Video of the day

I hope all this woman’s neighbors and co-workers see this.  And at the rate it is going viral, they probably will.

The Tea Party in historical context

Nice piece by David Cay Johnston looking at the Tea Party in the overall historical context of rich people funding populist movements:

With meticulous research, Martin shows how the modern Tea Party grew from decades of efforts by American oligarchs to de-tax themselves. They relied on cranks, rogues, and a few scholars to polish the most effective ideological marketing pitches. Their goal was selling the notion that if the rich bear less of the burden of government, all of us will somehow end up better off. These pitches have worked best when some newly proposed government initiative—like President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—arrives to pose the threat of major policy change. They have depended on diverting attention from obvious questions, such as just how does a smaller tax bill for the Koch brothers benefit us? …

In the case of the modern Tea Party, we now know that a good chunk of the money to stage events came from the Koch brothers, inheritors of wealth who are no strangers to the benefits of government-granted corporate monopolies as well as to laws that let them avoid, defer, and even escape taxes. That the mainstream news gives so little attention to the Kochs’ behind-the-scenes manipulations is a tragedy. The Tea Party’s very name sows confusion: The original 1773 Tea Party opposed tax favors for the wealthy owners of the British East India Company. Contrast this with modern Tea Party demands that a congress and president—elected by the people—lack legitimacy and must reduce taxes, especially on business and owners of capital.

Rich people’s movements waxed and waned over much of the last century, going dormant only to reappear when roused by a new policy threat. They have yet to achieve many of their goals. But thanks to decades of well-funded organizing, favorable laws in Washington and state capitals that passed while few noticed, and now the dark-money opportunities of Citizens United, they are here to stay. Martin’s book is useful in understanding a forgotten history that preceded the seemingly sudden assaults on consumers, unions, and workers by legislatures and governors in Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, and other states where extremists are currently in power. While the actions are indeed abrupt, contemptuous, and cruel, they grow from a neglected but by now lengthy tradition of lessons the rich and their advisers learned from failures past.

On a related note, some good news is that the Tea Party is less popular than ever.

Americans' tea Party affiliation

The bad news?  Popular or not, its clear that the Tea Party is still completely driving the agenda of the Republican Party.

The 2014 NC Senate race and my messy office

Can’t embed, but here’s the 2 minute story on the NC Senate Race (prompted by State Senate leader Phil Berger’s decision not to run) featuring the oh-so-sage commentary of your’s truly.  I got a call from a friend when this aired to decry the messy state of my office.  Alas, I actually asked the cameraman if he needed me to clear off my desk some, but he said he wouldn’t be getting it in the shot.  Last time I trust the camera guy!  Oh yeah, I think even in a tough non-presidential year, Hagan will get re-elected.  Whomever wins the Republican primary is just going to have to run so damn far to the right.

Republicans, the debt ceiling, and the legitimacy of presidential government

This may be the best post I’ve read on the topic.  Via Yglesias:

From Jonathan Strong’s report at NRO, what Republicans want in exchange for agreeing to not default on the national debt is a one year delay of Obamacare, Paul Ryan’s tax reform, the Keystone XL pipeline, partial repeal of the Clean Air Act, partial repeal of bank regulation legislation, Medicare cuts, cuts in several anti-poverty programs, making it harder to launch medical malpractice lawsuits, more drilling on federal land, blocking net neutrality, and a suite of changes designed to make it harder for regulatory agencies to crack the whip.

Things like this do happen. The British system of government used to feature a ruling monarch who was checked in limited ways by two houses of parliament. Over time, those houses of parliament leveraged their control over tax hikes into overall control of the government. On a somewhat slower time frame, the elected House of Commons nudged the House of Lords out of almost all of its de facto political power. And that’s the House’s proposal here. The president should become an elected figurehead (not dissimilar to the elected presidents of Germany, Israel, or Italy) whose role is simply to assent to the policy preferences of the legislative majority.

That’s the logic of bargaining over the debt ceiling, because this isn’t really a bargain at all. A bargain is when Obama wants something the GOP doesn’t want (universal preschool, say) and then the GOP says “look we’ll do it, but only if you do X, Y, and Z for us.” Increasing the debt ceiling isn’t like that. It isn’t a pet policy priority of Obama’s and it isn’t something House Republicans oppose. It’s something both sides agree is necessary to avert a legal and financial disaster…

The good news is that the White House recognizes they made a mistake [by negotiating in 2011], and the last time Republicans tried to pull this they didn’t give in. And they can’t give in now. Not even a little bit. A terrible monster was let out of the box in 2011 and the best thing Obama can possibly do for the country at this point is to stuff it back in and hopefully kill it.

