Tom Barrett (D): 47 (45)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 48 (47)
Kathleen Falk (D): 43 (45)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 49 (49)
Tom Barrett (D): 38 (36)The Wisconsin gubernatorial recall will be upon us sooner than you think: the main event is on June 5. Before that, though, the Democrats have to pick a candidate who'll go up against GOP Gov. Scott Walker, and that special recall primary is only a week away, on May 8. So today's poll from Marquette Univ. Law School may be the last poll we see before we have a nominee and the truncated run up to the June recall begins.
Kathleen Falk (D): 20 (29)
Doug La Follette (D): 8 (8)
Kathleen Vinehout (D): 7 (8)
Undecided: 27 (17)
The nomination is looking quite likely that it'll go to Tom Barrett, a former U.S. representative who is now Milwaukee's mayor and also narrowly lost the regularly scheduled 2010 election to Walker. In polls where he's been included (he got something of a late start to the race), he's always led over his closest rival, former Dane Co. Executive Kathleen Falk, though not always by as large a margin as the 18 points seen here. The puzzle here may be why the share of undecideds in the primary went up so much in the last month. Bear in mind that, since their last poll, they've switched from a registered voter model to a likely voter model, seeing as how the election is so close. That still doesn't explain, though, why likely voters are much more undecided than registered voters (among registered voters, with leaners pushed, it's 45 Barrett, 23 Falk, 8 La Follette, 8 Vinehout, and 19 undecided), as people who are more committed to voting are often more committed to a particular candidate.
As for the June election, it's still a paper-thin lead for Walker over Barrett, with a slightly larger lead for Walker over Falk. Again, the switch to a likely voter model makes a difference here: not a big one, but in a game of inches, an important one. Among RVs, Barrett actually leads Walker, 47-46. (Falk trails Walker 49-42.) That falloff between likely and registered voters show that the Republicans still have a small edge on the enthusiasm gap here, or at least better follow-through on getting their partisans to commit to turning out. If Barrett is going to pull this out, it'll be through closing that small gap and finding and converting Democratic unlikely voters into actual voters. In other words, Democratic GOTV efforts will be absolutely critical.
If you just went by fundraising reports, you might be surprised to see the race as close as it is: Scott Walker's campaign reported yesterday that they've raised $13.5 million since January and are still sitting on $4.9 million cash on hand (meaning he's burned through $8.6 million trying to stay alive). That compares with $832K raised by Barrett and $977K raised by Falk (although there's been considerable anti-Walker spending by unions as well). That huge spending on Walker's side doesn't seem to have moved the needle much over the months, though; for the most part, people have had their minds made up about this race for the last year, and the race to the finish line is going to be less about persuading what few swing voters remain and more about maximizing turnout among the two parties' bases.
When it was discovered that the General Services Administration spent nearly a million dollars on a lavish conference in Las Vegas, the outrage thundered through Washington like a roiling tsunami. Congressional hearings were quickly organized, the scandal led the news every night for days, and you couldn't turn on a television or radio without hearing more horrifying details. The public trust was betrayed! Our tax dollars were wasted! Government was out of control! Yeah, maybe. But in the end, the whole thing was about $823,000, or .00004 percent of the federal budget for 2011. You want to talk real government waste? Get a load of the F-35 joint strike fighter:
Although the plane was originally billed as a low-cost solution, major cost increases have plagued the program throughout the last decade. Last year, Pentagon leadership told Congress the acquisition price had increased another 16 percent, from $328.3 billion to $379.4 billion for the 2,457 aircraft to be bought. Not to worry, however -- they pledged to finally reverse the growth...
A final note on expense: The F-35 will actually cost multiples of the $395.7 billion cited above. That is the current estimate only to acquire it, not the full life-cycle cost to operate it. The current appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion -- making for a grand total of $1.5 trillion, or more than the annual GDP of Spain. And that estimate is wildly optimistic: It assumes the F-35 will only be 42 percent more expensive to operate than an F-16, but the F-35 is much more complex. The only other "fifth generation" aircraft, the F-22 from the same manufacturer, is in some respects less complex than the F-35, but in 2010, it cost 300 percent more to operate per hour than the F-16. To be very conservative, expect the F-35 to be twice the operating and support cost of the F-16.
