In response to a question from ThinkProgress at a policy summit yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) not only attempted to defend the tax cuts for millionaires in his new budget, but also dove into greater detail about why he so drastically cuts support programs for poor and low-income Americans:
RYAN: With respect to these programs you mentioned. They’re growing at unsustainable rates. Food stamps have quadrupled over the last ten years, and that’s in excess of the recession. We have to remember that if we just keep these programs on this unsustainable path, then they will crash. Then we’ll have a debt crisis. Then we will not be able to service these people, because under a debt crisis you’re cutting indiscriminately across the board in a very ugly way? So what we’re saying is let’s get ahead of this problem, let’s pre-empt a debt crisis, and let’s get these programs working better so that they’re growing at a more sustainable rate.
It’s not clear what Ryan means by “quadrupled? in excess of the recession.” From 2000 to 2008, before the recession began, spending on food stamps (otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) went from $18.3 billion to $39.3 billion — barely doubling. By 2011, it had increased to $77.6 billion. That is closer to a quadrupling from 2000, but this includes the effects of the recession.
More importantly, SNAP spending as a matter of dollar amounts does not indicate whether the program is sustainable. What counts on that score is spending as a percentage of GDP, or what share of the wealth produced annually by the American economy is required to fund the program.
In 2000, SNAP accounted for 0.19 percent of GDP. By 2008 that had risen to slightly larger small slice of 0.27 percent of GDP. It then spiked to 0.52 percent in 2011 as a result of the recession. But over the coming years, as the economy recovers and fewer Americans will be in need of economic assistance, it’s projected to drop back below 0.3 percent.
It’s also worth noting that Ryan is pushing catastrophic cuts to SNAP and similar programs as the answer to, well, catastrophic cuts that Paul Ryan fears are coming. According to CAP Senior Fellow Donna Cooper, the cuts to food stamps in the House Republican budget would “force America?s poorest families to forgo as many as 8.2 billion meals a year,” with the loss in grocery sales causing the elimination of about 184,000 jobs.
While Community and Parks and Recreation are gems on their own, one of the things that makes me happiest about the continued existence of both shows is that they’re training and credentialing a generation of writers on a particular kind of smart comedy. Parks and Recreation is bringing optimism about government, women in escalating positions of leadership, and feminist manly men into the television ecosystem, while Community is uniting high and low art nerddom and clever racial and gender-based humor.
And some of these writers are starting to get their own stand-alone projects. Katie Dippold, who wrote some of the best episodes of Parks and Recreation including “Fancy Party,” in which April and Andy get married, and “Indianapolis,” in which Ron Swanson pursues the perfect steak, just sold a movie about two female cops. I’m particularly excited for this project, given both that we’re allowed to have two male cops as partners, but women always have to be paired up with men, and that the idea of anyone from Parks and Rec tackling any part of government bureaucracy is inherently thrilling to me. Then, Community‘s Hilary Winston has a pilot about a woman who tries to pull her life together after a brutal dumping in development for the fall at NBC. For those of us who always enjoy it when Community‘s women step into the center of the frame, or out on their own, that’s delightful news. And Community and Happy Endings directors Anthony and Joseph Russo are, amazingly, in the running to direct the Captain America sequel.
This is the thing to remember for those of us who freak out about the potential for cancellation of either of these gems. It would be a tragedy to lose Parks and Recreation or Community at this point in their runs. But the prospect of unlocking the talent from these writers’ rooms and applying them to other projects, too, should be an exciting one.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the conditions of detention centers for immigrants who are facing deportation. The hearing was meant as a follow-up to new health and safety standards put in place by the Obama Administration, but Republicans were there to argue that detained immigrants — who include victims of human trafficking and asylum-seekers– had it too good at the facilities.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, titled the hearing ?Holidays on ICE,? alleging that the detention centers are like vacations for those brought there by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Smith said in a press release that “the Obama administration?s new detention manual is more like a hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants.”
