Tag Archives: radical

Michelle Bachmann in Pants

It’s two and a half months until the election.

Anyone who may have been harboring a forlorn hope that Mitt Romney might revert to the persona he wore as Governor of Massachusetts can “fuhgeddaboudit,” as they used to say on Seinfeld. He’s not using that famous Etch-A-Sketch to shake up his newfound Tea Party allegiance; to the contrary, with his choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, he has signaled his complete capitulation to and identification with the furthest reaches of the Right.

What does Romney’s doubling-down tell us about the choice facing the country—and especially the choice facing those of us who aren’t old white heterosexual males?

Let’s look beyond issues of character and personality. Let’s ignore suspicions that Romney has lacked the savvy to assemble a competent staff. Let’s choke down the bile that we taste when we look at his “team,” composed of George W. Bush’s worst leftovers. Let’s even ignore his proposal to end Medicare.

Let’s just look at the policies that Romney and Ryan (the “Rolls Royce” team) explicitly support.

Perhaps you’ve heard, as I have, that Ryan’s voting record is substantially identical to that of Michelle Bachmann. Allow me to share some of the details of that record.

  • Ryan opposed the DREAM Act–legislation that would have allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the US as young children to remain in the country, and provided them with a path to citizenship. Instead, despite his professed identity as a deficit hawk, he supported spending millions to build a border fence to keep “them” out. (Hint: the fence wasn’t between us and Canada.)
  • In addition to his desire to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare, he has proposed to give Medicaid back to the states. This would almost certainly mean an end to the payments that currently keep millions of seniors in nursing homes after they have gone through all their assets and savings.
  • The Ryan budget proposes to gut programs that support neighborhood health clinics, to eliminate most student loans, and to slash funds for elementary and secondary education.
  • Ryan wants to de-fund Planned Parenthood, criminalize abortion, and grant “personhood” to fertilized eggs (a measure that would outlaw most popular forms of birth control). In a particularly egregious vote, he supported a bill allowing hospitals to refuse to perform abortions even when those procedures were necessary to save the life of the mother.
  • Adding insult to injury, Ryan has voted against equal pay for women.
  • On GLBT rights, the story is the same. Ryan opposes same-sex marriage and voted twice for a constitutional amendment prohibiting it. He voted to keep same-sex couples from adopting children in Washington DC. He voted against repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And while the Log Cabin apologists will point out that he once voted for ENDA (the Employee NonDiscrimination Act), he later reneged on his promise to do so again, saying he saw no need for “special” legislation.
  • Mr. “Fiscal Conservative” would abolish taxes on Capital Gains—giving wealthy individuals a windfall—and would recoup the lost revenue by cutting programs that benefit the poor and middle class.
  • Ryan also agrees with Romney that we don’t need to fund Amtrak or PBS (bye-bye, Big Bird…), but we cannot take a penny from the Defense budget, or allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

That is what the Rolls Royce team has to offer. It is as mean-spirited and radical a set of proposals as we have seen in my lifetime—not to mention thoroughly unworkable and unrealistic. (When Paul Krugman and David Stockman agree that Ryan’s package of proposals are a “fantasy” and wouldn’t begin to balance the budget even if enacted, that’s a pretty good sign that it isn’t a serious effort.)

So we have a choice: “Mitt the Twit” running with Michelle Bachmann in pants, versus Obama and Biden.

I’m hiding under my bed until it’s all over.




A Choice, Not an Echo….or the Base that Roared

Bowing to the demands of the purist GOP base, Mitt Romney has chosen his running mate. Paul Ryan is the final signal of his capitulation to the True Believers.

I think it was during the Goldwater campaign that Phyllis Schlafly wrote a book titled “A Choice, Not an Echo.” The idea was that the two parties have too much in common, collaborate too frequently (shades of Richard Mourdock!), and that what Americans really want is a for-real choice between starkly different platforms and philosophies.

Well, the choice of Paul Ryan means we’ll have that choice this November!

