Whither the corporate overlords?

So, I kept meaning to write a post asking about how come the Chamber of Commerce et al., weren’t going to get the Republicans into shape and end this idiotic shut-down.  I mean, there’s no doubt that big business funds the Republican party and that this shutdown and debt crisis are bad for business.  So what gives?  Well, in sequential order, here’s the posts on the topic I’ve been meaning to link to:

First, the Post’s Reid Wilson:

The shift in the Republican power base comes after decades of redistricting processes that put most House seats squarely under one party’s control…

That means members of Congress are more vulnerable in their primaries, where they might face challengers who declare them insufficiently conservative, than they are in general elections. Republican primary voters, who are by definition more conservative than the electorate as a whole, hold disproportionate sway over those incumbents.

Meanwhile, the lucrative contributions from business interests, which for decades have been major sources of campaign cash for Republicans, become less important in a general election, as general elections themselves become less important than primaries…

Until the 2010 tea party wave and the rash of primary challenges against incumbent members, the influence of conservative activists built slowly and quietly. Today, as the House prepares yet another iteration of the continuing resolution that the Senate will almost surely reject, the shift of power from business interests to conservative activists is complete.

And Lydia DePillis in Wonkblog:

One strategic reason that business groups haven’t made much headway in this latest political conflagration is that even though Republicans have basically abandoned them, they’ve refused to defect to the Democrats, which might be the fastest way of breaking the deadlock. And urging both sides to just play nice increasingly just looks like wishful thinking.

Part of that stems from a fear of stepping into the middle of a political war. The Business Roundtable said that even though its member CEOs are gravely worried about the effect of Washington gridlock on the economy, they declined to specify what exactly they’d like to see. And even though most will say that the debt ceiling shouldn’t be held hostage to the fate of Obamacare, some still sympathize with the hard-right GOP desire to put it off.

And David Freedlander:

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.

Walden asked how many of those seated around the table were precinct captains. These were money men, though, not the types to spend night after night knocking on doors and slipping palm cards into mailboxes

“A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was,” said one attendee

Not a single hand went up.

“I hear this complaint all the time,” Walden said. “But no one gets involved at the local level. The Tea Party gets involved at the local level.”…

“I have been in politics for 45 years,” said Georgette Mosbacher, a cosmetics CEO in New York whom The Washington Post once called “the eccentric grande dame of GOP fundraising.” “Every time something does not work, it has to be blamed on an entity ‘out there.’ Well, I am sorry, but the Tea Party isn’t that powerful, and anybody who stopped to think about it long enough would know that.”

But there is still a sense among the donor class that some countervailing force is needed to push back against the furthest edges of the party, regardless of what it is called.

“I have raised a lot of money, but I am not raising any more for House candidates,” said Munr Kazmir, a New Jersey-based businessman and major donor to George W. Bush. “I am angry. I am embarrassed to be a Republican sometimes, I tell you.”


In fact, to hear him tell it, he hasn’t heard even a whisper from business groups. And I think that’s the key to all this: the Chamber of Commerce might be against the shutdown, but they haven’t made much of an issue out of it. My sense is that this is widespread. So far, anyway, the posture of the business community has been that, sure, they’re against the shutdown, but they don’t really care much. For now, they’re fine with the GOP continuing to play its games and make trouble for Democrats.

Do Republicans no longer care about corporate interests? Don’t be silly. This hasn’t even been tested yet. If Wall Street and the Business Roundtable and other groups start screaming seriously about this—and they will if it goes on long enough to cause some kind of market panic—then we’ll find out how much clout they still have. Right now, they’re just shrugging their shoulders and doing a bit of tut-tutting. Nobody should interpret that as a failure of business lobbying. They haven’t even been trying so far.

And lastly, if you’re still with me, Ezra interviews political scientist extraordinaire, Theda Skocpol:

EK: But then there’s the funding world, and a lot of the key Republican funders are in the business community and they don’t want this shutdown, much less a debt-ceiling breach.

TS: They’re so passe! Everybody on the left thinks business controls the Republican Party. I’ve startled a few people by saying that we should be so lucky! Mainstream businesses don’t want a government shutdown or a default. I think some of those business forces are waking up and realizing they’ve spent a lot of money on folks they don’t have much influence with.  [emphasis mine] …

EK: It seems today that the Chamber of Commerce matters less to the Republican Party than the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.

TS: But we have to back up. It’s been true since long before Obama that there’ve been these highly ideological think-tank like groups and these political action committees independent of the Republican Party itself channeling money to conservatives. And there’ve been tax-oriented groups like Americans for Tax Reform and Club for Growth focused on using these checklists and pledges to enforce orthodoxy…

EK: What does it mean for the Republican Party going forward?

TS: What’s happening here is unprecedented since the civil war. I’m not saying there’ve never been closures before. I don’t think we’ve seen a major party since 1860 threaten to shut down the entire government if they can’t overturn a presidential election. Think of the irony of that. At its birth, the Republican Party was held up by the losing Democrats in the 1860 election who said we will destroy the union if you don’t sign onto our agenda. You can call it tactics but that sounds minor. I don’t think this is minor.

So, to sum up (and hopefully you at least skimmed and are still with me down here), it is pretty much all about the primaries in these very red districts.  The business community is not involved in these primaries, rather they just help Republicans get elected in the general, no matter who the Republican is.  Meanwhile, the Tea party and related extremists are seeing to it that the most extreme, most uncompromising Republicans are the one’s getting nominated.  At some point, business needs to figure out that having so many yahoos in government is absolutely not good for government, regardless of the top marginal income tax rate.  Maybe they are slowly getting there.  But until the basic dynamic in the primaries changes, we’re stuck with the yahoos.

