"There’s just no room for meaningful compromise here thanks to our old friend taxes. As you’ll recall, Republicans don’t want to raise them and they especially object to raising taxes on high income individuals. They want to lower taxes on high income individuals. It is true that sometimes (1999-2000) they want to do this to avoid a dangerous budget surplus while at other times (2001, 2008-10) they want to do it as economic stimulus while at yet other times (2003-7) they want to do it as a long-term growth strategy or (2011-2013) as a tax simplification strategy. But the policy ask—lower taxes, especially on rich people—doesn’t change."

From Matthew Yglesias at Slate.

So true. Surplus? Give it back to Americans with lower taxes. Economic slowdown? Stimulate the economy with lower taxes. Budget deficit? Increase revenue somehow by lowering taxes.

Don’t forget, too, that the GOP used to looooooooooove stimulus. Remember the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, when Bush tried to avoid a recession by giving everyone $300? Just gave people free money. 

Remember in 2006, when gas prices were high? Senate Republicans’ solution was to give everyone $100. Just give people free money. (this ultimately never happened, but the fact that it was floated as an actual GOP solution speaks volumes).

And yet during our “Great Recession”, Obama’s stimulus wasn’t to just GIVE people money. It was to borrow money (with historically low interest rates that basically makes it free), and spend that money on infrastructure and public projects that the government tends to fund anyway. So roads and bridges are fixed, electrical grids repaired, and millions of people are given a job, with pay, to fix and repair all these things. Not $300, or $100, but a JOB. Which gives them an income, which they then spend, which increases demand, which increases employment, all of which increases tax revenue without raising tax rates, thus lowering the deficit. And then we pay back that borrowed money 1-for-1 (thanks to low interest rates). And we’re left with full employment, a stronger infrastructure, and low low budget deficit.

To the GOP, smart stimulus is a freedom-destroying idea. Maybe Obama should have just suggested we give everyone $300?

We knew that the GOP would instantly be against everything Obama was about when he won election in 2008. Part of the way they decided to do that was take the state of the nation during the recession - in which unemployment was high, resulting in increased use of welfare programs - and claim it’s Obama’s plan all along.  

Unemployment insurance, food stamps, and the like are a safety net. They’re the sprinklers that turn on when there’s a fire in the building. The GOP decided to cast Obama as one who believes the sprinklers should ALWAYS BE ON, and cites the fact that they’re still on (because of a slow recovery, IMO because the GOP killed Obama’s jobs plan because of “spending”) as evidence.

It’s ridiculous, yes. But you could see where it was leading years ago, and it’s only getting worse: a vilifying of the poor. In order to be “against” an imaginary Obama that believes welfare benefits should be plentiful and never-ending, they have forced themselves to be against those who genuinely need them (again, because of the slow recovery made possible in part by GOP obstruction). Moochers, takers, lazy couch-sitters eating caviar and steak on their wide-screen TVs and their Obama Phones.

Maybe they don’t hear themselves, but when you see it all at once - like in the segment above - it sure does make the right sound like a bunch of douche canoes.

The House, as 80s Screwball Comedy

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Let’s say there’s a school, Adams School. This school is made up of 100 students, an exclusive mix of Jocks and Nerds. Jocks tend to favor Jock policies, like an upgraded scoreboard, bigger school weight room, and protein shakes available in the lunchroom. Nerds tend to favor Nerd policies, like increased participation in math competitions, a wider variety of science textbooks, and better access to pocket protectors. But the two sides do tend to agree on other policies that benefit all.

How does Adams decide which policies to enact? It allows its student body to represent itself. The school votes for one President to preside over the entire student body. But there’s also a Student Council, made up of 10 representatives. Each one represents a Homeroom class of 10 students. Jocks vote for Jocks, Nerds for Nerds.

Let’s take this little world and see if we can’t see what’s so crazy about this shutdown nonsense, shall we?

MAJORITY RULES?

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Currently, there are 55 Nerds and 45 Jocks at Adams. When the election was held, Nerd Gilbert Lowe won the presidency with 55% of the vote over Jock Stan Gable. With that sort of majority school-wide, you’d expect the Student Council to be composed of 6 Nerds and 4 Jocks. Or at least split 5-5.

Curiously, the Student Council has gone the other way: 6 Jocks and 4 Nerds. Looking at the overall make-up of the school, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. But here’s what’s going on.

GERRYMANDERING

For a procedural reason, every few years it’s up to either the Jocks or the Nerds to decide which Homeroom each student attends (and will vote from). Just leaving it to random chance, odds are you’d get a pretty even collection of classrooms. A few more Jocks in Homeroom A, a few more Nerds in Homeroom B, and so on, so that the average ratio across Homerooms matches that of the student body as a whole.

However, this time around, the Jocks had an idea. First, they took 30 of the 55 total Nerds and put them in Homerooms A-C, all together. 100% Nerds in those three classes. Those Homerooms will vote Nerd all the way, without a doubt.

Then, the Jocks took 20 Jocks and put them in Homerooms D and E. Those are 100% Jock, voting Jock.

