A few days after the Democratic electoral sweep this past November in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere, The Washington Post asked a random Virginia man to explain his vote. The man, a marketing executive named Toren Beasley, replied that his calculus was simply to refuse to calculate. “It could have been Dr. Seuss or the Berenstain Bears on the ballot and I would have voted for them if they were a Democrat,” he said. “I might do more analyses in other years. But in this case, no. No one else gets any consideration because what’s going on with the Republicans—I’m talking about Trump and his cast of characters—is stupid, stupid, stupid. I can’t say stupid enough times.”
Count us in, Mr. Beasley. We’re with you, though we tend to go with dangerous rather than stupid. And no one could be more surprised that we’re saying this than we are.
We have both spent our professional careers strenuously avoiding partisanship in our writing and thinking. We have both done work that is, in different ways, ideologically eclectic, and that has—over a long period of time—cast us as not merely nonpartisans but antipartisans. Temperamentally, we agree with the late Christopher Hitchens: Partisanship makes you stupid. We are the kind of voters who political scientists say barely exist—true independents who scour candidates’ records in order to base our votes on individual merit, not party brand.
This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).
Of course, lots of people vote a straight ticket. Some do so because they are partisan. Others do so because of a particular policy position: Many pro-lifers, for example, will not vote for Democrats, even pro-life Democrats, because they see the Democratic Party as institutionally committed to the slaughter of babies.
We are not motivated by the belief that Republican policies are wrongheaded. We agree with many traditional GOP positions.
We’re proposing something different. We’re suggesting that in today’s situation, people should vote a straight Democratic ticket even if they are not partisan, and despite their policy views. They should vote against Republicans in a spirit that is, if you will, prepartisan and prepolitical. Their attitude should be: The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans.
For us, this represents a counsel of desperation. So allow us to step back and explain what drove us to what we call oppositional partisanship.
To avoid misunderstanding, here are some things we are not saying. First, although we worry about extremism in the GOP, that is not a reason to boycott the party. We agree with political analysts who say that the Republicans veered off-center earlier and more sharply than the Democrats—but recently the Democrats have made up for lost time by moving rapidly leftward. In any case, under normal circumstances our response to radicalization within a party would be to support sane people within that party.
Nor is our oppositional partisanship motivated by the belief that Republican policies are wrongheaded. Republicans are a variegated bunch, and we agree with many traditional GOP positions. One of us has spent the past several years arguing that counterterrorism authorities should be granted robust powers, defending detentions at Guantánamo Bay, and supporting the confirmations of any number of conservative judges and justices whose nominations enraged liberals. The other is a Burkean conservative with libertarian tendencies and a long history of activism against left-wing intolerance. And even if we did consistently reject Republican policy positions, that would not be sufficient basis to boycott the entire party—just to oppose the bad ideas advanced by it.
One more nonreason for our stance: that we are horrified by the president. To be sure, we are horrified by much that Trump has said and done. But many members of his party are likewise horrified. Republicans such as Senators John McCain and Bob Corker and Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse, as well as former Governors Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, have spoken out and conducted themselves with integrity. Abandoning an entire party means abandoning many brave and honorable people. We would not do that based simply on rot at the top.
So why have we come to regard the GOP as an institutional danger? In a nutshell, it has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law. Those assaults, were they to be normalized, would pose existential, not incidental, threats to American democracy.
Future generations of scholars will scrutinize the many weird ways that Trump has twisted the GOP. For present purposes, however, let’s focus on the party’s failure to restrain the president from two unforgivable sins. The first is his attempt to erode the independence of the justice system. This includes Trump’s sinister interactions with his law-enforcement apparatus: his demands for criminal investigations of his political opponents, his pressuring of law-enforcement leaders on investigative matters, his frank efforts to interfere with investigations that implicate his personal interests, and his threats against the individuals who run the Justice Department. It also includes his attacks on federal judges, his pardon of a sheriff convicted of defying a court’s order to enforce constitutional rights, his belief that he gets to decide on Twitter who is guilty of what crimes, and his view that the justice system exists to effectuate his will. Some Republicans have clucked disapprovingly at various of Trump’s acts. But in each case, many other Republicans have cheered, and the party, as a party, has quickly moved on. A party that behaves this way is not functioning as a democratic actor.
The second unforgivable sin is Trump’s encouragement of a foreign adversary’s interference in U.S. electoral processes. Leave aside the question of whether Trump’s cooperation with the Russians violated the law. He at least tacitly collaborated with a foreign-intelligence operation against his country—sometimes in full public view. This started during the campaign, when he called upon the Russians to steal and release his opponent’s emails, and has continued during his presidency, as he equivocates on whether foreign intervention occurred and smears intelligence professionals who stand by the facts. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has confirmed his nominees, doggedly pursued its agenda on tax reform and health care, and attacked—of course—Hillary Clinton.
