Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category
In reading this profile of one of the last professional pickpockets, I noted the ripple effect of meme evolution:
These are lean years for pickpockets. People carry more credit cards and less cash; men wear suits less, and tightfitting pants more. The young thieves of today have turned to high-tech methods, like skimming A.T.M.s.
Displaced by cultural change.
Notice how intimately the Internet is woven into the above cultural change: it’s throughout that particular cultural change. And the Internet (including music, video, Twitter, forums, news, blogs, and so on) is a perfect meme medium: enormous reach and rapid mutation and selection. And, as noted above, the ripple effects are enormous (cf. Ferguson MO, identified as a hotspot via Twitter).
Indeed, the international criticism of what is happening in Ferguson is quite severe: the US no longer occupies any sort of moral high ground, and with its recent military failures and destructiveness, respect for it has ebbed. The Week magazine carried an abstract of a column by Daniel Haufler that appeared in Berliner Zeitung:
America is a de facto apartheid state, said Daniel Haufler. Blacks have ostensibly had civil rights for 50 years, but in reality “white reactionaries have fought unabated against equality.” Today, discrimination against African-Americans is pervasive and devastating. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown was hot dead by a white cop after being stopped for jaywalking in Forguson, Mo., he was just one more in a long line of black victims. [Indeed, we have another not far from Ferguson: two white cops show up to confront a man behaving irrationally. Within 15 seconds they had shot him dead. The police chief explained that he had attacked them with a knife, wielded overhand. A video made with a smartphone shows that the police chief's statement was false. - LG]
Whites, by contrast, can “brandish machine guns at the police”—as did supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy—without fear of reprisal. And it’s not just the police but the entire government that is arrayed against black Americans. Systematically denied equal access to education and employment, they are demonized when seek government benefits. in fact, the higher the black population in a state, “the lower that state’s social spending.” Ongoing white resentment of the civil rights movement that took away their privilege is the reason the U.S. is the only developed country in which a major party, the GOP, “wants to abolish the welfare state.” That party is also actively trying to change state electoral laws to diseenfranchise African-Americans. It isn’t just the police that must change—-it’s the entire culture.
Very clear-sighted, I’d say—and note particularly this Kevin Drum post from today, regarding the last points.
But the point is: things are shifting rapidly. That is, cultural values are not so insulated by distance and language and expense of travel as once was true: Internet again.
So we’re in the midst of a major meme war, in effect, or—more appropriately—Cambrian Explosion of memes, evolving rapidly, exchanging patches of meme-DNA, and so on.
I don’t think it would go this far against someone this powerful unless… but we’ll see. What I know.
Paul Krugman explains the issues well:
If climate change doesn’t scare you, and our failure to act doesn’t inspire despair, you’re not paying attention. And the great sin of the climate deniers is their role in delaying action, quite possibly until it’s too late.
But there are other, smaller evils; and one that strikes close to home for me is the campaign of personal destruction waged against Michael Mann.
Mann, as some of you may know, is a hard-working scientist who used indirect evidence from tree rings and ice cores in an attempt to create a long-run climate record. His result was the famous “hockey stick” of sharply rising temperatures in the age of industrialization and fossil fuel consumption. His reward for that hard work was not simply assertions that he was wrong — which he wasn’t — but a concerted effort to destroy his life and career with accusations of professional malpractice, involving the usual suspects on the right but also public officials, like the former Attorney General of Virginia.
As you can imagine, I find it easy to put myself in Mann’s shoes; obviously a lot of people would like to do something similar to me, although they haven’t (yet?) found a suitable line of attack.
Now for the slightly encouraging news: Mann filed suit against National Review for defamation. And as D.R. Tucker points out at Washington Monthly, the latest response from NR sounds very much like a publication running scared.
Also encouraging is the evident inability of NR to understand how you defend against a charge of defamation. You don’t repeat the false allegations — sorry, guys, but courts also have access to Google and Nexis, and can find that all the charges have been rejected in repeated inquiries. You try, instead, to show that you made the allegations in good faith. But of course they didn’t.
Good for Mann in standing up here; he’s doing all of us a service.
The articles at the links are interesting.
