Tag Archives: Susan Rice

The Fiscal Bluff and GOP Politics As Usual

Vegas Jessie posts a timely letter from a small business owner to Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) along with a predictable response from the Congressman, which just as predictably doesn’t directly address the issues raised by the correspondent.  Heck, as Vegas Jessie observes “presented nothing new or nothing of any practical application…”

No one should be surprised.  The Republican Party — in all its glorious disarray in Nevada — hasn’t had a new idea since St. Ronald de Reagan opened his presidential campaign at the Neshoba (Mississippi) County Fair.  The current incarnation of Republicanism is as obvious as it has been since the Days of Lee Atwater and Company.  The name of the game is still the same; GOP support for the wealthy and their agenda, including privatizing, voucherizing, and shredding the social safety net.  Their first major tactic is simply obscurative, the second is obstructionist.

The Politics of Distraction

The Benghazi Blitz: So, will someone explain, cogently and rationally, why any sentient human being would be passionately concerned about Ambassador Susan Rice’s preliminary information about the attack on the Benghazi consulate?  There isn’t one. Ambassador Rice could secure the imprimatur of the Pope and it wouldn’t suffice to satisfy Senator John McCain’s need to have a topic at hand for his weekly appearance on some Sunday Villager Shows.  If Ambassador Rice explains that the talking points were prepared by the intelligence agencies, then McCain complains that the intelligence community was at some unspecified fault AND that Ambassador Rice should have “asked better or more questions.”  If she had released NO information regarding the Benghazi attack then McClain would clamor about the lack of commentary.  In short, there’s no way to win — this is simply a distraction from larger issues, as well as a way for a Senator facing a term limit on his committee assignments to remain “relevant.”  The issue does make for a nice side show for the Chattering Classes, but accomplishes  nothing to advance political issues of any import.  It’s also an effort to “Create-A-Problem.”

Create-A-Problem Politics

The current Debt Crisis provides an excellent example of “Create-A-Problem” politics.  The process of setting a “debt ceiling” has been around since 1917 when it was an initial step toward financing the costs associated with World War I.  The debt ceiling has been raised without much controversy 74 times since 1962, including 10 times since 2001. [CNN] However, the Congress — imbued with an abundance of Tea Party enthusiasm and plutocrat campaign money — decided to transform the Debt Ceiling to a Debt Crisis in 2011.

Combining the national debt issue (run up by the Bush administration’s tax policies + two wars kept off the books + a nasty recession), with the Republican raison d’etre, repealing the New Deal and the Great Society, gave the GOP its talking points: We ‘must reform entitlements’ (privatize Social Security and voucherize Medicare) and bring down the debt along with other government activities associated with serving the needs of those American people who aren’t ensconced in corner offices.

That privatizing Social Security and voucherizing Medicare are wildly unpopular doesn’t faze the average Republican servant of power.  Thus, cutting these programs must be carefully couched in a climate of fear.

The GOP would have us all a-tremor as if Annie Wilkes, Baby Jane Hudson, Leatherface, Norman Bates, and the Riddler were at the doorstep.   “Social Security… is going broke…has been raided…is going bankrupt…won’t be there for our grandchildren….”  None of this is true, but that doesn’t stop the GOP from using the talking points.

Since this line of attack didn’t work in 2004, 2008, and 2012, there’s a back up plan.  Encapsulated as, “We have to ‘reform’ Social Security and Medicare because we’re going broke.”  Here’s where the manufactured Debt Crisis comes into play.

The outcome of the Big Budget Manufactured Crisis of 2011 was the Budget Control Act, a complicated piece of legislation which gave the White House what it wanted — an extension of unemployment benefits and a second stimulus package in exchange for allowing the Corner Office denizens to continue enjoying their Bush Era tax cuts.  [Corn, MJ]  The Obama Administration (contrary to the Villager Narrative) didn’t get played:

“At a postelection meeting with labor leaders and progressive activists, several of whom were itching for a tax cut fight with the Republicans, White House aides were blunt. To win these stimulative shots, Summers told them, we’re going to have to give up on killing the tax cuts for the rich. “Getting more for our people is more important than getting less for their people,” he said at the meeting.” [Corn, MJ]

The Obama Administration won the first round, and if anything could be more convincing that the Republicans are driven by the need to protect the income of the top 1% the Budget Control Act then someone missed the memo in which the GOP agreed to two things which would have been unconscionable for them under ‘normal’ circumstances  (unemployment benefit extensions & a second stimulus) in order to preserve the lower tax rates for the Upper Uppers.

Distractions and the Creation of the Fiscal Bluff

The Budget Control Act of 2011 sowed the seeds of its own destruction.  The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee) included in the legislation was supposed to ‘solve’ the deficit reduction problem admitted failure in November 2011:

“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.”

