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Five things we learned from this year’s primaries

Five things we learned from this year's primaries

Through a pandemic, protests and partisanship, voters in all but four states have picked party nominees for November’s general election, setting up the clashes that will determine the shape of American politics over the next two years.

Their choices have sent clear signals about where each party’s electorate stands, and what the two warring factions have in common: Both Democratic and Republican voters want change — though there is little agreement on what, exactly, ought to be changed.

As the first general election ballots go out, here are the lessons we learned from the 2020 primary season:

It’s the year of the woman

A century after the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, women are running for office in record numbers.

The two major parties have nominated 296 women to run for U.S. House seats, blowing away the previous record set in 2018, at 234. Forty-seven districts feature two women running against each other, according to a tally maintained by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.

More women — 60 — ran for seats in the Senate than ever before. Voters in four states — Iowa, Maine, Wyoming and West Virginia — will decide between two female Senate candidates in November.

It helps that both parties are making special efforts to recruit women — albeit for different reasons. Democrats relied on women to win back the House majority in 2018, when 24 of the 43 candidates who flipped Republican-held seats were women. Republicans, who fear a gender gap they cannot overcome, have made a point of recruiting women candidates, though not all have survived their primaries.

All politics is (still) local

It is very hard to beat a sitting incumbent in a party primary. It is easier when that incumbent has lost touch with his or her district.

Eight members of Congress lost bids for renomination this year. In most cases, those who will find themselves out of a job come January were ousted by voters who thought they had gone Washington.

In the midst of a global pandemic, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) did not travel from his Maryland home to his Yonkers-based district for several months. GOP insiders said Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), who lost to conservative activist Lauren Boebert, rarely traveled home.

Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) lost to Cori Bush, who began her political activism in protests against police brutality in the wake of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Bush made an issue out of Clay’s absence from protests this summer over the deaths of Black people in Minnesota and Kentucky at the hands of police.

Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) each lost renomination after breaking with their constituents over hot-button policy issues. Lipinski, perhaps the last anti-abortion rights Democrat in Congress, lost to a progressive activist who had support from major abortion rights groups. Riggleman lost a renominating convention, restricted to only the most die-hard conservative activists, after he had the audacity to preside over a same-sex wedding.

Some of the long-serving incumbents who held off challenges took constituent services more seriously. Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), two more House committee chairs who faced progressive activists in their primaries, each campaigned hard to win another term.

The GOP is shifting right

Some election cycles mark ideological shifts in one party or another. The 1994 wave ushered in a new generation of hard-nosed Republicans in the image of Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The 2010 wave brought the Tea Party to Congress.

This year, a host of Republicans poised to win office in November will make the Tea Party look like genteel moderates.

Boebert is just one of a new brand of arch-conservatives who are likely headed to Congress next year, some of whom have embraced the fringe and fantastical QAnon conspiracy.

In other districts, candidates backed by national Republicans lost primary elections to more conservative challengers. Promising Republican recruits like Pierce Bush in Texas, former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti in Illinois and Earl Granville in Pennsylvania all lost Republican nominations in potential swing districts to more conservative rivals.

The Tea Party’s arrival in Congress ushered in the Freedom Caucus, a group that caused headaches for Republican Speakers John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The next wave of Republicans will make life just as difficult, albeit in a much different way, for GOP leadership.


Trump is everything

President Trump loves touting his support among the Republican base, and he is right. The GOP is held together less by an ideology than to a fealty to their party leader; more Republican-registered voters say they are a supporter of Trump (49 percent) than of the party itself (37 percent), according to a recent poll conducted for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Among candidates running for Congress, that number may be even more skewed.

Trump has appeared in a quarter of all advertisements run by Republican candidates this year, according to data maintained by political scientists who run the Wesleyan Media Project. That is more often than any issue mentioned in GOP ads except taxes.

Trump’s popularity among his party’s core supporters has given him the room to diverge from the ideology that has driven the GOP for decades. He has broken with past Republican presidents on free trade, America’s role in the world, spending and deficits.

Trump’s time in power is limited to either the next few months or the next four and a half years. But even out of office, he is almost certainly not going to give up the Twitter feed that has become his bully pulpit. The party of Trump now is likely to be the party of Trump for years to come.

Absentees are king

The share of Americans who voted by mail has roughly doubled this century, from 10 percent in 2000 to almost 21 percent in the 2016 election, according to Pew Research Center.

Some states, like Washington, Utah and Colorado, have already shifted their elections entirely to the mail. A huge majority of voters in states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada also use mail-in voting.

The coronavirus pandemic is hastening those trends across every other state — even in some where absentee voting has never been a major part of the political culture. State after state has set new records for the number of voters casting ballots in the mail, in some cases beating their old records five, 10 or 15 times over.

Most states are well equipped to handle the surge in volume, and many begin counting ballots even before the polls close. But others are not — New York took more than a month to count the absentee ballots cast in its June primary, and Alaska took a week to begin opening their absentee ballots.

The two parties like absentee ballots: Knowing who has returned their ballot gives the parties the ability to focus their scarce resources to the population that has yet to vote.

But as Trump raises the unsubstantiated specter of fraud in the mail — and even urges his own supporters to vote twice, a felony — the heavy reliance on mail ballots has become a factor fraught with dread. In a close race, absentee ballots counted long after Election Day will prove fodder for those on the losing side, and the Russian bot farms determined to undermine confidence in American democracy.


