Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category
Ben Carson was specifically talking about the Umpqua Community College shooting, but the tenor of his remarks applies to other shootings, such as the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston SC. From a column by John Cassidy on how the GOP candidates view such mass shootings:
Asked what he would do if a gunman walked up to him, put a gun to his head, and asked him what his religion was, Carson replied, “I’m glad you asked that question. Because not only would I probably not coöperate with them, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’ ”
So Carson is criticizing those victims for just standing there and letting him shoot them? For not fighting, as he courageously would have done? I have to say that talk’s cheap, and Carson’s stance is big on the blowhard factor. But he clearly views himself as more courageous and determined than the victims of those shootings—and of all the many other shootings, as well.
A very interesting post at Mother Jones by Kevin Drum:
A few days ago Matt Yglesisas wrote a #Slatepitch piece arguing that Hillary Clinton “is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas”—and that’s a good thing. In a nutshell, Democrats can’t get anything done through Congress, so they need someone willing to do whatever it takes to get things done some other way. And that’s Hillary. “More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned.”
Unsurprisingly, conservatives were shocked. Shocked! Liberals are fine with tyranny! Today Matt responded in one of his periodic newsletters:
A system of government based on the idea of compromises between two independently elected bodies will only work if the leaders of both bodies want to compromise. Congressional Republicans have rejected any form of compromise, so an effective Democratic president is going to try to govern through executive unilateralism. I don’t think this is a positive development, but it’s the only possible development.
I don’t think I’m as pessimistic as Yglesias, but put that aside for a moment. Look at this from a conservative point of view. They want things to move in a conservative direction. But compromise doesn’t do that. In practice, it always seems to move things in a more liberal direction, with a few conservative sops thrown in that eventually wither away and die. This leaves them with little choice except increasingly hard-nosed obstructionism: government shutdowns, debt ceiling fights, filibusters for everything, voter ID laws, etc. etc.
And there’s a lot of truth to this to this view. The entire Western world has been moving inexorably in a liberal direction for a couple of centuries. It’s a tide that can’t be turned back with half measures. Conservative parties in the rest of the world have mostly made their peace with this, and settle for simply slowing things down. American conservatives actually want to reverse the tide.
That’s all but impossible in the long term. It’s just not the way the arc of history is moving right now. But American conservatives are bound and determined to do it anyway.
This is the fundamental problem. British conservatives, in theory, could turn back the clock if they wanted to, but they don’t. Their parliamentary system allows them to do it, but public opinion doesn’t. If they want to retain power, there’s a limit to how far they can fight progress. If American conservatives were in the same situation, they’d probably end up in the same place. Once they actually got the power to change things, they’d very quickly moderate their agenda.
It’s in this sense that our system of governance really is at fault for our current gridlock. Not directly because of veto points or our presidential system or any of that, but because these features of our political system allow conservatives to live in a fantasy world. They dream of what they could do if only they had the political power to do it, and they really believe they’d do it all if they got the chance. Thanks to all those veto points, however, they never get the chance. Full control of the government would disabuse everyone very quickly of just how far they’re really willing to go, but it never happens.
We are living through an era in which conservatives are living a fantasy that can never be. But our system of governance denies them the chance to test that fantasy. So it continues forever. . .
Very interesting article in Medium by Steven Levy:
During Carly Fiorina’s triumphant performance in the wretched carnival that was the second Republican debate, she picked the perfect moment to play the Steve Jobs card. The subject had turned to her tenure as the CEO of HP, the single aspect of her resume that vaguely qualifies her as a presidential candidate. Industry observers have contended that she did her job poorly, and, indeed, when the board dismissed her in 2005, HP’s stock price rose by seven percent. Meanwhile, Fiorina fell to earth with the aid of a $40 million golden parachute.
Her comeback to this at the debate? Steve Jobs was on her side! She shared a story — which may well be true — about how Apple’s late CEO had called to remind her that he had been fired as well, and it wasn’t the end of the world. “Been there, done that — twice,” he told her. Unlike Jobs, however, Fiorina did not go on to start a company, buy another small company and sell it for billions, or return to the place that fired her and restore it to glory. But the point of the story was that Steve was on her side, and by aligning herself with the sainted innovator, Fiorina racked up triple-bonus debate points.
Ms. Fiorina’s trainwreck stint at HP has been well documented. But I want to address one tiny but telling aspect of her misbegotten reign: an episode that involved her good friend Steve Jobs. It is the story of the HP iPod.
