Why the Hate-Filled, Retrograde Politics of the Tea Party Are Here to Stay

The Tea Party is not a movement, it’s a geographical region: the Old South.

Source:Alternet

Author: CJ Wehleman

N.B.: To triumph over the Tea Party, we must win the message war!

“After last Tuesday’s creaming in the Virginia governor’s race, and with Tea Party negatives creeping toward 75 percent, the political punditry class has divided itself into one of two camps: those celebrating the demise of the Tea Party versus those forecasting its inevitable end. Who’s right? They’re both wrong, because it’s not a movement. It’s a geographical region, and if history has taught us anything, southern folk are a pugnacious bunch.

Despite political feel-good rhetoric, there are two Americas. Not just ideologically, but geographically. That’s what still makes this country unique among other Western democracies. America is two distinct nations with a distinguishable border that runs the breadth of the country from the Mason-Dixon line across the southern border of Pennsylvania, finishing in some Baptist church somewhere in rural Texas.

The Tea Party is overwhelmingly Southern. Michael Lind, author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, writes, “The facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label.” If you include Texas as a member of the Old South (banning tampons from the state house earns the Lone Star state that honor), nearly 80 percent of the Tea Party’s support comes from the former Confederate states. So, stop calling it a movement.

The Republican Party is not only the party of plutocrats and oligarchs; it’s also the party of the South. The party’s leaders are predominantly southern. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. House Speaker John Boehner is from Cincinnati, Ohio, but Cincinnati is as close to the South as a northern city can be, given the city’s airport is actually in Kentucky. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is from Virginia. ‘

And then there are the likely 2016 presidential hopefuls. With the exception of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the pathologically homophobic Rick Santorum, the rest of them are as southern as Colonel Sanders. Rand Paul is from Kentucky. Bobby Jindal is from Louisiana. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are from Florida.

While movements and ideas may die, a land mass does not, and while that southern land mass is occupied by a people who are willing to destroy the country in order to get their way, and while the GOP remains dependent on its “Southern strategy,” the South’s fixation on everything related to controlling race, sex, religious practice, abortion laws, and dismantling the federal government will remain the revolutionary fervor of not only the Tea Party but also the GOP.

The trend lines in America are moving against the South thanks to increasing urbanization, the “browning of America,” and the declining place for religion in American life. These are great challenges to the South’s way of life, and southerners don’t like it. So don’t expect one governor’s race in an off-year election to read as an obituary for the Tea Party. As much as the media and the GOP establishment would like you to believe Chris Christie, a moderate only by Tea Party standards, to be the presumptive nominee, the neo-Confederates are more likely to pick a gay atheist from San Francisco.

The GOP’s most agitated and mobilized voting bloc is its predominantly southern evangelical base. In their minds, they’ve experimented with non-Southern “moderates” in the form of John McCain and Mitt Romney, and they got trounced. The base gets its cues from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, all of whom are juicing the base for a “severely conservative” 2016 candidate. Thus a northern governor who supports climate change, evolution, immigration and gun control will likely be sacrificed on the altar of southern radicalism—a fate realized by one former northern mayor in 2008, Rudy Giuliani.

The South, and by association the GOP, sees America increasingly through the prism of race. It’s central to their worldview. In 2012, 92% of the Republican vote came from white people who, within the next three decades, will no longer be in the majority. Despite losing the gubernatorial race, Ken Cuccinelli received more than 70% of the white vote. White southern voters view entitlements and immigration reform as liberal programs to buy votes. They believe food stamps and healthcare are an effort to take money from hard-working white people, and in turn, redistribute it to lazy black people. When Reagan spoke about a “welfare queen,” he didn’t need to mention her race. White southern voters had already painted a picture in their own minds.

In his seminal Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Chuck Thompson writes:

The unified southern resistance to every initiative from any “liberal” administration has deep historic roots. The persistent defiance of every Democratic attempt to deal intelligently with national problems—be they recession, debt, or childhood obesity—has nothing to with political ideology, taxes, healthcare, or acceptable degrees of federal authority. It has everything to do with nullification, disruption, zealotry, and division. It’s part of a time-sharpened effort to debilitate nearly every northern-led government by injecting it with the Seven Deadly Sins of Southern Politics: demagogic dishonesty, religious fanaticism, willful obstructionism, disregard for own self-interest, corporate supplication, disproportionate influence, and military adventurism.