Elias Isquith writes in Salon:
In a fittingly tawdry and absurd turn to a campaign and post-campaign that’s been defined by nothing so much as its silliness, the man who previously made the bombshell accusation that Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaign offered him $15 for every vote he could provide from the African-American community now says he was lying — and that he was paid $2,000 by a spokesperson for Cochran’s opponent to do so. . .
Truly, the GOP is at work trying to destroy American democracy. Any tactic is accepted. The goal—the only goal—is to win. No interest in governance whatsoever, but very interested in feathering their nests and building a foundation for a good lobbying job.
In fact, some state GOP officials have openly admitted that their initiatives to combat “voter fraud” are really aimed at keeping from the polls as many Democratically inclined voters as they can, because the GOP’s idea of democracy does not include having other points of view represented. Kevin Drum has the (brief) story and facts.
Interesting look at what stymies good education in the US: Fact-checking Campbell Brown: What she said, what research really shows
This fact-checking column in the Washington Post by Valerie Strauss helps in combatting common misconceptions—e.g., from the column:
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“All the research shows the least effective teachers are being centered in the most disadvantaged schools, so the poorest… So what the tenure laws do combined with these dismissal protections is make it almost impossible to fire a teacher who’s been found to be incompetent.”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
What does Ms. Brown mean by “effective”? Presently, many states around the country determine teacher effectiveness using complex and controversial measures called “value-added models,” or VAMs. This means that, in addition to principal observations, teachers are evaluated based on students’ growth on test scores over time. Many states agreed to use VAMs to secure federal Race to the Top funds, yet research continually questions the use of VAMs. Organizations like the American Educational Research Association and the American Statistical Association cite years of research demonstrating that VAMs are inaccurate and unstable in determining the effects of individual teachers on student achievement. Even the Department of Education found a high rate of error with VAMs! (Just to be clear: teachers, union leaders, and teacher educators are not against evaluating teachers. We simply differ—often very strongly—with Ms. Brown and others on the way that teachers should be evaluated.)
Now, if she meant to say “underqualified” or “least prepared” teachers are centered in high-poverty schools, then she would be partially correct, but not for the reasons she identifies. True, there are more first-year teachers, more teachers working outside of their certified fields in high-poverty schools, and more teachers from agencies like Teach For America, who place their “corps” members in schools after only six weeks of preparation. But teacher tenure laws are not to blame. In fact, teachers in these schools have higher turnover, and a majority leave before the three to five years required to get job security in many states.
This attrition of new and veteran teachers is the real reason that the least prepared teachers are working in the schools Ms. Campbell purports to help. And why is there attrition? Research shows that inequitable working conditions such as low pay, lack of resources, and an increase in bureaucracy cause teachers to leave high-needs schools. Without due process rights, it is even less likely that qualified teachers will want to work in high-needs schools with difficult conditions, because it would also mean that students’ lower test scores could jeopardize their employment with no available no recourse.
There are many ways to draw effective teachers into high-needs schools. Disregarding teachers’ rights is not one of them.
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“If you look at student outcomes in New York, 91 percent of teachers around the state are rated effective or highly effective, and yet 31 percent of our kids are reading, writing, and doing math at grade level. How does that compute? How can you argue that the status quo is okay with stats like that?”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
In this statement and the lawsuit as a whole, Ms. Brown advances the idea that teachers are the most important factor in determining student success. Oh, that this were the case! This would make my job as a teacher educator significantly easier, if all that mattered was that new educators knew their content and their pedagogy. But that’s not all that matters. The reality is that parents’ levels of education and income, poverty, segregation, school resources, and other out-of-school factors also contribute to student achievement, with some reports saying that teachers only impact up to 20 percent of student achievement and others demonstrating that teachers only account for between 1 percent to 14 percent of variability in test scores. Ms. Brown’s campaign is spending valuable resources (though she refuses to reveal how much or from whom) on arguing about a single factor (the teacher) that accounts for, at most, 20 percent of student achievement. Think of the ways this money could be better spent if she committed to addressing all, or even some, of the other contextual factors, like systemic poverty, that have an even greater impact on student success than individual teachers.