Yep.  And here’s a similar take from Chait a couple weeks ago:

Since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2011, a coterie of Republicans has challenged this informal approach. Their belief is that the absence of cooperation should lead not to stalemate but to the president bending to their will. That assumption implies a delegitimization of the presidency that Obama has come to understand, belatedly, that he can’t accept.

And the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson on what this tells us about the Republican party:

Give us everything we want or else we’ll destroy the country! is the sort of demand that only a broken party inside a broken system could possibly hope to make. The debt ceiling should not exist and the rules of the Senate and House shouldn’t allow a minority to repeatedly extort the majority, but, well, you go to debtmageddon with the government you got. Republicans, inching away from shutdown, are all in on an apocalyptic strategy to trade the full faith and credit of the country for their agenda.

Photo of the day

Via Telegraph’s pictures of the day:

A ladybird flies through the air on the back of a dandelion-stalk broomstick.

A ladybird flies through the air on the back of a dandelion-stalk broomstick. Young photographer Jagoda Cholacinska, 19, captured the charming scene in a poppy field near her home in Poland.Picture: Jagoda Cholacinska/Caters

Republican efforts to destroy Obamacare

While there are some Republicans who, I think, realize that Obamacare will largely be a liberal success, and we just can’t have that, I think most– living inside their right-wing information bubble– are truly convinced that the law is a disastrous monstrosity that destroys American freedom.  Delusional, yet, but a powerful and pervasive delusion.  Chait has a great, great piece titled “The Republican Plot to Kill Obamacare.”  Definitely worth reading the 5-10 minutes reading the whole thing (yes, you know who I’m talking to).  If that’s what you they truly believe, you can see why they think they have to pull out all the stops to kill it.  Even if they can’t.  Here’s a couple parts from the piece I really liked:

Now look back at all the quotes in the last paragraph. Every one of them has qualifiers attached: likely, appears, not yet definitive. That, appropriately, is how people in the worlds of academia and economic forecasting express themselves [i.e., liberal policy wonks]. The future is uncertain by definition.

No such analytic caution can be found on the right. Conservatives concluded from the outset not only that Obamacare’s goals offended them but that its operations were doomed to collapse. “Just as economic shortages were endemic to Soviet central planning,” wroteWeekly Standard editor Bill Kristol last month, “the coming Obamacare train wreck is endemic to big-government liberalism.”

That Obamacare is both bound to fail and must be destroyed is the premise of conservative-movement thought, the A=A from which every other conclusion springs. In 2010, the American Enterprise Institute fired David Frum after he wrote a blog post questioning the Republican strategy of total opposition to Obamacare. Fealty to the cause of repeal is a sine qua non for any effective participation in the movement. The e-mail ­listserv where conservative health-care-policy wonks gather is called the “Repeal Coalition”—which is to say, anybody not fully dedicated to repeal cannot ­participate in conservative health-care-policy deliberations…

That vast transfer of wealth—from rich to poor, and from healthy to sick—is Obamacare’s most socially radical element, and it is that political transformation that has captured the attention of the right. Once uninsured Americans have a program that provides them access to medical care, the political system will no longer be able to disregard their plight. As conservative writer Byron York has put it, “Once those payments begin, repealing Obamacare will no longer be an abstract question of removing legislation not yet in effect. Instead, it will be a very real matter of taking money away from people. It’s very, very hard to do that.”

As Chait, and many others, point out there’s inevitable problems in rolling out such a massive new program.  It would certainly be nice if Republicans were at least willing to work to contain the damage.  But they appear far more interested in being able to say how horrible the law is.  Ezra:

Here’s an Obamacare concession Republicans really might be able to get Democrats to agree to: End the employer mandate forever.

A casual listener to Sen. Ted Cruz’s kinda-buster would think this a major goal of the Republican Party. He’s returned again and again to the effect it might have on businesses with more than 50 workers that don’t offer affordable health insurance. That’s a pretty small number of businesses, but the effects there will be real: Some will offer health insurance, but others will cut back on their workers’ hours so they don’t qualify as “full time,” and still others will fire workers to get under the 50-employee threshold…

But it’s also been delayed for a year. So, as of now, it’s not happening until 2015. And Republicans could probably get Democrats to agree that it shouldn’t happen ever, at least not as currently designed.

If Republicans are really worried about these businesses and these workers, they could help them. Unlike defunding or delaying Obamacare, or even delaying the individual mandate, this is a concession Republicans really might be able to get the Obama administration to agree to. They’d be on the right side of both the policy and the public. The question is whether they actually want to help these workers or just grandstand against the law.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure we all know the answer to that one.  Heaven forbid the law actually works to help people.  The law will not be a disaster.  But it is quite clear most Republicans want it to be.  Even if that means many Americans suffer needlessly.

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