We don’t mean to deny credit where it is due: Some congressional Republicans pushed back. Last year, pressure from individual Republicans seemed to discourage Trump from firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and probably prevented action against Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Moreover, Republicans as a group have constrained Trump on occasion. Congress imposed tough sanctions on Russia over the president’s objections. The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted a serious Russia investigation under the leadership of Richard Burr. But the broader response to Trump’s behavior has been tolerant and, often, enabling.
The reason is that Trump and his forces have taken command of the party. Anti-Trump Republicans can muster only rearguard actions, which we doubt can hold the line against a multiyear, multifront assault from Trump and his allies.
It is tempting to assume that this assault will fail. After all, Trump is unpopular, the Republican Party’s prospects in this year’s midterm elections are dim, and the president is under aggressive investigation. What’s more, democratic institutions held up pretty well in the first year of the Trump administration. Won’t they get us through the rest?
Perhaps. But we should not count on the past year to provide the template for the next three. Under the pressure of persistent attacks, many of them seemingly minor, democratic institutions can erode gradually until they suddenly fail. That the structures hold up for a while does not mean they will hold up indefinitely—and if they do, they may not hold up well.
Even now, erosion is visible. Republican partisans and policy makers routinely accept insults to constitutional norms that, under Barack Obama, they would have condemned as outrageous. When Trump tweeted about taking “NBC and the Networks” off the air (“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked”), congressional Republicans were quick to repudiate … left-wing media bias. In a poll by the Cato Institute, almost two-thirds of Republican respondents agreed with the president that journalists are “an enemy of the American people.” How much damage can Trump do in the next three years? We don’t know, but we see no grounds to be complacent.
The optimistic outcome depends to some degree on precisely the sort of oppositional partisanship we are prescribing. For Trump to be restrained going forward, key congressional enablers will need to lose their seats in the midterm elections to people who will use legislation and oversight to push back against the administration. Without such electoral losses, the picture looks decidedly grimmer.
Finally, we might not be talking about just three more years. Trump could get reelected; incumbent presidents usually do. In any event, he is likely, at a minimum, to be renominated for the presidency.
That’s because Trump has won the heart of the Republican base. He may be unpopular with the public at large, but among Republicans, nothing he and his supporters said or did during his first year in office drove his Gallup approval ratings significantly below 80 percent. Forced to choose between their support for Trump and their suspicion of Russia, conservatives went with Trump. Forced to choose between their support for Trump and their insistence that character matters, evangelicals went with Trump.
It’s Trump’s party now; or, perhaps more to the point, it’s Trumpism’s party, because a portion of the base seems eager to out-Trump Trump. In last year’s special election to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, Republican primary voters defied the president himself by nominating a candidate who was openly contemptuous of the rule of law—and many stuck with him when he was credibly alleged to have been a child molester. After initially balking, the Republican Party threw its institutional support behind him too. In Virginia, pressure from the base drove a previously sensible Republican gubernatorial candidate into the fever swamps. Faced with the choice between soul-killing accommodation and futile resistance, many Republican politicians who renounce Trumpism are fleeing the party or exiting politics altogether. Of those who remain, many are fighting for their political lives against a nihilistic insurgency.
So we arrive at a syllogism:
(1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
(2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
(3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
If the syllogism holds, then the most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold.
The off-year elections in November showed that this is possible. Democrats flooded polling places, desperate to “resist.” Independents added their voice. Even some Republicans abandoned their party. One Virginia Republican, explaining why he had just voted for Democrats in every race, told The Washington Post, “I’ve been with the Republicans my whole life, but what the party has been doing is appalling.” Trump’s base stayed loyal but was overwhelmed by other voters. A few more spankings like that will give anti-Trump Republicans a fighting chance to regain influence within their party.
We understand why Republicans, even moderate ones, are reluctant to cross party lines. Party, today, is identity. But in the through-the-looking-glass era of Donald Trump, the best thing Republicans can do for their party is vote against it.
We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.
Republicans despise America’s poor and jobless. The GOP made that perfectly clear by repeatedly denouncing them and cutting food stamps and unemployment benefits. But last week, Republicans revealed that they also hate hard-working Americans!
Republicans condemned President Obama for proposing to extend mandatory overtime pay to more workers. The GOP doesn’t believe that Americans who work longer hours should be paid more.
Unlike the GOP, the vast majority of Americans believe extra effort should be rewarded. They cherish the idea that their country is one where those who work hard can get ahead. In recent years, however, the actual experience of far too many Americans is that doesn’t happen. They work 50, 60, even 70 hours a week and don’t get paid extra for it. These are not high-roller managers or executives or professionals who don’t expect time and a half for overtime. These are hourly wage earners. President Obama signed an executive order last week to require employers to pay more workers overtime, to stop corporations from devaluing both hard work and an important American principal.
Overtime pay has a long tradition in the United States. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called for Congress to create a federal standard for overtime pay during the Great Depression. He proposed it along with other then-radical ideas like requiring a minimum wage and prohibiting child labor. These were contained in legislation called the Fair Labor Standards Act.