Ryan is mostly known for his budget and tax plan–a plan Roll Call says would slash Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate from 13% to 1%. (And we thought “Romney Hood” was bad…)

The New Republic describes the effects of Ryan’s budget–millions of Americans losing health insurance (Ryan’s budget would end Medicare), senior citizens falling back into pre-social security poverty, a Government “so starved for resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.” The richest Americans would get a huge tax cut.

The Catholic Bishops and nuns haven’t been agreeing on very much lately, but they agree that the Ryan budget is “immoral and unChristian.”

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 1.4 million jobs would be lost if Ryan’s budget were passed. The budget proposes to eliminate Pell Grants for over a million college students; it would continue subsidies for Big Oil, but cut funding for alternative and clean energy development. (In 2011, The Daily Beast reported that Ryan’s family leases land to oil companies, and benefits from those subsidies–I’m sure that’s just a coincidence…)

Paul Ryan has called Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme,” and supported privatizing it, but he would actually increase the already-bloated Defense budget. (When several Generals testified that the reductions in Obama’s Defense Budget would not jeopardize national defense, he called them liars. He later apologized.)

If you are thinking–okay, the guy is just one of those deficit hawks, well, you don’t know the whole Paul Ryan. He may reject his Catholic faith’s teachings on social justice, but he enthusiastically embraces its anti-choice positions.

Ryan sponsored a “Fetal Personhood” bill. That bill gave fetuses full personhood rights from conception and would not only outlaw all abortion, but most popular forms of birth control. He voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and supported  a bill which would have allowed hospitals to refuse to provide a woman with an emergency abortion even if it was necessary to save her life.

Ryan has pooh-poohed the science of climate change. He voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act to ensure equal pay for women.

There’s more, but this should give any voter a pretty good idea of the agenda we are being asked to endorse.

Paul Ryan is the Koch brothers’ wet dream. In a sane world, someone this radical would be unelectable.

Pray for sanity.





Conserving Our System

What passes for political discourse these days is so debased, so irrational, that we no longer even think about the real meanings of the words we throw around. So “socialist” is conflated with “Nazi” (and used without any obvious understanding of what the term describes) and “conservative” is used to describe positions that are anything but.

To be conservative is to “conserve”–to protect elements of the past.

E.J. Dionne makes the point that today’s self-described conservatives are really radicals bent upon a wholesale abandonment of settled aspects of our national life.  It’s an important column, and well worth reading in its entirety.

Now, there are times when wholesale change is necessary or advantageous. There are other times when dramatic, radical reinvention is profoundly harmful. In a democratic system, it is up to the voters to decide whether they want to replace what they have with something radically different. But in order to make that decision, voters need to understand what is really being proposed–and in an era where propaganda has displaced much of the news, where a pitiful minority know enough about America’s history or constitutional system to recognize the magnitude of the changes the current GOP field is advocating, the significance of the 2012 election is not obvious to many–perhaps most–voters.

What was that old Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times?

We’re there.

Age and Perspective

One of the (very few) benefits of growing old is that you gain perspective. Sometimes, that also leads to a modicum of wisdom, sometimes not–but it does mean that one’s frame of reference is larger and longer. To use a very common example, you can’t truly appreciate how dramatically the internet has changed society if you were born after the invention of the world wide web.

This morning’s Paul Krugman column reminded me again that those of us born in the mid-twentieth century have a vantage point to assess political change that younger folks don’t have.

My students are frequently aghast when they learn that I was a Republican for most of my life–that I even ran for Congress as a fairly conservative Republican, and won a primary. But as Krugman points out, and as I try to explain to my students, the positions that made me “conservative” in 1980 make me a pinko/socialist/liberal today. Most of my students grew up in an environment where conservative Republicans reject evolution and the science of climate change, talk a lot about fiscal prudence, but practice “borrow and spend” economic policies, and are totally without compassion for the less fortunate. The only Republicans they’ve known are those who preach limited government while insisting on their right to control women’s reproduction and their right to discriminate against gays. They are shocked to learn that I was pro-choice and pro-gay rights and still was able to win a GOP primary.