Other House Republicans and their experts piled on Smith’s suggestion that detainees enjoy hotel-like accomodations:
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, however, actually had photographic evidence of some of the conditions in these facilities, and they offered up a very different view of the detention centers. Many of her pictures depicted the results of brutal abuse, and one detainee Lofgren discussed died of cancer after being denied access to a doctor for two months.
Immigration advocates in the House have come out strong against Rep. Smith’s hearing. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), who wrote legislation pushing for detention center oversight, said that the hearing showed Republicans were seeking ?cheap political points? and were unconcerned about the rights of people in the detention centers.
Watch highlights from the hearing below:
Our guest blogger is Jessica Arons, director of the women’s health and rights program.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on why the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may or may not be unconstitutional. For anyone familiar with the Spending Clause, it is perplexing to think that somehow the federal government might not have the power to give the states more money for Medicaid and in turn require them to provide more low-income people with access to health care. As has been pointed out already, if the Medicaid expansion under the ACA is unconstitutional now, that means it was also unconstitutional the four other times Medicaid was expanded, three of which occurred under President Reagan, and it was unconstitutional when the program was first enacted in 1965. That seems highly unlikely.
Because these arguments have been made mostly in the realm of theory and hypotheticals, it might be useful to take a look at a very current example of how the Spending Clause works in practice. Those who have been following the war on women?s health will know that Texas recently passed a law that disqualifies Planned Parenthood from participating in the state?s Medicaid Women?s Health Program (WHP) because some of its clinics provide abortion care, even though the organization is barred from using federal or state money to pay for abortion care. Instead, the state?s action cut off funds that Planned Parenthood used to provide contraceptive services and counseling, cancer screenings, diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other preventive care.
The federal government pays for 90 of the WHP?s $40 million budget. From where does this money come? The Medicaid program. And why does federal Medicaid pay 90 percent of the cost? Because in 1972, Congress deemed family planning to be so important that it wanted to ensure every state would include those services and supplies in its Medicaid program. By the same token, Congress was so eager to ensure that every state adopt the Medicaid expansion under the ACA, that it will pay for more than 90 percent of the cost for that expansion. Yet the conservative justices on the bench yesterday questioned that incentive as ?coercive.?
Unfortunately, in a game of political chicken that puts the health of 130,000 Texan women on the line, Texas has violated a core tenet of the Medicaid program in excluding Planned Parenthood from the WHP. Federal law requires states to allow beneficiaries to seek care from ?any willing provider? that is qualified to provide the needed services. Because of Texas? discriminatory action, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department has had no choice but to cut off federal Medicaid family planning funds for the state.
It is incredibly frustrating that the very women the federal Medicaid law is intended to protect are the ones who are hurt the most, but those sanctions are the only tool HHS has at its disposal to enforce the law. It is the bargain that is struck when Congress uses its Spending Clause power to act, and it is a poignant reminder that the legal theories that have been debated in the halls of justice this week could have an all too concrete effect on the lives of everyday women.
I don't have the exact words Reid Epstein used during today's Politico Live broadcast, but this is still pretty funny:
It's not those leaks would have been worth all that much anyway, right? I mean, even if Romneyland hadn't cut off Epstein, what would they have been offering him? Opposition research dumps on Rick Santorum? Photos of Mitt doing his laundry or eating pancakes? There's only so much of that kind of stuff any one person can handle. (Unless your name is Jennifer Rubin, of course. Then there's no limit.)
Bottom-line: When Mitt Romney's own communications director is willing to publicly compare his boss to an Etch-A-Sketch on live television, who really needs Romneyland leak anyway?
Republicans are still fighting this. (Source: Gay Marine Facebook page)With British conservatives actively pushing for gay marriage, Politico decided to take a look at whether a similar shift was happening in America. Their verdict:
Just a few years ago, House Republicans were trying to etch their opposition of gay marriage into the Constitution.Really? For the counterargument, let's turn to, er, the same story:
Now? They?re almost silent.
It?s been one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans, as they?ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics. What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans ? the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches ? is virtually a dead issue, as Republicans in Congress don?t care to have gay marriage litigated in the Capitol.
Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told POLITICO.
Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is spending millions of dollars on defending DOMA [...]And of course, there's the corporatist Third Way giving Republicans cover:
The House passed an amendment that prohibited chaplains from performing same-sex marriages on Navy bases. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) introduced the Marriage Protection Act of 2011, which banned federal courts from hearing same-sex marriage cases, instead kicking them to states. But even he said he didn?t expect anything to be done at the federal level.
?I still feel very strongly about that because I think it has a great deal to do with the stability of the whole country,? Burton said. ?I don?t know that people?s opinions have changed that much, but what I think has happened is that people realize the dire straits this country has been in and they think we better deal with that before we get back to the social issues.?
Most Republicans maintain that the commitment is still there ? but the time is not right.
?I don?t think there is any less commitment on the part of conservatives and Republicans to protect traditional America values,? said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee. ?I think that?s still strong [...]?
?A lot of moderate Democrats would be scared to vote on DOMA,? Third Way?s Lanae Erickson said. ?There was no question House Republicans were going to defend DOMA ? but they made it as low profile as humanly possible.?Spending millions to defend a law designed to keep gays as second-class citizens isn't "low profile." Not sure what else they'd expect Republicans to do?the law is already on the books, there's nothing more to legislate. Now it's a matter of resolving its dubious Constitutionality in the courts.
And of course, we can't forget GOP-backed efforts to overturn marriage equality in Washington and Maryland, as well as efforts to keep it illegal from California, to North Carolina, to Maine and to pretty much everywhere in between.
And how about this iconic moment in the GOP presidential primaries, when audience members booed a gay servicemember and the candidates neither defended him, nor bothered to thank the soldier for his service to our country?
Meanwhile, back to Congress, Republicans recently opposed hate crime legislation, voted overwhelmingly against repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and are now opposing the routine reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it extends protections to same-sex couples. And if you think Republicans hate women, just imagine how much they hate homosexual women! When the Obama Administration nominated a pro-gay rights nominee for the ambassadorship to El Salvador, Republicans attempted to block her. She had the temerity to write positively about gays in an editorial.
If Republicans are toning down their anti-gay rhetoric, and I personally don't see it, it's because the electorate is focused on pocketbook issues and really can't be bothered that conservatives find two guys kissing "icky." Because unlike their counterparts across the pond, there still seems to be zero realization that demographically, their intolerance and hatred will make it difficult to win young voters who recoil against efforts to deny all Americans equal rights under the law.
The Paul Ryan budget passed by House Republicans, applauded by Mitt Romney, really does take us back to the Hoover administration. It gives massive tax breaks to the wealthy while slashing programs for low-income America. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the cuts in the Republican budget hit programs for the most vulnerable Americans.
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.Those cuts:
Those are estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of the proposal written by Rep. Paul Ryan, and now embraced by House Republicans and Mitt Romney. But they're just estimates, since Ryan didn't do much actual homework by specifying cuts. The real amounts Ryan and his Republican cohorts envision cutting in these programs could be much, much higher.
The Republican tax rates would be the lowest for the wealthy since the Hoover administration. The cuts to programs for low-income Americans would bring back the Hoover administration for them, too.
The implosion of Mike Daisey's Foxconn stories may have, in the short term, returned focus to Apple's suppliers of their electronic products. Now Foxconn, the notorious Chinese manufacturer, has announced a series of changes to working conditions at the[...]
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According to a recent study by the University of California, 93% of income growth since the economic collapse of 2008 has gone to the wealthiest 1% of American households, while everyone else has had to fight over the remaining 7%. As early as the early 1990s, the amount of national income growth going to the wealthiest 1% was only 45%.
So, what do you do if you are a right wing movement and not even you can justify that kind of concentrated economic and political power? Well, you put out a video that talks about "freedom" and "tyranny" and hope you can convince the gullible that the plutocratic takeover of our country is as American as apple pie.
The video is called "We the People" and apparently it's gone viral on the Right, collecting more than six million hits. I saw it because a friend of my wife's thought it was just great and thought we would, too. I guess she didn't get the memo!
