Pizza Lovers — Watch Out!

Paul Krugman opens the eyes of the hungry today. Who would have known that there is an enormous Pizza Lobby, and it gives enormously to Republicans?

 

A recent Bloomberg report noted that major pizza companies have become intensely, aggressively partisan. Pizza Hut gives a remarkable 99 percent of its money to Republicans. Other industry players serve Democrats a somewhat larger slice of the pie (sorry, couldn’t help myself), but, over all, the politics of pizza these days resemble those of, say, coal or tobacco. And pizza partisanship tells you a lot about what is happening to American politics as a whole.

… some parts of the food industry have responded to pressure from government agencies and food activists by trying to offer healthier options, but the pizza sector has chosen instead to take a stand for the right to add extra cheese.

The rhetoric of this fight is familiar. The pizza lobby portrays itself as the defender of personal choice and personal responsibility. It’s up to the consumer, so the argument goes, to decide what he or she wants to eat, and we don’t need a nanny state telling us what to do.

… At one level, there is a clear correlation between lifestyles and partisan orientation: heavier states tend to vote Republican, and the G.O.P. lean is especially pronounced in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call the “diabetes belt” of counties, mostly in the South, that suffer most from that particular health problem. Not coincidentally, officials from that region have led the pushback against efforts to make school lunches healthier.

Libertarian Flim Flam

Paul Krugman is on to the “Libertarian Moment” being proclaimed in some quarters.

Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

The answer is no. And the reason can be summed up in one word: phosphorus.

As you’ve probably heard, the City of Toledo recently warned its residents not to drink the water. Why? Contamination from toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, largely caused by the runoff of phosphorus from farms.

When I read about that, it rang a bell. Last week many Republican heavy hitters spoke at a conference sponsored by the blog Red State — and I remembered an antigovernment rant a few years back from Erick Erickson, the blog’s founder. Mr. Erickson suggested that oppressive government regulation had reached the point where citizens might want to “march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp.” And the source of his rage? A ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergent. After all, why would government officials want to do such a thing?

And in his on-line blog he reminds us of the cloth from which Paul Ryan is cut:

Brad DeLong reminds us of the original Ryan budget plan — or actually “plan”, as I’ll explain — and emphasizes its dire warnings about a looming debt crisis that wasn’t. But pointing out that the debt panic was unjustified only gets at part of what was wrong with that Ryan budget (and all his subsequent proposals). For the fact is that it wasn’t a proposal made in good faith.

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And, as to the idea that there is a libertarian tide rising, floating the boat of one Rand Paul, Ed Kilgore offers a corrective over at Talking Points Memo.

…to the extent there is something that can be called a “libertarian moment” in the Republican Party and the conservative movement, it owes less to the work of the Cato Institute than to a force genuine libertarians clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged are typically horrified by: the Christian Right. In the emerging ideological enterprise of “constitutional conservatism,” theocrats are the senior partners, just as they have largely been in the Tea Party Movement, even though libertarians often get more attention.

And here, Kilgore offers a short summary of the above.

An Old Admonition Needed for New Times

"Forget the private and worry about the public"

“FORGET THE PRIVATE WORRY ABOUT THE PUBLIC

We saw this in the Rector’s Palace — the seat of government– for Renaissance Dubrovnik, Croatia.

We need it carved in stone over every public office in the land.

Toxic Contributions Foul Democracy’s Air

The photo of Paris, below, gripped by a week-long smog could as well be of the air of Democracy in the United States.  In one more report of hidden financial corruption, but an especially damning one, Nicholas Confessore at the NY Times, shines a light through the smog in Utah.

It is the nightmare scenario for those who worry that the modern campaign finance system has opened up new frontiers of political corruption: A candidate colludes with wealthy corporate backers and promises to defend their interests if elected. The companies spend heavily to elect the candidate, but hide the money by funneling it through a nonprofit group. And the main purpose of the nonprofit appears to be getting the candidate elected.

But according to investigators, exactly such a plan is unfolding in an extraordinary case in Utah, a state with a cozy political establishment, where business holds great sway and there are no limits on campaign donations.

Public records, affidavits and a special legislative report released last week offer a strikingly candid view inside the world of political nonprofits, where big money sluices into campaigns behind a veil of secrecy. The proliferation of such groups — and what campaign watchdogs say is their widespread, illegal use to hide donations — are at the heart of new rules now being drafted by the Internal Revenue Service to rein in election spending by nonprofit “social welfare” groups, which unlike traditional political action committees do not have to disclose their donors.

San Diego Voting Tuesday

San Diego, my home town in the tumultuous years of 1968-1969, and of close cousins their whole growing up years, always gets more than my passing glance when it’s in the news.  Today it’s about the elections on Tuesday to put a fully elected mayor in, to replace the temporary one, Todd Gloria, who replaced the serial harasser Filner last summer.

The candidates are big-business backed city councilor Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez, also a city councilor, who counts labor unions among his backers. After  Filner, the first Democrat  mayor in decades, stepped down to deal with the torrent of accusations about his unwanted sexual demonstrativeness, his voters seemed in disarray. Hope had been high that he would be an antidote to the corruption and budgetary malfeasance San Diego had suffered under for years, earning it the nickname of Enron-By-The-Sea.