The iPod, of course, was Apple’s creation, a groundbreaking digital music player that let you have “a music library in your pocket.” Introduced in 2001, it gained steam over the next few years and by the end of 2003, the device was a genuine phenomenon. So it was news that in January 2004, Steve Jobs and Carly Fiorina made a deal where HP could slap its name on Apple’s wildly successful product. Nonetheless, HP still managed to botch things. It could not have been otherwise, really, because Steve Jobs totally outsmarted the woman who now claims she can run the United States of America.
I can talk about this with some authority. Not only have I written a book about the iPod, but I interviewed Fiorina face to face when she introduced the HP iPod at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show, and then got Steve Jobs’s side of the story.
It was at CES that year that HP announced its version of the iPod. That in itself was pathetic. The company’s motto at the time was Invent! But at the biggest event of the technology world, HP’s big newsmaking announcement was that it was selling someone else’s invention. Nonetheless in our interview on January 8, just off the show floor, Fiorina boasted about cobranding the iPod as if it were an innovative coup for her own company.
Apple chose her company, she told me, “Because HP is a company that’s an innovator. We believe innovation is our lifesblood. It’s why INVENT sits on our logo.” So why sell someone else’s product? She described her strategy as “focused innovation.” Apparently this meant throwing in the towel when a competitor came up with something really good.
It didn’t seem like a recipe for success, and indeed, HP was not successful at it, for a number of reasons. But before I get to that, let’s contemplate what Apple got in return for allowing HP to rebrand iPods and share the loot. HP agreed to pre-load Apple’s iTunes music software and store into its personal computers. This was a hugely valuable concession. Apple had only recently begun to push this key software into the Windows world. Millions of HP/Compaq customers would instantly become part of Apple’s entertainment ecosystem.
If it were a straight deal for HP to include Apple’s software, the fee might have been hundreds of millions of dollars. (Around that time, software companies were paying huge sums to have their products or services preinstalled, since people seldom deleted them and often used the default choices.) Even better, preinstalling iTunes was a way for Apple to stifle Microsoft’s competitor to the iTunes Music Store. As an Apple leader at the time puts it, “This was a highly strategic move to block HP/Compaq from installing Windows Media Store on their PCs. We wanted iTunes Music store to be a definitive winner. Steve only did this deal because of that.”
One might even argue that since Carly Fiorina wasn’t making much profit from selling computers, each machine her company sold under this deal delivered more value to Apple than it did to HP.
In return, HP got the right to sell iPods. But not in a way that could possibly succeed. Fiorina boasted to me that she would be able to sell the devices in thousands of retail outlets; up to that point Apple mostly sold them online and in its own stores. But by the time in mid-2004 that HP actually began selling its branded iPods, Apple was expanding to multiple retail outlets on its own. And soon after HP began selling iPods, Apple came out with new, improved iPods — leaving HP to sell an obsolete device. Fiorina apparently did not secure the right to sell the most current iPods in a timely fashion, and was able to deliver newer models only months after the Apple versions were widely available.
So it was no wonder that even at the program’s peak, it represented no more than about five percent of total iPod sales.
Even with a detail like the color of the iPod, Jobs totally rolled over Fiorina. . .
Continue reading. There’s more.
Paul Krugman writes in today’s NY Times:
So Donald Trump has unveiled his tax plan. It would, it turns out, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.
This is in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.
For what it’s worth, it looks as if Trump’s plan would make an even bigger hole in the budget than Jeb’s. Jeb justifies his plan by claiming that it would double America’s rate of growth; The Donald, ahem, trumps this by claiming that he would triple the rate of growth. But really, why sweat the details? It’s all voodoo. The interesting question is why every Republican candidate feels compelled to go down this path.
You might think that there was a defensible economic case for the obsession with cutting taxes on the rich. That is, you might think that if you’d spent the past 20 years in a cave (or a conservative think tank). Otherwise, you’d be aware that tax-cut enthusiasts have a remarkable track record: They’ve been wrong about everything, year after year.
Some readers may remember the forecasts of economic doom back in 1993, when Bill Clinton raised the top tax rate. What happened instead was a sustained boom, surpassing the Reagan years by every measure.
Undaunted, the same people predicted great things as a result of George W. Bush’s tax cuts. What happened instead was a sluggish recovery followed by a catastrophic economic crash.
Most recently, the usual suspects once again predicted doom in 2013, when taxes on the 1 percent rose sharply due to the expiration of some of the Bush tax cuts and new taxes that help pay for health reform. What happened instead was job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s.
Then there’s the recent state-level evidence. Kansas slashed taxes, in what its right-wing governor described as a “real live experiment” in economic policy; the state’s growth has lagged ever since. California moved in the opposite direction, raising taxes; it has recently led the nation in job growth.