Read that again: Buying and operating this plane is optimistically expected to cost $1.5 trillion. That's trillion. With a "T." Or to put it another way, that's 1,822,600 extravagant GSA conferences. And if the F-35 was such a spectacular system that it ensured the safety of every American man, woman and child for the next 50 years, it might be worth it. But the plane is plagued with problems; the author of that piece, Winslow Wheeler, calls it "a gigantic performance disappointment," and that's a conclusion shared by many people who know a lot more about this than I do.
I'm not saying the GSA thing shouldn't have been exposed and condemned. It should have. Taxpayer money shouldn't be wasted, no matter how small the amounts involved are. But the biggest government waste often occurs in the areas that the anti-government crowd never wants to talk about when they talk about government waste.
TBogg finds the picture that explains everything, then proceeds to explain it as only he can.[...]
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TBogg finds the picture that explains everything, then proceeds to explain it as only he can.[...]
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Right-wing media have responded to criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget plan by trying to reframe the plan as not actually calling for spending "cuts," but that it simply limits the rate of an increase in spending. But experts agree that Ryan's plan would indeed reduce funding to programs that assist millions of low- and middle-income Americans; as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has noted, Ryan's plan includes reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding that alone would "necessitate ending assistance for millions of low-income families."
WSJ's McGurn Defends Ryan Plan: "[F]or The Most Part, We're Not Talking About 'Cuts' At All; We're Talking About The Rate Of Increase In Spending." In his April 30 Wall Street Journal column titled, "Paul Ryan's Cross to Bear," William McGurn defended Ryan and his budget from criticism by the "religious left," writing:
At Georgetown he delivered a spirited defense of his budget. He did so notwithstanding attacks by various Catholic bishops and a letter from 90 Georgetown professors decrying his "continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few."
Now, even a Georgetown professor ought to understand that, for the most part, we're not talking about "cuts" at all; we're talking about the rate of increase in spending. Under Mr. Obama, the increased spending would go to 4.5% a year. Mr. Ryan's "radical" reform proposes to keep it to 3%. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/30/12]
Marc Thiessen: "Ryan's Budget Can Only Be Viewed As A 'Cut' When Compared With The Unprecedented Levels Of Spending Unleashed By President Obama." In an April 25 Washington Post op-ed, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen defended Ryan's budget from criticism by prominent Catholic bishops, suggesting that Ryan's budget was increasing spending when compared to President Bush's budget projections for 2012 and 2013 and that the plan "can only be viewed as a 'cut' when compared" to spending that President Obama has proposed. From the op-ed:
To put that into perspective, Jeff Rosen, a former official in the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget, points out the final budgets submitted by President George W. Bush projected spending of $3.22 trillion in 2012 and $3.34 trillion in 2013. Ryan's budget, by contrast, calls for spending of $3.6 trillion in 2012 and $3.53 trillion in 2013. So Ryan's budget is higher than Bush's projections for 2012 and for 2013. In fact, since actual spending in 2008 was $2.98 trillion, Ryan's budget represents a 20 percent increase in spending in 2012 -- higher than inflation from 2008 to 2012. How is that cruel and heartless?
Ryan's budget can only be viewed as a "cut" when compared with the unprecedented levels of spending unleashed by President Obama, who has increased our national debt by more than $4 trillion in just 31 months -- a new land-speed record for fiscal profligacy. In criticizing Ryan's spending "cuts," Bishop Blaire is effectively arguing that these unsustainable spending increases under Barack Obama are the new floor for what constitutes "social justice." In this view, even a 20 percent increase in spending relative to 2008 is a violation of the "moral criteria" of the Catholic Church. That is ridiculous. [The Washington Post, 4/25/12]
Rove: Ryan Budget Is Only A Cut Because "[Obama] Wants To Increase Spending To $5.8 Trillion in 2022." In an April 11 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Karl Rove claimed that the Ryan budget could only be considered a "cut" when compared to the outlays called for by Obama's budget. From the column:
Take the House GOP budget plan. It increases federal outlays from roughly $3.6 trillion this year to nearly $4.9 trillion in 2022. In the AP speech the president called this a "cut" because he wants to increase spending to $5.8 trillion in 2022.