‘We are the laughingstock of the country,’ Mississippi mayor laments after governor’s deadly order

Laura ClawsonDaily Kos StaffFriday March 27, 2020 · 11:11 AM EDT Recommend 346  Share  Tweet566 Comments 566 New

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2019, file photo, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves announces his candidacy for governor during a news conference at the state GOP headquarters in Jackson, Miss. While in college in the 1990s, Reeves took part in his fraternity's Old South parties. And at such Kappa Alpha parties, members often wore Confederate costumes, a common practice among chapters in the South. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Tate Reeves



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Some Mississippi mayors had put controls in place to help fight the spread of coronavirus—until Gov. Tate Reeves issued an order overruling mayors and reopening many businesses. Reeves has made his choice about what’s important, at least in the short term.

“There’s no question that the purpose of the order was to keep businesses open, which is good for the economy,” Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton told the Mississippi Free Press. “It’s definitely putting protections in place for the state’s economy. The flipside is that it’s doing that at the expense of human lives.”Sign This PetitionSign the petition: Denounce Mississippi’s Governor Tate Reeves’ absurd COVID-19 responseNot in the US?

Moss Point Mayor Mario King had closed restaurants for dining in, salons and barbershops, houses of worship, and more. Reeves’ order “completely makes our order null and void” and reopens much of what was closed. “So barbershops and salons are open today. People are actually at church making up Bible studies lost on Wednesday, so they’re having Thursday Bible studies. There are restaurants that re-opened their dine-in services today,” King told the Mississippi Free Press. “I understand they’re just trying to make a dollar, but if one person sneezes who has COVID-19 and someone else comes in, they’re possibly exposed to that. So his order puts our people at risk.”

King described Reeves’ action as “complete foolishness and foolery” that makes him “embarrassed not just as a mayor, but as a citizen of Mississippi. We are the laughingstock of the country because our governor has enacted an order that does not only protect the safety and welfare of the people, but puts Mississippians in harm’s way.”

On Thursday Mississippi had 485 cases of COVID-19, 108 of which were new. In other words, its numbers were growing fast, and the governor just put them on the fast track.

Trump Hoping to See US Economy Reopened by Easter Amid Virus









+Trump Hoping to See US Economy Reopened by Easter Amid Virus

By The Associated Press

  • March 24, 2020Updated 5:08 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the United States will be reopened by Easter as he weighs how to relax nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job during the coronavirus outbreak.

As many public health officials call for stricter — not looser — restrictions on public interactions, Trump said he was already looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said during a Fox News virtual town hall. Easter is just over two weeks away — Apr. 12.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full,” Trump said in a subsequent interview. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country.”

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Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.

The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities. The guidelines, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are voluntary, but many state and local leaders have issued mandatory restrictions in line with, or even tighter than, those issued by the CDC.

On Monday, the U.S. saw its biggest jump yet in the death toll from the virus, with more than 650 American deaths now attributed to COVID-19. Trump’s comments come after dire warnings by officials in hard-hit areas. New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state’s hospital system will soon hit a breaking point — resulting in avoidable deaths — even with the restrictions already in place.

“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said during the town hall from the Rose Garden. He argued that tens of thousands of Americans die each year from the seasonal flu and in automobile accidents and “we don’t turn the country off.”

When the 15-day period ends next Monday, he said, “We’ll assess at that time and we’ll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up.” He added, “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”

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Trump’s Easter target was not immediately embraced by Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House task force, who indicated any move would have to be guided by data still being collected. She suggested that public health professionals could recommend a general easing, while pushing for local restrictions to remain in the hardest-hit areas.

Trump acknowledged that some want the guidance to continue, but claimed without providing evidence that keeping the guidance in place would lead to deaths from suicide and depression.

“I’m sure that we have doctors that would say, ‘Let’s keep it closed for two years,'” Trump said. “No, we got to get it open.”

He added, “This cure is worse than the problem.”

Trump’s reassessment comes as the White House is encouraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package to ease the financial pain for Americans and hard-hit industries.

Trump’s enthusiasm for getting people back to work comes as he takes stock of the political toll the outbreak is taking. It sets up a potential conflict with medical professionals, including many within his government, who have called for more social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, not fewer.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, did not appear at the virtual town hall, but Trump denied there were any tensions between the two men.

Lawmakers have suggested they’ll look to Fauci for guidance on when the restrictions should be lifted.

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“I’m going to take my lead from Anthony Fauci,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said on CNN. “That’s the person I trust, that’s the person Americans trust.

Fauci told WMAL radio in Washington on Tuesday that Trump has always heeded his recommendations.

“The president has listened to what I have said and to what the other people on the task force have said,” Fauci said. “When I have made recommendations he has taken them. He’s never countered or overridden me, the idea of just pitting one against the other is just not helpful.”

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters Tuesday that “public health includes economic health.”

“That’s the key point. And it’s not either-or. It’s not either-or, and that’s why we’re taking a fresh look at it,” he said.

During a private conference call with roughly 30 conservative leaders on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence reinforced Trump’s eagerness to lift coronavirus-related work and travel restrictions “in a matter of weeks, not months.”

When pressed on a specific timeline for lifting restrictions, Pence said there would be no formal decisions made until the current 15-day period of social distancing was complete, according to a conference call participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private discussion.