True, you can find self-proclaimed economic experts claiming to find overall evidence that low tax rates spur economic growth, but such experts invariably turn out to be on the payroll of right-wing pressure groups (and have an interesting habit of getting their numbers wrong). Independent studies of the correlation between tax rates and economic growth, for example by the Congressional Research Service, consistently find no relationship at all. There is no serious economic case for the tax-cut obsession.
Still, tax cuts are politically popular, right? Actually, no, at least when it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy. According to Gallup, only 13 percent of Americans believe that upper-income individuals pay too much in taxes, while 61 percent believe that they pay too little. Even among self-identified Republicans, those who say that the rich should pay more outnumber those who say they should pay less by two to one.
So every Republican who would be president is committed to a policy that is both demonstrably bad economics and deeply unpopular. What’s going on?
Well, consider the trajectory of Marco Rubio, who may at this point be the most likely Republican nominee. Last year he supported a tax-cut plan devised by Senator Mike Lee that purported to be aimed at the poor and the middle class. In reality, its benefits were strongly tilted toward high incomes — but it still drew harsh criticism from the right for giving too much to ordinary families while not cutting taxes on top incomes enough.
So Mr. Rubio came back with a plan that eliminated taxes on dividends, capital gains, and inherited wealth, providing a huge windfall to the very wealthy. And suddenly he was gaining a lot of buzz among Republican donors. The new plan would add trillions to the deficit, which conservatives claim to care about, but never mind.
In other words, it’s straightforward and quite stark: Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want. No doubt most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everything else is just rationalization. . .
James Fallows has an excellent column in the Atlantic:
Here’s another challenge for the press — and members of the American public, and people in the rest of the world affected by U.S. debates — in reckoning with this moment in U.S. political history. It’s one that Paul Krugman, with whom I’ve sometimes disagreed about politics, mentions almost as a throwaway line in his column early today, as shown at right.
The United States still has two major parties. But one of them is no longer interested actually in governing. And we’re dealing with the consequences.
Running any government, in any country subject to any kind of non-Kim Jong Un-style checks and balances, involves compromises, tradeoffs, making the best of imperfect choices. As John Boehner put it yesterday (a phrase I didn’t imagine myself writing) in explaining his frustration with his fire-breathing caucus, “You know this is the part that I really don’t understand. Our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted to do. They wanted this long, slow process.”
That Republican party competition now is over positions — who can be more anti-Obama (and Obamacare), pro-Israel, anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-climate science and EPA — rather than over policies, which imply the tedious work of operating a government, is a familiar point. Here are two less familiar reminders than the momentum in the party is not about this or that policy detail but effectively against governance itself.
1) From Australia, the American security-policy veteran Aaron Connelly (now with my friends at the Lowy Institute in Sydney) writes about the damage that anti-governance paralysis in Congress has done to America’s position in Asia. You should read the whole essay, but here is his description of the key points:
There are three core arguments:
· First, while partisan gridlock in Congress has hindered the execution of US foreign policy overall, it has disproportionately affected US policy towards the Asia Pacific, because the region has had few champions in either house in recent years. See, for example, the unequal treatment of ambassadorial nominees for the Middle East and and East Asia during the GOP lockdown on appointments last year, which I address in the paper.
· To the extent individual members have focused on the region in recent years, it has often been in pursuit of narrow objectives focused on a single country or issue area, without reference to a broader strategy…
· Though there are signs of increased interest in the region among more junior members of the current Congress, the nature of that interest and whether it can be sustained will depend on how the White House and its partners in the region engage them. The problems of Congressional dysfunction, as you well know, aren’t going away soon. But we can cultivate leaders who better understand the stakes.
So when it comes to the region that contains the world’s most populous nations and its fastest-growing economies, and where long-term U.S. security interests are enormous in both a positive and a potentially negative sense, today’s posturing Congress cannot be bothered to do such things as confirming ambassadorial nominees.
2) From General Electric, an announcement that it is moving 350 jobs from the United States to Canada because of the ongoing Tea Party stand of blocking the Export-Import Bank.
Could this be posturing by GE to shift an American policy? . . .
Continue reading. There’s more and it’s powerful.
. . . I do want to weigh in for a minute on Donald Trump’s tax plan — which would, surprise, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit. That’s in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.
At this point there are no Republican candidates deviating at all from the usual pattern. Why, it’s almost as if nobody in the party ever cared about deficits except as an excuse to slash social spending, and is totally committed to redistributing income upward.
And there is, of course, no evidence — zero, nada, zilch — that cutting taxes on the rich will yield large economic benefits.
What we’re seeing here is a party completely incapable of reforming …