Republican proposals to severely modify Social Security have been getting some play. A large number of today's GOP candidates are openly hostile to what they see as generational transfers of wealth to older folks who might otherwise live in poverty.
It will be interesting to see what will happen next year when newly elected Republicans make their move on the long established retirement program. But the controversy leaves largely untouched another public policy debate. Republicans are proposing moves against the minimum wage. Four of the most outspoken are candidates for the United States Senate.
Linda McMahon (R-CN) acknowledges some positive effects in the past, but promises to fight against any efforts to increase the minimum wage. She says it's time to freeze the level, then consider lowering wage standards. She opposes regulation of business. "The minimum wage now in our country, I think we've set that and a lot of people have benefited from it in our country, but I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage." She hasn't ruled out efforts to wipe out minimum wage completely.
Joe Miller (R-AK) intends to join in a Republican effort to end the minimum wage. His argument is constitutional. "That is not within the scope of the powers that are given to the federal government."
Rand Paul (R-KY) believes the minimum wage, in the long run, has negative social effects. "I think the question you have to ask is whether or not when you set the minimum wage it may cause unemployment."
John Raese (R-WV) will also join the campaign for repeal. "It's an archaic system that has never worked." He says the minimum wage "hasn't solved any problems in 50 years." He opposes the minimum wage because it violates basic economic concepts. "I profess that minimum wage be eliminated and we operate on the laws of supply and demand just like we did before the depression."
Conservative candidates are reviving old arguments that had faded from public discourse. For minimum wage to be high enough to matter, they say, it pretty much has to increase unemployment. Those who can't get an equitable wage on their own can use the opportunity to eventually prove themselves to employers and increase their value in the marketplace.
The original impetus for regulation of wages came from nineteenth century sweatshops, where horrible conditions, long hours, and miserable pay characterized a system widely seen as corrupt and exploitive. The revival of the debate is seen by advocates for the poor as part of a larger Republican effort to bring back pre-Roosevelt days.
The 2010 election campaign may, in the future, be regarded as a watershed, opening to debate questions long considered to be settled.
The bloviate asks, "If our children can buy pornography on any street corner for five dollars, isn't that too high a price to pay for free speech?"
The President answers tersely, "No." The questioner is taken aback. "Really?" So the President expands on his answer. "On the other hand, I think that five dollars is too high a price to pay for pornography."
The President was played by Martin Sheen. Obama wouldn't have gotten away with that answer. Bush wouldn't have had the wit. I did like "The West Wing". The fictional President sustained me through the dark years of Karl Rove rule. In the non-television world, the reality in which we live, the price of free expression is a good deal higher than five dollars.
Last year Muslim Americans, wanting to take a very public stand of solidarity against terrorists, planned a Muslim Center, open to everyone, within blocks of the World Trade Center. At first conservatives, not yet aware of the golden opportunity for putting demagogic flame to gasoline soaked bigotry, warmed to the idea. Who didn't want to put a thumb in the eye of al Qaeda. We had all joined President Bush in wanting to refute the claims of violent seducers of suicide volunteering children, those proclaiming that the destruction of Islam was US policy. That is until conservatives joined in claiming that the war on terrorism was indeed a war on Islam.
Some take what they see as a middle course. Muslims should, out of sensitivity, stop claiming their place as Americans, stop practicing their religion out in front of God and everybody, stop behaving like ... you know ... Muslims. After all, they propose to oppose terrorism very close to where terrorists had struck. And isn't that too high a price to pay for free speech?
Fifteen years ago, 168 people, many of them children, were murdered in a bombing attack inspired by right wing rants from organized conservatives. In more recent days, Byron Williams was arrested after a shootout with police. Two officers were injured. Williams was on his way to murder people who belonged to a public policy group he had heard about while listening to Glenn Beck. He thought that killing a large group of liberal activists would start a revolution. Media Matters is a group started by an apologetic former conservative operative, David Brock. John Hamilton from Media Matters recently interviewed Williams, who was direct about who had inspired him. "I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind."
The interviewer makes the obvious connection. "Since 2008, violent extremists -- many of whom subscribe to the hate speech and conspiratorial fantasies of the conservative media -- have murdered churchgoers in Knoxville, police officers in Pittsburgh, and an abortion provider in Wichita."
Should conservatives curtail their rhetoric out of sensitivity for those who may be endangered by the less lucid of their listeners? Is that danger simply too high a price to pay for free speech?