Further, no one is arguing that “the status quo is okay.” Whether measured by test scores or other ways, this is clear. But the irony in her statement is that the status quo has been and continues to be shaped by neoliberal “reforms” that Ms. Brown supports. These reforms are stifling creativity with the never-ending onslaught of high-stakes testing and are demoralizing and deskilling teachers. They are perpetuating structural and institutional racism when they support charter programs that increase segregation and contribute to the preschool-to-prison pipeline. What needs to change for the “status quo” to improve is reformers like Ms. Brown who, as Colbert put it, “plays the good-for-child card” in an attempt to manipulate public opinion.
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“It takes on average 830 days to fire a teacher who’s been found to be incompetent.”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS: . . .
Campbell Brown’s refusal to reveal her funding choices make one suspect that she is not operating in good faith—that her support of ineffective measures is done deliberately, not simply through ignorance. People such as that are dangerous to a democracy.
He explains (a) exactly why he calls Paul Ryan a con man, and (b) why he tries to inform the public about it. Well worth reading–and it’s also very short.
Take a look at Kansas and see. Heather Digby Parton writes in Salon:
Liberals throughout the land breathed a sigh of relief when Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas stepped down in 2008 and later decided to run for governor. Yes, the nation’s gain was a loss for the good people of Kansas, but Brownback’s special brand of right-wing fundamentalism was so extreme that many felt it was better to try to contain him in a single state rather than inflict him on the whole of the country. Judging from the four years he’s been in charge of that unfortunate state, their concerns were well-founded.
This should come as no surprise. His tenure in the Senate was characterized by his righteous absolutism and entirely predictable ultra-conservative vote. There was no tax cut he did not back or military adventure he wasn’t in favor of. He voted to impeach President Clinton and even took the unusual step  of decrying the immorality of the American public for failing to be properly outraged. But it was in the realm of culture and religion where he made his mark.
Once a devout evangelical Protestant, Brownback converted to Catholicism later in life. (His chief of staff at the time was none other than Congressman Paul Ryan, who is credited with counseling him in his conversion.) In the Senate he took up the banner of the culture war, even chairing a Senate group called the Values Action Team which included such conservative activist groups as Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Right to Life Committee, where he and fellow right-wing senators plotted their strategy for taking America back to the Dark Ages. He was so doctrinaire he even refused to vote for a particular judicial candidate because she had once attended a lesbian commitment ceremony. (She didn’t officiate or participate; she merely attended.) For the two terms he served in the Senate he was a ferocious culture warrior.
But he wasn’t always so intensely focused on the decadence and moral dissipation of modern American life. When he first ran for congress in the mid-’90s he was considered a moderate Kansas Republican like Eisenhower. But a tough campaign against an opponent backed by well-organized right-to-life zealots converted him to an evangelical culture warrior and Republican revolutionary so committed to cutting taxes and shrinking government one profiler said  he even gave Newt Gingrich “the willies.”
He became leader of a House group called the New Federalists which devoted itself to the dismantling of the government one brick at a time. Fortunately, they were unable to pass their ambitious agenda so they instead became the far-right’s hitmen, pioneering the use of hard-core obstructionist tactics to paralyze the government. They were the faction agitating the hardest for a government shutdown in 1995, pushing Gingrich to his most obstreperous limits (and setting the stage for his precipitous fall from grace). Joe Scarborough famously quoted Brownback telling him not to be disillusioned by the PR disaster that ensued, saying “Rome wasn’t burnt in a day.”
His far-right fiscal bona fides solidly demonstrated, Brownback turned his attention to social issues when he ran for the Senate in 1996 at the height of the religious right’s growing clout in the GOP. He spent the next 12 years as a hardcore fiscal conservative but more importantly, as a far-right Christian crusader, sometimes fashioning himself as a “Wilberforce” conservative (after the British anti-slavery activist) comparing abolition of slavery to his determination to ban abortion. He’s been closely associated for years with the secretive Christian fellowship group known as the Family .
By the time he tried to run for president in 2008, he appeared to be perfect conservative candidate. Unfortunately, the anticipated groundswell didn’t materialize and he dropped out before the primaries. But he did participate in the early debates and was memorably one of the three (with Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo) who raised his hand to declare he did not believe in evolution.