Pence told the group that accommodations would need to be made for the highest-risk populations if and when restrictions begin to be lifted.

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Despite Trump’s rosy talk, other elements of the government were digging in for the long haul. Top defense and military leaders on Tuesday warned department personnel that the virus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks, or even into the summer.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Defense Department town hall meeting that restrictions could go into late May or June, possibly even July. He said there are a variety of models from other countries, so the exact length of the virus and necessary restrictions are not yet clear.


Associated Press writers Lita Baldor in Washington and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.

NRA: Obama’s ‘Political Correctness’ Let Orlando Shooting Happen

Draw your own conclusions: seems truly odd. ~fls

NRA: Obama’s ‘Political Correctness’ Let Orlando Shooting Happen


AP Photo / Mark Humphrey

“The terrorist in Orlando had been investigated multiple times by the FBI. He had a government-approved security guard license with a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security. Yet his former co-workers reported violent and racist comments,” Cox continued. “Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it.”

Cox wrote that gun laws didn’t stop attacks in San Bernardino, Brussels or Paris.

“Repeating the same thing but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Law-abiding gun owners are tired of being blamed for the acts of madmen and terrorists,” he said.

The FBI interviewed Mateen for two separate investigations, but both probes were closed when he purchased the guns use in the attack at an Orlando gay club that killed 49.

Gun Industry Describes Mass Shootings Like Orlando as a “Big Opportunity”

June 13 2016, 11:05 a.m.

IN RECENT CORPORATE PRESENTATIONS, leading gun makers celebrated the fact that consumers bought more firearms because of the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino. And, prior to the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Saturday night, executives were telling investors to expect another big bump — because of the upcoming elections.

The surge in sales after mass shootings, as we’ve reported, is nothing new: Mass shootings lead to talk of gun control; the National Rifle Association — the gun advocacy group funded significantly by gun and ammunition manufacturers — uses its influence in Congress to block any legislative action; but gun owners, irrationally terrified that the government will restrict or ban firearms, rush out to buy more guns and ammo.

Sturm, Ruger & Co. Chief Executive Michael Fifer, speaking at his company’s annual meeting in May, noted that his company — the largest handgun manufacturer in the U.S. — saw a spike in demand that “was strongly correlated to the tragic terrorist activities in Paris and San Bernardino.” Sales eventually slowed down, but Fifer called that a “big opportunity for the distributors to step up and take on inventory” to be ready for election-related sales.

In February, on an investor conference call, Fifer had predicted that “we’ll see a step up of demand if a Democrat wins” the presidency. And if Democrats win control of the Senate, he added, gun sales will increase dramatically based on fears that a more liberal Supreme Court might restrict gun rights.

Stephen Nolan, executive vice president of Vista Outdoors, a gun distributor, said the election cycle might drive a “mini surge” in sales. Nolan, speaking at the RBC Capital Markets conference earlier this month, noted that “political reaction to the tragedy in San Bernardino” and the talk of “further gun control” appeared to drive recent sales.

Smith & Wesson Chief Executive P. James Debney, speaking at the UBS Global Consumer Conference in March, explained that recent terrorist attacks had pushed firearms “back into the world of politics, talking about increasing legislation in gun control,” which “no doubt” encouraged “a very strong buying period.” He speculated that the election cycle might be having an effect as well.

Following the mass killing on Saturday evening, a number of legislators stepped up calls for gun control legislation. “Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in a statement.

But there is little hope for meaningful gun control legislation this year.

Meanwhile, as CNBC reports, “Shares of gunmakers Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger rose 9.8 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, in premarket trading Monday following the massacre in Orlando, Florida.”



Lee Fanglee.fang@theintercept.com@lhfang




It is dangerous to make predictions about American politics a few years in advance, about American society and economy and culture, as well. It is doubly dangerous to do it 15 years in advance. Yet, we will attempt to picture in bullet form, some broad trends we see coming by 2030 (note that one of the blog’s major projects is to construct a book which forecasts a gradual but inevitable return to progressive politics in America: 2013-2040, or, if you like, starting with the Clinton period, 1990-2040.

Even the Republican Bush interlude at least began with and featured fairly progressive (my recent republican standards) programs in some areas: an expensive prescription entitlement for Medicare, extensive foreign aid increases to combat AIDS, etc. “Compassionate Conservatism.” The theme came undone almost as soon as Bush took office, in no small part because of the 9/11 Catastrophe, but it is true that no Far Right Conservative has been or is likely to be elected President of the United States. Even a relatively moderate conservative Republican like Romney was soundly beaten in 2012, as had a Relative moderate, McCain, been trounced in 2008.


On the risks of prediction: Anyone who in 1965—the midst of the Civil Rights and Great Society movements, Medicare etc.– had predicted that in 15 years, a doctrinaire far right (for that time!, not by today’s standards), Ronald Reagan, would be elected would have been seriously questioned. That such a movement to the right would be seismic, and Lasting (at least until Clinton in 1993), would have been even more remarkable. The closest serious writer predicting such a movement, or at least the best known one, would have been Kevin Phillips, with his Emerging Republican Majority. But this book was not actually published until 1969, after the Democrats were defeated, in effect, by a conservative 1968 presidential vote that gave Richard Nixon a narrow victory, but a Truly conservative third party candidate, George Wallace, over 12% of the vote.