It might be interesting to find out how many people thought the Super Committee had any chance, however remote, to succeed in the first place.  The posturing, positioning, and palaver of 2011 gave the Administration what it wanted, and kicked the tax issue into the 2012 elections.

At this point the Fiscal Cliff becomes the Fiscal Bluff.  The Bush Tax Cuts are due to expire with the last toot of the last manufactured-in-China paper New Year’s horn.   There are new cards on the table, but the GOP is still playing with a very used deck.

McConnell’s old card, propose the discredited Romney unspecified loophole plan, cut corporate taxes, and tax lower income people (GOP code is “broaden the tax base”) It’s no accident the Bowles-Simpson Commission earned the sobriquet “Cat Food Commission.”

“Well, I don’t think it’s a secret that for our part, Republicans have shown a clear willingness to make tough choices in order to find a solution to the trillion-dollar deficits of the last four years. “We’ve been open to revenue by closing loopholes, as long as it’s tied to spending cuts and pro-growth tax reform that broadens the base and lowers rates. This is the model laid out by the Bowles-Simpson commission, and it’s a model both parties should step forward and embrace.”  [RCP]

McConnell went a bit further, playing an even older card, and  putting social safety net programs up for grabs on the GOP side of the table:

“McConnell said Republicans want any agreement to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” to include adjustments to eligibility and benefits in the Social Security and Medicare programs.”  [LCJ]

Cantor’s old card, put the Affordable Care Act ‘on the table’ as a bargaining chip in deficit reduction talks.  By Cantor’s lights it’s a bloated entitlement.

“During an appearance on Fox News on Monday, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) asserted that Obamacare “ought to be on the table” for cuts during ongoing budget and deficit-reduction negotiations between President Obama and Congressional leaders.” [Times24/7]
That the Affordable Care Act actually reduces the federal deficit by $143 billion in the next decade appears of little concern to Representative Cantor.  The Republicans, and their health insurance corporate allies, don’t like the provisions of Obamacare, ergo they’ll throw it out as a possible chip — which has about as much chance of success as promoting  a Dachshund High Jump Contest.

House Speaker John Boehner’s old card is the same as Cantor’s, put Obamacare on the table.

“The president’s health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country’s entire economy. We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.” [Cin.Com]

What’s expensive about a program that decreases the deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years?    Speaker Boehner’s tactical argument is little more than a repetition of the 33 ceremonial House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.   [LAT]

The Affordable Care Act repeal suggestions are pure bluff — what politician could possibly believe that the President wouldn’t veto a bill repealing his signature piece of legislation?

The American public must then be left with the unmistakable conclusion that it is more important for the Republicans to protect the income of the Richer Rich than to secure  Social Security, Medicare, and Affordable Care Act for the middle class, as they play all the old games bluffing their way toward the Fiscal Cliff of their own devising.

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Filed under Heck, McCain, Medicaid, Medicare, Republicans, Social Security, tax revenue, Taxation

War Games: Real and Imagined

The NV Rural Democratic Caucus picked up the sounds of Neo-Cons on the March. The Stove-Pipers seem desperate to have another WAR, with someone, anyone, please…”We’ll only look strong if we’re bombing someone.” Perpetual Warmonger John Bolton thinks it’s in our best interest to get directly involved in a conflict between Iran and Israel (assuming, of course, that Israel and Iran want to get into an armed conflict). [MMFA] Yesterday Faux News got its knickers in a twist over U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Rice because of insufficient bellicosity. [Crooks & Liars]

The interesting thing is, that in my experience, the same people who vociferously call for military intervention also tend to be the ones with the least actual military experience. The veterans in my circle of acquaintance are concerned that the U.S intervene directly only after all diplomatic efforts have failed, only after the aims of the operation are clear and precise, and only after due diligence has been performed in which the costs and the casualties are stringently contrasted to the rewards and objectives. They truly understand that war is not a board game like Risk, or an exciting version of a  video game — real people with real families are placed in real peril.

We use the term “war” too often. Perhaps part of the problem evidenced by the free and easy way the word is tossed around is that we use it too often in inappropriate ways.  For example, the “war on drugs” merely describes a system of law enforcement operations designed to reduce domestic consumption and to arrest, try, and convict those apprehended selling and using controlled substances.  For all the governmental agency coordination involved, this isn’t and never has been a real war.

President Lyndon Johnson wanted a war on poverty, but that too was simply a description of coordinated domestic government programs designed to ameliorate the most severe effects of poverty, such as illness, homelessness, and hunger. People die in wars, the concept of Medicare was that life would be prolonged.  However, the war motif makes issues sound every so much more grand.  Thus now we have all manner of little “wars.”