His behavior and leaving office were a double punch to the gut of his voters who at first seemed in disarray.  They seem to have recovered quickly with Alvarez as the standard bearer.  The vote count on Tuesday is expected to be close.

The NY Times, characterizing the race as one of sharp ideological divides, gives a good backgrounder, though for the life of me I don’t understand how ideology is a good characterization of what is going on.  There are almost twenty years of history to indicate the past effects of the policies Faulkner says he will continue to pursue.  There are thousands of people whose pensions were gutted during past Republican mayors who naturally, would prefer a leader who takes their loss, and the abrogated contracts and promises, seriously.

As usual, the winner will be decided not entirely on the merits of his ideas or actions but by the variable winds of voter enthusiasm, understanding of policy-to-pocketbook linkages and, unfortunately, fealty to myths, beliefs and ethnicity.

Whoever wins, perhaps the conversation will have been begun –using the minimum wage increases proposed by Alvarez as proxy–  over how any society determines what is needed for its citizens to produce enough in their working years to keep them alive and in dignity during the years they cannot work.

If, at the most abstract, one must earn enough in half a life to provide for a full life, how is that to be done?  If no surplus is created during the working, or is raked off by others, how is life to be secured for the years of no-work?   If during the working years, pensions can not be created, if the hope for living after the working years depends on the vagaries of a stock market — which can be sent soaring or falling by conditions in Brazil or Greece– do we have the basics of sound economies, and therefore livelihoods, even in place? It’s an enormous question which is never properly dealt with.

Tuesday’s San Diego election won’t answer the question but perhaps it will be formulated a bit more clearly and spoken more loudly.

GOP: Enemy of the Poor

From Krugman:

a party committed to small government and low taxes on the rich is, more or less necessarily, a party committed to hurting, not helping, the poor.

Will this ever change? Well, Republicans weren’t always like this. In fact, all of our major antipoverty programs — Medicaid, food stamps, the earned-income tax credit — used to have bipartisan support. And maybe someday moderation will return to the G.O.P.

For now, however, Republicans are in a deep sense enemies of America’s poor. And that will remain true no matter how hard the likes of Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio try to convince us otherwise.

http://nyti.ms/1af0TuF

The New Know Nothings

From Rolling Stone: 50 Dumbest things Right-Wingers Said in 2013

1) “Yeah, I would.” – Nevada assemblyman Jim Wheeler, when asked if he would vote to reinstate slavery if his constituents wanted it

The Donor Class and Streams of Dark Money — Bill Moyers

From Bill Moyers at Tom Dispatch

The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate.  “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections.  Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”

We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have the Roberts Court that consistently privileges the donor class.

We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have a Senate in which, as a study by the political scientist Larry Bartels reveals, “Senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes.”

We don’t have emperors yet, but we have a House of Representatives controlled by the far right that is now nourished by streams of “dark money” unleashed thanks to the gift bestowed on the rich by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.

We don’t have emperors yet, but one of our two major parties is now dominated by radicals engaged in a crusade of voter suppression aimed at the elderly, the young, minorities, and the poor; while the other party, once the champion of everyday working people, has been so enfeebled by its own collaboration with the donor class that it offers only token resistance to the forces that have demoralized everyday Americans.

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Governor Christie — What a Guy!

Don’t know if you’ve been following the saga of the George Washington Bridge lane-closure which, for one week, created a mist of automobile exhausted particulate matter all over Fort Lee, New Jersey.  Rachel Maddow, at least, has been bringing us up to date every evening.  Quite a bit in the print papers today, my favorite of which by Michael Powell in the NY Times begins thusly:

Gov. Chris Christie is a wonderfully primal New Jersey politician who embraces three truths: Transparency is for squares, bluster is your friend and fingerprints are a pain.

Richard Cohen, at WaPo unaccountably decides Christie can’t have known, much less ordered the lane closure, but has taken a body blow, nonetheless:

…the damage has been done. Christie’s all-but-declared presidential campaign has taken a hit. His Joisey bona fides — a certain swagger and cocksureness — have been highlighted. (No one would cast Jimmy Stewart for this role.) Christie is a man of rare political ability, but he has a short temper and the affect of a bully. Worse, he unaccountably lacks affection for the media and sometimes shows it. Lots of politicians play hardball. Christie plays beanball.

Did the Bush Administration Kill the GOP Seed Crop?

Interesting opinion piece by Rachel Maddow in the Washington Post.

The collapse of national leadership prospects for the Republican Party is one of the greatest political failures and most important legacies of George W. Bush. Barack Obama looks less likely to repeat that fate, but it depends on a strong grove of nationally viable Democrats starting to grow now. The crescendo of attention to Elizabeth Warren is a healthy part of that process, as is the growing national interest in such diverse Democrats as Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill, Cory Booker, Wendy Davis, Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, Andrew Cuomo and Amy Klobuchar.

Inside the White House, the task of growing one’s own successors must seem like one of the less pressing items on the president’s long daily to-do list. But the previous administration’s trail of scorched earth and exiles has curtailed the prospects for the Republican Party and governing conservatism more profoundly than almost anything that administration pursued in terms of policy. It is a cautionary tale that Democrats and the Obama White House should heed sooner rather than later.