The next Republican Party presidential nominee will need to speak to these white southern fears and attitudes. Given that Civil War hostilities ended more than 150 years ago, and given the GOP is now backed by unprecedented levels of campaign finance thanks to Citizens United, don’t fool yourself into thinking the Tea Party strain of Republicanism is going away anytime soon. It’s more likely they’ve only just arrived.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America and God Hates You, Hate Him BackFollow him on Twitter @cjwerleman.

Emphasis Mine:

See: http://admin.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/why-hateful-politics-tea-party-isnt-going-anywhere-hint-its-region-us?akid=11133.123424.w5CfWK&rd=1&src=newsletter922618&t=5

 

The Abject Failure of Reaganomics

Source: Consortium News, via RSN

Author: Robert Parr

“Even as the Republican Right licks its wounds after taking a public-opinion beating over its government shutdown and threatened credit default, the Tea Partiers keep promoting a false narrative on why the U.S. debt has ballooned and why the economy struggles, a storyline that will surely influence the next phase of this American political crisis.

If a large segment of the American public continues to buy into the Tea Party’s fake reality, then it is likely that both the political damage and the economic decline will continue apace, with fewer good-paying jobs, a shrinking middle class and more of the bitter alienation that has fed the Tea Party’s growth in the first place. In other words, the United States will remain in a vicious circle that is also a downward spiral.

The pattern can only be reversed if American voters come to understand how and why their economic well-being is getting flushed down the drain.

The first point to understand is that the current $16.7 trillion federal debt is about $11 trillion more than it was when George W. Bush took office. Not only did Bush’s tax-cut-and-war-spending policies send the debt soaring over the next dozen years but it was those policies that eliminated the federal surpluses of Bill Clinton’s final years and reversed a downward trend in the debt that had “threatened” to eliminate the debt entirely over the ensuing decade.

Amazingly, President Clinton left office in January 2001 with the federal budget in the black by $236 billion and with a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. The budgetary trend lines were such that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan began to fret about the challenges the Fed might face in influencing interest rates if the entire U.S. government debt were paid off, thus leaving no debt obligations to sell.

Thus, Greenspan, an Ayn Rand acolyte who was first appointed by Ronald Reagan, threw his considerable prestige behind George W. Bush’s plan for massive tax cuts that would primarily benefit the wealthy. In that way, Bush and the Republicans “solved” the “problem” of completely paying off the federal debt.

When Bush left office in January 2009 – amid a meltdown of an under-regulated Wall Street – there was no more talk about a debt-free government. Indeed, the debt had soared to $10.6 trillion and was trending rapidly higher as the government scrambled to avert a financial catastrophe that could have brought on another Great Depression.

Reaganomics’ Failure

But this debt crisis did not originate with George W. Bush. It can be traced back primarily to President Reagan, who arrived in the White House in 1981 with fanciful notions about restoring America’s economic vitality through massive tax cuts for the wealthy, a strategy called “supply-side” by its admirers and “trickle-down” by its critics.

Reagan’s tax cuts brought a rapid ballooning of the federal debt, which was $934 billion in January 1981 when Reagan took office. When he departed in January 1989, the debt had jumped to$2.7 trillion, a three-fold increase. And the consequences of Reagan’s reckless tax-cutting continued to build under his successor, George H.W. Bush, who left office in January 1993 with a national debt of$4.2 trillion, more than a four-fold increase since the arrival of Republican-dominated governance in 1981.

During 1993, Clinton’s first year in office, the new Democratic administration pushed through tax increases, partially reversing the massive tax cuts implemented under Reagan. Finally, the debt problem began to stabilize, with the total debt at $5.7 trillion and heading downward, when Clinton left office in January 2001.

Indeed, at the time of Clinton’s departure, the projected ten-year surplus of $5.6 trillion meant that virtually the entire federal debt would be retired. That was what Fed Chairman Greenspan found worrisome enough to support George W. Bush’s new round of tax cuts aimed primarily at the wealthy, another dose of Reagan’s “supply-side.”

The consequences – especially when combined with Bush’s decision to rush into two major wars without paying for them – proved disastrous. The federal debt resumed its upward climb. By August 2008, just before the Wall Street crash, the debt was over $9.6 trillion, nearly a $4 trillion jump since Bush took office.

And, after the Wall Street collapse in September 2008, the federal government had little choice but to increase its borrowing even more to avert a global economic catastrophe potentially worse than the Great Depression. By January 2009, just five months later, the debt was $10.6 trillion, a $1 trillion increase and counting.