First we will lay out some landmark changes that will have occurred in American politics and society, by 2030, with only a brief, and mostly undocumented rationale fore these changes. (one of the nice things about ‘forecasting the future” is that you do not have to cite and footnote as meticulously!). In the following predictions, which we will expand and enlarge in subsequent articles, the basic “reform” is italicized in the first sentence, and developed a bit further after that.


PREDICTION ONE:  Healthcare will have been folded in the national political psyche for long enough (15+ years) that people will wonder what the controversy was about. Costs will have been brought down and benefits enjoyed by Democrats and Republicans alike. The still and always potent conservative money machines will have moved on to other issues, (slightly) less immediate ones, such as climate change. Odds are even that a single payer system will have been introduced or that a form of Medicare will be extended to the entire population. A certain segment of the population will be able to pay for healthcare out of pocket, but a small segment indeed. These will be catered to by boutique physicians with excellent, personalized and overpriced care, not unlike today. A valid question is: where will the money come from (?) for care expanded not only for more medical services, and more people, but more people because a larger percentage of the population will be “gray”—in the 65 yr. and older bracket. Some of the potential “dis”-economies discussed, e.g., in the Time Magazine March 12, 2013 issue (e.g. vastly overpriced in-hospital items like simple bandages and aspirin) will be modified and preventative medicine will begin to foster a healthier population through a variety of incentives. Economies in national defense will yield more funds, even if the U.S. “world mission” has not been substantially reduced. Energy and food waste costs will also begin to drop.


PREDICTION TWOStemming from the above, foreign policy doctrines like American exceptionalism and humanitarian in intervention are hard to predict, but it is safe to assume that in the next 15 years the fraying national infrastructure, urban decay, especially affecting the quality of public schools, income in equality leading to a “dual economy”, will be modified by incremental measures to produce a leaner, “meaner” military. As with prediction number one, this will only represent and acceleration of trends now in their infancy but underway.


PREDICTION THREETaxation will never reach 1950s-1960s levels, but taxes will cease to be a dirty word, the American tradition of pay as you go will come back in to style, modestly at first, and the Grover Norquists and Americans for Tax Reform will be less influential, more marginalized.  This simply equals moderately higher taxes. The simple and often asked poll question variants of “would you be willing to pay a small amount more in taxes for certain improved public services?” will be answered more in the affirmative.


PREDICTION FOUR: Supreme Court-  The morbid reality is that Justices Scalia and Kennedy will be 92 in 2030. If they have not died or retired, and our predictions about presidential and national more progressive politics come true, they will be very close to leaving the scene. They will be replaced by more liberal (especially in the case of Scalia) people more on the model of Sotomajor than some others. The equally important downside is that Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, moderates, will be 95 and 90, respectively, and will probably be replaced by people of similar views. Summing up, the court should move modestly to the left, all told, but this depends on a one or two term Conservative NOT being elected president in 2016, 2020, and 2024. Trends point in that direction.


blackbuildernumber-7-md7 PROBLEMS WORTH PONDERING

  1. Do we      want a society where income      inequality is increasing exponentially and the purchasing power      and strength of the middle and working classes in shrinking? Keep in mind      the mantra of numbers “20-45-13”. Those are the percentages of wealth held      by the top 1%, the top 10%, and the bottom 50% of the US      population. Maybe for some this is good and healthy or “natural      selection”—but for others it Is Not. So, What Is To Be Done? If not social      engineering, tax reform, or government action: what? Who will fix this?      Almost everyone agrees that Congress has become dysfunctional; more and      more are agreeing that aspects of the US economy are increasingly      dysfunctional.


  1. Closely      related—and many of these points are just summaries of our previous      posts—the rich are “devouring their own children—and themselves.” By the      same, documented, reduced consumption power of the “bottom 75% of the      population, their standard of living and, eventually, that of all but the      most insulated of the super-rich are in jeopardy.


  1. Objections      have been raised that some of this kind of talk is pushing “class warfare.” But class      warfare is already a reality. Just not the kind that alarms conservatives      and wealthy folks: that is, the demands of the weaker 50% for changes in      the system from the top 1% or 10%. The class war that is The Reality:      weakening regulations corporate/banks/environment/workplace, tax structure      and loopholes, ability to shelter money overseas, demonization of      government, attempts to disenfranchise or block registration of poorer and      not-likely-Republican voters, the War on Labor, the War on Teachers, the      corporatization and neutering of the media—These amount to class warfare      of a kind not talked about, the Real War.


  1. “The      American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it would take $1.6 trillion      over 5 years to bring the nations bridges, dams, sewer systems, and other infrastructure up to good      [not excellent] condition” (L. Mishel and L. Cleeland in Lardner and      Lowenthal, Thinking Big, 2009, p. 11 That is a conservative estimates      and represent a Lot of Jobs and a national project far more worthy than      the Iraq and Vietnam Wars, probably most of Afghanistan, and arguably even      the Apollo Moon missions. Lots of jobs here. It is certain that government      and the private sector could work out an arrangement to create these jobs      and rationally pull this off. The pathetic thing is that the political      willpower and ideologizing has gotten in the way.


  1. The      same could be said of education,      where all of the big talking has been on teacher productivity and school      responsibility and not putting money Into schools and teachers and teacher      training. A lot of jobs here too. What is wrong with this picture: advanced      European societies, with per capita incomes higher than the U.S.’s (mean)      and Median incomes considerably higher, put far higher proportions of      their national GDP and government budgets into education than does the US.      The US      is falling farther behind European and some Asian countries in this      econo-educational indicators. And, again the wealth disparity, related to      education equity, in the US      has led to resemble the Russian and Latin American patterns [Brazil is      actually catching up here] than to the European]. (Mishel and Cleeland,      p.8) These authors also estimate, along with others, that revamping the      physical plant of schools themselves is a minimum $20 billion project, the      addressing of which would generate At Least 250,000 jobs. If this is      socialism, bring it on.


  1. Health care- It is time to      get off of the defensive in bringing 50 million Americans, especially in      2013-14, under national health care—of a sort. And the many other benefits      of the Affordable Health Care Act. This blog makes no apologies for these      benefits and urges the democrats to develop some more backbone and issue      fewer disclaimers about flaws in the reforms, many of which were caused by      concessions to the republicans in Congress, their far right constituencies,      the “bought” (e.g. Fox) media.


7.         National defense- Speaking of reordering priorities, The defense budget is still designed to protect a Cold War World (to say nothing of “Homeland Security” reality. The $700 billion currently spent (not including massive—and usually deserved veterans benefits, which arte, after all part of defense as well as being merited rewards for those who do the heavy lifting. Ex-defense officials turned policy scholars, such as Lawrence Korb of Brookings, have estimated, along with the Center for Defense Information, that easily 10-20% of defense costs could be trimmed with no impairment to the US world mission or any rational semblance thereof. More detail will follow in future columns, but the argument for sometime has focused on eliminating waste redundancy, duplication, mission creep and other dysfunctions, which, logically, must effect Defense bureaucracies as much as they effect all of the other public and private bureaucracies that we love to take aim at! (Excuse the pun).


royalty-free-repair-man-clipart-illustration-1111492PLAYBOOK FOR PROGRESSIVES: 2013-2020

One overarching idea: The Democratic Party showed what it could do in 2008 and 2012. It projected a more successful image campaigning than governing (cf early Reagan or Nixon—domestically). The Democrats need to forget about gloating and antagonizing the Republicans and aim for “holding the center while moving the whole operation ever so slowly and incrementally to the left” (the Europeans are good at it in both directions, we can do the same while avoiding what seems to be the epithet “European”).


 Sure there will be clashes with the Republicans; Obama needs experts in working with Congress (Daschle types) without the hemming and hawing of 2009-11. Of Course some questions just don’t have ready answers, and the Republicans may just try a “post Appomattox rearguard action”..but I don’t think the Bobby Jindals and Marco Rubios are going to settle for the Party of No. The idea would be for the Democrats to reify a Progressive movement with a call to centrists and “moderate”, Chaffee-Snow-Specter-even Christie Republican followers to join up. Perhaps this is too idealistic, but some Democrats need to get off their high horse and leave the vilifying of Republican troglodytes alone. Let some Keith Doberman’s bloom, but as free lance provokers


 Let the Republicans, the Fox News Crowd, use that playbook. Of course MSNBC and an energized liberal radio can be tried again (maybe use “Progressive” for now—invite moderate independents like Ron Reagan and Charlie Christ to come on air and have their say). Paradigms are not shifted over-night. The worst of the World Recession seems to be over, this is still a center right country, the election was only a snapshot. Reform will have to come by stealth. If stealth and moderation does not work, the democrats should seek evidence that a donnybrook will fall their way. The Affordable Healthcare act should have been something Obama could have campaigned on in 2012. a point of consistent pride. As it kicks in we will hope that it, and comparable, smaller programs will go the same way, that is be better “promoted.”


Race: Head of black dalliances with Republicans at the pass; let them call themselves indeprendent, but make sure they vote Progressive Democratic; Obama lost 2% of the black vote 95-93 this time. Black success stories should be wooed assiduously by Democrats and convinced that you do not have to become a Republican just because you have made millions selling Pizza, or—whatever

Gender: Continue to offer women incentives to stick with the Democratic Party (PDP—Progressive Democratic Party); get more of them to run for office and appoint more to the bench and bureaucratic positions—seamlessly—not that much different from current practice; the republicans will try to take some women away, the PDP must be vigilant; they must not be antagonistic or dismissive about abortion: they must follow Obama’s tack of discouraging it socially/psychologically while not interfering with it politically-legally: no mean feat


I am talking about doing the doable right now. Obamacare was a tremendous accomplishment. The next big push should be energy independence but, More, climate change; those republicans who are scientifically sane, should be nurtured and encouraged to speak out—they can do so as Republicans without really hurting the PDP, which will have the advantage on this issue for the foreseeable future; the PDP must nibble fringes of the Green Republicans and Independents


Youth- As specified above, the PDP MUST rpt MUST get every expert, social media guru, and Financial angel available to make sure that the youth vote never falls below 60-40, and aims for 70-30; the Republicans will Always capture at least 30% of the college and 20-something vote. They did this even in the late 1960’s and early 1970s when I was a young republican, when I believed that the Liberal wing of the Republican party had a future, with the Javits-Scott-Percy-Romney(1)-Hart wing of the party could draw on the domestic impulses of the Lincolns and T-Roosevelt’s… 1st you have coalitions, then your coalitions—you try to “Brand them” as pragmatic progressives… The goal by 2020 and more by 2030, is to have debates Not about things like Creationism v. Evolution or abortion v. choice, or taxation v. privatization, but rather How do you improve schools, How do you reduce fossil fuels (the Tobacco industry model might have something to teach us here.