He warned that if the GOP's "cuts ... were to be spread out evenly across the budget," then "Alzheimer's and cancer and AIDS" research would be slashed, 10 million college students denied assistance, and "thousands" of researchers and teachers "could lose their jobs." But Republicans don't cut across the board. Instead, their focus is on waste, duplication, programs that do not work, and on reform. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/11/12]
CBPP: Ryan Budget Would Triple Pell Grant Shortfall. An April 26 Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report found that the Ryan budget triples the size of the projected Pell grant shortfall "even as it significantly cuts Pell benefits and eligibility." From the report:
Pell Grants are funded partly from "discretionary" money provided annually by the Appropriations Committees and partly from mandatory money -- funding provided outside the annual appropriations process. Discretionary funding supports the first $4,860 of the grant, while the remainder comes from mandatory funding. (Mandatory funding therefore currently covers $690 of the $5,550 maximum award per student.) Funding for this mandatory increment of the maximum award is open-ended, so there is no shortfall in this source of funding.
Discretionary appropriations for Pell were artificially low in 2009 through 2013 because Congress provided additional, large, but temporary pools of mandatory funding in those years to help cover the costs of the discretionary portion of the grant (the $4,860). Those pools of fixed mandatory money will mostly dry up soon, however, so Pell's discretionary funding needs will jump by $8 billion in 2014.
At the same time, the tight caps on non-defense discretionary funding (NDD) enacted as part of last year's Budget Control Act will constrain overall NDD funding -- the part of the budget that includes the discretionary portion of Pell Grants -- over each of the next nine years. There would be little or no problem meeting Pell's funding needs within the NDD caps if the discretionary funding level for Pell grants in 2012 merely rose over the next decade at the same rate as the NDD caps (virtually the same as expected inflation) if it weren't for the $8 billion increase needed for Pell Grants in 2014, which must then be maintained in subsequent years. But because of that needed increase, CBO estimates indicate that Pell's discretionary funding needs through 2022 are about $58 billion higher than the levels that would be provided if the 2012 Pell funding level simply rose modestly in tandem with the NDD caps.
[The Ryan budget] actually exacerbates the shortfall.
- The Ryan budget would both cut Pell benefits and eligibility and freeze the maximum grant at $5,550 per student per year, apparently on a permanent basis. Together, these changes would reduce the program's funding needs by roughly $50 billion over ten years, by making fewer lower-income students eligible for the grants and reducing the size of the grants for students who still can receive them.
- It would repeal the entire $101 billion in existing mandatory funding for Pell over the next ten years -- both the permanent, open-ended funding and the temporary pools of fixed funding.
In other words, the Ryan budget would increase the $58 billion Pell shortfall by $101 billion (by repealing all mandatory funding), while reducing Pell funding needs by approximately $50 billion (by cutting eligibility and benefits). That leaves a shortfall of $109 billion, all else being equal.
All else is not equal, however. The Ryan budget would cut overall NDD funding below the current caps by the stunning amount of almost $1.2 trillion over ten years. This represents an 8 percent cut in 2013 below the already tight NDD caps and a 22 percent cut in each subsequent year.
The Ryan budget does not explain which general areas (much less which programs) would absorb what share of these deep additional cuts, so we can't know exactly how much of these cuts would come from Pell Grants. But it is extremely unlikely that Pell Grants would not be cut significantly, along with other major NDD programs, given the magnitude of the $1.2 trillion funding reduction.
We can roughly estimate the effect on Pell Grants using the same method that we used to calculate the existing $58 billion Pell shortfall -- that is, by comparing the percentage increase or reduction in the NDD caps each year, if they are set at the levels the Ryan budget calls for, with CBO's estimate of the growth in Pell Grant funding needed under current law. We find that the Ryan plan's reductions in the NDD caps would expand the Pell shortfall by an additional $52 billion -- leaving the Ryan budget with a total Pell shortfall of $161 billion. [CBPP, 4/28/12]
CBPP: "Ryan Budget Would Slash SNAP Funding By $134 Billion Over Ten Years ... Which Would Necessitate Ending Assistance For Millions Of Low-Income Families." An April 18 CBPP report found that the Ryan budget plan would severely cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by "$133.5 billion -- more than 17 percent -- over the next ten years," cuts that would negatively affect "low-income families with children, seniors and people with disabilities." From the report:
The Ryan budget documents assert that Congress could achieve the required savings by capping federal funding for SNAP and "freeing states to come up with innovative approaches to delivering aid to those who truly need it," through a block grant. That description leaves the mistaken impression that the program is not serving a population that is overwhelmingly poor and that savings could be achieved without causing significant harm to millions of vulnerable Americans.