Evidently, he really wanted an executive position, so he set his sights on the governor’s seat in Kansas and in the Tea Party wave of 2010, won decisively. Brownback’s Kansas has turned out to be a perfect petrie dish for every right-wing policy proposal he’s championed for the past 20 years. With a Republican legislature and a strong mandate, he quickly established his tenure as the right-wing experiment to end all experiments. The results are in and they are amazing. And not in a good way.
Unlike other Tea Party governors around the nation who have tried out a handful of their more extreme policies, Brownback went for broke. First he and his Koch brother allies (they are Kansas homeboys too, you’ll recall) engineered a full-blown Tea Party takeover of the legislature with a well-funded primary strategy in 2012. It is now the most conservative legislature in the nation (and that’s saying something considering how conservative Republican legislatures have become). In their minds, they are on a mission from God.
He went after the teachers’ union, in one particularly clever move creating what he called “innovation zones” which allow districts to circumvent existing state law regarding curriculum and teacher salaries. He slashed education funding, including cutting the arts programs entirely. He privatized Medicaid. (It goes without saying refused the Medicaid expansion under the ACA.) He defunded Planned Parenthood and signed one of the most far reaching anti-abortion laws in the land, declaring that life begins at “fertilization” and forcing the last remaining Kansas providers to read an anti-abortion script filled with frightening misinformation to women seeking the procedure. (He doesn’t even try to hide his religious motives—he wrote the words Jesus + Mary  on top of the bill when he signed it.)
Gun legislation has been similarly extreme. Adopting the language of the 10th Amendment fetishists, they managed to pass what they called the Second Amendment Protection Act, a thoroughly useless piece of legislation declaring that the state of Kansas does not have to observe federal gun laws under its “sovereign” status. This last April, Brownback signed the “CLEO Shall Sign and Comprehensive Preemption legislation” which, among other things, prohibits all county and municipal initiative to regulate firearms and ammunition. So much for the vaunted small government, local control portion of the conservative program.
All of this was to be expected from Sam Brownback. But the results of his equally fundamentalist approach to economics  has made a lot of people stand up and take notice. First and foremost, he slashed taxes to the bone. Well, not for everyone. The Center on Budget and policy priorities shows how that tax cut has been distributed:
And he cut spending, especially for education, as far as the eye can see:
(Of course, Governor Brownback is a huge proponent of religious home schooling so this is killing two birds with one stone.)
His economic mentor and top adviser, the thoroughly discredited inventor of supply-side economics, Arthur Laffer, explained the game plan back in 2012 this way: 
Laffer told more than 200 people at a small-business forum at Johnson County Community College that there is a war among states over tax policy and that nowhere is that revolution more powerful than in Kansas. He said Kansas’ tax cuts and political shifts will produce “enormous prosperity” for the state.
How’s that working out? Well, last May this happened: 
Moody’s Investors Service dropped Kansas from its second-highest bond rating, Aa1, to its third highest, Aa2. The Kansas Department of Transportation also took the same downgrade.
“The downgrade reflects Kansas’ relatively sluggish recovery compared with its peers, the use of non-recurring measures to balance the budget, revenue reductions resulting from tax cuts which have not been fully offset by recurring spending cuts, and an underfunded retirement system for which the state is not making required contributions,” the report said.
And that’s not all. This graph shows what’s the matter with Kansas in 2014 in red, white and blue:
The South is alone in having a higher proportion of adults without health insurance after Obamacare than they did before. This is thanks to the GOP state governors and legislators who went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that the poor would not have access to healthcare. As I have observed, you can usually predict GOP policy if you assume the GOP hates the poor and will do everything they can to attack and undermine the poor. In this case, it required not extending Medicare in the states (which was essentially free), refusing to set up health exchanges (Kentucky is an exception—and indeed, the number of uninsured in Kentucky dropped sharply), and refusing to inform people about benefits under the Affordable Care Act.
The above chart is from this article, which attempted to identify the remaining uninsured as of June 2014.
Because the president is a Democrat—and perhaps also for racist reasons—the GOP in Congress has deliberately tried to sabotage the Federal government. Words fail me, but the evidence is hard to deny. Read this Kevin Drum post. “Mean-spirited” doesn’t touch it. The GOP is deliberately damaging the country simply because they failed to win the presidency. And/or because the GOP is overrun with racists.