He sent it to Congress 77 years ago with the admonition: "A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling workers’ wages or stretching workers' hours." Just like now, Republicans opposed it.
Before overtime, President Roosevelt had to create a standard work week. He chose 40 hours – five eight-hour days – which labor unions and worker activists had been seeking for more than a century. They contended that each laborer who worked 8 hours also deserved 8 hours for rest and 8 hours for family and community.
Under President Roosevelt’s plan, workers who labored more than 40 hours in a week would receive one and a half times their hourly wage for each extra hour. Extra work would be rewarded. Another benefit would be increased employment. The overtime pay requirement encouraged employers to save money by hiring more workers, who would be less costly at straight-time wages.
The law passed in 1938 with Republicans still sputtering and protesting. Presidents updated it over the decades, most recently George W. Bush. As might be expected from a Republican, his changes denied overtime pay to as many as 8 million workers. Bush did that by enabling corporations to easily classify more workers as managers and professionals exempt from the extra pay requirements.
Now, 10 years later, low-paid, clearly non-managerial workers are suffering. A fry cook who spends 10 percent of her time instructing new hires may be classified as a supervisor and denied overtime pay for the 15 extra hours the restaurant requires her to put in every week. A computer repairman with a two-year tech school degree could be classified as a professional and earn less than minimum wage when his salary is divided by the 60 hours a week he’s routinely required to work.
Also, employers can refuse to pay overtime to workers who earn as little as $455 a week, a salary far below historical levels for overtime exemption. That figure – $23,660 a year – is the federal poverty level for a family of four, hardly the comfortable professional or managerial salary that traditionally justified denial of overtime pay.
“Americans don’t expect a free lunch,” President Obama said when he signed the order last week telling the Labor Department to write new rules to ensure that those who deserve overtime pay get it. He added: “If you’re working hard, [and] you’re barely making ends meet, you should be paid overtime.” That is what Americans believe.
Still, right wing-talk show hosts, Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner and the nation’s largest business lobby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all cried crocodile tears that corporations just couldn’t pay workers a fair wage for extra work.
In fact, they can. Both corporate profits and productivity are high. Since the mid-1980s, corporate profits have soared, setting post-World War II records. Overall productivity grew 74.5 percent between 1979 and 2012.
Wages, however, stagnated in that 33 year period, rising just 5 percent. Workers are more productive. Their labor is creating record profits. But they’re not benefitting. President Obama believes their hard work should be rewarded. Fixing problems with overtime pay will help. It’s part of his “Opportunity for All” program.
When President Obama announced the plan to protect workers from overtime exploitation, Nancy Minor, vice president of United Steelworkers Local Union 10-1 in Philadelphia, was there. As she stood with a group of workers behind the president, he told them her story. He said that since Ms. Minor’s divorce 16 years ago, she has been able to raise and support four children because she received overtime pay from the oil refinery where she works.
“For more than 75 years, the 40-hour work week and the overtime that comes with it have helped countless workers like Nancy get ahead,” the President said, “And it means that when she’s asked to make significant sacrifices on behalf of her company – which she’s happy to do – they’re also looking out for her, recognizing that that puts a strain on her family and – having to get a babysitter and all kinds of things, adjustments that she has to make. It’s just fair. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Ms. Minor, who has worked for the Sunoco refinery, now Philadelphia Energy Solutions, for 22 years, went to Washington to attend the event because she believes all Americans deserve good jobs with overtime pay. “I want to make sure every worker has the same opportunity,” she said.
Americans believe overtime pay is fair pay. Steelworkers like Ms. Minor receive it because their collective bargaining agreements require it. But untold millions of American workers don’t have that kind of protection. President Obama believes they should.
AlterNet If you’re among the millions of Americans who feel bypassed by the economic recovery, you should pay attention to what the GOP-controlled Congress says it wants do to the federal government—via the 2016 budget—because if Republicans get even a fraction of what they have proposed, your living standards will start sliding downhill.
This is the takeaway from economists and experts who know how to ignore the right wing’s ridiculous rhetoric about freedom and opportunity, and instead see exactly who will be hurt, and how that will unfold—if the GOP rips the floor out of virtually every federal social safety net, as they propose, and also raises taxes on already struggling lower wage earners, which they also propose.
“The simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer,” wrote Paul Krugman, The New York Times’columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist. “We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.”
The GOP-controlled House and Senate budgets not only drastically cut spending on education, retirement, environment, road and bridges, climate change, immigration, job creation, Obamacare, food stamps, and other social welfare programs; but it gives the Pentagon a blank check, and includes tax cuts for the rich and corporations while raising taxes for lower-income Americans. That’s the analysis by the National Priorities Project (NPP), not just Krugman, and they make an even more disturbing point.