Many of the Republican leaders who stomped their feet during the recent budget showdown, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were among those who favored the Bush tax cuts, the costly invasion of Iraq and bank deregulation. In other words, they were denouncing President Obama for a debt crisis that they helped create.

But the record of reckless Republican budget policies from Reagan through Bush-43 was not only destructive to the fiscal health of the government. The “supply-side,” “free-trade” and deregulatory strategies – including some facilitated by the Clinton administration – proved devastating to the nation’s ability to create good-paying jobs and to sustain the Great American Middle Class.

Zero Job Growth

During the decade of George W. Bush’s presidency, the United States experienced zero job growth. And zero is actually worse than it sounds since none of the preceding six decades registered job growth of less than 20 percent.

By comparison, the 1970s, which are often bemoaned as a time of economic stagflation and political malaise, registered a 27 percent increase in jobs. Yet, in part because of that relatively slow rise in jobs – down from 31 percent in the 1960s – American voters turned to Ronald Reagan and his radical economic theories of tax cuts, global “free markets” and deregulation.

Reagan sold Americans on his core vision: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Through his personal magnetism, Reagan then turned taxes into a third rail of American politics. He convinced many voters that the government’s only important roles were funding the military and cutting taxes.

Yet, instead of guiding the country into a bright new day of economic vitality, Reagan’s approach accelerated a de-industrialization of the United States and a slump in the growth of American jobs, down to 20 percent during the 1980s. The percentage job increase for the 1990s stayed at 20 percent, although job growth did pick up later in the decade under President Clinton, who raised taxes and moderated some of Reagan’s approaches while still pushing “free trade” agreements and deregulation.

Yet, hard-line Reaganomics returned with a vengeance under George W. Bush – more tax cuts, more faith in “free trade,” more deregulation – and the Great American Job Engine finally started grinding to a halt. Zero percent increase. The Great American Middle Class was on life-support.

Ignoring Reality

Despite these painful statistics of the past three decades, Reaganomics has remained a powerful force in American political life. Anyone tuning in CNBC or picking up the Wall Street Journal would think that these economic policies had enjoyed unqualified success for everyone, rather than being a dismal failure for all but the richest Americans. The facts were especially stark for the 2000s, the so-called “Aughts” or perhaps more accurately the “Naughts.”

For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households,” wrote the Washington Post’s Neil Irwin in a Jan. 2, 2010, review of comparative economic data. “But since 2000, the story is starkly different.”

As the Post article and its accompanying graphs showed, the last decade’s sad story wasn’t just limited to the abysmal job numbers. U.S. economic output slowed to its worst pace since the 1930s, rising only 17.8 percent in the 2000s, less than half the 38.1 percent increase in the despised 1970s. Household net worth declined 4 percent in the last decade, compared to a 28 percent rise in the 1970s. (All figures were adjusted for inflation.)

Despite this record of economic failure from Bush’s reprise of Reaganomics – trillions more in government debt but no net increase in jobs or household wealth in the last decade – many Americans appear to have learned no lessons from either the Bush-43 presidency or Reagan’s destructive legacy. Any thought of raising taxes or investing in a stronger domestic infrastructure remains anathema to significant segments of the population still enthralled by the Tea Party.

Indeed, across the mainstream U.S. news media, it is hard to find any serious – or sustained – criticism of the Reagan/Bush economic theories. More generally, there is headshaking about the size of the debt and talk about the need to slash “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare. Instead of paying heed to the real lessons of the past three decades, many Americans are trapped in the Reagan/Tea Party narrative and thus repeating the same mistakes.

‘Voodoo Economics’

The U.S. political/media process seems resistant to the one of most obvious lessons of the past three decades: Simply put, Reaganomics didn’t work. As George H.W. Bush once commented – when he was running against Reagan in the 1980 primaries – it is “voodoo economics.”

Yet, the fact that the United States has embraced “voodoo economics” for much of the past three-plus decades and refuses to recognize the statistical evidence of Reaganomics’ abject failure suggests that the larger lesson of this era is that the U.S. political process is dysfunctional, a point driven home by the recent Tea Party-led government shutdown and threatened debt default.

In the decades that followed Reagan’s 1980 election, the Right has invested ever more heavily in media outlets, think tanks and attack groups that, collectively, changed the American political landscape. Because of Reagan’s sweeping tax cuts favoring the rich, right-wing billionaires, like the Koch Brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife, also had much more money to reinvest in the political/media process, including funding the faux-populist Tea Party.

