in the street. If it’s good enough for North Korea, it seems good enough for Kim Jong Paul.

If  the Republican Party thinks they can avoid Democrats creating an  Elderly Strategy centered around Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand philosophy, they are huffing. You can’t just put an expiration date on Medicare and think no one will notice. First of all, Medicare recipients of today don’t appreciate anyone else’s lack of appreciation of a program on which they depend. Even if they’ll be dead by the time Ryan’s end to Medicare as we know it arrives, they still get the feeling that Ryan sees them as worthless leaches he would throw into the streets if he didn’t need their vote.

Second, Even if Paul Ryan gets his way, people under the age of 55 will be 65 soon enough. It won’t take long for them to realize their Ryan-style vouchers do not cover their health costs. If Democrats are smart, they will let no one forget what Republicans have done (or tried to do) to Medicare. Republicans can claim that these are only scare tactics, but just because they are scare tactics does not make the charge false. Paul Ryan’s zeal for prioritizing the wealthy who can take care of themselves while eliminating the social compact has blinded him to the fact that people who have worked hard all their lives will not get the health care they need when they need it most. As a result, many will die.

And the Elderly Strategy is born. Thanks Paul Ryan. Enjoy your career as a Fox News Commentator. 

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