In almost every one of these budget areas, nationwide polls show that a majority of Americans strongly oppose what the GOP is proposing. In other words, the Republicans are not delivering the kind of federal government that Americans want; they are declaring economic war on average Americans by reshaping government to serve the upper classes and biggest businesses.
What follows is a summary of the NPP’s analysis, with its documentation, showing that Repubicans are brazenly ignoring public opinion and national needs—which isn’t just anti-democratic but reveals how deeply corrupt the modern GOP has become.
1. Bleed domestic programs to death.The budget is broken down into various areas that are reviewed separately, starting with domestic discretionary spending. This includes education, energy, environment, housing, job training and more. The White House wants modest increases in these areas in 2016. Polls show that Americans want more investment in infrastructure, climate change, the economy, immigration, and support higher tax revenues for these priorities. The GOP propose to freeze current spending or cut it back by hundreds of billions of dollars starting next fall, adding up to $5 trillion in cuts over the next decade.
2. Who needs new or better jobs? Two-thirds of Americans say improving job prospects is a key issue facing Washington. Obama wants to spend about half a trillion dollars over the next six years on road and bridge upgrades, research and development, and give tax credits to new manufacturers. The House and Senate budgets propose “no new funding” in these areas, NPP said, with the Senate saying that “reduced spending and regulation will indirectly lead to job creation.”
3. Who needs a good education? The same-size majority that wants to see more and better jobs, also wants to see Congress improve access to education. The White House wants to expand federal subsidies from pre-school through high school, and spend $60 billion to provide two years of community college for free over the next decade. Republicans propose the opposite. The House wants to cap federal Pell grants, which are awarded to low-income people for college and graduate school. That means “financial aid to fewer families,” NPP said. It also wants “substantial cuts” to discretionary education programs. The Senate is as bad. NPP said its budget has “no new funding for education,” and “unspecified cuts to domestic discretionary spending could mean cuts to education.”
4. Who needs healthcare anyway?Obamacare may have its problems because it relies on private insurers to be middlemen, but since its inception11.7 million people have gained access to healthcare and millions have subsidized premiums. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks healthcare trends, reports that 56 percent of Americans want Congress to expand, improve and implement the law. Obama wants “small tweaks” in 2016, NPP said, whereas the House and Senate still obsess with repealing it entirely.
5. Next on the chopping block: Social Security. Here, too, even cautious pollsters like the Pew Research Center, report that 66 percent of Americans want to strengthen the program—which, contrary to GOP rhetoric, isn’t an “entitlement,” but the government acting as a retirement bank for decades of payroll deductions. Both chambers have already begun to attack a small part of Social Security that helps people with disabilties, saying they want to weed out fraud and cut payments. Meanwhile, the House wants a commission created to “study the program’s problems,” as NPP put it. The GOP agenda is not expanding payments to make life easier, but cutting senior benefits while allowing young people to give their payroll deductions to Wall Street.
6. Privatize Medicare, health care for seniors. Medicare is the federal government health plan for people age 65 and older. It is not free, but costs significantly less than private health insurance. Pew reported that 61 percent of Americans want this system fortified and improved. Obama wants to raise premiums for wealthy retirees, start co-payments for home health care, and allow the federal government to negotiate for lower drug costs, NPP said. The House GOP would also raise premiums for wealthier people, but starting in 2024 if would offer people a lump-sum payment to end their coverage, so they could theoretically buy private insurance. They also would ban the government from negotiating lower drug prices. Both of those proposals are giveaways that take money out of seniors’ pockets and give it to corporations. The Senate GOP simply says it wants to cut about half a trillion dollars from Medicare over the next decade, but doesn’t say how or where those cuts would be. That's pretending no one would be hurt.
7. Kick 7 Million Poor People Off Medicaid. Medicaid is the state-run health program for low-income people. Under Obamacare, before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states don’t have to implement this part of the law, the federal government planned to give every state grants to allow all poor people to get coverage through Medicaid. Even though almost all red states have not helped millions of residents this way, 7 million Americans have gotten access to health care through this Obamacare reform. Sixty-two percent of Americans believethat this Medicaid expansion should continue.
The White House wants to keep it that way and start a project where Medicaid recipients would be able to access new long-term care options, which comes into play when people no longer can take care of themselves. The House GOP doesn’t just want to repeal Obamacare, kicking millions off this health plan, NPP reports, but it would cut overall Medicaid spending and turn the program—along with SCHIP (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program)—into one block grant. That scenario all-but ensures that health care for poorer families will shrink. The Senate GOP, as with Medicare, says trillions must be cut, “but does not specify how,” NPP reports.
8. Our century’s version of “Let Them Eat Cake.” Those infamous words were attributed to France's queen in the late 1700s, when commenting about impoverished countrymen. Today, in America, the food stamp program (SNAP) tries to ensure that nobody goes hungry, and is supported by 70 percent of the public. The White House wants to continue it and make applying easier for seniors, NPP reports. The House GOP, in contrast, would make “deep cuts to SNAP” and turn it into a grant to states, where legislators might not even use the funds for food aid. The Senate GOP merely says food stamps should be on the list of programs that will yield $4.3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.