In the meantime, Sam Brownback continues to destroy Kansas.
Laura Clawson has a very good post at Daily Kos:
Nancy Pelosi’s objections to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision are sexist, according to Fox News host and noted sexism expert Megyn Kelly. Pelosi, of course, noted correctly that the five justices who put the religious beliefs of corporations over the health care rights of actual people (though women people, who obviously matter less than others) were all men, and suggested that this was a problem. Here is Kelly’s impeccable logic demonstrating that Pelosi is ignorant or intentionally misleading:
“First of all, the gender of the justices in the Hobby Lobby majority is totally irrelevant,” Kelly said, pointing out that the justices who ruled in the majority for Roe v. Wade were also men. “Does Ms. Pelosi think those justices were ill-equipped to fairly decide that case? Or is it only when a judge disagrees with Ms. Pelosi that his gender is an issue.”
Or else, it’s an issue when a group of one type of people acts to remove rights from a group of another type of people, but it’s a different thing when one group of people acts to expand rights to another group of people. Just a thought. Kind of like how it was white people who enslaved black people, and that was bad, and it was also white Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and mainly white politicians who passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and that was good. Funny how that works, eh?
She added, “If Speaker John Boehner made a similar comment about the female Supreme Court justices, Nancy Pelosi would be crying sexism — and that’s what she is guilty of here.”
Yes, and this is happening in a fictional land in which there are five female Supreme Court justices acting unanimously to harm men, while insisting that their decision should in no way ever be applied to women.
This is where I point out that Megyn Kelly is one of the smartest, most-making-sense people hosting shows on Fox News. And then we all choose one of the following responses: cringe, facepalm, or wearily disgusted head shake.
They continue walking the earth even after they have been completely exposed as counterfactual. As Maher says:
What they do is they pass a zombie lie down to dumber and dumber people, who believe it more and more.
Hank Paulson may be over the one about climate change being a hoax, but it’s still good enough for Sean Hannity. Who then gets quoted by Michele Bachmann. Who forms the intellectual core of the thinking of Victoria Jackson. And when you think the zombie lie has finally gone to die at the idea hospice of the absolutely stupidest people on Earth, there it is being retweeted by Donald Trump.
But that’s just the summation of a very good rant about all the zombie lies about Obamacare. Maher goes through the list—lies that have been solidly refuted but never acknowledged by the GOP, which simply moves on to the next round of lies, leaving their litter of lies to blow around and soil our daily lives.
7 papers, 4 government inquiries, 2 news investigations and 1 court ruling proving voter fraud is mostly garbage journalism
Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Posti:
Voter ID laws are back in the news this week after a group of college students joined a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new restrictive rules. And as Catherine Rampell pointed out earlier this week, it’s not just ID laws – Republican state legislatures have been busy devising all manner of creative ways to make voting more difficult for traditionally Democratic-leaning groups.
All of these restrictive measures take their justification from a perceived need to prevent “voter fraud.” But there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and in fact non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents. That hasn’t stopped many Republican lawmakers from crying “fraud” every time they’re faced with an unfavorable election outcome (see also: McDaniel, Chris).
For reference, a round-up of the latest research is below. Let me know in the comments if I missed anything. . .
And, of course, a Republican official in Florida, I believe it was, said quite openly that the purpose of the laws was to reduce Democratic turnout in elections. Pure and simple. That’s the goal, and if you look at the measures passed, that is exactly the (intended) effect.
Paul Krugman points out that the GOP in Congress doesn’t even want to repair our nation’s highways. His concluding paragraph:
What’s useful about the looming highway crisis is that it illustrates just how self-destructive that political choice has become. It’s one thing to block green investment, or high-speed rail, or even school construction. I’m for such things, but many on the right aren’t. But everyone from progressive think tanks to the United States Chamber of Commerce thinks we need good roads. Yet the combination of anti-tax ideology and deficit hysteria (itself mostly whipped up in an attempt to bully President Obama into spending cuts) means that we’re letting our highways, and our future, erode away.
The human and social costs behind the Texas push to help big business—costs such as:
- Texas stands alone in allowing employers to forgo workers’ comp insurance, and over 500,000 workers have no coverage if they are hurt or killed.
- Texas doesn’t regulate private occupational insurance, which often provides fewer due process rights and stingier benefits than workers’ comp.
- More than 90 percent of employers without workers’ comp flout a requirement that they notify the state of their opt-out status.
- A quarter or more of employers without workers’ comp underreport lost-time injuries, recent audits suggest.
- Major court decisions have eroded protections injured workers once had, including the right to sue certain employers who fire them for filing an injury claim.
- Nearly half (45 percent) of all workers’ comp claims were initially denied or disputed in whole or in part from 2008 to 2013.
- Workers are losing far more major disputes with workers’ comp insurers, and their margin of defeat has increased.
The four-part story by Jay Root is worth reading, since other state legislatures are likely to take or be pushed into taking a similar course:
Drive almost anywhere in the vast Lone Star State and you will see evidence of the “Texas miracle” economy that policymakers like Gov. Rick Perry can’t quit talking about.
From the largest U.S. refinery in Port Arthur to the storied Permian Basin in West Texas, Big Oil is back. In formerly depressed South Texas, gas flares from the fracking boom can be seen from outer space.
Toyota is moving its North American headquarters to suburban Dallas. And in the once-laid-back university town of Austin, it’s hard to find a downtown street without a construction crane towering overhead.
This hot economy, politicians say, is the direct result of their zealous opposition to over-regulation, greedy trial lawyers and profligate government spending. Perry now regularly recruits companies from other states, telling them the grass is greener here. And his likely successor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has made keeping it that way his campaign mantra.
It’s hard to argue with the job creation numbers they tout. Since 2003, a third of the net new jobs created in the United States were in Texas. And there are real people in those jobs, people with families to feed.
There’s something about the thriving economy, though, that state leaders rarely mention: Texas has led the nation in worker fatalities for seven of the last 10 years, and when Texans get hurt or killed on the job, they have some of the weakest protections and stingiest benefits in the country.
While Texas has a Division of Workers’ Compensation, it is the only state that doesn’t require any private employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance or a private equivalent, so more than 500,000 people have no occupational benefits when they get injured at work. That means they often rely on charities or taxpayers to pay for their care.
Most Texans who are outside the workers’ comp system — more than a million people — do get private occupational insurance from their employers. But those plans aren’t regulated by the state and can be crafted to sharply limit employees’ benefits, legal rights and health care choices. Only 41 percent of the plans include death benefits, for example, according to state surveys.
Then there’s the state-regulated workers’ compensation system, which covers 81 percent of the Texas workforce. On paper, the policies look great: They all include death benefits, partial income replacement for employees too hurt to work and lifetime medical benefits for serious injuries.
But for thousands of workers, the promised benefits never materialize. Nearly half of all employee claims are initially denied or disputed in whole or in part, and when those denials blossom into a major disagreement before the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, workers lose most of the time, according to state data.
“They throw these workers away like tissue paper. They’re nothing more than a used Kleenex,” said Joe Longley, an Austin employment attorney who served as chief of the consumer protection division of the attorney general’s office in the 1970s. “We don’t provide for the workers. We provide for the businesses.”
Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon has a different view. . .
Given the corporate takeover of the government—Jim Hightower has a story of 300 Koch-led businessmen are going to spend $500 million to seize control of the Senate.
Paul Krugman has a good column:
Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. Sam Brownback, the governor, proposed the legislation — in percentage terms, the largest tax cut in one year any state has ever enacted — in close consultation with the economist Arthur Laffer. And Mr. Brownback predicted that the cuts would jump-start an economic boom — “Look out, Texas,” he proclaimed.
But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.
There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.
Why, after all, should anyone believe at this late date in supply-side economics, which claims that tax cuts boost the economy so much that they largely if not entirely pay for themselves? The doctrine crashed and burned two decades ago, when just about everyone on the right — after claiming, speciously, that the economy’s performance under Ronald Reagan validated their doctrine — went on to predict that Bill Clinton’s tax hike on the wealthy would cause a recession if not an outright depression. What actually happened was a spectacular economic expansion.
Nor is it just liberals who have long considered supply-side economics and those promoting it to have been discredited by experience. In 1998, in the first edition of his best-selling economics textbook, Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw — very much a Republican, and later chairman of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers — famously wrote about the damage done by “charlatans and cranks.” In particular, he highlighted the role of “a small group of economists” who “advised presidential candidate Ronald Reagan that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue.” Chief among that “small group” was none other than Art Laffer.
And it’s not as if supply-siders later redeemed themselves. On the contrary, they’ve been as ludicrously wrong in recent years as they were in the 1990s. For example, five years have passed since Mr. Laffer warned Americans that “we can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years.” Just about everyone in his camp agreed. But what we got instead was low inflation and record-low interest rates.
So how did the charlatans and cranks end up dictating policy in Kansas, and to a more limited extent in other states? Follow the money.
For the Brownback tax cuts didn’t emerge out of thin air. They closely followed a blueprint laid out by . . .
Once more we see expectations contradicted by experience. Paul Krugman notes in his blog:
For reference: I count at least six distinct predictions of Obamacare doom made by the usual suspects, not one of which has come true. Here they are:
1. Enrollment will be very low, and
2. Even if people sign up, they won’t pay their premiums.
Reality: Signups exceeded expectations, and the vast majority paid.
3. More people will lose coverage cancelled by Obamacare than gain it.
Reality: Sharp drop in the number of uninsured.
4. Rate shock.
Reality: Like it says, affordable care.
5. Young people not signing up, and death spiral.
Reality: Pretty good demographics.
Reality: Health costs are below anyone’s expectations.
It’s quite an impressive track record, actually. And what’s even more impressive is that none of the usual suspects will even consider admitting having been wrong.
It won’t work, but it’s a damn good try. From the link:
So: we have low growth, low price inflation, low wage inflation, and unemployment is still high. This is really not an environment in which spending cuts and lower deficits are the answer.
Whenever there’s a concerted movement to fight gaining knowledge, it’s a dead giveaway that people fighting against knowledge believe that the knowledge to be gained will undermine their beliefs or position: that thus the fight against the science of evolution and the science of climate change. Thus the fight by the DEA and Congress against scientific study of marijuana and its effects. And thus the fight by NRA and conservatives against the study of gun violence. They fear that any knowledge gained will contradict things that they very much like to believe, so they are determined to keep their (and our) ignorance intact on this issue.
Generally, when people disagree about something, they will look to facts to settle the dispute. This works only if both parties are willing to change their views if the facts so dictate. Some are not willing: they want to hold to their beliefs regardless of facts. I find communicating with these people is difficult, since the only input they will accept is that which coincides with the views they already have. They view gaining a better understanding and modifying their position as a kind of ego death, something that is intolerable. So they stop learning and remain frozen in their tomb of ideas.
The NY Times has a good editorial about how Congress legislates to promote ignorance about gun violence:
Eighteen months and dozens of school shootings after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., public-health experts still lack basic information on the roots of gun violence and how best to prevent it.
And if pro-gun members of Congress have their way, it will stay that way.
In 1996, at the behest of the National Rifle Association, Congress effectively barred federally financed research on gun violence. After Newtown, President Obama called for an end to the ban and asked Congress to provide $10 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence. He also included the $10 million request in his recent budget proposal to Congress. In addition, Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation authorizing appropriators to provide funding.
Recently, however, Representative Jack Kingston, a Republican of Georgia and leader of the House subcommittee that sets the C.D.C. budget, told ProPublica that “the president’s request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives through the C.D.C. will not be included in the FY2015 appropriations bill.” Mr. Kingston does not have the last word; the full appropriations committee has yet to finalize the C.D.C. budget. But his stance does not bode well for gun-violence research or for science-based policy making more broadly.
The aim of such research is the same as research into any other health threat, like car crashes or smoking: to use scientific methods to chart the dimensions of a threat, identify remedies and address the problem collaboratively.
That is a different approach from one that views gun violence through the lens of law enforcement or mental health. And that is one reason the gun lobby and its toadies in Congress oppose it. It is potentially transformative, in the way that norms, behaviors and laws involving drunken driving and smoking have been transformed.
Questions that could usefully be examined were detailed in a report last year by experts convened by the federal Institute of Medicine at the request of the C.D.C. For example, . . .