The question is no longer fiction. The answer is still the same.
When Ralph Bunche died in 1971, he was remembered for a series of diplomatic achievements as Under Secretary General of the United Nations, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1950, and recipient of the Medal of Freedom in 1963. The Nobel came after he negotiated a hard, temporary armistice between the new state of Israel and Arab states. He replicated that success in other areas in the years following, directing successful peace initiatives in the Suez, the Congo, and Cyprus.
But he was probably less known for the things he did than for what was done to him over the years. He was widely hated for being black.
He was in Alabama doing research with a Swedish sociologist for a book on race relations when they were nearly caught by a lynch mob. He later declined a high position in the State Department. He did not want his children raised in the near Jim Crow environment that was Washington, DC.
But his most notorious brush with intolerance came in 1959, when he and his son were told they could not become members in their local country club in New York City, the Forest Hills West Side Tennis Club. His 15 year old son had been taking tennis lessons, and the pro suggested that the pair apply for admission. The President of the club was very sorry, but hundreds of members would resign if a black man and his son were admitted.
Forest Hills was not just any restricted club. Major US tournaments were held there, including Davis Cup matches. It was internationally known. It was a time of change, and club officials, used to traditional ways, were surprised by the controversy that followed. The tennis pro was attacked by several members for his unauthorized invitation to his young student.
I remember one reaction, I don't recall from whom, but it was memorable. "You have to hold the line somewhere. If you let one, just one, of those people in..." the emphasis was on those people "the next thing you know the whole place will be completely overrun by Nobel Prize winners." The protests had their effect. Dr. Bunche and his son were offered memberships which, of course, they turned down.
This week Peter Diamond, an MIT expert in unemployment and housing, won the Nobel Prize in economics. He had done important research in finding out why superbly qualified people often have a hard time finding work when their expertise is needed. Diamond is famous for another reason. President Obama nominated him for the Federal Reserve, who can use an expert on unemployment. That was in April. Republicans have held up the nomination, because Diamond doesn't know enough about economics. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) put it this way: “I do not believe that the current environment of uncertainty would benefit from policy decisions made by board members who are learning on the job.”
Fellow Nobel Prize winner Barack Obama is already in the White House. Republicans are principled public servants courageously taking a stand. You don't want the entire government overrun by qualified people.
While the Nobel Prize for economics is a significant recognition, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not determine who is qualified to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
- - Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), October 11, 2010
On why Republicans will not allow the nomination of Peter Diamond to
the Federal Reserve Board to come to a Senate vote.
At what point do extreme views become simple extremism? We on the left tend to react against guilt by association. But some association is enthusiastic, indicating a predisposition.
If I become close friends with a racist, should my views be regarded as discredited? How about a group of racists? A former racist? How about a former racist who has since become actively pro-civil rights?
If I strike up a friendship with some former left wing radical, would that place me beyond the pale (or pal)? The 2008 effort to discredit then candidate Barack Obama for "palling around" with a former member of a radical group from the 1960s failed. It turned out the group was active when Obama was a little kid, and years later he knew the former radical only through a few mutual, casual friends, including a few Republicans. They crossed paths every once in a while at fundraisers and public events.
If I write for a magazine with a reputation for publishing articles most people would regard as unacceptable, should that prevent me from being considered for public office? What if my writings are themselves abhorrent?
Most folks, I suspect, would want to consider circumstances before drawing conclusions. Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK in his youth. So was David Duke. Byrd repented. Duke did not.
James Russell is the Republican nominee for Congress in Westchester County, New York. He is trying to unseat Democrat Nita Lowey in the 18th District. Some of his advocacy is politically mixed. He wants illegal aliens hunted down and deported. He opposes the war in Iraq. He is against the blockade of Iran. He is for renewal energy.
Sounds pretty moderate for a candidate in today's Republican Party. That is, until we get to his views on race. He writes for The Occidental Quarterly, a publication that opposes integration as a dilution of white purity. He opposes federal Housing policies that he says promote integration. He doesn't like movies that he feels promote interracial relationships, regarding them as a form of "sociobiological warfare" waged by "media moguls who deliberately popularize miscegenation in films." He is critical of any moves for cultural integration, suggesting that "the biological function of human language and culture is just the opposite, that is, to keep discrete groups apart."
Mainstream Republicans are nervous about a number of extreme candidates. Russell is facing some opposition even after securing the Republican nomination. A lot of folks would like the Republican Party to drop him. Russell and his supporters say media attention comes from "hypersensitivity" concerning race. The opposition is far from unanimous. He did win the Congressional primary and some colleagues, like Republican Assembly candidate Tom Bock, enthusiastically support him.
The Republican establishment is counting on Tea Party type enthusiasm to carry them into a legislative majority this year. Things are looking up for them in the short term. If candidates like Russell represent the long term future of the GOP, public acceptance becomes more questionable. Riding the tiger can lead to victory in the short term, but the appetite of the extreme right will continue without end.
The most serious implication of human sexual imprinting for our genetic future is that it would establish the destructiveness of school integration, especially in the middle and high-school years. One can only wonder to what degree the advocates of school integration, such as former NAACP attorney Jack Greenberg, were conscious of this scientific concept. It also compounds the culpability of media moguls who deliberately popularize miscegenation in films directed toward adolescents and pre-adolescents. In the midst of this onslaught against our youth, parents need to be reminded that they have a natural obligation, as essential as providing food and shelter, to instill in their children an acceptance of appropriate ethnic boundaries for socialization and for marriage.
- - James Russell (R-NY), candidate for Congress (pdf), September 20, 2004
On how racial integration harms kids by breaking down ethnic barriers
It's an interesting driving phenomenon here in Missouri, and it brings to mind just why Karl Rove has been so successful in winning Republican elections.
It involves a fairly small subset of white-knuckle drivers, but it happens often enough to inconvenience most of us occasionally. I saw it yesterday while driving my loved one to a family gathering. On the expressway, we approached a large, slow moving truck. As we neared, we watched another driver, tired of following the truck, switch to the passing lane. No problem. We settled behind him.
The passing car got next to the truck, but the driver got scared. I suppose slowing down is a universal reaction to fright. And our white knuckler did exactly that. We went for several miles, no longer passing, just keeping up with the truck. The stuck driver was in the truck's blind spot, too determined to surrender and slow down, too frightened to speed up and actually get past the truck. His fear kept him next to the vehicle that scared him.
It occurred to me that driver will probably vote. Polls show he is likely turned off by the negative campaigning that is permeating Missouri airwaves this year. People generally don't like politicians who simply attack opponents. "I'm right and my opponent is evil." Karl Rove was an early advocate of that sort of attack campaign. There is nothing inherently wrong with contrasting positions. But Rove frequently went beyond traditional smears to vicious falsehood. In 1994 in Alabama his candidate was losing to a strong advocate for abused children. So Rove started a whisper campaign charging that the fellow was a known pedophile. The Rove candidate won, and the tactic became a model for Rove attacks in other campaigns.
Last week, Rove attacked Democrats as the party that "adds arsenic to the nation's political well." He says it can't work. "Personal attacks generally don't work unless they're seen as fair, credible and pertinent." Oh my.
Republicans this year are conducting a murder-suicide campaign that can work in a two party system. The idea is not to make your candidate popular. It is to make the other candidate more unpopular than yours. If everyone hates your side, that's okay, as long as the other side is hated and feared even more. In Missouri, Republican Roy Blunt is widely disliked for his attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and the environment. He really doesn't like unemployed people very much. His attacks on Democrat Robin Carnahan have been ugly. He's not liked for that, either.
Missouri voters want to get past negative campaigning. They don't like Blunt. But Carnahan supports Social Security, Medicare, and the environment. Blunt attack ads don't mention that directly. But voters can't have a free spending, corrupt, big government socialist in office, now can they?
For mile after mile, election after election, white knuckle voters stay in the same spot. Hating negative attacks. Too frightened to vote on the issues.
The great Christian temptation is to think, even for a moment, that God's love does not extend to all of God's children. All.
Nuggets of internet gold
Investing in the stock market turns out to be as bad for private pensions as GOP privatization schemes for Social Security will be. Now multi-employer plans are in more trouble as some financially pressed employers drop out, leaving others to pay for ALL retired employees. The Feds will allow funds to segregate out those funds, and loan enough to get by until good times are back. Taxpayers are spared a future massive bailout by giving pensions time to recover. Ned Williams at WisdomIsVindicated joins Fox News and an extremist email campaign against what they call a union pension bailout. Ned exaggerates the amount loaned by a factor of 20. He claims 165 billion (It's about 8 billion). Ned may have been too busy to find the facts. I'm happy to help. He can look here or here or here.
James Wigderson compares large anonymous donations for Ron Johnson (WI-R) to open and above board small donations for Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and figures they're about the same. A process piece. If James wants to venture toward policy differences, he might begin here or perhaps here.
- David Everitt-Carlson of The Wild Wild East Dailies in Ho Chi Minh City has done some research on a foundation for the children of Vietnam.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for those millions willing and in need of work. Pray that conservatives discover enough heart to help out.
The competing tax cut proposals of national Republicans and Democrats are pretty close, for those with incomes up to $250,000 a year, with Democrats going just a touch overboard with the cuts. Above that, Republicans give huge tax benefits to extremely wealthy people. Democrats, not so much.
Republicans say their cuts will benefit small businesses. So analysts have taken a closer look at those small businesses. Some folks might argue with Republican definitions, but our willingness to entertain such differences help make this great country what ... it ... is ... rapidly ... becoming.
One small business the GOP will help is Bechtel Corporation, "the world’s number one choice for engineering, construction, and project management."
Bechtel is what we would call a successful small business. This little enterprise has offices on several little street corners. If you want to visit each office, you'll want to bring a sandwich, it will take you all day. You may want to start in Frederick, Maryland. From there, you can stop in Washington, DC, then around the corner to McLean, Virginia. McLean is kind of ritzy. Wear your best clothes. Let's see. Oak Ridge, Tennessee should be next. It's on the same side of the country. The Equipment Operations center is in Sugar Land, Texas. That will be kind of on the way to Houston. That's our next stop. We'll jump over to Glendale, Arizona. San Francisco, California will be next. It's semi-on the way to Richland, Washington.
If you think that's one heck of a mom-and-pop shop, just wait. Little Bechtel also has offices on street corners in Australia, Brazil (Rio is such a lively town for a small business), Canada, Chile, that bastion of freedom the People's Republic of China (4 offices there), Egypt, France (think Paris in the spring), India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (South, of course), Libya (not on the terrorist list since President Bush took them off), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur has the neatest skyscraper anywhere), Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia (with 2 offices), Singapore, Taiwan (which we used to call China), Thailand (not to be confused with Tie Land, where John Boehner purchases neck ware), Turkey (Istanbul used to be Constantinople after it was Byzantium), the United Arab Emirates, and business offices on little corners around the United Kingdom.
If you are excited about helping THAT small business, just wait. The little accounting firm of Pricewaterhouse Coopers has offices in more than 150 countries. The Tribune Corporation owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun. Wall Street firms are there, too.
Republicans are not unfair or partisan with small business. In fact, one of the small businesses they promise to help is President Barack Obama himself. Yup. Obama is a small business. A host of movie stars and a whole lot of extremely wealthy individuals who don't know they are small businesses are also among the small businesses Republicans want to help.
Next week Republicans will explain that alarm clocks, driveways, and house flies are also small businesses. You can have a lot of fun with statistics if you apply a little creativity.
We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look.
These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks.
- - Instructions to actors for Republican Attack Ad, September 28, 2010
The "characters" the GOP instructions refer to are West Virginia voters.
The actors are from New York. The ad was made in Philadelphia,
sponsored and paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee
on behalf of John Raese.
Last year, highly principled Republicans - and no I'm not being sarcastic - went on the attack against a rape victim. Three fourths of the Republican members of the United States Senate are on record opposing a law that keeps the government from doing business with corporations that block female employees from filing charges in cases of violent crime.
This was not some theoretical gesture. It involved real incidents. Companies sometimes do illegally threaten to retaliate against victims. The episode that finally triggered enough outrage for action involved a teenager who signed up to go overseas to help against terrorism. The young woman signed what she thought were normal employment papers, was hired by a Halliburton subsidiary and went to Iraq. It was there, at what she took to be a friendly gathering, that she was drugged and raped with such brutality that her body was partially ripped apart. She recovered much later after serious surgery.
Sadly, criminals sometimes corner teenage girls. In a just society, violent rapists get put away. That might have happened in this case as well, but the company decided that the young lady should not press charges. They did not stop at threatening to fire her if she told authorities about the attack. They told her they would make certain she would never ever work in that industry again. Not with any company. And they didn't stop there. They locked her in a storage container. For a day. With guards to keep her from escaping. Armed guards. Without food. Or water. Or medical attention. A cell phone was sneaked to her, authorities found out, and she was rescued.