Right wing pundits created a “War On Christmas.” They creatively imagined that retailers wishing their customers “happy holidays” was part of an overarching  effort to secularize the Christmas season.  Not that this “war” stopped the American public from spending some $976 million on real trees, and another $530 million on artificial trees in 2010. [NCTA]  Nor does this “war” tend to depress church attendance during the holiday season (Advent to Christmas).  In fact, for most churches the question is how to get the holiday Christians to show up for more than just the Christmas and Easter services. [TCP]  The real battle appears to be how to get the knaves in the naves when it isn’t Christmas. The artificial fight is about something else entirely.  Sometimes it almost appears as a form of “badge earning” in order to create a specific cultural identity. Consider the following:

“The reason the War on Christmas is being fought isn’t to suppress the private practice of Christianity (at least not yet!). Rather, the intent is to destroy the link between America’s majority religion and its culture. […] Americans have a right to the American holiday of Christmas. It is part of who we are… even though some of us are not Christian. It’s time for us to stand up and reclaim it from the small majority who are trying to take it away from us!” [TWOC]

If this proposition seems not to make any sense, it’s probably because it doesn’t. However, it does hint at the mind-set that informs other culture wars. The author assumes (1) the validity of the “Christian America” perspective, and further assumes (2) that to admit diversity is to sanction tolerance. Indeed, those who do practice intolerance may be justified in believing themselves to be under attack.

How alarming it must be for the intolerant to be told they must allow a mosque or synagogue in their community?  We’ve seen a truly and remarkably preposterous “battle” over a mosque at Ground Zero, which wasn’t a mosque and wasn’t at Ground Zero. [USnews] That newspapers and magazines reported that it wasn’t a mosque and it wasn’t at Ground Zero was perceived in some quarters as a “typical liberal media” attack. These would be the quarters in which any information which does not support and confirm one’s personal perspectives is unwelcome. But, there are other “battles” to be fought.

As of March 2011 at least a dozen state legislatures saw the introduction of legislation to “ban” Sharia law.  One piece of legislation was remarkably fact-free: “A Tennessee bill, S.B. 1028, explicitly defined Sharia law as a “legal-political-military doctrine and system.” It cited the “threat of terrorism” and concern about “the replacement of America’s constitutional republic” by Islamic law.” [EthicsDaily] [ThinkProgress]  Members of the Jewish faith are rightly concerned by this xenophobic atmosphere, and noticed its implications for Judaism:

“If the state legislative initiatives targeting sharia are successful, they would gut a central tenet of American Jewish religious communal life: The ability under U.S. law to resolve differences according to halachah, or Jewish religious law.” More specifically: “A number of recent beit  din arbitrations that were taken by litigants to civil courts — on whether a batch of etrogim met kosher standards; on whether a teacher at a yeshiva was rightfully dismissed; and on the ownership of Torah scrolls — would have no standing under the proposed laws.” [JTA]

Halachah, it would seem, would be just another casualty of the Culture Wars. (In case you were wondering, “etrogim” is a citrus fruit native to Israel.) It is not that the Culture Warriors don’t have some real opposition.

Anti-choice advocates convinced AT&T to cut its charitable contributions to Planned Parenthood back in 1990. Had the Susan G. Komen Foundation leadership paid attention to what happened next they may not have been so quick to announce their decision to cut their funding for the women’s health organization.  [TPM]  All that the SGK Foundation will say for now is that it may consider funding women’s health programs related to Planned Parenthood, but this is no guarantee the organization will actually reverse its recent stand in the Culture Warrior battles. The “war” moves on to contraception.

The Obama Administration announced that health insurance companies would have to cover expenses for contraceptive prescriptions in employer paid health plans.  Catholic bishops moved to earn their badges, but may have missed the target.

This particular battle in the Culture War seems not to have all that many willing participants. Those who are willing to serve in this artificial conflict appear to be among the 26.3% of the population who constitute the white evangelical category.  While their numbers nationwide may be low, their grip on the Republican Party is solid, and this is problematic:

“What’s an even bigger shame is that Republican leaders see the aforementioned poll numbers and continue to court white evangelicals, which means the most bigoted among that pious population have no incentive to change their discriminatory ways, and our nation’s ideals, including inclusion, diversity and religious freedom, will continue to be eroded for years to come.” [D&T]

There’s another iceberg in the water as well.  By assuming the defensive positions sought by those white evangelicals who are motivated by intolerance, fearful of change, and cling to a notion of “white nationalism.” the Party is in peril of shrinking its adherents to a core which is antithetical to the very mainstream it purports to represent.

Meanwhile, American continues to be part of the continent to which Estevanico of Azamor came in 1527, becoming one of the first Muslims to visit Florida, and the first mosque was probably built by Albanian immigrant followers of Islam in Maine in 1915. The first synagogue was dedicated before the Declaration of Independence was written. [Touro] And, the self same country in which Confederate General William Dorsey Pender, advised in 1862 that his wife was unexpectedly pregnant, told her the fetus was ‘God’s will, but sent along a packet of pills the company surgeon was certain would “relieve her.” [London]

There are wars and there are games. The two should not be confused.

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Filed under conservatism, Foreign Policy, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights