Ted Cruz Embodies the Degeneration of Foreign-Policy Conservatism

 Think nothing could be worse than a Trump presidency? Think again.

Source: Huff Post

Author: Andrew J. Bacevich

Emphasis Mine

W hen it comes to US foreign policy, what exactly does it mean to be a conservative?

Before the Vietnam War, conservatism in foreign policy had less to do with principles than with temperament. As president, Dwight Eisenhower represented the very embodiment of that temperament. From his days as a soldier, Ike knew war well enough to treat it warily. Raised in the heartland, he was something of a prairie nationalist, with an aversion to crusades and a limited appetite for risk. This did not imply passivity, and Eisenhower made his fair share of lamentable mistakes—instigating coups in Guatemala and Iran, initiating the US commitment to South Vietnam, and overreacting to the Cuban Revolution, among them. Yet his overall approach to the business of statecraft emphasized prudence and even circumspection. Say what you will about US foreign policy in the 1950s, it could have been much worse. Indeed, Ike’s immediate successors, disdaining his stewardship, wasted little time in demonstrating this point, most disastrously in Vietnam.

In the wake of the war in Vietnam and as a direct consequence of the defeat the United States suffered there, conservative thinking about foreign policy acquired a pronounced ideological edge. By denouncing the Evil Empire and scrubbing the American past clean of ambiguity, Ronald Reagan made himself a favorite on the right. Among those succumbing to the allure of the Great Communicator, Reagan’s willingness to condemn adversaries as unabashedly wicked seemed to restore to US policy the moral clarity it had lost during the 1960s. Even so, Reagan’s rhetoric did not necessarily translate into action. While he might demand that Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down this wall,” nowhere in that demand was there any implication that if the Soviet leader refused to comply, Reagan himself would do the bulldozing.

Only after 9/11 did Manichaeism become the explicit basis for action. When it came to rhetorical flourishes, George W. Bush outdid Reagan, setting his sights on destroying a 21st-century Axis of Evil en route to forcing large chunks of the Islamic world into compliance with his Freedom Agenda. Unlike Ike—no longer in the pantheon of conservative heroes—Bush knew next to nothing about war. Perhaps for that very reason, he evinced supreme confidence in his ability to put America’s matchless military to work.

The defining features of American conservatism now became hubris and vainglory. Prudence? That was for wusses. Circumspection? A euphemism for cowardice.

Not everyone on the right climbed aboard the Bush bandwagon. But the great majority did, led by the most fervent crusaders—commonly known as neoconservatives—who promptly set out to expel dissenters. Writing in National Review in March 2003, with the US invasion of Iraq just under way, David Frum announced the purge, declaring that conservatives daring to oppose the Iraq War were treasonous. “They deny and excuse terror,” Frum charged. “They publicize wild conspiracy theories.” Some even “yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.” No alternative existed but to banish them from the conservative movement altogether. “In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.”

Frum’s “we” promptly led the United States into a debacle of monumental proportions, its mournful consequences continuing to mount even today. As a direct consequence of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a name chosen without a trace of irony, the right’s claim to foresight and wisdom in the management of national security affairs took a major hit. Names such as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith now became bywords for arrogant incompetence.

Few readers of this magazine will view with regret the blow to their reputations sustained by the architects of the Iraq War. Yet the disaster over which they presided has produced a further perversion in what passes for an ostensibly conservative approach to foreign policy. Rather than inspiring a return to prudence and circumspection, the failures and frustrations endured in Iraq and other post-9/11 military campaigns now find expression in compulsive truculence.

As the embodiment of this truculence, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, today finding favor among Republicans desperate to derail Donald Trump’s bid for the GOP nomination, stands alone. From the very outset of his candidacy, Cruz has depicted himself as the one genuinely principled conservative in the race. And in comparison to Trump, who is ideologically sui generis, Cruz does qualify as something of a conservative. When it comes to foreign policy, however, Cruz offers not principles but—like Trump himself—raw pugnacity.

Cruz has gone out of his way to deride the pretensions of democracy promoters, mocking “crazy neocon invade-every-country-on-earth” types wanting to “send our kids to die in the Middle East.” On the stump, Cruz advertises himself as Reagan’s one-and-only true heir. As such, he endorses “the clarity of Reagan’s four most important words: ‘We win, they lose.’” Upon closer examination, Cruz is actually advocating something quite different: “We win, they lose, then we walk away.” The key to “winning” is to unleash American military might. “If I am elected president, we will utterly destroy ISIS,” Cruz vows. “We won’t weaken them. We won’t degrade them. We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion…. We will do everything necessary so that every militant on the face of the earth will know…if you wage jihad and declare war on America, you are signing your death warrant.”

Yet rather than Reaganesque, Cruz’s prescription for dealing with Islamist radicalism represents a throwback to bomb-them-back-to-the-Stone-Age precepts pioneered by Gen. Curtis LeMay and endorsed by the likes of Barry Goldwater back when obliteration was in fashion. The embryonic Cruz Doctrine offers an approximation of total war. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!” he promises with evident enthusiasm.

Nowhere, however, does his outlook take into account costs, whether human, fiscal, or moral. Nor does it weigh the second-order consequences of, say, rendering large parts of Iraq and Syria a smoking ruin or of killing large numbers of noncombatants through campaigns of indiscriminate bombing. In essence, Cruz sees force as a way to circumvent history—a prospect that resonates with Americans annoyed by history’s stubborn complexities.

A similar logic—if we can call it that—is at play in Cruz’s promise on “day one” of his presidency to “rip to shreds” the Iran nuclear agreement. He has compared the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to the “Munich Deal of 1938, allowing homicidal maniacs to acquire weapons of mass murder.” Apart from causing consternation among the several other signatories to the agreement—the other permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—US withdrawal would accomplish nothing of substance. Even so, Cruz’s insistence that he will do so—begging the question then what?assures his supporters that he, like they, inhabits a world in which good guys are pitted against bad guys. In such a world, diplomacy simply plays into the hands of the enemy. “We stop the bad guys by using our guns,” Cruz insists, not by talking to them. His implied willingness to use guns to stop the bad guys in Tehran is unmistakable.

Not least among Cruz’s objections to the JCPOA is that it represents a “fundamental betrayal” of Israel, a country to which he professes great devotion. Cruz’s antagonism toward evildoers finds its counterpart in his deference toward Israel. More specifically, Cruz expresses unabashed admiration for the current head of the Israeli government, conferring on Benjamin Netanyahu the supreme conservative accolade of being “Churchillian.”

In reality, the comparison is an odd one. As a statesman, the quality setting Churchill apart was imagination, which he possessed in abundance—as prime minister, he was perpetually hatching wild schemes. Netanyahu’s defining characteristic is his absolute dearth of imagination; he is a willing prisoner of the status quo. Still, by paying homage to the Israeli leader—more broadly aligning himself with the eye-for-a-tooth Israeli approach to security policy—Cruz affirms his own bellicosity. Not surprisingly, Cruz promises to invite Netanyahu to attend his first State of the Union address. Going a step further, he has already previewed the greetings he will employ on the occasion: “Mr. Prime Minister, let me say, I enjoyed seeing you just recently at the grand opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital of Israel.” Again, the question left hanging is unanswered: Then what? Whether Cruz possesses the capacity even to recognize the existence of such questions appears doubtful. All that matters is to project an attitude of toughness.

So too with his recently announced team of foreign-policy advisers, consisting in large part of certifiable loonies, Islamophobes, and zealots keen to wage the Christian equivalent of global jihad. Members of the team broadly share the candidate’s own assessment of “Islamic supremacism,” whose adherents are intent on forcing the world to “submit to their form of Islam or die.”

Representative of this crew as a whole is Michael Ledeen, unrepentant proponent of preventive war. Preliminary efforts to destroy the Axis of Evil have not fared well. Ledeen’s prescription? Broaden the problem set and double down. “We now face a more potent Axis of Evil,” he writes, one that incorporates “Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries, and terrorist groups including al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State.” This new axis “includes Sunni and Shi’ite radical Muslims, Communists and other radical leftists, and nationalistic secular tyrants.” Together, they have “succeeded in wrecking hopes for a peaceful world.” The only way to eliminate this all-encompassing threat is through relentless and implacable war, from which, Ledeen concludes, there is “no escape.”

Under no plausible definition of the term does Ledeen qualify as even remotely conservative. That the leading “conservative” candidate for the GOP nomination has recruited such a wacko to advise him is itself evidence of how unhinged the American political right has become.

Think nothing could be worse than a Trump presidency? Think again.

Andrew J. Bacevich Andrew J. Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University.

See:http://www.thenation.com/article/ted-cruz-embodies-the-degeneration-of-foreign-policy-conservatism/

Why Trump’s Feverish Doom-Talk Makes Literally Zero Sense

The GOP frontrunner is lying to his fans about the state of the economy, something Obama pointed out in his State of the Union address.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Bob Cesca/Salon

Emphasis Mine

The Republicans, and especially the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, really want the economy to suck.  After all, if the economy is strong then all of Donald Trump’s demagoguing about “making America great again” begins to feel a tad unnecessary.

During his final State of the Union address, President Obama made sure to hammer the Republicans on this very point. Said Obama: “The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” Also: “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”

That second one is especially accurate, as illustrated by a sampling of quotes from one of the recent Republican presidential debates:

Ted Cruz: “From 2008 to today, our economy has grown 1.2 percent a year on average. The Obama economy is a disaster…”

Marco Rubio: “I mean, this economy is nothing like what it was like five years ago, not to mention 15 or 20 years ago.”

Jeb Bush: “My worry is that the real economy has been hurt by the vast overreach of the Obama administration.”

And then there’s serial fiction-peddler Donald Trump, who told CNN:

“We have to take our country back. We’ve lost our jobs, we’ve lost our money. We’re a third world nation and we’re a debtor nation at the same time, you need somebody with the kind of thinking — I built a great company. I have some of the great assets of the world. And I talk about only form- not bragging- I talk about it because that’s the kind of mentality that this country needs. We need that mentality now and we need it fast.”

Plus:

“A lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs. Because there are no jobs.”

And:

“Last quarter, it was just announced, our gross domestic product -– a sign of strength, right? But not for us. It was below zero. Who ever heard of this? It’s never below zero.” Before we continue, let’s correct the record about, “It’s never below zero.” Whopper lie. Economic growth has dipped below zero many, many times! 42 times since 1946. But Trump is counting on his supporters not paying very close attention to such things.

Finally, here’s Trump on the labor participation rate:

“I saw a chart the other day, our real unemployment — because you have ninety million people that aren’t working. Ninety-three million to be exact.”

It’s all fiction. The reason we know this is because numbers don’t lie. But Trump and the Republicans clearly do.

Let’s take a look by starting with that last quote first, regarding the labor participation rate, which Trump was hamfistedly referencing here. This is an often cited statistic that Obama critics like to wheel out in order to undermine the reality that unemployment has been cut in half under Obama, from more than 10 percent to exactly five percent today. The participation rate measures the number of people who’ve dropped out of the workforce, and the Republicans suggest it’s because they simply can’t find work in Obama’s allegedly disastrous economy.

They’re lying.

Here’s the truth. The labor participation rate has indeed dropped under Obama. Bad news, right? Well, only if you believe what Trump says, and why the hell would you do that? Yes, the number has descended from 65.7 in 2009 to 62 percent today. But let’s suppose it was a larger five percent drop, or a 10 percent drop. Does it matter in terms of evaluating the Obama economy? Not a chance.

FactCheck.org released the site’s most recent scorecard for the Obama’s presidency and noted the following on the labor participation rate:

Contrary to many of Obama’s critics, however, that decline is due mostly to factors outside the control of any president — factors such as the post-World War II baby boomers reaching retirement age. Survey data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in December show that those outside the labor force in 2014 said their reasons for not working were retirement (44 percent), illness or disability (19 percent), school attendance (18 percent) or home responsibilities (15 percent). Only 3 percent said they couldn’t find a job, or gave some other reason.

So, sure, Trump might be able to blame three percent of a total 3.7 percent decline in the rate as maybe Obama’s fault. But most of the workers who’ve dropped out of the labor force have done so for reasons other than the state of the economy. Do the math.

Along those lines, Trump also said the “real” unemployment rate is 42 percent with 93 million workers unable to find a job. Again, fiction.

Per the Washington Post:

Trump may have seen a chart, but he misread it. Yes, the BLS shows that there are 93.7 million people “not in the work force,” but the vast majority of those people do not want to work. Most are retired or simply are not interested in working, such as stay-at-home parents.

Here’s more bad news for the Republicans. According to FactCheck.org, the Obama economy has added 9.2 million jobs. For the sake of reference, the Reagan economy added 16 million jobs, but job growth during Obama’s second term, which was more or less untethered from the Great Recession, exceeded Reagan’s first term job growth. Furthermore, the unemployment rate under Obama has declined more rapidly to a lower level than the rate under Reagan. Either way, it’s not the unmitigated disaster Trump’s talking about by any stretch of his bewigged imagination.

Elsewhere, per FactCheck.org, since the beginning of his first term when he inherited an economy strangled by an nearly unprecedented recession, the Obama economy has seen the number of long-term unemployed drop by 614,000 workers. Job openings are up 97 percent. The S&P has grown by 139 percent. Weekly earnings are up (though not up enough, admittedly). Crude oil production is up 87 percent and oil imports are down by 62 percent. Alternative energy sources are up by 273 percent. Exports are up by 31 percent. The number of uninsured Americans has dropped by 15 million, due mainly to the dreaded Obamacare. And federal spending is only up by 11 percent, the lowest rate climb of any modern president. The budget deficit has dropped by more than a trillion dollars. And the economy has grown for 79 consecutive months.

Is everything perfect? No way. But, again, we’re only a few years out from an economic disaster of biblical proportions, and it would’ve been foolish to expect rapid economic growth in the wake of a recession that nearly crushed the world economy.

Just as foolish would be to expect that Donald Trump could do any better. Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics observed this week,

“If Trump’s policies were enacted it would be some form of disaster for the economy. If you force 11 million undocumented immigrants to leave in a year, you would be looking at a depression. It would not help the people he is talking to, they would be the first to go down.”

That’s reality. And yet too many Americans think he’s going to “make America great again.”

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-trumps-feverish-doom-talk-makes-literally-zero-sense

Nationwide Poll: Majority of Republicans Have Nakedly Racist Worldview—Trump Has Found the Way to Unleash It

GOPers are living in a dangerous right-wing fantasyland—and are just fine with that.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

A new national poll released Tuesday has found that a majority of the Republican Party is living in a strange and dangerous political fantasyland.

“Our new poll finds that [Donald] Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country,” Public Policy Polling’s analysis said. “Sixty-six percent of Trump’s supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12 percent that grant he’s a Christian. Sixty-one percent think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21 percent who accept that he was.”

Not only did PPP’s analysis find that Trump’s lead was growing—it is now 29 percent—it also found that the second most popular Republican is one who has not criticized other candidates: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has 15 percent. The rest of the pack is all under 10 percent: Jeb Bush (9 percent), Carly Fiorina (8 percent), Marco Rubio (7 percent), Ted Cruz and John Kasich (6 percent), Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee (5 percent). Walker has fallen the most, compared to last winter when he was leading.

The biggest takeaway from the PPP pollis that a majority of the Republican Party’s base is living in a right-wing bubble where facts don’t matter—and it has become increasingly acceptable to publicly voice racist positions because the leading presidential candidate is modeling that behavior.

Not only did PPP find that a majority of Republicans believe the birther lie—that Obama was not actually born in Hawaii—but 51 percent of all Republicans polled want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, which is granted to any person born on U.S. soil. Of Trump’s supporters, 63 percent want to eliminate that right, and a majority said undocumented children should be deported.

“I’m not terribly surprised by the birther numbers or the numbers about Obama’s religion,” said Tom Jensen, PPP director. He said the numbers are consistent with what he’s seen in GOP polls in recent years, and matched another new poll from Iowa where about 35 percent of the state’s GOP electorate are “birthers.”

But what is surprising to Jensen is how Trump’s candidacy has made Republicans more willing to publicly admit their xenophobic or racist positions.

Trump has sent a message that it’s okay to be racist,” he said. “So maybe some racist attitudes you previously held, or were not allowed to say in public, now one of the leading presidential candidates is saying them and not apologizing at all.”

The PPP poll also found that Trump was winning his war of words with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, the on-air host who challenged him in the GOP’s first presidential debate for his history of sexist remarks about women.

“Trump is winning his fight with Megyn Kelly,” the poll’s analysis said. “When we last polled her in December of 2013 her favorability with Republicans nationally was 44/9. Her favorability is in a similar place now at 42% but her negatives have shot up to 20 percent, largely because she’s at 20/43 with Trump’s supporters.”

The poll also found that Carly Fiorina and John Kasich have become more popular with GOP voters. Since their July survey, Fiorina, the ex-Hewlett Packard CEO, has “gone from 4 percent to 8 percent, and her 53/23 favorability rating makes her the most popular GOP candidate other than Carson and Trump,” their analysis said. “Kasich’s gone from 3 percent to 6 percent and is all the way up to double digits at 10 percent with moderate voters, putting him in third place overall with that group.”

The Republican who has fallen the furthest is Scott Walker, “who was in second place at 17 percent last month and is now down all the way to a tie for eighth place at 5 percent. There is a little bit of silver lining for Walker. He’s one of only three Republicans to hit double digits when it comes to voters’ second-place choice.”

Bush is struggling for a variety of reasons, Jensen said. He’s not passionate enough, compared to Trump. His past positions embracing federal education standards and immigration reform rankle right-wing Republicans. And in an anti-establishment year, being a Bush [or a Clinton] is as mainstream and establishment as it gets.

Bernie and Hillary

On the Democratic side, PPP found that Bernie Sanders has a very long way to go to catch up with Hillary Clinton in national polling.

“Last month Hillary Clinton led Bernie Sanders by 35 points and this month she leads him by 35 points again—she’s at 55 percent to 20 pecent for Bernie Sanders, 4 percent for Martin O’Malley, 3 percent for Jim Webb, and 1 percent each for Lincoln Chafee and Lawrence Lessig,” the poll’s analysis said.

This is a striking contrast with Sanders’ numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, where another PPP poll just last week found he was ahead of Clinton by 7 points. However, looking past those first two contests to the next states, Jensen said that Sanders hasn’t yet made inroads into communities of color.

“I think it’s quite possible he may do very well in Iowa and New Hampshire and not do well anywhere else,” Jensen said. “We found Hillary down in New Hampshire but not nationally.”

However, Jensen said he was “done making predictions” about what was likely to unfold on the GOP side. “There is nothing about this presidential race that anyone has seen before. Most experts expected things to become more normal by now.”

But things have not become normal. As one respected legal blogger wrote Monday, there is a path to the GOP nomination for Trump if he maintains his current standing in the polls, because of the arcane ways Republicans will be allocating delegates in their 2016 primaries.

Meanwhile, the PPP poll confirms that the modern Republican Party has a majority of members who live in a racist political fantasyland: they believe Obama wasn’t born in America, and is a Muslim, not a Christian; and they would revoke the birthright citizenship of the children of undocumented immigrants, and deport them as well.

“Trump’s beliefs represent the consensus among the GOP electorate,” their analysis said. “Fifty-one percent overall want to eliminate birthright citizenship. Fifty-four percent think President Obama is a Muslim. And only 29 percent grant that President Obama was born in the United States. That’s less than the 40 percent who think Canadian-born Ted Cruz was born in the United States.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/nationwide-poll-majority-republicans-have-nakedly-racist-worldview-and-trump-has-found?utm_source=Steven+Rosenfeld%27s+Subscribers&utm_campaign=d25c3f7811-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2cfcfe7b54-d25c3f7811-107153921

Hillary Clinton hits back at Jeb Bush in Iraq row

Democratic presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton has hit back at one of her Republican rivals, Jeb Bush, over who is responsible for instability in Iraq.

Source: BBC.COM

Emphasis Mine 

On Tuesday Mr Bush accused the Obama administration of a “premature withdrawal” of US forces from Iraq in 2011, with “grievous” costs.

Ms Clinton replied by saying it was Mr Bush’s brother George W Bush who, as president, negotiated a US withdrawal.

The US-led war in 2003 has been followed by years of turmoil.

Mr Bush called the withdrawal of US forces in 2011 a “fatal error”, destabilising the nation and setting the stage for the rise of Islamic State militants.

“So eager to be the history-makers, they failed to be the peacemakers,” Mr Bush said of Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton, who was Barack Obama’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

“Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger,” he went on.

line

Analysis: Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America reporter

When Jeb Bush blasted Hillary Clinton for “losing” the Iraq War earlier this week, it probably suited her just fine. The challenge for the Democratic front-runner since she first declared in April has been to generate enthusiasm from the party’s rank and file for her seemingly inevitable march to the Democratic nomination. The more she mixes it up with Republicans, however, the more her faithful are likely to close ranks behind one of their own.

That, at least, seems to be outcome for which the Clinton campaign is hoping. And so, at the Iowa State Fair the day after Mr Bush made his rounds among the fried food stands and carnival rides, Mrs Clinton loaded up and returned fire at the Republican.

A war of words with Mr Bush could end up being the best way for Mrs Clinton to move on from the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and the recent surge of fellow Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont in some polls.

line

On Saturday Ms Clinton responded by saying Mr Bush “should present the entire picture. [That]… includes the agreement George W Bush made with the Maliki government in Iraq that set the end of 2011 as the date to withdraw American troops.”

“I can only wonder whether he either did not know that or thought that other people would not be reminded of that,” she went on.

Earlier in the campaign Jeb Bush was ridiculed for struggling to say whether he would have approved the Iraq invasion “knowing what we know now”.

At first, he said he would, then he said he wouldn’t engage in “hypotheticals” and finally he announced he would not have. 

See: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33948176?post_id=10206749398868782_10206749398748779#_=_

Is America Undergoing a Major Political Sea Change? Inside the Shocking Rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/america-undergoing-major-political-sea-change-exploring-shocking-rise-bernie-sanders?akid=13338.123424.tn7jbS&rd=1&src=newsletter1040052&t=1

Add MediaSource: AlterNet

Author: Stephan Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

America’s political center, if it ever really existed, appears to be shrinking.

On the left, Bernie Sanders’ issue-oriented presidential campaign of economic justice is drawing the crowds and generating the most passion, eclipsing his more moderate competitors. And on the right, Donald Trump’s loud promises to use his dealmaking moxie to fix the country, with a dose of racist comments thrown in, has pushed him to the top of the polls in 2016’s early states.

There’s no shortage of pundits writing off their surges. Surely, you’ve heard them all, which amount to saying that when the campaign gets serious, they will seriously falter. The latest analyses from this past weekend’s polling noted that both were doing well in two of the whitest states—Iowa and New Hampshire—but not in bigger, more diverse ones. So now these hallowed presidential proving grounds prove nothing?

But there is one explanation you won’t find among the politicos who are parsing the interior numbers in polls—such as the negative approval ratings, or appeal by race and gender. That explanation is that the political spectrum is changing, or stretching toward its blunter extremes, which also accounts for the muted enthusiasm for both party’s leading establishment candidates, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

A shifting electorate is the last thing many pundits want to confront. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, pointing to four recent polls, merely says Hillary should worry about her rising unpopularity. He does not touch the deeper question: is she out of tune with what’s engaging the public now? His colleague, Phillip Bump says she’s lagging among whites in Iowa and New Hampshire, but climbs back up in later states where she appeals to non-whites. Sanders and Trump aren’t doing that, he said.

At Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, another go-to site for reporters to get zeitgeist quotes, the reflex is to dismiss both Trumps and Sanders for different reasons, rather than probe how the electorate may be shifting. Trump’s surge, according to associate editor Geoffrey Skelly, is because he’s well-known, loud, in a crowded field, and keeps getting press coverage. Even worse, the GOP idiotically tied participation in its upcoming presidential debate to how candidates are polling, he said, where Trump will be “attacked from all sides.”

One can go very far in political analysis by being cynical. But that does not mean you’ve got your finger on a changing pulse. Politico’s  piece on Trump’s latest rise in New Hampshire and Iowa points to the politics of anger, especially against Washington power-brokers, which includes the GOP’s congressional majority.

Just 16 percent among all Republicans (15 percent of Republican registered voters… [and] 50 percent of Democrats (51 percent of Democratic registered voters) feel that they are [well] represented in the nation’s capital,” it reported. “Among independents, just 27 percent feel well-represented.”

What are people angry about? Who is giving voice to their problems, or offering solutions? CNN says the top concerns facing voters are the economy (44 percent), health care (20 percent) and terrorism (12 percent). If those numbers are accurate, it is not surprising that Sanders and Trump, on the left and right, have captivated voters because they are speaking outside the safe centrist political box.

Trump’s bragging that most of politics comes down to being the best negotiator has an appeal when the Republican-controlled Congress is bumbling at best. His slaps at immigrants are ugly, but there have always been racists in modern Republican ranks. Today’s GOP is not the party of Lincoln, nor is it Teddy Roosevelt’s anti-corporate reformers. Most of their 2016 candidates have been recycling Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric or predictable policies benefitting the upper classes.

While it remains to be seen what broad new agenda will emerge on the right, it is not surprising that the cliché-ridden remedies spouted by a field of predictable candidates isn’t creating much excitement, even as they try to out-do each other on the far right. Trump’s rise strongly suggests something in the GOP’s base is shifting.

Bernie Sanders’ surge is more easily traced, and also shows shifting voter sensibilities. His messaging has been saturated with specifics, from his speeches to e-mails. On Monday morning, he sent out a long missive seeking $3 donations that listed 12 issue areas and his solutions: jobs, jobs, jobs; raising wages; wealth and income inequality; reforming Wall St.; campaign finance reform; fighting climate change; health care for all; protecting our most vulnerable; expanding opportunity and equality; dismantling structural racism; college for all; war and peace. This is not political fundraising as usual.

It is easy to say that Sanders, like Elizabeth Warren before him, is pulling the Democrats closer to their progressive heart. But Sanders would not be as successful as he has been if Democrats in the electorate were not embracing his message. As one of Iowa’s leading pro-Democrat bloggers, BleedingHeartland.com, wrote this weekend, “Bernie Sanders continues to draw the largest crowds in Iowa–including roughly 1,200 people in West Des Moines on Friday—and polls indicate that he is cutting into Hillary Clinton’s lead among likely Democratic caucus-goers.”

Clinton still led Sanders by 29 points, 55 percent to 26 percent, with Martin O’Malley at 4 percent and Jim Webb at 2 percent, it reported, citing the latest polls. But “his message is resonating with a sizable part of the Democratic base, as anyone could see on Friday night during his town-hall meeting at West Des Moines Valley High School. I challenge any Democrat to find one substantive point to disagree with in Sanders’ stump speech. Many people who attend his events are already ‘feeling the Bern.’ My impression is that the undecideds who show up walk away giving him their serious consideration. I doubt anyone leaves a Sanders event thinking, ‘I could never caucus for that guy.’”

BleedingHeartland continued, “Listening to Sanders on Friday, I was again struck by the senator’s distinctive way of speaking. He packs a lot of facts and figures into his remarks without sounding wonky. He conveys a lot of passion without raising his voice often. Compared to many candidates, he says very little about his children and grandchildren. Still, his feelings about family come through loud and clear when he contrasts Republican ideas about ‘family values’ (a ‘woman shouldn’t be able to control her own body’) with what family values should mean (for instance, a mom and dad having paid time off from work so they can get to know their new baby). Although the Sanders stump speech is overly long—pushed well past the one-hour mark by many interruptions for applause—he keeps his listeners’ attention. Even my 12-year-old was still engaged….”

Next years’ presidential caucuses are a long way off, and the November election is even further away. It’s easy for pundits to dismiss Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, for different reasons, with respect to their eventual prospects. But doing so can overlook what’s happening now, which is the assumed frames, views and mood of the electorate are shifting, or stretching, or changing, and favoring the blunt and unconventional.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008). 

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/america-undergoing-major-political-sea-change-exploring-shocking-rise-bernie-sanders?akid=13338.123424.tn7jbS&rd=1&src=newsletter1040052&t=1

Tax Cuts for the Wealthy DO NOT Create Jobs

Source: DailyKos

Author: Jocava

Emphasis Mine

After 30 years of re-engineering our nation’s economy and tax code to deliver huge benefits, free of charge, to the wealthy, the most massive transfer of wealth in the history of the world —a transfer of wealth that has led to now catastrophically failed wealth disparities between the wealthiest and the poorest—, we have not seen the wildly prolific job-creation that was promised. Indeed, we have seen our manufacturing base stripped away piece by piece and our middle class society systematically eroded.

Now, after 10 years of massive tax breaks for the wealthiest people in the history of humanity, we have seen a further concentration of wealth and a further erosion of the open market for employment and innovation. The 400 wealthiest people in the United States now control more wealth than 155 million people at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum combined. The tax cuts that were supposed to be given to the “supply side” were never given to the supply side at all, only to those that seek to own it.

To distill the complicated economics down to simple terms: Why should the rich “create jobs”, why should they put money into wages in order to build businesses to make profits, when it’s being handed to them in unprecedented amounts, for free? That’s the real problem. When the government takes money from everyone, then hands it out to the wealthiest among us, it has the direct effect of disincentivizing investment by those individuals and interests in the creation of new businesses and new jobs.

It is economic incentive that drives enterprise, not the supposed nobility of spirit of the wealthy. That idea is aristocracy: that the ruling class is there because they deserve to be, because they are uniquely noble, because they have arete —excellence and a commitment to justice and humane values, to the better interests of society at large. Our nation is founded on the self-evident truth that medieval aristocracy is a lie, and that powerful elites do not tend to give their power and privilege back to the people.

It makes no sense to be fostering a new aristocracy, to be transferring literally trillions of dollars in wealth, as a matter of national policy, to the wealthiest people in our society. There is no economic reason for doing so. There is nothing about that process which upholds or defends democracy. Much to the contrary, the massive and unprecedented transfer of wealth from ordinary, working Americans to the already wealthy —which began with Ronald Reagan and accelerated to warp speed with George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts—, has crippled our economy and removed any incentive major financial interests have to invest in widespread job creation.

If you believe a vibrant middle class is essential to fostering generalized citizen participation and real elective democracy, then the collapse of that middle class, the decline in household wages, the rapid escalation in bankruptcies and home foreclosures, should worry you. Even if you are a billionaire, it should worry you, because the erosion of our middle class, the gutting of funds from our educational system, the prioritization of billionaires and multinational corporations, is eroding our democracy itself.

When Vice President Joe Biden left the Senate to join the Obama administration, he was the only member of the United States Senate who was not a millionaire. He had not used his office to enrich himself or his family, and he had not played the game of Washington insider. He was not a celebrity and he did not view politics as a battle for cold, hard cash. He made policy based on how it would affect ordinary citizens, local communities, the real human freedom of people he knows and understands.

As the Senate became the world’s most powerful millionaire’s club, it became harder and harder for ordinary people to break into politics. The power of the two-party system had made it risky for anyone not to support the one of the two parties most friendly to their views, because even the slightest erosion of support for one of the two parties is now translated, through furious and misleading reporting of public opinion poll numbers as a “gain” for the other party.

As the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few has accelerated, and the concentration of political power in the hands of the wealthy has followed along, the outright lie that tax cuts for the wealthy are the best, indeed the only, way to create jobs continues to have widespread support. Though real people living in the real world can see with their own eyes that fundamental pillars of our democracy are being eroded, or even eliminated, while parents across the country know what it would mean for the House of Representatives to strip funding for Head Start, for public education and for college financial aid, the transfer of wealth goes ahead, and the job creation boom to which innovative, hard-working, democratic Americans are entitled, continues to stall.

There should be an indefinite, blanket moratorium on wasteful wealth spending.

Since we know that spending trillions of dollars on tax cuts for the wealthy is counterproductive, does not create jobs and is undermining our democracy, every independent voter, every Democratic and every Republican voter, should demand of every elected official that they cease to prioritize the giveaway of taxpayer money to those who have no use for it and will not use it to invest in rebuilding the middle class.

Tax cuts for the wealthy do not create jobs. Tax cuts for the wealthy are not a constructive way to build democracy. Tax cuts for the wealthy are not a sound investment for the already embattled middle class. Every proposed cut to social spending, every proposed tax break for millionaires and billionaires, is part of the same process of eroding our middle class and shoring up the long-term power interest of the already powerful.

It should not be the economic policy of a middle class democratic republic to prioritize the protection of millionaires and billionaires against economic hardship, when the economic hardship of the moment was created specifically and through many years of coordinated effort, by the mismanagement and bad practice of that very “investor class” that seeks to give the real power in our society to banks, hedge funds and offshore interests.

Whether by incompetence, ignorance or malice, the financial industry was hijacked by a logic of might makes right: anything that can be done to expand wealth, any “instrument” that can be devised that will make the digital, ethereal wealth of our times appear to increase, was to be cultivated, protected and propagated, regardless of the risk to the wider society or to the health of our people and our democracy.

The financial collapse of 2007 and 2008 was not brought about by working people’s mortgages; it was brought about by major financial interests that had agreed, implicitly and explicitly, it was no longer of any importance whether major national investment strategies represented real wealth or spurious wealth claims; what mattered was that those at the top could benefit from implementing the strategies.

That is what was done with our trillions of dollars in wealth subsidies: while the American people were told that tax breaks for the wealthiest of the wealthy would lead to widespread job creation, the money was devoted to creating entirely new markets where only money would be needed to make more money. Gone were the heady old days when earning millions was supposed to represent investment in an actual enterprise doing actual business, building a better society.

There should be an indefinite, blanket moratorium on wasteful wealth spending, because the work of our age needs to be the reinvention of our economy, the reversal of this egregious and undemocratic transfer of wealth from the tens of millios to the 400, and the restoration the principle that if it’s good for America, it’s because it’s good for building a vibrant, free and educated middle class that actually has the power to govern its own future and to steer the ship of state.