9. But give the Pentagon more blank checks. Sixty-three percent of Americans say the Pentagon spends the “right amount or too much on national security," NPP reported, citing a Gallup poll. The White House wants to increase the defense budget by more than half a trillion dollars in 2016, which NPP said would make it “the highest base budget in history.” The House Republican budget writers say that’s not enough, however, and seek to use loopholes in war funding laws to add several hundred billion more over the next decade. The Senate GOP essentially rubber stamps that approach, offering no specifics.
10. And use the excuse of endless war to do it.Even though 85 percent of the public is afraid that getting involved in the civil wars in Syria and Iraq will be long and costly, the White House wants $51 billion in additional wartime funding in 2016, and another $5.3 billion to fight the Islamic State (ISIS). Not to outdone by Obama, the House GOP proposes spending an additional $90 billion next year, NPP reports, while Senate GOP wants about $60 billion more on top of the baseline Pentagon budget.
11. Corporate taxes are still too high, right? That’s not what 66 percent of Americans told the Gallup poll, which the White House sort of acknowledges. Obama, trying to reach some deal with Republicans on tax reform, would lower the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, and 25 percent for domestic manufacturing, NPP reports. But the White House also would impose fees on Wall Street speculators to raise “$112 billion over 10 years,” close loopholes that let companies park billions overseas tax-free, and impose a 14 percent tax on that cash. House Republicans, in contrast, have only proposed lower rates for corporations and small businesses, NPP said, and nothing to recapture outsized wealth. The Senate GOP hasn't proposed any corporate tax changes.
12. And the rich can’t afford to pay, either? In January, 68 percent of Americans polled said wealthy households aren’t paying a fair share in taxes. Obama’s budget would try to rebalance that by raising the capital gains tax—on investment income—to 28 percent, and close loopholes that only the wealthiest Ameicans can exploit, such as avoiding inheritance taxes, which would raise $208 billion in a decade, NPP reports. Obama also would implement a minimum tax rate for the richest people, and close a big loophole for Wall St. hedge fund managers, which would raise an additional $17.6 billion over a decade.
The House GOP, in contrast, only wants to lower tax rates “for individuals and familes,” NPP said, and eliminate the “Alternative Minimum Tax that sets a minimum tax for the wealthy.” The Senate GOP, as is the case with corporate taxes, hasn’t proposed any tax changes for the wealthy individuals, suggesting that the status quo works fine for them.
13. But working class and poor must pay more. In a January poll, 91 percent of Americans said that middle-class households paid enough or too much in taxes, and 79 percent said the same for low-income households. Obama’s response to these sentiments is to increase tax credits for all poor people—with and without children—and give a tax credit to students to help pay for college.
Both House and Senate GOP go in the opposite direction, phasing out two tax credits that now lower taxes for 13 million families, NPP reported. Their budgets allow “the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) to expire in 2017, raising taxes on more than 13 million working families.” In other words, the GOP won't touch taxes for the rich, but will raise them on the poor.
14. Why Krugman called all of this a “con game.”In politics, there’s always a publicly given reason why something is proposed and the real motive, which is not stated. The GOP’s public rationale for these devastating cuts is their sanctimonious obsession with lowering the federal deficit, which makes them pretend to be responsible stewards. About two-thirds of the public say that reducing federal borrowing is a good idea. Obama has cut annual deficits bymore than 50 percent since he took office, fact checkers have found. Obama’s 2016 budget would continue this, cutting about half a trillion next year, and $1.8 trillion over the next decade.
But deficit reduction is not what is going on here. The House and Senate Republican budgets actually would cut less money from next year’s deficit—about $350 billion—than Obama, NPP said, and then decrease domestic spending by more than $5 trillion dollars over the next decade to “balance” the budget. What's going on is the GOP wants to cut back the federal government to roughly where it was before the Progressive era began a century ago, when government helped the rich get richer and there were no safety nets.
“Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements,” Krugman wrote. “What you’re left with us huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, would would see big tax cuts.”
Krugman said this wasn’t Republican extremism as usual, but a declaration of economic warfare on behalf of wealthy Americans at the expense of everyday Americans who want, and expect, more from federal government.
“Look, I know that it’s hard to keep up with the outrage after so many years of fiscal fraudulence,” he concluded. “But please try. We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.”
The National Priorities Project’s budget analysis underscores that the GOP’s proposals aren’t just corrupt—a vast giveaway to the wealthy people and interests who fund their campaigns—but are fundamentally anti-democratic. Poll after poll report that a majority of Americans want Congress to invest in education, road and bridges, jobs, climate change, immigration, healthcare reform, retirement security, safety nets for the poor and vulnerable, and raise taxes on those who can easily afford to pay a fairer share.
