What needs to change

Obviously, I’m so frustrated by the legislative fiasco that just passed the Senate.  I keep asking myself various versions, of “okay, so what should Democrats do.”  Part of me wants to say that Democrats should now just shamelessly and persistently lie about policy, just as Republicans have done.  Raise marginal tax rates on the richest Americans by 5% and claim that because of increased economic growth, it is actually a tax cut for rich people.  Create a Medicare for all program and say that because of “innovative, dynamic adaptation of the health care marketplace” nobody in the health insurance industry will lose their job.  Etc.  So tempting.  But, it is bad enough to have one political party that is not intellectually honest.

One thing that is absolutely for sure, though, don’t pretend for even a nanosecond that Republicans are talking in good faith when they talk about budget deficits and national debt.  Not a nanosecond.  Yes, politics is full of hypocrisy, but the Republicans on deficits and debt is to hypocrisy as the Champions league is to the CASL Recreation soccer I coach.

The Democrats not giving Republicans an ounce or credence on debt issues is essential to changing the media narrative, which is essential to changing the politics.  I saw lots of stories today in the vein of “oh, looks like Republicans maybe don’t care about the debt so much anymore.”  They never cared!!  They’ve been playing you “serious” DC media types for fools!  Its going to be hard to get the media and their knee-jerk “both sides” approach to totally ignore Republicans on talk of deficits/debt, but serious journalism demands that they do so.  And the Democratic party needs to work hard to make it so.  No, this won’t fix everything when Democrats have full control of government again (my money is on 2020), but I damn sure don’t want to hear a “serious” journalist take any Republican seriously again on this issue in my lifetime.

Here’s Ezra (who has admitted to basically being fooled by Republicans) on the whole mess:

Today, Paul Ryan is the speaker of the House of Representatives and Ron Johnson is a key vote in the Senate. Together, they are shepherding forward a tax bill that is expected to add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt in the first 10 years and, if their tax cuts are extended as they hope, far more after that. They are doing so despite years of arguing that the national debt is the most severe problem facing the United States, despite running for reelection promising balanced budgets and fiscal restraint.

“The hypocrisy is astounding,” says Marc Goldwein, policy director at the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget…

There is no framework under which these moves appear principled, no explanation under which the cynicism abates. Some Republicans have tried to argue that the tax bill will pay for itself through increased economic growth, but there is not a single economic analysis that agrees; the Joint Committee on Taxation, for instance, says the law will add a trillion dollars to the deficit even accounting for economic growth.

Perhaps that is why even Paul Ryan sounds embarrassed making these claims. “I’m telling you that’s what I believe will happen. I’m not going to tell you I’m sure,” he said.

Nihilism begets nihilism. Democrats feel like fools for taking Republican deficit concerns seriously, for trying to play by the rules and pay for their legislation and show they were acting in good faith…

“If Republicans can spend a trillion and a half dollars on tax cuts and say, ‘Our own models tell us it will pay for itself,’ why can’t Democrats do Berniecare and say it’ll lead to huge growth?” asks Goldwein. “I hear really smart and really responsible Democrats saying things like, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have paid for the ACA.’”

Okay, and need to highlight this bit

If there are congressional Republicans out there who aren’t pure nihilists, who really do worry about debt and process and the future of the country, they should think a bit harder about what they are unleashing.

There’s not, there’s not, there’s not!  I love Ezra, but he is still too credulous of Republican principle and good will.  One could make a weak case for Corker, but on the basis of recent votes, how can you claim there’s a single Congressional Republican who’s not a policy nihilist?!

And, damn, if this whole thing is horribly depressing.  Sure, as a liberal, but mostly as a political scientist who fears deeply for the future of our democracy.

Quick hits (part II)

1) An interesting take that a focus on net neutrality distracts us from the real problem:

We have a perfectly good statute already, and the Obama-era FCC’s interpretation of that statute so as to ensure an open internet—including its labeling of these giant companies as common carriers, which was necessary in order for open internet rules to be enforceable—has already been found reasonable. On the Hill, the public will be out-lobbied at every turn by the essentially unlimited resources of Comcast, Charter, CenturyLink, Verizon, and AT&T.

The real problem is a complete absence of leadership and policy aimed at making sure that low-priced, ubiquitous, world-class fiber optic services reach every home and business. Left to their own devices, the giant US companies Pai is determined to protect have every incentive to divide markets, avoid capital investments in upgrades to fiber that reach everyone, charge as much as they can get away with, and leave out poorer and rural people. That is in fact what has happened here.