That advantage was further exaggerated by the Left’s parallel failure to invest in its own media at anything close to the Right’s tens of billions of dollars. Thus, the Right’s outreach to average Americans has won over millions of middle-class voters to the Republican banner, even as the GOP enacted policies that devastated the middle class and concentrated the nation’s wealth at the top.

So, even as American workers struggled in the face of globalization and suffered under GOP hostility toward unions, the Right convinced many middle-class whites, in particular, that their real enemy was “big guv-mint.”

Though Obama won the presidency in 2008, the Republicans didn’t change their long-running strategy of using their media assets to portray the Democrats as un-American. The Right waged a relentless assault on Obama’s legitimacy (spreading rumors that he was born in Kenya, he was a secret socialist, he was a Muslim, etc.) while a solid wall of Republican opposition greeted his plans for addressing the national economic crisis that he inherited.

The Rise of the Tea Party

Like previous Democrats, Obama initially responded by offering olive branches across the aisle, but again and again, they were slapped down. In mid-2009, Obama wasted valuable time trying to woo supposed Republican “moderates” like Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine to support health-care reform. Meanwhile, Republicans filibustered endlessly in the Senate and whipped their right-wing “base” into angrier and angrier mobs.

Initially, the GOP strategy proved successful, as Republicans pummeled Democrats for increasing the debt with a $787 billion stimulus package to stanch the economic bleeding. The continued loss of jobs enabled the Republicans to paint the stimulus as a “failure.” There was also Obama’s confusing health-care law that pleased neither the Right nor the Left.

The foul mood of the nation translated into an angry Tea Party movement and Republican victories in the House and in many statehouses around the country. Gradually, however, a stabilized financial structure and a slow-healing economy began to generate jobs, albeit often with lower pay.

Obama could boast about sufficient progress to justify his reelection in 2012, with most voters also favoring Democrats for the Senate and the House. However, aggressive Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts helped the GOP retain a slim majority in the House despite losing the popular vote by around 1½ million ballots.

But the just-finished budget/debt showdown has shown that the Tea Party’s fight over America’s political/economic future is far from over. Through its ideological media and think tanks, the Right continues to hammer home the Reagan-esque theory that “government is the problem.”

Meanwhile, the Left still lacks comparable media resources to remind U.S. voters that it was the federal government that essentially created the Great American Middle Class – from the New Deal policies of the 1930s through other reforms of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, from Social Security to Wall Street regulation to labor rights to the GI Bill to the Interstate Highway System to the space program’s technological advances to Medicare and Medicaid to the minimum wage to civil rights.

Many Americans don’t like to admit it – they prefer to think of their families as reaching the middle class without government help – but the reality is that the Great American Middle Class was a phenomenon made possible by the intervention of the federal government beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing into the 1970s. [For one telling example of this reality — the Cheney family, which was lifted out of poverty by FDR’s policies — see Consortiumnews.com’s “Dick Cheney: Son of the New Deal.“]

Further, in the face of corporate globalization and business technology, two other forces making the middle-class work force increasingly obsolete, the only hope for a revival of the Great American Middle Class is for the government to increase taxes on the rich, the ones who have gained the most from cheap foreign labor and advances in computer technology, in order to fund projects to build and strengthen the nation, from infrastructure to education to research and development to care for the sick and elderly to environmental protections.

In other words, the only strategy that makes sense for the average American is to reject the theories of Ronald Reagan and the Right. Rather than seeing the government as “the problem” and higher taxes on the rich as “bad,” the American people must come to understand that, to a great extent, government has to be a big part of the solution.”


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth'” are also available there.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/19956-focus-the-abject-failure-of-reaganomics

 

Is the Tea Party Over?

The answer all depends on what you mean when you say the words ‘Tea Party.’

From:AlterNet

In a word, “No!”  In many words:

By:Adele Stan

“There’s a new parlor game in your nation’s capital, played by reporters and pundits who begin with a single question: Is the Tea Party dead? Endlessly entertaining to ponder, it’s a question whose answer depends on your definition of the Tea Party movement.

Are you talking about the 900 grass-roots Tea Party groups in 2010 whose numbers have now dwindled to 600? Or the popularity of the movement among most Americans?

Or do you measure the “Tea Party” as a marketing plan by the right wing in its 50-year quest to bend the Republican Party to its will and bring the nation to its knees?