Astoundingly, congressional Republicans not only oppose every one of those goals, but their budget proposals, if enacted, would undeniably make life harder for average Americans, millions of whom would slide down the economic ladder toward poverty.
You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class. That was true under George W. Bush, who sharply cut tax rates on the top 1 percent and tried to privatize Social Security. It has been equally true under President Trump; G.O.P. legislative proposals show not a hint of the populism Trump espoused on the campaign trail.
But as a terrible, no good, very bad tax bill heads for a final vote, something has been added to the mix. As usual, Republicans seek to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable, but they don’t treat all Americans with a given income the same. Instead, their bill — on which we don’t have full details, but whose shape is clear — hugely privileges owners, whether of businesses or of financial assets, over those who simply work for a living.
And this privileging of nonwage income isn’t an accident. Modern Republicans exalt “job creators,” that is, people who own businesses directly or indirectly via their stockholdings. Meanwhile, they show implicit contempt for mere employees.
More about that contempt in a moment. First, about that tax bill: The biggest-ticket item is a sharp cut in corporate taxes. While some of this tax cut might trickle down in the form of higher wages, the consensus among tax economists is that most of the break will accrue to shareholders as opposed to workers. So it’s mainly a tax cut for investors, not people who work for a living.
And the second most important element in the bill is a tax break for people whose income comes from owning a business rather than in the form of wages. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has evaluated the Senate bill, which the final bill is expected to resemble. It finds that the bill would reduce taxes on business owners, on average, about three times as much as it would reduce taxes on those whose primary source of income is wages or salaries. For highly paid workers, the gap would be even wider, as much as 10 to one.
As the Center’s Howard Gleckman notes, this might mean, for example, that “a partner in a real estate development firm might get a far bigger tax cut than a surgeon employed by a hospital, even though their income is the same.” (Yes, a lot of the bill looks as if it were specifically designed to benefit the Trump family.)
If this sounds like bad policy, that’s because it is. More than that, it opens the doors to an orgy of tax avoidance. Suppose that I could get The Times to stop paying me a salary, and instead to pay the same amount to Krugmanomics LLC, a consulting firm consisting of one person — me — that sells opinion pieces. I would probably get a big tax break as a result.
Now, the bill will contain complicated rules intended to limit such gaming of the system, and they’ll probably prevent me personally from taking advantage of the new loophole. But as Gleckman says of these rules, “some may fail and some may work too well” — that is, deny the tax break to some business owners who really should qualify. On average, however, they’re likely to fail: a lot of revenue will be lost to those who game the system. Think about it: We’re pitting hastily devised legislation, drafted without hearings over the course of just a few days, against the cleverest lawyers and accountants money can buy. Which side do you think will win?
As a result, it’s a good guess that the bill will increase the budget deficit far more than currently projected. And meanwhile, after all those promises Republicans made about simplifying our tax system, they’ve actually made it far more complicated.
So why are they doing this?
After all, the tax bill appears to be terrible politics as well as terrible policy. Cutting corporate taxes is hugely unpopular; even Republicans are almost as likely to say they should be raised as to say they should be lowered. The Bush tax cuts, at least initially, had wide (though unjustified) popular support; but the public overwhelmingly disapproves of the current Republican plan.
But Republicans don’t seem able to help themselves: Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can’t contain it.
When I realized the extent to which G.O.P. tax plans were going to favor business owners over ordinary workers, I found myself remembering what happened in 2012, when Eric Cantor — then the House majority leader — tried to celebrate Labor Day. He put out a tweet for the occasion that somehow failed to mention workers at all, instead praising those who have “built a business and earned their own success.”
Yes, it was just a gaffe, but a revealing one; Cantor, a creature of the G.O.P. establishment if ever there was one, had so little respect for working Americans that he forgot to include them in a Labor Day message.
And now that disdain has been translated into legislation, in the form of a bill that treats anyone who works for someone else — that is, the vast majority of Americans — as a second-class citizen.
Unions have been fiercely attacked since their emergence in the United States during the Industrial Revolution.
While it is true that labor unions have had their own set of unique and troubling problems, ranging from insufficient organization to outright corruption, the most harrowing 0pposition they have faced throughout history has been from the business class and the government, from powerful capitalists like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller to presidents like Woodrow Wilson during the “Red Scare” and Ronald Reagan throughout his time in office.
Attacks on unions have taken various forms — from strange propaganda about the menace of “Big Labor”, to accusations of communism, to using the police force to stamp out strikes, to firing workers who protest low wages and terrible working conditions.
But, regardless of how they approach them, it is abundantly clear that many businesses and pro-business politicians see unions as a serious threat to their interests; which is correct.
The political wing most opposed to unions is, unsurprisingly, the Republican party.
As Paul Waldman observes, Republicans hate unions so much that they’re willing to fight against a corporation if it’s union-friendly.
Unions, in a fundamental sense, give workers a voice.