The position of the giant corporation was that, when she took the job, the teenager signed a paper agreeing to arbitration in any case of disagreement with another employee. By signing, she had agreed to abide by company decisions. They maintained gang rape to be just that sort of dispute.
Jeff Sessions (R-AL) took the floor of the Senate to defend private arbitration as a fair substitute for the law in settling such disagreements. Others said that due process and the Constitution were in danger. The rule would violate equal rights for corporations. Senators criticized the young victim for going to legal authorities rather than going through proper corporate channels.
Senatorial candidate Ron Johnson (R-WI) has suggested similar valid arguments also apply to cases of abuse of small children by church officials. Legislation in Wisconsin called the Child Victims Act would have made it easier for the little victims to sue. The idea was that both perpetrators and the organizations who cover up sex crimes should be liable for damages. Johnson saw this as an abuse of organizations, especially churches. "I believe it is a valid question to ask whether the employer of a perpetrator should also be severely damaged, or possibly destroyed, in our legitimate desire for justice." It is a question of conflicting principles.
The federal law passed. The Wisconsin law did not. Johnson is right on what the question should be. So are the 30 Republicans who sided with the giant corporation against the gang raped teen. That valid question is whether churches or companies who act illegally as accomplices after the fact should share guilt as a result of their active complicity. The decision is whether the rights of victims of crime should override Republican business principles of government non-interference and corporate sovereignty.
This bill could actually have the perverse effect of leading to additional victims of sexual abuse if individuals, recognizing that their organizations are at risk, become less likely to report suspected abuse.
- - Ron Johnson (R-WI), candidate for US Senate, January 12, 2010
On how loyalty to organizations that covered up abuse would prevent
children and parents from taking action.
The President was aggressive as he addressed his friendly audience. He was more than ready to cast blame and take credit for Democratic efforts to "clear up the mess that was dumped in our laps." Those were Franklin D. Roosevelt's words. David Broder was too young to disapprove.
"WELL, here we are together again - after four years - and what years they have been! You know, I am actually four years older, which is a fact that seems to annoy some people. In fact ... there are millions of Americans who are more than eleven years older than when we started in to clear up the mess that was dumped in our laps in 1933."
It is possible there was a bit of malice in his jovial manner. Republicans had campaigned against every initiative. They had opposed minimum wage. They had railed against his economic stimulus programs as wasteful spending. They had fought against Social Security tooth and nail. But it had to rankle when they had gone so far beyond criticizing his liberal policies. They had seized on the theme of personal corruption.
The story, invented by the Breitbarts of those days, was that FDR had ordered a naval destroyer out of combat. He assigned the ship to pick up and transport the family dog, Fala, to keep the President company. This in the midst of desperate war in which lives were lost every day. It was a blood libel.
There had to have been a behind-the-scenes debate about how to respond, perhaps even whether to respond. Similar fictitious assaults in later decades helped to sink candidates such as Dukakis and Kerry. FDR was not going to take accusations lying down, but he also didn't want to legitimize a debate. He found another way.
Roosevelt looked sternly about the gathering. "These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons," he said indignantly. The hall was hushed. Everyone had grown familiar with the increasingly personal attacks. "No, not content with that" ... a dramatic pause ... "they now include my little dog, Fala." The crowd erupted in laughter. As the glee began to ebb, Roosevelt played the audience. "Well, of course, I don't resent attacks," he said, "and my family doesn't resent attacks." He paused again. "But Fala does resent them." More laughter. Soon after, the smears faded to nothing.
I was thinking about little Fala as I read about less lavishly cared for pets here in Missouri. Puppies have been notoriously mistreated in what are called "Puppy Mills." A proposed law requiring minimal standards of care like food, water, and exercise would apply to larger commercial establishments. Those involving ten breeding females or less would not be covered.
In their drive for ideological purity, Missouri conservatives now attack the proposal with typical exuberance. The measure, they say, is part of a hidden regulatory agenda to "to purposefully get rid of the breeders." Even Joe the Plumber is involved in the misrepresentation. "This bill forces breeders to limit the number of dogs they can own - regardless of care." Oh my.
They are not content to make up scary tales about death panels, trying to frighten seniors. They are now trying to terrify ......... Missouri's little puppies.