Miss Uncongeniality

The new year kicked off with a poll that brought a smile to progressive faces: Rasmussen Reports, the Republican-tilting polling firm, found membership in the Tea Party movement among likely voters to have plummeted [3] to a mere 8 percent. That’s a steep drop from 2010 when, just after the passage of the health-care reform law, Rasmussen reported 24 percent of respondents calling themselves Tea Party members.

Even worse for those who don the tricorn hat is Rasmussen’s finding [3] that half of the likely electorate now views the Tea Party unfavorably, while only 30 percent express a favorable opinion of the movement. So, game over, right?

Not quite. The day after Rasmussen released its numbers, Roll Call, a sort of trade publication for political types, ran a story [4] with the title, “Tea Party Re-Flexes Its Muscle,” about the coming battles in Washington over the debt ceiling and spending, and fearsome threats by Tea Party groups to Republicans who dare to compromise with the president.

Muscle-Flexing or Rigor Mortis?

The difficulty in assessing the viability of the Tea Party movement lies in a range of available metrics that are in conflict with each other.

In the 2012 Senate races, the Tea Party failed pretty miserably, throwing its weight behind such self-immolating figures as Todd “legitimate rape” Akin and Richard “gift from God” Mourdock.

Yet, in the House, most of the Tea Party members elected to Congress in 2010 held onto their seats. One need only look at the fate of legislation floated by House Speaker John Boehner — a measure dubbed “Plan B” that would have extended the Bush-era tax cuts on all but those with an annual income of more than $1 million — to see the power of the Tea Party crowd under the Capitol dome.

How can it be that a movement rejected by 70 percent of the electorate continues to hold such power? The answer is two-fold: gerrymandering and the threat of the primary challenge.

Primary Punishment

There’s little doubt that the Tea Party movement is a bit of a mess these days, with grassroots activists sometimes shunning the label [4], while the astroturf groups that organized them grapple with internal tension.

FreedomWorks, until recently chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is riven by internecine warfare between Armey and two staffers who functionally run the organization: President Matt Kibbe and Vice President Adam Brandon. (Mother Jones has the goods, here [5].) FreedomWorks was instrumental in organizing protests against the health-care reform bill, and in delivering a “power center,” in Brandon’s own words, of Tea Party-allied lawmakers to the Senate in 2010, through the power of the primary challenge. When FreedomWorks chose Rand Paul to challenge Trey Grayson in the Kentucky Republican primary for U.S. Senate, its candidate defeated the pick of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in his own state.

Americans For Prosperity, the other major player on the Tea Party landscape and the pride of right-wing sugar daddies Charles and David Koch, is said to be in reassessment mode after the failures of the 2012 elections. Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Glueck report [6] that:

…sources say AFP’s 2012 efforts, in which it spent $140 million on a combination of ads and on-the-ground organizing, are being reviewed as part of a broader Koch-network-wide audit that could result in funding changes in the billionaire brothers’ political operation [7].

Yet in the same article, Vogel and Glueck note that although AFP has reportedly let go of much of its field staff, Tim Phillips, the group’s president, says he is considering involving the group more explicitly in primary races.

While FreedomWorks, Americans For Prosperity and Tea Party Express are the national groups that come to mind when discussing the Tea Party, there’s another player less wed to the brand that is at least as responsible for the primary-challenge strategy that has given the movement its primary punch: the Club for Growth.

On the day after the 2012 election, four glum-looking right-wing leaders gathered before a podium at the National Press Club at the behest of Richard Viguerie, an old hand at fundraising for right-wing movements.

In his opening remarks, Viguerie repeatedly used language that wed the Tea Party to the broader conservative movement, and disparaged what he called “the Republican establishment” for lining up behind Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee.

“Far from signalling a rejection of the Tea Party or grassroots conservatives, the disaster of 2012 signals the beginning of the battle to take over the Republican Party and the opportunity to establish the GOP as the party of small government and constitutional conservatism,” Viguerie said.

As evidence of his movement’s strength, Viguerie listed a number of Tea Party-allied Republican politicians, including the newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Rep. Trey Radel of Florida. Of the 14 pols cited by Viguerie as proof of Tea Party/conservative muscle, only one, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, was elected without backing from the Club for Growth.

A recent article [8] by Politico’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen reveals the Club’s role in electing what the cohort dubbed “the hell no caucus” by the reporters, by directing its largess to contested Republican primaries, and betting on the most conservative contender. From Politico [8]:

Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, a veteran of two wars and with a pair of Harvard degrees, got a pleasant surprise last year that helped him win a very competitive Republican primary — and then a very easy general election. It was a FedEx envelope full of checks that he didn’t ask for, from a group he hardly knew — the Club for Growth.