Without the ability to organize, workers are isolated and subject to the whims of their masters — the bosses, the managers, the CEOs.
Unions help workers to fight for decent wages, safe working conditions, and fair hours. They help workers fight for the benefits they need and deserve.
All of the above is why today’s so-called “conservative” politicians, for the most part, despise unions, and wish, much like Scott Walker and Chris Christie, to do away with them entirely.
The disdain Republicans show for labor unions is one of the most telling signs of their utter subservience to corporate interests.
They want corporations to have complete control over their work force; they want them to have the ability to exploit workers for more hours, while paying them less and granting them fewer benefits, allowing executives to reap the gains of increased productivity without paying the costs. All in the name of the American Dream, of course.
But for obvious reasons, the discussion of unions is never framed in this way.
Republicans understand that, if they say the above, they will lose support among much of their working class base, who deal with the same problems as the working class base of the left: stagnation of wages, reduction of benefits, and so on.
So, they, along with their corporate partners, have to peddle absurd propaganda, over-inflating the problems of unions, ensuring workers that unionization hurts them in the long run.
They relentlessly push the idea of “Right to Work,” a phrase Orwell would have appreciated.
“Right to Work” laws essentially state that workers can reap the benefits of unions fighting for higher wages and more benefits, but they don’t have to pay union dues.
The concept may sound good rhetorically, but in effect, “Right to Work” removes the incentive of workers to pay union fees (why pay if I can get the benefits for nothing?), slowly but surely gutting union funding altogether, which is undoubtedly a major goal.
“Right to Work” laws also, somewhat ironically, because of the fact mentioned above, create the “free-rider” problem that Republicans so often cite when railing against social welfare programs.
I certainly agree with those who say that unions must work to fix their problems and flaws, but this is true of any organization.
Take corporations. I have never heard a politician say that corporations should be eliminated altogether because many of them are corrupt and dangerous. In fact, the corruption of corporations is infinitely worse than the corruption of unions, for reasons too obvious to state.
So here is a fundamental inconsistency in the Republican position.
Corporations do far more harm — to workers and to society at large — than unions could ever do, yet Republicans fight unions as if they were the scourge of the earth.
And the reason is quite plain: Many of today’s most influential Republicans care only to serve the interests of the mega-rich.
Anything that gives workers bargaining power, like unions and various social policies, is inherently contradictory to elite interests. So these things must be opposed, by definition.
To be fair, the Democratic party has generally done a terrible job proposing and supporting policies that empower workers, too, as the political spectrum shifts to the right, and as more politicians see the benefits of taking the support of massive banks and corporations over that of organized labor.
Democrats are, of course, quite happy to take campaign donations from “Big Labor,” but that’s about it.
“What can Labor do for itself? The answer is not difficult. Labor can organize, it can unify; it can consolidate its forces. This done, it can demand and command.” — Eugene V. Debs
The progress that unions have made and battles they have fought and won over the years, despite powerful opposition, have been extraordinary, and Republicans and business elites are rightly scared of more union victories in the future.
The battle for the rights of workers goes back a long way, and the battle has been fought by some of the United States’ most beloved historical figures, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Martin Luther King Jr.
In fact, as John Nichols points out, Dr. King died while supporting the right of public employees to organize labor unions and to fight for the preservation of public services.
Unions, and the empowerment of the working class generally (which is the empowerment of the masses) is a serious threat to the status quo, and as such, the attack on unions continue, with devastating effects.
Although the use of violence is no longer an option for businesses looking to crush worker organizations (another victory organized labor has won, incidentally), the robust and endless propaganda campaign continues to convince the masses to vote against their own interests, electing politicians who care about nothing outside of serving their corporate donors, leaving workers increasingly powerless.
Thus, we come to the fact that union membership in the United States continues its steady decline, despite the fact that some polling data indicates that much of the public views labor unions in an increasingly favorable light.
The decline of union membership is particularly pronounced in the private sector, as The Economist reports:
“Only 6.6% of private-sector workers are union members—down from more than 30% in 1960.
And, with the decline in union membership comes the decline in the middle class, the stagnation of wages, the decline of healthcare benefits, the decline of working conditions, and, overall, the decline of workers’ ability to bargain with their corporate managers, leaving them to be easily exploited and manipulated.
The assault on unions is not only terrible for workers, it’s terrible for the world.
As the meager power left in the hands of workers is slowly stripped away, we will continue to witness the wanton destruction carried out by massive, government-subsidized corporations worldwide, corporations which express little concern about the fact that they are destroying the planet and the lives of millions, so long as their bottom line continues to show that all-too-crucial six letter word, the word that is the sole driver of the powerful in today’s ‘New Gilded Age’: PROFIT.
The struggle for the rights of workers is representative of the struggle against injustice in a broad sense. With a new trade agreement (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) threatening to strengthen the assault on the working class, this fact cannot be neglected.