Photo of the day

In Focus gallery of the impact of the Fukushima disaster 2 1/2 years later.

A vending machine, brought inland by the tsunami, in an abandoned rice field inside the exclusion zone near Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, on September 21, 2013. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

Obamacare and small business

Really nice Jame Surowiecki piece on how Obamacare is actually good for small business.  I.e., Republican talking points are 180 degrees wrong.  I especially liked his explanation about “joblock,” something I remember teaching about way back at Texas Tech when I first got into health care policy:

Meanwhile, the likely benefits of Obamacare for small businesses are enormous. To begin with, it’ll make it easier for people to start their own companies—which has always been a risky proposition in the U.S., because you couldn’t be sure of finding affordable health insurance. As John Arensmeyer, who heads the advocacy group Small Business Majority, and is himself a former small-business owner, told me, “In the U.S., we pride ourselves on our entrepreneurial spirit, but we’ve had this bizarre disincentive in the system that’s kept people from starting new businesses.” Purely for the sake of health insurance, people stay in jobs they aren’t suited to—a phenomenon that economists call “job lock.” “With the new law, job lock goes away,” Arensmeyer said. “Anyone who wants to start a business can do so independent of the health-care costs.” Studies show that people who are freed from job lock (for instance, when they start qualifying for Medicare) are more likely to undertake something entrepreneurial, and one recent study projects that Obamacare could enable 1.5 million people to become self-employed.

But, its not just that, Obamacare actually makes it much more affordable for small businesses to insure employees:

 Arensmeyer said, “Companies live in fear that if one or two employees get sick their whole cost structure will radically change.” No wonder that fewer than half the companies with under fifty employees insure their employees, and that half of uninsured workers work for small businesses or are self-employed. In fact, a full quarter of small-business owners are uninsured, too.

Obamacare changes all this. It provides tax credits to smaller businesses that want to insure their employees. And it requires “community rating” for small businesses, just as it does for individuals, sharply restricting insurers’ ability to charge a company more because it has employees with higher health costs. And small-business exchanges will in effect allow companies to pool their risks to get better rates. “You’re really taking the benefits that big companies enjoy, and letting small businesses tap into that,” Arensmeyer said. This may lower costs, and it will insure that small businesses can hire the best person for a job rather than worry about health issues.

For a supposed small business haven, we don’t actually do all that well and our health policy is surely part of the problem:

The U.S. likes to think of itself as friendly to small businesses. But, as a 2009 study by the economists John Schmitt and Nathan Lane documented, our small-business sector is among the smallest in the developed world, and has one of the lowest rates of self-employment. One reason is that we’ve never had anything like national health insurance. In a saner world, changing this would be a reform that the “party of small business” would celebrate.  [emphasis mine]

Oh, for that saner world.  And again, a reminder that the ACA was purposefully crafted to appeal to conservative sensibilities, before Democrats realized that the only conservative sensibility that matters is that anything Obama and Democrats do must be stopped at all costs.

Republican nihilism (local version)

Today is local election day in NC.  The big issue is Wake County is whether we are going to vote to adequately fund our schools for expected growth.  You’d think we could all agree on this.  Alas, the Republican Party has been so radicalized that even supporting local schools (something strongly endorsed by Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce, among others) is beyond them.  Sad, pathetic, and scary.   Local Republicans have suggest among other things 1) eliminating classrooms for special education (obviously, this especially endears the sad bastards to me), 2) eliminating classrooms for music/art, and 3) infinitely expanding the number of temporary classroom trailers outside of schools.  One even going so far as to suggest kids would learn just as well in a dairy barn.

Ouch, the stupid!  I recently took a walk around Weatherstone Elementary (in a very wealthy area of Cary) while Evan was having soccer practice and counted a good dozen temporary classrooms.  Here’s the obvious thing– you can keep on adding classrooms, but the schools were not designed for it.  The rest of the infrastructure from lunchroom size, to restrooms, to office space is going to be woefully lacking for the number of students.  But damn if some Republicans should have to pay a few dozen dollars more in their property taxes every year.  And lets not even get started on suggestions 1 and 2.

Wake Country commissioner (and planned guest in my Gender & Politics class tomorrow) Caroline Sullivan nice lays out the details.

 An expected 20,000 new students will be arriving by 2018. To put that number in context, the Pitt County public schools have 23,300 students in their entire system. We must build more schools to accommodate this growth.

Classrooms are already crowded. At my children’s middle school, the average class size is 32 students. We cannot simply add kids to classes or put out more mobile units. We already have 17 percent of our students in mobile units, which must still be supported by facilities like bathrooms and cafeterias in the main buildings.

In addition to adding 16 schools, the bond issue will provide for much-needed major renovations to six schools and repairs to more than half of the system’s schools. Aging schools face higher repair and maintenance needs and also require upgrades to accommodate new technology and security systems. Last year, the Miami-Dade School System passed a $1.2 billion school bond issue devoted entirely to renovations. Over the past 25 years, the system used its money to build schools and did not address renovations or repairs, requiring a very expensive fix. In Wake County, we have had the foresight to couple major renovations with our building program.

Bond opponents have taken issue with rooms used for special education and the arts. Thirteen percent of all WCPSS students have a recognized disability and Individual Education Plans. Those who need more support are in contained classrooms (334 rooms), and those who need less go to resource rooms in elementary school and have classes of curriculum assistance in middle and high schools (834 rooms). Children with disabilities are covered under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act, and their class sizes are mandated by the Department of Public Instruction…

Let us not forget who is in these seats. They are our children, not commodities that simply occupy space in a warehouse for 13 years.



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