In contrast, Wilson makes it easy for anyone to get fiber, whether they’re low-income or not. It’s providing the same symmetrical, high-capacity service to everyone, rich and poor. And it has every incentive to keep subscription prices as low as possible.

The differences between the way the unrestrained, profit-at-all-costs-driven operators run things and the way a public interest-driven operator acts are obvious. For a clear illustration, take a look at Wilson, North Carolina…

Finally, you might wonder why, if Wilson’s service is so successful, its neighbors in North Carolina haven’t noticed and started building similar systems of their own. The answer is that it’s illegal. Time Warner Cable (later Charter, later Spectrum) succeeded in getting the state legislature to pass legislation in 2011 aimed at never letting another city in the state follow Wilson’s lead.

3) The Supreme Court does not seem eager to expand gun rights (e.g., a “right” to own an assault rifle) beyond their earlier rulings creating an individual right to gun ownership.

4) The Supreme Court case involving cell phones and your right to privacy (can the government track you everywhere via your cellphone without a warrant?) is a pretty fascinating and important case.

5) Conor Friedersdorf with my favorite take on the latest James O’Keefe fiasco:

Project Veritas was operating on the premise that The Washington Post wouldn’t exercise due diligence in vetting a young woman accusing a Republican Senate candidate of sexual misconduct—that the paper would report the bogus story in the newspaper, enabling Project Veritas to expose them for spreading a false allegation.

The premise that the newspaper spreads “fake news” is widely held on the populist right. But the premise proved incorrect. Washington Post reporters did not reflexively or opportunistically believe a woman falsely accusing a prominent Republican. They assigned multiple staffers to help vet the story’s credibility. And they were skillful enough at doing so that they discovered their source’s lies.

If Project Veritas was operating in good faith—if it was really trying “to achieve a more moral and ethical society,” as it claims on its website—it would have acknowledged that its initial beliefs about The Washington Post were incorrect, and that the newspaper diligently pursued the truth when put to an undercover test. [emphasis mine]

Instead, even though the newspaper did the right thing, Project Veritas still cast it as an enemy.

6) Alcohol taxes save a ton of lives.  Seriously.  Lowering them, as the Republican tax bill does, is simply bad, and deadly, public policy.

7) Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern on why Trump is actually legally correct in his appointment to the CFPB.

8) Dexter Filkins on how Tillerson wrecked the State Department.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson might not have his job for much longer, but his tenure may well be regarded as the most consequential in postwar American history: not for what he built but for what he destroyed.

In only ten months, Tillerson, the former C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, has presided over the near-dismantling of America’s diplomatic corps, chasing out hundreds of State Department employees and scaling back the country’s engagement with the world. Most alarming has been the departure of dozens of the foreign service’s most senior officials—men and women who had spent their careers living and working abroad, who speak several languages, and who are experts in their fields. As I detailed in my recent Profile of Tillerson, he came into the job proposing to cut the State Department’s budget by a third, with plans to eliminate more than a thousand jobs and dramatically scale back the already measly sums America spends on refugees, democracy promotion, women’s rights, and the prevention of H.I.V. At the same time, the Trump Administration was proposing to dramatically increase spending on defense—by fifty-eight billion dollars, an amount that is larger than the State Department’s entire budget.

9) Hell of a campaign ad from a Michigan woman, “Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting?”

10) Josh Marshall:

What it all boils down to is that racism – white racial grievance, immigration restriction, generalized bashing of basically any political or cultural assertion by African-Americans – is the only consistent and persistent line connecting the campaign to the presidency. This is not quite the same as saying that that’s the only real bottom line for his supporters – though there’s a lot of truth to that. But for Trump, that’s clearly the only thing that isn’t opportunistic and situational. Those all fall away. The only thing that doesn’t is the ethno-nationalism and racism. It’s the real him.

11) Excellent Chait post on how, for Republicans, tax cuts always create major economic growth.

12) Who could’ve known it’s a bad idea to get your eyeball tattooed?

13) The matching columns that would get their own post if I were not spending lots of time grading.  Thomas Edsall on “the self-destruction of American Democracy.”  And EJ Dionne, “Our political foundation is rotting away.”  And let’s be clear, this is not at all just about Trump, but the cowardly enabling of the Republican Party.



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