Krugman explains the change with his usual clarity, beginning with the example of the Tea Party’s “let ’em die” eruption at the recent GOP Presidential debate:

“In the past, conservatives accepted the need for a government-provided safety net on humanitarian grounds. Don’t take it from me, take it from Friedrich Hayek, the conservative intellectual hero, who specifically declared in “The Road to Serfdom” his support for “a comprehensive system of social insurance” to protect citizens against “the common hazards of life,” and singled out health in particular.

Given the agreed-upon desirability of protecting citizens against the worst, the question then became one of costs and benefits — and health care was one of those areas where even conservatives used to be willing to accept government intervention in the name of compassion, given the clear evidence that covering the uninsured would not, in fact, cost very much money. As many observers have pointed out, the Obama health care plan was largely based on past Republican plans, and is virtually identical to Mitt Romney’s health reform in Massachusetts.

Now, however, compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.

And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.”

What Krugman fails to note, and these radicals fail to understand, is that if they actually are successful in their frantic efforts to keep government from “stealing” even a penny in taxes to be distributed (in their fevered imaginations) to the “less deserving,” they would also be impoverished. What Hayek understood–and what those who invoke his name without reading his arguments do not-is that, just as a rising tide lifts all boats, an ebbing tide lowers all boats. They remind me of a two-year-old snatching a toy from a playmate while screaming “mine, mine, mine.”

What we are seeing from this radical fringe is not a political shift. It’s a tantrum.

Why We Need Two Responsible Political Parties

Many years ago, when I was a (Republican) member of the Hudnut Administration, the GOP consistently won elections in Marion County. All of them. Then as now, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans, but Republicans had a remarkable organization that routinely got out the vote, while the Democrats were–as the old joke has it–not members of an organized political party.

During that time, I was asked to speak to a Jewish women’s organization, and I still recall that speech. (Amazing, since these days, I barely remember my name…..) Many, if not most, of the members of that particular organization were Democrats, and my basic message to them was “get off your couches and reinvigorate your party, because every political subdivision works better when the party in power faces a responsible critic, a loyal opposition. No one has all the answers, unchecked power tends to corrupt, and we all benefit when two (or more) political organizations engage in serious, thoughtful debate over the merits of existing or proposed public policies. I believed that then, and I believe it now–but the operative words are “responsible,” “loyal opposition” and “serious, thoughtful debate.

Fast forward 30+ years, to a Republican Party so radicalized that it is impossible to apply those words to most of its members. Those who are serious and responsible are under attack (see: Lugar, Richard.) The behavior of Republicans in Congress has been so outrageous (I word I do not use lightly) that some commentators have actually suggested they are willing to destroy the economy if that is what it takes to destroy Obama. (See: debt ceiling debate). The most recent example of what passes for public policy among them these days is Rep. Paul Ryan’s insistence that no monies be spent for disaster relief unless and until there are offsetting budget cuts (preferably, in his view, from social programs. Evidently, we shouldn’t help one group of unfortunates unless we take the funds away from another group that depends upon our increasingly tattered social safety net). Between rejection of evolution, climate-change and science in general, manifest ignorance of basic economics,  an unseemly rush to support military interventions (and a disinclination to raise taxes to pay for them)…well, let’s just say there are a number of terms that might be applied to our current incarnations of the “know-nothings,” but “serious” and “responsible” aren’t among them.

As a business-school colleague of mine put it during a hallway chat yesterday, “I miss the real Republicans. Even when I didn’t agree with their arguments, the fact that they made thoughtful, rational criticisms made it necessary for me to justify my own policy preferences. I had to do my homework, and so did those who agreed with me. Substantive arguments on both sides results in better rules. That doesn’t work when the Democrats propose “Policy X” and the Republican response is “You’re a poo-poo head.”