Military Spending- Here is some ripe fruit for both deficit reduction and fiscal prudence; it will take a slow education process, preferably led by ex-Military and defense think tank experts, NOT the traditional Left Peace Shock Troops (they come in later; they can chatter to the faithful for now in their own bubble, the Revolution is not coming for the next 10-12 years)… almost every military expert will tell you that the $800 billion defense budget (incl some veteran costs) can be cut by 20% (arms, not veteran rehabilitation) without even feeling it; military bases (and later prisons) must ever so gently and incrementally be phase out: think what we could do with a lean, smart military 500-600 $billion per/year now as the goal, $200 billion less than currently; deficit spending and national debt reduction through military sanity Must become Cool, an Art form… Look, food stamps are great, but the savings from military spending cannot be seen to be going to Entitlements for Now, a better target should be Education, education that stresses competitive components, for now, but phases out mindless testing and gradually encourages a more Finnish model… this will not be easy… now on to..


EDUCATION- Here is a real battleground, so many sub issues, but some more ripe fruit for progressives, if they play their cards right; the Scott Walkers need to be stopped and discredited, without necessarily turning the clock back to the status quo ex ante Walker, Ohio, Benno Schmidt, Charter-ists… All voices will have to be heard, but money and smart social media-ing should be put in the service of pragmatic reform that does not trash teachers, schools, tenure, liberal arts… maybe some pilot programs of job retraining and “trade” schools for displaced workers and smart high school students that simply aren’t cut out for Plato and Milton (sorry)



Immigration– Not my area, but I do know that the de-whitening process must seem non-scary, gradual, constructive or the backlash will continue.. certainly the Democrats/PDP should not let the Republicans get ahead of them on high profile

Hispanic personalities… they need to nurture strong electoral candidates, always, and now use their momentum in 2012 to make bureaucratic and judicial appointments of moderate progressives who are just centrist enough to make Republican senate filibusterers think carefully before saying NO


Gun Control– Another third rail in American politics.. this is not going to be a quick fix process… when a Columbine or Tucson happens, alas, you seize the opportunity to zero in on assault weapons, gun shows, strengthening the Brady legislation; you have to gradually discredit the nutcase-interpretation of the Second amendment; the NRA is not going away nor will it be “humanized and reformed.”.. but we can give respect to sport and target use of weapons


The economy– Surely the Big Enchilada… again not really my area, so central and multi-faceted… the short term strategy must be search for common ground, but no capitulation to the Far Right—those people want respect but they also do not respect namby-pamby-ism.. god help us, but at least until 2016, we need some Avuncular Reagan types (Volker? Let’s get him to cut back on cigars)… after 2016, if Hillary wins or a talent hunt for a new Clinton with a chastity lock on his zipper turns up someone appealing and substantial, then we unleash the Robert Reich’s and Elizabeth Warren’s.. Until we can say that the electorate is Not Center-Right, but rather Center-Center (2016) moving Center Left (2020 or after—at best), we need to keep polarizing figures in Massachusetts and California, and try them out on the National stage… A dirty not so little secret is that when Obama finishes up, should a white candidate be the best PDP person, then the certifiably insane right will cool down like a reddened infection… but we cannot and will not turn the clock back.. the Zeitgeist rules, an in this USA place only 3 things can generate real change: 1. Truly charismatic leadership, 2. A looming catastrophe (maybe global warming), 3. Education and likeable, smart incrementalist reformers—Clinton/Obama types…TAXES also tough, but there are signs that sanity is widening http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-door-to-compromise-on-the-budget/2012/11/14/af4b75b8-2e97-11e2-beb2-4b4cf5087636_story.html

MEET ROBERT REICH (and below him, Arthur Lerman!)

ROBERT REICHBEYOND OUTRAGEBook Recommendation: BEYOND OUTRAGE: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy, and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It

Vintage Books, 2012

As with the Thomas Frank book below, Occasionally we will be posting book recommendations that are designed to provoke debate, that are related to the political future(s) of the USA, and that may show why progressives are angry at the dysfunction in Washington as—to be sure—conservatives are as well. We welcome enlightened conservative readers’ recommendations of books that have insights.

Robert Reich, Professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley Reich as many will know was a Brandeis professor and is now at U. Cal. Berkeley as a professor of public policy. He was Pres. Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and has advised President Obama. He has appeared on public TV and radio—notably “Marketplace”– and honored for his progressive, liberal, but highly informed writing. He is no radical.

We are posting some of Reich’s introductory big ideas about what is wrong with the American economy in outline form. This will be followed by discussions of Reich and Frank (see post below) and more detail on the very important things they have to say. While Frank offers an analysis of WHY the system has been rigged against the middle, working, and poor “classes,” especially since the Reagan 1980s, Reich talks more about the HOW of fixing what’s broken in this system in spite of his forceful title. But the two books complement each other nicely and  Reich’s has the advantage of having been published 3 years later (2012).

As many of the commentators on this blog to date have been conservative, it is important to note that Thinking conservatives will disagree with much that is in the book, but that they are important reading about what “ the opposition” is thinking. Much they same as we would want to read enlightened conservative material by writers such as David Brooks, Thomas Sowell, and Charles Krauthamer.