Lastly, the Jocks took the remaining 25 Nerds and 25 Jocks and split them up so that the remaining 5 Homerooms go 4-1 for Jocks, even though there are the same number of each left.

Homeroom Breakdown

A - 10 Nerds
B - 10 Nerds
C - 10 Nerds
D - 10 Jocks
E - 10 Jocks
F - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
G - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
H - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
I - 4 Nerds, 6 Jocks
J - 9 Nerds, 1 Jock

So in a school that is 55% Nerd, the Jocks have crafted the Homerooms to give themselves an electoral advantage in the Student Council elections. 55 votes went to Nerds for Student Council, over 45 for Jocks, and yet Jocks won 2 more spots! They nominate one of their six to become Speaker of the Council. And it’s the Jock Speaker that decides what the Council will vote on.

HASTERT RULE

Normally, when a policy is proposed, it’s up to the Student Council to vote on it. There are Jock-favored policies and Nerd-favored policies, but there are also policies that are pretty simple and are either favored or killed with a clear majority.

Unfortunately, with the current situation the way it is, the Jocks in the Student Council have adopted a procedure named after a Jock of yore, Dennis “The Meat” Hastert. The Hastert Rule says that the Speaker of the Council may NOT bring any vote to the floor that won’t get all 6 Jock votes. It’s not an actual rule, but rather a way for the Jocks to present a unified front against Nerd President Gilbert.

So say the vote for a new weight room comes up. The Nerds are united against it, the Jocks united for it. So the Speaker brings it to a vote, because all 6 Jocks favor it. Bill passes.

But if there’s a Nerd issue, like new science textbooks, that the Nerds (school-wide) unanimously support, the Speaker won’t even bring it to the floor, because the Jocks don’t support it at all. Nerd issue doesn’t even see the light of day.image

Unfortunately, this can also apply for issues that share support on both sides. Say all the Nerds and 2 of the Jocks want More Parking Spaces outside the school. According to the Hastert Rule, the Jock Speaker WILL NOT bring that issue to the floor for a vote, even though a majority of the Student Council supports it. It’s because it’s not uniformly supported by the Jocks that the issue dies.

THE D (and E) PARTY

There are a small faction of Jocks, about 20 or so, that HATE President Gilbert. They don’t believe he should be President. They’ve questioned whether he’s even eligible (maybe he’s an illegal transfer, or his classes have never included athletics). These Jocks have been the most vocal, and have declared that they don’t want a SINGLE Nerd policy enacted.

A lot of those 20 Jocks are in Homerooms D and E, rendering those two Homerooms the most vocal opponents of President Gilbert. When the two Jocks that represent those Homerooms visit and hear from their ‘constituents’, all they hear is “DOWN WITH GILBERT”. So these two Jocks come into the Council thinking the ‘will of the people’ is exclusively “DOWN WITH GILBERT”. Any policy issue that might come before the Student Council that has the support of Nerds is de facto dead-on-arrival for Homeroom Reps D and E. Even the More Parking Spaces bill, which would pass with a majority on the floor, is loudly denounced by Reps D and E. I mean, if they don’t vote “DOWN WITH GILBERT”, their Homeroom might replace them with a Jock that will.

And because of the Hastert Rule, the Jock Speaker will not bring More Parking Spaces to the floor at all, because it does not have the backing of all 6 Jocks in the Council. Consider that: all Nerds support it, which means at least 55% of the entire school supports it. Add in the 2 Jocks that support it, and the percentage of the student body that supports the More Parking Spaces bill rises even higher. And yet it doesn’t even get a vote by a Student Council meant to reflect the student body’s wishes.

SHUTDOWN

Now, the Jocks (especially the extreme Jocks from D and E) have a specific target: a bill that the Jocks hate, that was passed a few years ago, before the Jocks reworked the Homeroom ratios and took the Student Council. This policy, the More School Nurses Policy, was supported by President Gilbert and passed with a majority vote when the Nerds controlled the Council.

The Jocks don’t like it, so they try to strike it down whenever they get a chance. The Jock Speaker brings countless bills to the floor saying “UNDO THE MORE SCHOOL NURSES POLICY”, because he knows the Jocks will vote for it (lest they get replaced by another Jock in the next election). The Jocks all vote for it, the Nerds all don’t, it passes. Of course, President Gilbert won’t sign these bills, because it was his bill, his idea. So it dies, and no new policy has been enacted. The Jocks know this, but want to be seen as trying to do it again and again.

Now Adams School has a dilemma: it relies on the student council to vote for the Prom Theme and Budget. Last year it was Enchantment Under The Sea, with $200 delegated for streamers, punch, and a DJ. This year, there’s not much disagreement on what the theme will be (Old West!), or what the budget will be ($190). But the Jocks see an opportunity.

Or more specifically, Jocks D and E see an opportunity. They say, “We won’t vote for the Prom Bill unless you get rid of the More School Nurses Program”. The Prom and School Nurses are completely unrelated issues. The Nerds all say, “That’s ridiculous.” Foremost, they’re not going to just agree to dismantle President Gilbert’s signature policy. But second, the idea that Adams’ prom – which will affect just about the entire student body – would be held hostage by two Jocks that are hell-bent on destroying School Nurses is just odd.