Unlike most means-tested benefit programs, which are restricted to particular categories of low-income individuals, SNAP is broadly available to almost all households with very low incomes. As a result, cutting SNAP would affect broad swaths of the low-income population. Currently, 46.5 million people receive SNAP assistance to help them buy food for their families. Census data show that in 2010 (the latest year for which these data are available), 46.2 million Americans lived below the poverty line, and 63 million lived below 130 percent of the poverty line, SNAP's gross income limit.
- The overwhelming majority of SNAP households are families with children, seniors, or people with disabilities. Almost three-quarters of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter are in households that include senior citizens or people with disabilities.
- SNAP households have very low incomes. Eighty-five percent of SNAP households have incomes below the poverty line (about $23,050 for a family of four in 2012). Such households receive 93 percent of SNAP benefits. Two of every five SNAP households have incomes below half of the poverty line. (See Figure 3.) Such individuals and families have little flexibility in their monthly budgets to cope with deep reductions in food assistance.
- Low-wage workers rely on SNAP to boost their monthly income. Millions of Americans live in households whose earnings are not sufficient to meet basic needs. In 2010, some 37 million people (1 in 8 Americans) worked or lived in a working family with cash income below 130 percent of the poverty line (about $29,000 for a family of four). Low incomes like these -- which typically reflect low wages or limited work hours -- can leave families unable to afford necessities like food and housing on a reliable basis. SNAP benefits play a crucial role in boosting families' monthly income: a typical working mother with two children on SNAP earns $1,146 per month ($13,762 on an annual basis) and receives $375 per month in SNAP benefits. If the Ryan proposal were implemented via across-the-board cuts, this family's monthly benefits would be cut by $67 per month -- or 17 percent -- in fiscal year 2016. [CBPP, 4/18/12]
Krugman: Ryan Budget "Slashes Taxes For Corporations And The Rich While Drastically Cutting Food And Medical Aid To The Needy." In his April 1 New York Times column, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote:
[O]n Thursday Republicans in the House of Representatives passed what was surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.
When I say fraudulent, I mean just that. The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn't just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit -- but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.[The New York Times, 4/1/12]
NEA: Ryan Budget Would Force About 200,000 Children Out Of Head Start Program In 2014. As The Huffington Post reported, the National Education Association (NEA) found that the projected cuts in the Ryan budget would force about 200,000 children out of Head Start in 2014, and affect more than 2 million children over the next decade:
The plan, proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Budget Committee, would eliminate slots for about 200,000 children in 2014, according to an analysis by the National Education Association. Over the next decade, the NEA estimates, more than two million children would lose opportunities to attend Head Start centers as a result of the cuts.
As it stands, only 30 percent of eligible children participate in the program, but children's advocates tend to argue that the program should be expanded, not diminished. [The Huffington Post, 3/29/12; NEA.org, 3/26/12]
CBPP: Ryan Gets 62 Percent Of His Budget Cuts From Programs For Lower-Income Americans. In a March 23 report, CBPP found:
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget plan would get at least 62 percent of its $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over ten years (relative to a continuation of current policies) from programs that serve people of limited means.
Chairman Ryan's budget proposes $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts (and about $200 billion in defense increases). The $5.3 trillion in cuts includes $1.2 trillion in cuts to nondefense discretionary programs; this $1.2 trillion in cuts is beyond the cuts needed to comply with the strict funding caps that the Budget Control Act established. Several hundred billion dollars of these additional cuts would very likely come from low-income programs.
Total cuts in low-income programs (including cuts in both discretionary and entitlement programs) appear likely to account for at least $3.3 trillion -- or 62 percent -- of Chairman Ryan's total budget cuts, and probably significantly more than that; as explained below, our assumptions regarding the size of the low-income cuts are conservative.