Tucked inside that envelope and several to come were $300,000 in checks from Club members, enough to help lift the 35-year-old former Army captain from obscurity — and 47 percentage points down in his first internal poll — to the fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building.

Among the right-wing leaders who spoke at the Viguerie press conference was L. Brent Bozell III, who was careful to note that he appeared not in his guise as president of the Media Research Center (the post for which he is best known), but as the chairman of ForAmerica, his political advocacy organization. At the National Press Club event, Bozell articulated an agenda, characterized as mandatory for any Republican, crafted in language that appeared to come directly from Club for Growth literature — especially the austerity plan described as “cut, cap and balance” (meaning, cut and cap spending, and balance the federal budget).

In case Mitch McConnell missed the horse’s head at the foot of his bed when his hand-picked Senate candidate was vanquished by Rand Paul in the 2010 primary, Bozell’s group is now running ads [9] accusing the Senate’s top Republican of “selling out,” according to a report [9] by Amanda Terkel in the Huffington Post, for signing on to the deal that allows the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on the incomes of wealthy taxpayers.

The Redistricting Ruse

The gerrymandering of congressional districts is nothing new, and both parties do it. But with record numbers of governors’ mansions and state legislatures in G.O.P. hands — the result of decades of work by the organized forces of the right — and the ruthlessness with which Republicans have shown themselves willing to manipulate the vote, the ritualredrawing of districts [10] that follows the national census resulted in landscape so skewed that Republicans held onto a majority of seats in the House of Representatives even though Democrats won the majority of votes by a margin of 1.1 million [11].

In North Carolina, for example, it would have taken three times as many votes for a Democrat to win a House seat as it did for a Republican, according to this chart [12] by Mother Jones’ Jaeah Lee.

With congressional districts drawn in such hyper-partisan ways, each uber-Republican congressional district becomes such a festering little petri dish of intramural competition at primary time that the launching of a primary challenge is not such a heavy lift, especially if the Club for Growth sends you a FedEx mailer full of checks. The primary becomes the real contest, since the districts are drawn to comprise mostly people who would never vote for a Democrat, meaning that these districts are made up of the most rightward-leaning voters — low-hanging fruit for a right-wing primary challenger.

In this way, I’ve argued before, the right wing of the G.O.P. acts as a virus on the body politic, injecting its DNA into the host body of the Republican Party which, thanks to the combination of extremely partisan redistricting and the willingness of a right-wing minority within to attack party leaders, then spreads the malicious effects of the virus on the rest of the nation.

A Brew By Any Other Name...

When the Tea Party first emerged on the scene, celebrated as a bright, shiny new object by the corporate media, we at AlterNet were not taken in. This was nothing more, we said, than a new brand stamped on the same movement once known as the New Right, a force that first made its presence felt in the failed 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, and reached a crescendo in the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Take Viguerie, for example. In 1961, he served as the first executive secretary of William F. Buckley’s Young Americans for Freedom, and by 1965 had launched his first strategic marketing firm for the right. He went on to help found the religious right in the late 1970s, after failing to win the presidential nomination of George Wallace’s American Independence Party.

Instrumental in helping Reagan win the presidency through his prowess as a direct-mail marketer, Viguerie became known as Reagan’s “postmaster general.” Also instrumental in Reagan’s victory was the organizing of white, right-wing Christian evangelicals through the Moral Majority, a group Viguerie helped to found.

On September 11, 2009, the day before the Tea Party movement first took to the streets of Washington in a show of force, Viguerie was already on the scene, in a Washington, D.C., hotel meeting room, conducting a free workshop in political organizing for Tea Partiers who had come to town for the march. Attendees were given a bright yellow nylon drawstring sack emblazoned with the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake of the Gadsden flag, and a free copy of Viguerie’s book, America’s Right Turn.

He’s just one of many right-wing leaders who saw the potential of the early Tea Party protests as a rebranding vehicle for the right. Dick Armey, sitting at the helm of FreedomWorks, surely did, as did Americans for Prosperity’s Tim Phillips, the former business partner of Ralph Reed, who served as executive director of the Christian Coalition during that group’s heyday. And a PAC once known as America Deserves Better renamed itself the Tea Party Express.