Now, if the Speaker brought a simple Prom Bill (Old West, $190) to the floor, it would get a majority vote: 4 Nerds and 2-3 Jocks. But because of the Hastert Rule, the Speaker won’t even consider a “clean” Prom Bill, because two of the Jocks (D & E) have vowed they won’t vote for it. So no prom.

BREAK IT DOWN

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So here’s why the Prom Shutdown is so far from what the school wants or what their representatives should be doing.

- The student body is more Nerd than Jock, yet the Homerooms have been set-up to give Jocks more voice than the Nerds. Thus, the Student Council doesn’t accurately reflect the student body as a whole.

- Additionally, because of the Hastert Rule, the majority-Nerd student body is further disenfranchised, because the only bills that will come up for a vote are bills that have unanimous Jock support. Often, those bills are not Nerd-friendly.

- And even bills that do enjoy a majority support school-wide, bills that would win a majority of Student Council votes, are tabled because of Homeroom Reps D & E.

The result? In a school made up of 55% Nerds, most of the policy decisions for Adams School are made by Homeroom Reps D & E. Two Jock-dominated Homerooms are now, more or less, running the a school with a slight majority of Nerds.

That’s not how this is supposed to work.

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(Yes, this is silly and reductive. It doesn’t account for the Senate, or the idea that people like Ogre can “switch sides” from Nerd to Jock or Jock to Nerd (rendering some Homerooms ‘toss-ups’), or outside money influence and campaign finance incentives for a particular position. But the bottom line is, the House of Representatives was set up to be a reflection of the country as a whole. It’s not, anymore)

A great Maddow segment, pointing out that one of the two parties in Washington isn’t interested in actual policy, just optics.


Sometimes a mop sink is just a mop sink. Building managers and legislative staffers have sought to reassure some concerned Tennessee lawmakers that recent renovations at the state Capitol did not install special facilities for Muslims to wash their feet before praying.

Whew, that was a close one. Another win for FREEDOM!!!!!

Sometimes a mop sink is just a mop sink. Building managers and legislative staffers have sought to reassure some concerned Tennessee lawmakers that recent renovations at the state Capitol did not install special facilities for Muslims to wash their feet before praying.

Whew, that was a close one. Another win for FREEDOM!!!!!

Reality check from Mother Jones.

Reality check from Mother Jones.

It astounds me that so many on the right think (or portray themselves as thinking) that if small businesses have extra money lying around because of low taxes, they’ll automatically go spend it to hire more people.

Business doesn’t hire more employees just because they have the money to do it. They hire more employees to meet increased demand for their product or service.  When the middle- and lower-class citizens don’t have jobs or disposable income, there is little demand. So either the businesses need to unwisely spend money they don’t have to spend just because they have it, or we need to focus on increasing demand.

The GOP is focused on giving money to the rich (Job Creators™) and counting on them to spend the country out of recession and high unemployment. They aren’t doing that. They’re pocketing the money as profit (as any smart business owner would do). So let’s try something else.

The GOP’s Plan

Maddow was on her game last night, covering all the ways in which the GOP - instead of adapting their brand to actually appeal to a majority of voters - is spending its time and money trying to rig the system. 2010 gerrymandering, attempts to distribute electoral votes by congressional district, union busting, voter ID/registration laws.

Seriously, watch the whole thing, if you can.

Nutz

Here are just a few of the conspiracy theories popping up, just today, in my political RSS feed:

- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) suggests the FBI was blackmailing Petraeus to force him to testify favorably in his Benghazi session with Congress.

- The head of Maine’s GOP has suspicions about Obama winning Maine by 100,000 votes: “In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out….”

- American Family Association hack Bryan Fischer has minorities figured outHispanics do not vote Democratic because of the issue of immigration but rather because “they are socialists by nature” who want open borders simply so that they can bring in their families to “benefit from the plunder of the wealth of the United States.”

- Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) suspects the United Nations of trying to take over our gun regulation.

- The Fox News Channel questions the new high jobless numbers, which Fox’s own website attributes to Hurricane Sandy. FNC personalities call the Department of Labor “sketchy”.

- Glenn Beck claims that Obama has intentionally ‘set-up’ General Petraeus in order to discredit the military.

That’s all just this morning in my feed. They’re going all-in on the crazy. But it continues to be all for show.  Because also this morning, we find this little tidbit about John McCain, who has been on the war path questioning Benghazi:

John McCain is calling for more information to Congress, but he had a press conference yesterday instead of going to a closed briefing where administration officials were giving more information. Well, Ted Barrett asked John McCain about that, and it was apparently an intense very angry exchange and McCain simply would not comment on it at all.

Four more years of this? Or are they gearing up for impeachment?

We’re never going to have any serious problem solving if one party thinks it’s right all the time, and when data shows they’re not, they claim it’s a conspiracy covering up the fact that they’re right.