CBPP illustrated its findings with this graph:
CAP: Ryan Budget Would "Strip More Than $871 Billion From Public Investments In Education, Infrastructure, And Science And Technology." A Center for American Progress (CAP) report compared Ryan's projected outlays to 2010 outlays for education, infrastructure, and technology, concluding:
This year's proposed House budget walks back from the $1.4 trillion investment cuts Rep. Ryan proposed in 2011 but still cuts deep enough to damage our economy now and in the long run. Economists assess prospects for economic growth by looking at how investment per capita grows over time--the more capital goods, skills, and knowledge people have to work with, the more productive and creative they can be. At a minimum, investment should keep pace with population growth and inflation, and replace depreciated past investments as they get worn out and used up through normal use.
But compared to 2010 levels--before conservative cuts began to bite into public investments--Rep. Ryan's plan disinvests in America by cutting:
- Education and training investment per capita by 48 percent
- Transportation infrastructure investment per capita by 28 percent
- Science and technology R&D investment per capita by 24 percent
In total, the Ryan budget proposal would strip more than $871 billion from public investments in education, infrastructure, and science and technology--investments that create a foundation to support private investments and a more productive economy with greater opportunities and broader prosperity. The key to our long-term success and the competitiveness of our economy is to boost public and private investment from the low levels of the past decade. By disinvesting in the sources of productivity and competitiveness to pay for tax cuts for the already wealthy, the Ryan budget plan puts little value on America's economic future. [CAP, 3/20/12]
EPI: "Paul Ryan's Latest Budget Doesn't Just Fail To Address Job Creation, It Aggressively Slows Job Growth." The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explained in a March 21 blog post:
Paul Ryan's latest budget doesn't just fail to address job creation, it aggressively slows job growth. Against a current policy baseline, the budget cuts discretionary programs by about $120 billion over the next two years and mandatory programs by $284 billion, sucking demand out of the economy when it most needs it and leading to job loss. Using a standard macroeconomic model that is consistent with that used by private- and public-sector forecasters, the shock to aggregate demand from near-term spending cuts would result in roughly 1.3 million jobs lost in 2013 and 2.8 million jobs lost in 2014, or 4.1 million jobs through 2014. [EPI, 3/21/12, emphasis original]
She's very happy to rush to China to support the blind dissident who felt his way to the Embassy. CNN is more than happy to promote that, and it was really a convenient cover to use as they switched off Dan Rather on Piers Morgan last night as he was saying that media consolidation to 4 channels - all mega-corporate owned and in the bed with government was very dangerous to democracy. They proved Dan Rather's point.
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So the 2012 presidential campaign is on the verge of losing it's only housing historian. That's right, Newton Leroy Gingrich is about to quit the campaign, and announce his intention of supporting Willard Mitt Romney. The press conference is scheduled to begin at 3 PM ET. Join us for the
discussionhilarity in the comments. We'll track the event as it unfolds, and you watch here:
12:04 PM PT: Allegedly, Newt was scheduled to speak at 3:00PM, but he hasn't started yet. Maybe he's still working out the deal points with Romney before they sign the term sheet.
12:05 PM PT: SIREN: Okay, I'm getting a report from somewhere (maybe deep inside my head) that the hangup here is that Newt wants a commitment from Romney that he can be declared President of the Moon.
12:06 PM PT: Yeah, I know it's only been six minutes or so since Newt was supposed to begin, but I'm getting impatient. I mean, he's had marriages that didn't even last this long.
12:15 PM PT: Looks like some folks are taking the stage at the Hilton in Arlington, Virginia, where Newt will announce his campaign's acquisition.
12:13 PM PT: And Newt and Calista just took the stage.
12:16 PM PT: Newt looks like a cute and cuddly porcupine. And he talks with the "royal we" about his campaign. Normally I'd mock that, but Newt is crying right now, and it's rude to mock a man when he's crying.
12:15 PM PT: Well, he wasn't totally crying. But he was choking up. Frankly.