So, is the Tea Party dead? The brand itself may be on the wane, but the forces that made it strong have not gone away. After all, there’s money to be made in consulting fees and big-ticket salaries at the top of the right’s non-profits. (Sen. Jim DeMint recently left the U.S. Senate to take the top post at the Heritage Foundation, where he will reportedly earn $1 million per year.)

And there’s still work to be done in purging the Republican Party of any politician who might wish to strike a deal on anything that might be beneficial to the broadest base of the American electorate — work that Viguerie and his allies have been doing for the last half-century.

“The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today, and the failed Republican leadership should resign,” Viguerie said at his press conference the day after the American people re-elected President Barack Obama. “But of last night’s disaster comes some good news, however; conservatives are saying never again are we going to nominate a big-government, establishment Republican for president. And what’s more, we won’t have to.”

Call it the Tea Party, or call it something else, the right has gotten its hooks into the body politic, and it’s not letting go anytime soon.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/tea-party-over?akid=9921.123424.4wXQ84&rd=1&src=newsletter776253&t=4

 

What’s actually in Simpson-Bowles

From: the Washington Post, via NewsObserver

By: Erza Kline

“An important fact to keep in mind in the coming days: The “Bowles plan” that House Speaker John Boehner endorsed is not the same as “the Simpson-Bowles plan.” Indeed, it’s not even the plan supported by its apparent namesake, Erskine Bowles, who insists that he was simply sketching out the evident middle ground between the members of the “supercommittee.”

The Simpson-Bowles plan– which Erskine Bowles, the former University of North Carolina president, does actually support – occupies strange territory in Washington: Almost every politician professes to admire it, almost none of them is willing to vote for it and almost none of its supporters know what’s in it. So here, with an assist from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are a few facts to keep in mind about the Simpson-Bowles plan. And while you’re reading this list, remember: Simpson-Bowles is a centrist proposal.

1. Simpson-Bowles ends the George W. Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000. And note that it does that before it reforms the tax code. The expiration of the tax cuts is built into its baseline. That way, its reform of the tax code starts from a revenue level that includes the revenue from those upper-income tax cuts.

2. There are a lot of tax increases in Simpson-Bowles: $2.6 trillion over 10 years, to be exact. That’s more than President Barack Obama ever proposed. It’s way more than the Republicans have ever proposed. It’s $1.8 trillion more than in the “Bowles plan” that Boehner is proposing. Think about that: To follow the Simpson-Bowles recommendation on taxes, you’d have to take the $800 billion Boehner is proposing and then raise taxes by more than the $1.6 trillion Obama is asking for.

3. There are so many tax increases that the plan’s ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes is nearly 1-to-1. According to CBPP calculations, Simpson-Bowles includes $2.9 trillion in spending cuts and $2.6 trillion in tax increases. That’s 1.1-to-1. If you add the $800 billion in projected interest savings to the spending side, then it’s 1.4-to-1.

4. Simpson-Bowles taxes capital gains and dividends as normal income. The key difference between Simpson-Bowles tax reform and the reform plans we heard about through the election is that Simpson-Bowles eliminates the preferential rate on capital gains and dividend income. That amounts to a huge tax increase on the rich, and it’s how Simpson-Bowles manages to lower rates while raising revenue and retaining progressivity.

5. Charities, homes, health care and states. Simpson-Bowles turns the deductions for charitable contribution and mortgage interest into non-refundable tax 12 percent credits. It caps the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care and then phases it out entirely by 2038. It eliminates the exemption for state and local bonds.

6. Simpson-Bowles raises the gas tax by 15 cents. Just saying.

7. Congress has already passed 70 percent of the discretionary cuts. Under the Budget Control Act, discretionary spending will be $1.5 trillion lower from 2013 to 2022 than was projected in the Congressional Budget Office’s 2010 baseliner. That means that 70 percent of Simpson-Bowles’s cuts to discretionary spending are done.

8. Simpson-Bowles cuts national security spending by $1.4 trillion, not including drawing down the wars. That’s far deeper than what’s in the law now, far deeper than anything the White House or the Republicans have proposed, and deeper, I believe, than the sequester cuts that so many think would devastate the military.

9. The Social Security changes. Simpson-Bowles makes three main changes to Social Security. It increases the taxable maximum on income to 90 percent of all income, which raises $238 billion over the next decade. It uses a different measure of inflation to slow cost-of-living adjustments. It raises the retirement age to 68 in 2050 and 69 in 2075.

