The GOP’s Sequester

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Thanks to Eric Cantor, everyone can now put the Sequester Blame Game to rest. In a remarkable moment of candor, the Republican House Majority Leader opened up on exactly what led to the latest fiscal crisis. First a recap:

John Boehner’s story on who is to blame via an op-ed he wrote in the WSJ last week.

“During the summer of 2011, as Washington worked toward a plan to reduce the deficit to allow for an increase in the federal debt limit, President Obama and I very nearly came to a historic agreement. Unfortunately our deal fell apart at the last minute when the president demanded an extra $400 billion in new tax revenue—50% more than we had shaken hands on just days before.”

“It was a disappointing decision by the president, but with just days until a breach of the debt limit, a solution was still required—and fast. I immediately got together with Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to forge a bipartisan congressional plan. It would be called the Budget Control Act.”

 Dem’s story via Steve Benen:

The Democratic version of events happens to be the accurate one: Republicans had threatened to crash the economy on purpose unless their debt-ceiling demands were met, and in the hopes of resolving the crisis, President Obama offered Republicans an overly-generous, $4 trillion “Grand Bargain,” which included entitlement cuts and new revenue. Boehner was inclined to accept it, but his caucus balked, forcing the Speaker to walk away from the table.

So who got the story right? Dems, of course…and Republicans need not take the word of anyone other than Eric Cantor (via The New Yorker) that John Boehner is lying through his teeth.

In June of 2011, the President and the Speaker began working toward a Grand Bargain of major tax increases and spending cuts to address the government’s long-term budget deficits. Until late June, Boehner had managed to keep these talks secret from Cantor. On July 21st, Boehner paused in his discussions with Obama to talk to Cantor and outline the proposed deal. As Obama waited by the phone for a response from the Speaker, Cantor struck. Cantor told me that it was a “fair assessment” that he talked Boehner out of accepting Obama’s deal. He said he told Boehner that it would be better, instead, to take the issues of taxes and spending to the voters and “have it out” with the Democrats in the election. Why give Obama an enormous political victory, and potentially help him win reelection, when they might be able to negotiate a more favorable deal with a new Republican President? Boehner told Obama there was no deal. Instead of a Grand Bargain, Cantor and the House Republicans made a grand bet.

And the sequester was born…

The failure of the Grand Bargain led to a byzantine deal: if the two parties could not agree on a new deficit plan, then a combination of tax increases and spending cuts—cuts known, in budget jargon, as a “sequester”—would automatically kick in on New Year’s Day. (The sequester was postponed until March 1st.)

How soon before wingers start referring to Cantor as a lying liar?

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David Frum’s Attempt To Save His Republican Party

One can almost feel David Frum’s pain in this insightful and honest look at his beloved Republican party.  You should read the entire piece in New York magazine to get a full sense of where Frum is coming from but here is the essence of what he is saying.

Republican mindset…

If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves. Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him—and yet that is done too.

One of the key reasons for that mindset being what it is…

Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.

And it is for that very reason that it is near impossible to have a rational discussion these days with hardcore conservatives who have grown up on a steady diet of Fox News and conservative talk radio.  These people fervently believe that anything other than strict conservative dogma is pure socialistic evil and any attempt to convince them otherwise is seen as mainstream media induced propaganda.

Right-wing indoctrination has been both thorough and complete.

Conservatives like David Frum are routinely scorned within today’s Republican party.  They’re referred to as disgraced turncoats and given the RINO label to be worn forever in shame.  Throughout the 2009-10 period, Frum wrote on how Republicans needed to work alongside Dems in formulating a comprehensive health care reform package.  He reminded his fellow conservatives that “providing health coverage to all is a worthy goal” and that President Obama and Democrats were so eager to have a bipartisan agreement that the brunt of their proposed bill was constructed from past Republican plans to reform health care.  For this, Frum got fired from a conservative think tank he had worked at for years and in short time thereafter, he was no longer seen on Fox News.  This is what happens to conservatives who choose to leave the “alternative knowledge system behind.”  In today’s Tea Party GOP, the consequences for not towing the party line are quick and brutal.

Frum finishes off with a warning and a glimmer of hope.

… in the interests of avoiding false evenhandedness, it must be admitted: The party with a stronger charge on its zapper right now, the party struggling with more self-­imposed obstacles to responsible governance, the party most in need of a course correction, is the Republican Party. Changing that party will be the fight of a political lifetime. But a great political party is worth fighting for.

Good luck…really.

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Babies and Red States

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The numbers don’t lie.