SOME DATA: The top 20% of the socio-economic pyramid in our country control well more than 80% of all the wealth. Just the top 1% control 40% of all financial investment assets.

In 2001, George W. Bush inherited a 10-year budget surplus of $1.7 trillion. His 2001 and 2003 tax cuts plunged the government into deficit spending, immediately. By 2002, the surplus was already erased, after just one year of the long-term tax cut plan.

By 2009, when Bush left office, he had doubled Defense spending, pledged over $1 trillion to banks, and average household incomes had FALLEN by more than $2,000 per year.

The result of these policies was: 25% of all American children living in poverty, near 10% unemployment (officially), as high as 25% among young people and well over 30% among some minority communities.

In 2008 and 2009, the nation saw record bankruptcies, record rates of home foreclosures, and despite massive investment in recovery efforts, in 2009 and 2010 job recovery has been slow to non-existent. The reason: even as banks and wealthy investors began to see their economic engine revving up again, they saw no economic incentive at all to invest in job creation.

The wrong kind of tax policy was giving them cash for nothing, and incentivizing them to invest it in money-for-the-wealthy financial schemes that don’t support small business, manufacturing, entrepreneurship or job-creation.

Originally posted to jocava on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 06:28 AM PST.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos, Daily Kos Classics, and Community Spotlight.

Voodoo Economics, the Next Generation

Source:NY Times

Author: Paul Krugman

Emphasis Mine

Even if Republicans take the Senate this year, gaining control of both houses of Congress, they won’t gain much in conventional terms: They’re already able to block legislation, and they still won’t be able to pass anything over the president’s veto. One thing they will be able to do, however, is impose their will on the Congressional Budget Office, heretofore a nonpartisan referee on policy proposals.

As a result, we may soon find ourselves in deep voodoo.

During his failed bid for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination George H. W. Bush famously described Ronald Reagan’s “supply side” doctrine — the claim that cutting taxes on high incomes would lead to spectacular economic growth, so that tax cuts would pay for themselves — as “voodoo economic policy.” Bush was right. Even the rapid recovery from the 1981-82 recession was driven by interest-rate cuts, not tax cuts. Still, for a time the voodoo faithful claimed vindication.

The 1990s, however, were bad news for voodoo. Conservatives confidently predicted economic disaster after Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax hike. What happened instead was a boom that surpassed the Reagan expansion in every dimension: G.D.P., jobs, wages and family incomes.

And while there was never any admission by the usual suspects that their god had failed, it’s noteworthy that the Bush II administration — never shy about selling its policies on false pretenses — didn’t try to justify its tax cuts with extravagant claims about their economic payoff. George W. Bush’s economists didn’t believe in supply-side hype, and more important, his political handlers believed that such hype would play badly with the public. And we should also note that the Bush-era Congressional Budget Office behaved well, sticking to its nonpartisan mandate.

But now it looks as if voodoo is making a comeback. At the state level, Republican governors — and Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, in particular — have been going all in on tax cuts despite troubled budgets, with confident assertions that growth will solve all problems. It’s not happening, and in Kansas a rebellion by moderates may deliver the state to Democrats. But the true believers show no sign of wavering.

Meanwhile, in Congress Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is dropping broad hints that after the election he and his colleagues will do what the Bushies never did, try to push the budget office into adopting “dynamic scoring,” that is, assuming a big economic payoff from tax cuts.

So why is this happening now? It’s not because voodoo economics has become any more credible. True, recovery from the 2007-9 recession has been sluggish, but it has actually been a bit faster than the typical recovery from financial crisis, despite unprecedented cuts in government spending and employment. In fact, the recovery in private-sector employment has been faster than it was during the “Bush boom” last decade. At the same time, researchers at the International Monetary Fund, surveying cross-country evidence, have found that redistribution of income from the affluent to the poor, which conservatives insist kills growth, actually seems to boost economies.

But facts won’t stop the voodoo comeback, for two main reasons.

First, voodoo economics has dominated the conservative movement for so long that it has become an inward-looking cult, whose members know what they know and are impervious to contrary evidence. Fifteen years ago leading Republicans may have been aware that the Clinton boom posed a problem for their ideology. Today someone like Senator Rand Paul can say: “When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan.” Clinton who?

Second, the nature of the budget debate means that Republican leaders need to believe in the ways of magic. For years people like Mr. Ryan have posed as champions of fiscal discipline even while advocating huge tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations. They have also called for savage cuts in aid to the poor, but these have never been big enough to offset the revenue loss. So how can they make things add up?

Well, for years they have relied on magic asterisks — claims that they will make up for lost revenue by closing loopholes and slashing spending, details to follow. But this dodge has been losing effectiveness as the years go by and the specifics keep not coming. Inevitably, then, they’re feeling the pull of that old black magic — and if they take the Senate, they’ll be able to infuse voodoo into supposedly neutral analysis.

Would they actually do it? It would destroy the credibility of a very important institution, one that has served the country well. But have you seen any evidence that the modern conservative movement cares about such things?

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/opinion/paul-krugman-voodoo-economics-the-next-generation.html?_r=0