12:18 PM PT: Newt's thanking a ton of folks, because he won Georgia 156 counties to 3. Uh, yeah, because that's the way they count things.12:20 PM PT: Amazing that Newt has to drop out, given the support from Todd Palin and Michael Reagan. #notreally
12:22 PM PT: Jeesh, Newt has an excuse for everything.
12:24 PM PT: Newt says he worked as a volunteer in the Bush administration. Why anyone would want to associate themselves with that mess...12:25 PM PT: Gingrich says he will not suspend his citizenship. Because then Romney would make him self-deport.
12:28 PM PT: Newt is demonstrating why he lost. Total diarrhea of the mouth.12:30 PM PT: yes, Mr. Speaker, the White House had no idea of the al Qaeda threat in Yemen until now. Well done
12:32 PM PT: Newt wants a romantic American future of meth abuse on the moon, or maybe his diarrhea of ideas just ran together in my head.
12:33 PM PT: This is the kind of speech where if you pay too much attention to it, you actually lose intelligence. So be careful out there folks.
12:34 PM PT: Now we're at the part of the speech where Mitt Romney is getting his money. Newt says Obama is the most radical leftist in American history, so of course Mitt Romney is conservative by comparison.
12:36 PM PT: "I'm not totally certain that I'll get to the moon colony." But my grandkids will. Okay, fine, Newt, whatever.12:36 PM PT: MSNBC has nothing better to air. RT @thinkprogress: CNN says uncle. Cuts away from Newt.
12:37 PM PT: Wait, Newt just said Americans have always "reinvented themselves." Aren't conservatives supposed to be against reinventing themselves.
12:38 PM PT: And finally at long last it's over. The Romney borg has assimilated the Newt.
12:40 PM PT: Newt may have self destructed during the campaign, but he did so with the help of about $100 million in negative attack ads from Mitt Romney.
It's not been officially confirmed yet, but local media is reporting that former NFL great Junior Seau, whose gridiron glory came mostly as a San Diego Charger, committed suicide in his Oceanside, Calif., home. [...]
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Listen to me. I am an authoritative source on any subject, because I have a penis. I'm very proud of that. Along with being heartlandishly hued and a patriot, it's my greatest accomplishment.
Since Glee‘s debut in 2009, one of the major criticisms of the show has been that it’s immoral. Glee has been criticized for the racy photoshoot its stars, who play high schoolers though they’re of legal age, did for GQ, for its relatively realistic portrayal of teen sex and drinking, for its well-developed gay characters and most recently, for its sympathetic treatment of a new transgender character. Most of these criticisms say more about the people mounting them than Glee itself. But over the past two seasons, it’s become impossible to escape the conclusion that Glee is an immoral show, but not for the reason cultural conservatives believe. It’s become a show that’s not just sloppy but exploitative and manipulative of serious societal issues and human experiences. And it’s time to walk away, even for hate-watching purposes.
One of the biggest structural problems with Glee has always been its attention deficit disorder. Major life events and hugely consequential actions pop up without warning to provide drama in episodes and then vanish whether they’re resolved or not, never to be mentioned again. Most of the time, that gets dismissed as laziness, the result of a fragmented writing room, an inevitable consequence of Ryan Murphy’s style. Murphy gets a lot of credit for sensitively portraying the lives of sexual minorities in particular. But it’s time to start calling him what he is: a cynical exploiter of oppressed people who has very little actual interest in actually exploring their experiences in rich, complex, compassionate ways.
Last night’s episode of Glee was a disgustingly egregious example of this trend. In this hour, we learn that McKinley High’s football coach Shannon Beiste has been hit by her husband, a football scout whose initial appearance served mostly to escalate the rivalry between Coach Beiste and Jane Lynch’s cheerleading Coach Sylvester and has rarely been mentioned again. We know that Coach Beiste fell so hard for her husband in part because she’s often felt unlovable, but their relationship plays essentially no role in the show, and Coach Beiste is not a character whose inner life the show consistently explores. So when we found out that he was hitting her because “He had been bugging me all weekend to do the dishes, but I forgot,” and that, “As soon as it happened, right away he was so sorry, and started crying and begging me to forgive him,” after a bad, and horrendously inappropriate rendition of “Cell Block Tango,” the development came out of nowhere. Glee wouldn’t do something this bad to a character the show actually has something invested in?God forbid we explore teen partner violence, a subject that after Yeardley Love’s killing at the hands of her ex-boyfriend George Hughley at the University of Virginia might be worth discussing with these kids. No, instead Glee inflicts something dreadful on a character who’s there solely to elicit reactions from the main cast, the show beats up on the masculine woman who fears she’s unloveable.