It has been noted time and time again – the more Conservative the people of a state, the more likely it is that the state lags behind national averages in most, if not all, state rankings of child wellness. Because while wails of “think of the children” reverberate around every conservative rally, children in red states are at a distinct disadvantage when ranked against the children in more liberal states.

The worst states for a child: Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama & New Mexico.

The best states for a child: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, Utah & Massachusetts

You can view whole report here. Give it a read, especially if you’re a conservative. Because you can talk about “the children” as much as you like, but the fact is, the more the GOP dominates your state, the more likely it is that your children will be poorer, less educated and more likely to die.

Let’s repeat that.  “…the more the GOP dominates your state, the more likely it is that your children will be poorer, less educated and more likely to die.”

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What Would A Modernized, Reformed Conservatism Look Like?

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David Frum (a “conservative with balls” as Stephen Colbert referred to him) is guest posting for Andrew Sullivan.  He asked Sullivan’s readers as well as his own at FrumForum to make improvements on his one sentence description of a “modernized, reformed conservatism”.

David’s description:

A reality-based, culturally modern, socially inclusive and environmentally responsible politics that supports free markets, limited government and a peaceful American-led world order.

He notes that by “socially inclusive” he means that “Republicans and conservatives needed to pay more attention to the economic interests of the less affluent”.  That would be a nice change from what we’re getting from modern conservatives.

Some of the suggestions he received:

Meritocracy tempered by compassion.

Free markets with a referee to ensure fair play.

We want the country promised to us by our grade-school social studies textbooks.

Killing bad Muslims with upper-class tax cuts.

Not just for white people any more, we promise!

Cute little exercise except I fear that there are not many in the conservative ranks who feel that a modern, reformed conservatism is necessary.  They appear to be content with what they now have, which is…

…a fantasy driven, culturally backwards, selfish, intolerant, non-inclusive and environmentally non-responsible politics that supports free markets, limited government and the notion that if it’s good for the rich then it’s good for the country…and if it’s good for Americans, then to hell with the rest of the world.

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Demographics Favor Democrats

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Ruy Teixeira begins his study on the impact of changing demographics with this summary paragraph.

The tectonic plates of American politics are shifting. A powerful concatenation of demographic forces is transforming the American electorate and reshaping both major political parties. And, as demographic trends continue, this transformation and reshaping will deepen. The Democratic Party will become even more dominated by the emerging constituencies that gave Barack Obama his historic 2008 victory, while the Republican Party will be forced to move toward the center to compete for these constituencies. As a result, modern conservatism is likely to lose its dominant place in the GOP.

And what exactly are these “concatenation of demographic forces” forcing the shift?

…the United States will be majority-minority nation by 2042. By 2050, the country will be 54 percent minority as Latinos double from 15 percent to 30 percent of the population, Asian Americans increase from 5 percent to 9 percent, and African Americans move from 14 to 15 percent.

Other demographic trends accentuate Democrats’ advantage. The Millennial generation (those born between 1978 and 2000) is adding 4 million eligible voters to the voting pool every year, and this group voted for Obama by a stunning 66-32 margin in 2008. By 2020—the first presidential election in which all Millennials will have reached voting age—this generation will be 103 million strong, and about 90 million of them will be eligible voters. Those 90 million Millennial eligible voters will represent just under 40 percent of America’s total eligible voters.

To this mix you can add white college grads (68% voted for Obama and by 2015, one in five Americans will be a college-graduate professional).  Specific female subgroups is another demographic favoring Democrats.   An example of such a subgroup is unmarried women of which 70% voted for Obama. They currently constitute 47% of adult women, up from 38% in 1970.

The growing number of secular Americans is another group you can count on the Dem side of the ledger. Seventy-five percent of them voted for Obama and it is projected that one in four U.S. adults will be unaffiliated by 2024.  The author adds…

This trend—combined with growth among non-Christian faiths and race-ethnic trends—will ensure that by the 2016 election (or 2020 at the outside) the United States will have ceased to be a white Christian nation. Looking even farther down the road, white Christians will be only around 35 percent of the population by 2040, and conservative white Christians, who have been such a critical part of the Republican base, will be only about a third of that—a minority within a minority.

What all of this implies is that while Republicans might see gains in the 2010 midterms, the long range forecast is gloomy.  A reversal of the current move to the right will be required if they are to remain a viable political force.

In short, the “party of no” has a limited shelf life. That strategy might help the party make significant gains in 2010, but it will not be enough to restore it to a majority status. For that, a conservatism must be built that is not allergic to government spending when needed and even to taxes when there is no responsible alternative. The party must paradoxically find a way to combine its standard antigovernment populism with pro-government conservatism.

In short, the contrived teabagger phenomena will be a short lived one.

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