Here are the first set of a series of excerpts we will be quoting from, from this and other Reich books. Readers are urged to pause and simply consider the statements on their merits, without pigeonholing Reich into pre-formed mental images of “leftist” or “American socialist/”. After all, WALL STREET JOURNAL, has named him one of the ten most influential business thought leaders.

  • …Increasingly, the rewards have gone      to the top, while risks have been borne by middle and lower income people.      At the same time, the very wealthy are getting a greater share of total      income than they did at any time in the last eight years. Their tax rates      are lower than they’ve been in a generation. Republicans want      us to believe that the central issue is the size of government, but the      real issue is whom government is for. Public institutions are      deteriorating. We’re saddled [2011] with the most anemic recovery from the      worst economy since World War II, while the basic bargain lining pay to      productivity comes apart.  (p.4)


  • The Congressional Budget Office has      issued a report on the widening disparities. The issue has become front      page news. For the first time since the 1930s, a broad cross section of      the American public is talking about the concentration of wealth and      income at the top. (p.5)


  • As recently as a decade ago, the      prevailing view was also that great wealth trickled downward, that the      rich made investment in jobs and growth that benefited all of us. So even      if we doubted that we ourselves would be wealthy, we felt we’d still      benefit from the fortunes made by a few. But that view too has lost its      sheen. Americans see that nothing has trickled down. The rich have become      far richer over the last 3 decades, but the rest of us haven’t benefitted.      In fact median incomes are dropping.        (p. 7)


  • …The American economy is in trouble      because so much wealth and income have been going to the top that the rest of us no longer have the      purchasing power to keep the economy going… [italics mine] (p. 8)


  • Some apologists for this extraordinary      accumulation of income and wealth have been going to the top attribute it      to “risk taking” by courageous entrepreneurs… The president of the Chamber      of Commerce, explains that this economy is about risk. “If you don’t take      risk, you can’t have success.” But in fact, the higher you go in today’s      economy, the easier it is to make a pile of money without taking any      personal financial risk. The lower you go, the bigger the risks and the      smaller the rewards. (pp. 8-9)


  • In 2012, the Wall Street Journal      looked at the pay of executives at twenty one of the largest companies      that had recently gone through bankruptcy. The median income of those CEOs      was $8.7 million, not much less than the $9.1 median compensation of all      CEO’s of big companies. The reason CEO’s get giant pay packages for lousy      performance is that the stack their boards of directors’ compensation      committee’s with cronies who make sure they do. (p.11)

To be continued! Your thoughts??

GUEST COLUMN BY PROF. ART LERMAN: Paying the Workers to Become Customers

The Original Reason for Economic Liberalism/Progressivism


This book is presaged on prediction—the next wave of U.S. politics will be liberal/progressive.

But it also has an advocacy element: That’s a good thing.


Because the challenges we face are not to be engaged by current conservative policies:

  1. a.           Simply depending on free markets—laissez-faire. Indeed, the whole role of liberal/progressive policy came into being in reaction to the early industrial revolution resulting from free markets. Left to itself the free market produced great numbers of products, but provided no way for the producers to access these products. Their pay was too low to buy them.

The result was impoverished workers who could not afford to buy anything, well stocked warehouses with no demand to meet, and businesses with no sales going bankrupt.  (Classical Marxian analysis.)

It took liberal policy to impose wage standards, so that business paid its workers enough to buy its products.

It was necessary for government to do this for all society.  If only one business paid its workers enough, other businesses would sell their products at lower rates, and the well-paying business would fail. So all businesses had to be compelled to pay the minimum, saving businesses from themselves. (Yes.  The issue is who has the authority to do this in today’s globalized marketplace?)

  1. b.                    The more nefarious conservative policy—gardez-nous: big government, but for the rich–welfare for the rich—skewing policies so that the rich benefit more than others. This, of course, makes the above worse. The rich are protected from not paying enough by government subsidizing them. They don’t have to worry about their workers not being able to buy their products. They can fill up warehouses, have low sales, and still get rich from government largess.

What are the challenges? Newspaper headlines give us the list: lack of opportunity and inadequate outcomes —in education, employment, healthcare, retirement, access to resources—water/air/fuel/food/safety.

Outsourcing: A New Example

Outsourcing has been a long term problem. It has been seen nationally and internationally.

Nationally we see firms and governments getting around union rules and legal contracts for workers by hiring outside firms for their work.

Typically they will outsource cleaning services and security—hiring low paying firms to do the job for less money than their contracts say they must pay their own workers.  Governments (and the voters) have followed private employers in these practices. First it was private business that outsourced, but now, governments (backed by taxpayer ballots) are doing the same.

And it went international.  If the work can be done by even lower paid workers outside of the country, that’s where the jobs were sent—even cleaning and security are being done this way—by siting whole factories/business offices abroad.

This has given rise to two problems and a boon.

  1. a.               First problem: Lower pay to U.S. workers again makes it hard for workers to buy their own products—restricting the market and making it hard for businesses to sell products.

  1. b.                    Second problem: Low payment of workers outside of the U.S. makes it next to impossible for U.S. workers to buy anything—they’re unemployed. And the foreign workers are paid too little to take up the slack.

The boon? The businesses are making money. Yes, they’ve insured that a large population of underpaid and unemployed workers cannot buy their products. But there are enough employed people who can buy–especially in positions that cannot (yet) be outsourced—especially services, many governmental. (Though, recently, with the fiscal challenges to state/local governments, we’ve been thinning their ranks too.)