The video is organized like an open letter to President Obama whose tone perfectly replicates the gauzy, abstract vernacular of Fox News.
We The People "have stated resolutely we reject your vision for our country," its narrator informs President Obama. We The People "have assembled across America resisting your efforts to subvert our constitution and undermine our liberty."
The video is filled with the sort of Americana that appeals to Sarah Palin's "real Americans" on the right. Scenes of Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, a saluting Marine, the Preamble to the Constitution, American flags, American flags, American flags and more American flags fill the screen. Even a Bald Eagle makes a guest appearance.
Its message is boilerplate Tea Party Republican: "Our greatest treasure is freedom;" "We believe in the power of the individual;" "Freedom is the capacity of self-determination."
There are also the usual Declaration of Independence-like "long train of abuses" hurled at the President: "You promised change when you took office, Mr. President, but subjugation is not change we wanted or will accept;" "you have expanded government, violated our Constitution, confounded laws, seized private industry, destroyed jobs, perverted our economy, curtailed free speech, corrupted our currency, weakened our national security, and endangered our sovereignty."
And this is why "we," Mr. President are assembling all across this land, say the film's producer, so that "we" can deliver "our" message that: "Our great nation is a Republic. We will not accept tyranny under any guise. Your policy to redistribute the fruits of our labor is Statism and will not be tolerated. We The People will defend our liberty. We will protect our beloved country and America's exceptionalism will prevail."
To be honest, when I first started watching "We the People" I thought it was the kind of parody Saturday Night Live might have produced if it wanted to create a spoof of right wing propaganda. It was that cynical and that overt.
I mean, even the title of the piece is manipulative - We the People - as if the 70% of We the People don't really exist who think Democrats are right and Republicans are wrong when it comes to such key questions as whether to tax the rich more, to eliminate subsidies for oil companies or to preserve America's endangered safety net.
But, at the end of the day, it is also disheartening to see how easy it is for so much hard work that tries to raise the level of understanding and debate in this country to go to waste as vacuous, dishonest, manipulative and utterly content-free propaganda like this bamboozles even very smart people such as those who sent this piece of work to us.
Then again, why should we be surprised that so many are impervious to facts and reality or who see politics as nothing more than brute force and war, a take-no-prisoners, law of the jungle scramble for survival of the fittest?
But I did like the Bald Eagles.
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Mitt Romney's Etch-A-Sketch Strategy, before the nomination and after
National Journal's Beth Reinhard suggests that Wisconsin's political focus on labor is pushing Mitt Romney in a direction he might not otherwise want to go:
In a stark example of the perils of a protracted primary campaign, dangers lurk for Romney no matter what approach he takes in Wisconsin. Tone down the rhetoric he used in Michigan, where he condemned ?labor stooges,? and he risks ceding the state to Santorum and further alienating the conservative base of his party. Ramp up the labor-bashing and cozy up to Walker, and Romney risks laying the groundwork for a general-election disaster. [...]Romney has campaigned against unions so enthusiastically that it may go beyond pure short-term considerations, but we are talking about Mitt Romney here. However enthusiastically he's attacked all things union-related, if he thinks it will benefit him in the general, he'll swing back. That being the case, this is certainly one reason it's great that the Republican presidential primaries are dragging on, even if Mitt Romney ends up the nominee as was generally assumed from the get-go. Michigan and Wisconsin have both voted for Democrats for president over the last several cycles, but both were close in 2000 and 2004; Ohio, where Romney also waged an anti-union campaign, is famously a key swing state. But though he needs to contest those states in the general, at least through the Wisconsin primary, Romney will keep ranting about "union bosses" and the like, making it ever-easier for unions to persuade even Republican-leaning members that a vote for Romney is a vote against their economic well-being.
Praising Walker?s efforts follows Romney?s strategy of elevating short-term security over long-term risk. Indeed, in Michigan, he tilted so far in that direction that it raised questions about whether he intended to contest the state in November.
The longer it takes him to defeat Santorum, the longer he has to wait to shake the Etch-A-Sketch, and the more likely voters are to remember what the Etch-A-Sketch said through the long months of the primaries.