10. Paul Ryan voted against Simpson-Bowles. And so, for the record, did Dave Camp and Jeb Hensarling, the other two House Republicans on the commission. Of the House Democrats, John Spratt voted for the proposal, and Xavier Becerra and Jan Schakowsky voted against. Among the senators, it was just the reverse: All three Republicans (Tom Coburn, Judd Gregg and Mike Crapo) voted for it, as did two of the three Democrats (Dick Durbin and Kent Conrad). Max Baucus voted against it.

11. Simpson-Bowles went down in the House, 382 to 38. In March, Reps. Jim Cooper and Steve LaTourette brought a modified version of Simpson-Bowles to the floor. This incarnation of the proposal was actually quite a bit to the right of the original, including smaller tax increases and defense cuts. It failed, and failed big.

These 11 facts should shed light on a couple of Washington’s enduring mysteries.

First, it should be fairly clear why the White House figured Simpson-Bowles was a nonstarter. The Obama people thought that if they endorsed it, Republicans would oppose it en masse, and hang every unpopular tax increase and spending cut around the White House’s neck. In retrospect, I think the White House miscalculated here, but it’s easy to see why it made the decision it did. The proposal that the White House ultimately released included far fewer tax increases and security spending cuts than Simpson-Bowles.

Second, as popular as Simpson-Bowles is among the CEO community and on Wall Street, most of those folks don’t know what’s in it. Wall Street, for instance, doesn’t tend to be hugely supportive of taxing capital gains as normal income.

Third, Republicans may want to associate themselves with Erskine Bowles, and they may want to attack Obama for not doing enough to support Simpson-Bowles, but they want nothing to do with Simpson-Bowles itself. After all, Boehner could have endorsed the Simpson-Bowles plan rather than the “Bowles plan,” and that would have won him huge plaudits in the media, and many more friends in the CEO and Wall Street communities, at least at first. But he didn’t, and, from his perspective, for good reason.”

The Washington Post

Ezra Klein is a columnist at The Washington Post.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/12/08/2531318/whats-actually-in-simpson-bowles.html

 

Just the Facts: Churches and the Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

Misinformation on how the rules works has leaked into the media. For instance, pro-life and religious groups continue to claim the rule would force employers to pay for drugs that cause abortion, which the administration says is not the case.

From: Truthout

N.B.: Se

By:Mike Ludwig

“The Obama administration‘s recent decision to require all employers, with the exception of churches and places of worship, to cover contraceptives in health care plans continues to cause a firestorm of controversy. House Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Thursday that the rule is unconstitutional. Catholic bishops continue to call the rule an “attack” on “religious liberty” and are calling on the administration to broaden the exemption and Congress to pass a law that could overturn it. The administration, however, is standing firm on its decision.

Misinformation on how the rules works has leaked into the media. For instance, pro-life and religious groups continue to claim the rule would force employers to pay for drugs that cause abortion, which the administration says is not the case. Senior White House officials held a conference call with reporters on Thursday to clear up any misunderstandings. Here’s a rundown of the most important facts according to those who actually wrote the rule:

  • Under the Affordable Care Act, employers and private insurance providers will be required to provide reproductive preventative services, including birth control and other contraceptives, to women who choose to use them. The services are free of charge at the point of service and provided without co-pays, deductibles and cost-shares.
  • Nonprofit organizations that “primarily” exist to spread their religious values and primarily serve and employ people who share those values are exempt from the rule. This means that churches and houses of worship are exempt, but religiously affiliated schools and hospitals that serve and employ people of different faiths are not exempt.
  • Officials said that some parochial schools could qualify for the exemption if they exist to teach religion and primarily serve and employ fellow believers.
  • The rule applies only with private health insurance and does not require individual practitioners to provide contraceptive.
  • Most women use contraceptives in their lifetime, including 98 percent of Catholic women. (Meanwhile, 100 percent of Catholic bishops are men.) The average woman uses contraceptives for 30 years of her life at a cost of $30 to $50 per month.
  • The policy does not cover drugs that cause abortion, such as RU-486.
  • Twenty-eight states already require contraceptive coverage. North Carolina, New York and California have identical religious exemption standards and other states have no exemptions at all.
  • There is no list of specific institutions that are exempt but institutions must meet the above requirements. There is no application for the exemption, and an institution must use the requirements to evaluate itself and then notify its insurance provider that it is exempt.
  • Administration officials said they are working with states on enforcing the rule.
  • After taking public comments, the administration decided to give some religious nonprofits, including those that employ people of other faiths, one year to comply with the rule.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.truth-out.org/just-facts-churches-and-contraceptive-coverage-mandate/1328214331