And, there is always government to buy—and give them subsidies—to help.

So we have the development of great wealth–some very rich businessmen, including major stockholders. This has been noted (2012-13) in terms of high U.S. business profits.

Robosourcing: The Next Step

But now, we may be going further. The trend is the development of robots, to replace even low paid foreign workers. It’s not outsourcing, it’s robosourcing.

So now we have the possibility of making products with few wages paid at all. Businesses can make large amounts of products at low cost. The point is, who will be out there to buy them— since so many will be unemployed?

Yes, there will always be enough customers to keep some factories going—though perhaps in declining numbers—since there are a minimum of people who society cannot do without—even as robots take over more and more employment positions.

This possibility continues, with a vengeance, the current trend toward more income inequality—a few people, managers and stockholders, making a fortune, and everyone else struggling.

This is not just the possibility of massive unemployment. It also raises the issue of who is to fund public services and those jobs not yet robotized—doctors, nurses, classroom teachers, scientific researchers, police and firefighters.   


Yes, there are solutions—it’s again a (democratic) Marxian analysis. Society has great wealth. But that wealth is bottled up in the back accounts of the few employed and owning class. The resources are there if applied to society as a whole, to fund all the positions that are not subjected to robotization, as well as making for early , well-funded, retirement for everyone else.

The key is to transfer the wealth from the few to the rest of society.  One answer would be taxation, leaving the wealthy with plenty, but taking enough for the rest of us.

Another: the rest of society becoming a/the stockholder—i.e., like pension funds writ large.

Unfair? After all, it’s the wealthy that produced the wealth.  No? Here we go to Obama’s “You did not build that.” How much do the wealthy depend on the broad backing of society—police, fire, hospitals, subsidies?

And how much do they have to lose if their wealth is not reinvested in the rest of society? For one, sales would go up if the rest of us could buy their goods. And investments in schooling, scientific research, community development, would give them a more supportive environment to prosper even further.

The idea is that with robots, great wealth can be produced for everyone, and society can move forward for all. But the robot owners must share the wealth—or end up living in fortified mansions, surrounded by electrified barbed wire and robot guards. They also may need their own oxygen masks to access breathable air and have their own robotized water purifiers.

Remember Marx’s ultimate vision. Most people will be materially supported by factories, turning out what everyone needs, in more than enough quantities. These factories would be tended by everyone on a part-time basis, since they wouldn’t need that much oversight.

What most people would do most of the time is work on self-development—tending to their poetry (see poetry by Frederick Shiels, for example), their art work, cultivating their minds and other talents.

Meet Thomas Frank

THOMAS FRANKThomas_frank_2012wrecking-ball

Book Recommendation: THE WRECKING CREW By Thomas Frank, Henry Holt publishers, 2009

Occasionally we will be posting book recommendations that are designed to provoke debate, that are related to the political future(s) of the USA, and that may show why progressives are angry at the dysfunction in Washington as—to be sure—conservatives are as well. We welcome enlightened conservative readers’ recommendations of books that have insights.

Frank, author of WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?, a book which asked by so many Americans in Heartland rural states voted against their own economic self interest (so we recommend that book too) gets tough in this book, with a no prisoners approach to Reagan/Bush policies that led to the economic collapse of 2008 and the weakening of federal regulatory agencies. We are furnishing an excerpt from the final chapter, “Gotterdammerung,” without comment in this post, to be followed by a post after we get some reader reactions or at least people have time to read this. It essentially lays the blame for the 2008 economic collapse on conservative Reagan Bush policies, but perhaps is too optimistic that such policies are completely off the radar, even in the Age of Obama:

What the wrecking crew ultimately wrecked was the economy itself. In 2008 the wealth of the world collapsed in a cloud of bad debt— debt that had been issued by unregulated institutions, sold on exchanges that lobbyists had made sure were unsupervised and held by banks overseen by an economy that was so hapless and so industry friendly that it dozed through every alarm.


Now it is probably unfair to lay the blame the financial disaster at the feet of any single federal policy or even one of the two national parties. It is entirely fitting, however, to describe it as a sort of judgment day for the conservative philosophy, shared as it was by leaders in both political parties and by players all across the economy.


Before the fall of 2008, the most acute consequences of rule by an elite dedicated to “inefficiency in government” had mainly befallen limited and distinct groups of people: citizens of New Orleans, union members, Iraqis, people who happened to eat tainted food. moreover, the conservative state’s screw-up’s could each be crowded with an inky squirt of culture war populism or dismissed with the usual rhetoric: See? Government can’t do anything right.


The economic collapse of 2008 was different. It was an effect of the same strategies of misgovernment that had wrecked the EPA and labor department, yes but the consequences now were so vast that virtually no one escaped. Nor could then ruination be brushed off although thousands of conservatives tried. This time the public’s fury would not be diverted: Americans pinned the blame squarely on those who had deserved it and on the individuals who had pushed those ideas along. And so the final casualty of conservatism’s Samson like effort to know down the pillars of the state was the movement itself. By the end of 2008 the economic theories had been and its political fortunes lay in ruins.


The policies that [in 2008] eventually flattened the nation’s banks, insurance companies and investment houses had originally been out in place of course at those very institutions’ request. These industries got what they wanted from Washington, and what they wanted ended up killing them.

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