The Republican Party wants to undo the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and what is left of the New Deal. Many Republicans hated FDR when he was alive. They hate him still. They refuse to accept that he saved capitalism and that he genuinely believed that the government had a duty to serve 100 percent of the country’s citizens, not only the 53 percent, or the 2 percent or the 1 percent.
According to a recently leaked video, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a closed-door fundraiser in May that he thinks 47 percent of Americans are deadbeats who consider themselves “victims.” In doing so, Romney revealed that he stands with his party’s Social Darwinists and shares the worldview of fiction writer Ayn Rand.
As political scientist Alan Wolfe writes, that view “boils down to two propositions. One is that selfishness is the highest of moral virtues. The other is that the masses, above all resentful of success, are parasites living off the hard work of capitalists far superior to them in every way.”
This current Republican leadership believes the U.S. should return to the laissez-faire days of the 1920s when, in spite of the post-World War I boom, more than half of the country’s population was living below a minimum subsistence level and without any safety nets for the recurring economic crises.
The federal government did not intervene when the cycles of boom and bust ruined the lives of many Americans (including former Vice President Dick Cheney’s grandfather and great-grandfather).
Between the starting point of the Depression in late 1929 and the 1932 election of FDR, Republican President Herbert Hoover’s response was one of “dismal pessimism.” He appeared so overwhelmed by the Depression that one observer remarked, “If you put a rose in Hoover’s hand, it would wilt.”
Hoover held to the conventional wisdom of the day that the crisis would simply have to resolve itself and that the government had no responsibility to do anything about it.
As Lawrence Davidson writes: “In the 132 years between 1797 and 1929, there was no effective regulation of the U.S. economy. No federal agencies existed to control corruption, fraud and exploitation on the part of the business class. Even during the Civil War, economic management on a national level was minimal and war profiteering common.
“As a result the country experienced 33 major economic downturns which impacted roughly 60 of the years in question. These included 22 recessions, four depressions, and seven economic ‘panics’ (bank runs and failures). …
“The Great Depression was a real moment of truth for the capitalist West because it suggested to the open-minded that the free-market ideology was seriously flawed. Free-market practices had brought the economic system to the brink of collapse, and Russia’s newly triumphant communists represented serious competition.
“So the question that had to be answered was how best to modify the capitalist system so as to preserve the position of the ruling elite. It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who came up with an answer, at least for the United States.
“Through a series of economic and social experiments he crafted the New Deal and promoted the notion of the welfare state … this was not socialism. In essence, the New Deal was capitalism with safety nets and subsidies…
“It has been 67 years since the end of WWII and during that time there have been 11 recessions impacting only 10 years of that time span. Most of these recessions have been mild affairs compared to the 33 that came prior to the onset of the Great Depression, and the welfare safety net has helped the hardest hit to survive. However, since the 1980s, the U.S. economy has become more unstable and some of the downturns more severe.”
The Great Recession that began in late 2007 follows Ronald Reagan’s deregulation fervor of the 1980s and fits more with the pattern of the pre-New Deal days. Now, the Republicans, in effect, want to impose a Herbert Hoover-style response to th ecurrent crisis by getting rid of President Barack Obama and electing Mitt Romney.
In the Republicans’ mythological age of the 1920s, there was great prosperity, which is true, but it was a prosperity that primarily benefited the rich. Wealth did not “trickle down” any better then than it has since the 1980s. In the 1920s in rural America, for example, nine out of every ten families lived without electricity.
The authoritarian and elitist Republicans don’t want Americans to know this history (particularly since the New Deal put the Democrats in power from 1933 until 1952 and the party was the dominant influence until 1968) or to know that GOP conservative policies helped create the Great Depression as they did the current Great Recession (admittedly, in the latter they had help from those Democrats who have forgotten history as well).
Republicans reject government intervention as a threat to “liberty.” They define “liberty” as the right for the powerful to get what they want, when they want, and how they want it with no restrictions. Today’s Republicans want a return to the rule of privilege. No questions asked; no accounting required.
The Democratic Party needs to remember this history and its lessons, lessons that are relevant to the 2012 election.
That history tells us that at a moment of great crisis eight decades ago, a man who could not walk led a crippled nation out of the Great Depression and then brought the United States to the threshold of victory in World War II.
In doing this, Roosevelt changed the federal government’s relationship to its people, creating a modern governing structure for a nation that soon would take the center of the world stage.
FDR’s New Deal saved capitalism from itself and laid the foundation for America’s Great Middle Class, which, in turn, drove the U.S. economy to unprecedented success and broad prosperity. Today’s Republican Party doesn’t want Americans to know this.
how many times do i have to tell the truth?,.i guess as many times the fascist/conservatives tell lies ,. ?,.Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.
All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.
Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.
Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.
Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.
Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s would still be sitting in the dark)
He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.
He turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, “We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have”.,.[its #10 on the list of 14 signs you are a fasisct/conservative but its #1 as far as im concerned,.]