Scott Walker, the Quieter Trump

From Bloomberg News, Margaret Carlson spots fraternal twins, Donald Trump and Scott Walker.

 

“On the surface, you couldn’t ask for two more different candidates than the real-estate mogul and the preacher’s son.

Trump is, well, Trump. Walker, on the other hand, is genial, affable and low-key. As a teenager, he filled in for his father delivering the Sunday sermons and flipped hamburgers at McDonald’s. He quit college, as he explained it to his parents, to make sure there was money to send his younger brother. Democrats who worked with him over the years admit how pleasant he is.

This is where the contrast between Walker and Trump ends and the similarities begin. In his political life, Walker has tried to bring about the America that Trump says we need. He did so first as an assemblyman (calling for a harsh “truth in sentencing” law, prison privatization, and voter-ID laws) and then as Milwaukee county executive (making cuts to spending on parks and public transit, and focusing on making life better in the suburbs rather than helping those in the city). By the time he left that post, Milwaukee had the second-highest black poverty rate in the U.S. and an unemployment rate almost four times higher for blacks than for whites.

He was elected governor with high turnout among his white base. His first act was to bust the public unions and give businesses a tax break.”

Barney Frank

Gary Wills is sorry he wasn’t able to vote for Barney Frank as the first gay president. So should we all. Here’s a snip from Wills’ look at Frank’s new book.

“Frank fears some forms of “big government”—especially our monstrous financing of exotic weaponry, occupying forces around the world, and the wars we start rapidly and end (if at all) after guaranteeing our own defeat. But he knows that the same people who hand out huge contracts for this overkill capacity are calling for “small government” when its services could help the poor, or disabled, or ordinary citizens.

They base their claim that government does not work not on the part that really does not work, the defense that we make too big to control, but on service to our own citizens. They are following the “starve the beast” strategy of men like David Stockman and Grover Norquist—declare that programs cannot work, deregulate them as not worthy of correction, underfund them, and then, when they do not work, declare the first presumption vindicated.

Frank was horrified when Bill Clinton said, in effect, that the starvers were right but that he would starve government moderately. After the president in 1996 declared, “The era of big government is over,” Frank says he wanted to ask, “What country are you describing?” And he asked Clinton’s staff, “Did I sleep through the big-government years?” “

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Alberta, Canada: Pigs Do Fly

“The New Democratic Party (NDP) ended the Progressive Conservatives’ (PC) 44-year rule of the province.

“Political observers were stunned by the result, with one commentator saying: “Pigs do fly”.

“Alberta’s Premier Jim Prentice, a former member of Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, said he was stepping down from political life.

BBC

Rachel Notley, the new Premier-designate for Alberta, promised “during the campaign, … to withdraw provincial support for the Keystone XL project, raise corporate taxes and also potentially to raise royalties on a regional oil industry already reeling from the collapse in world prices.”

“Ordinary Canadians were reeling from the sheer magnitude of the shift in Alberta, which has placed the country’s most notoriously conservative province, taken for granted as an impregnable redneck kingdom, in the hands of its most progressive regional government. To explain the phenomenon, Toronto-based writer Doug Saunders asked his American Twitter followers to imagine socialist presidential candidate Bernie Saunders “becoming Texas governor by a big majority”.

The Guardian

Now if the US democrats can get a hold of the Notley New Democratic Party play-book and tear up whatever led to the Conservative rout in England, our own 2016 would be looking a lot better.

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.

Ω

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