And then, having made her a victim, the show can’t even handle it in a genuinely serious way. The plot became the B story to Kurt and Rachel’s NYADA auditions. There’s no question that those scenes are an important moment and one the show has been moving to for more than a year. And it definitely reflects teenaged myopia to privilege that event over a subject as serious as domestic violence. But there should be a distinction between the show’s priorities and its characters, a test the show failed miserably last night.
When the episode was dealing with Coach Beiste’s struggle to decide if she would leave her husband, it did so in a decidedly ugly manner. Coach Sylvester offered up her home as a refuge, and when Coach Beiste didn’t show up, she slagged on her, complaining “I ruined my tent making a neck-hole in it and what am I supposed to go with the nine whole chickens in my fridge.” Then, when Coach Beiste said she’d gone to stay with her sister, Sylvester snarked “I hope whatever bridge Denise Bieste lives under is nice and cozy.” Only after these slings and arrows does Coach Sylvester have anything kind or encouraging to say. Now, there’s no question that a more deft show could be staging a scene like this to show us Coach Sylvester’s insensitivity. But Glee is too clumsily enamored of Sue Sylvester’s snark to either set it aside for a moment, or for her to suffer real consequences for her viciousness. The show did slightly better when Coach Beiste came clean to the students, telling them they may have saved her life, even as scenes intercut with their self-congratulatory cuddle pile revealed that she hadn’t left her husband at all, that like most women who are victims of domestic violence, she was giving him another chance. Yes, the scene revealed a gap between the students’ self-centeredness and reality, but why give them credit at all? Why not treat this as the serious long-arc story it deserves to be? If Glee ever revisits this conflict again, I’ll be utterly shocked.
Glee does this so frequently it’s become a joke, but it’s really worth looking at who Murphy tortures and then ignores. Naya Rivera has acted the hell out of Santana Lopez, the Latina cheerleader with a killer alto who was outed this season, and her performance makes it easy to forget how far she’s exceeded the material she’s been given. When Finn outs Santana, it’s a betrayal that’s essentially dealt with in a single slap. When her grandmother throws her out of her home, it’s never dealt with again in any substantive way, unlike Kurt and Burt Hummel’s long journey towards a reconfigured solid and loving relationship. And a few weeks ago, Santana’s girlfriend leaked a sex tape of the two of them, an act that ought to have been shattering and was potentially illegal. There was no fallout. It’s reduced to a single conversation, and the couple stays together without a blip.
Similarly, Dave Karofsky, the closeted football player who bullied Kurt before kissing him, is essentially a repository for pain that can be withdrawn when Murphy wants to stage a moving sequence. His suicide attempt was tremendously movingly framed, as was his profession of affection to Kurt, but he hasn’t been seen since that latter rejection. It’s one thing to put a character you want to flesh out fully through a lot of difficult things. It’s another to use trauma as a sparkly toy to distract and manipulate your viewers in the absence of your ability to tell a coherent story, or to give a character you are invested in an emotional experience.
What’s infuriating about the exploitation of these characters and that makes it seem intentionally manipulative is Glee‘s ability to carry a through line on Kurt Hummel. But even as the show’s sensitively chronicled his coming out, his relationship with his family, his first big love, and his growth as an artist, Glee also has a frustrating reluctance to assign Kurt moral responsibility, whether he’s harassing Finn, his new step-brother, or cheating on his boyfriend Blaine. In that sense, he’s the perfect analogue for Glee, a show that claims credit for seeing clearly and portraying teenagers’ lives honestly, but that can’t acknowledge its own cruelty and manipulation of other people. It’s one thing for bringing the underexamined lives of gay teenagers, of abused women, of gay people of color into the mainstream of popular culture. But spotlighting them only to use their pain to accrue credit to yourself isn’t admirable. And it’s not entertaining.