Saturday, February 05, 2011

Happy Birthday To The Gipper

On the occasion of the 100th birthday of The Sainted Ronnie R, I would like to present some recollections of Number 40 mostly from the book “Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error,” by Mark Green and Gail MacColl, published in 1983 (additional material follows)...

“This president is treated by both the press and foreign leaders as if he were a child. He earns praise for the ordinary, for what used to be the expected. His occasional ability to retain facts is cited as a triumph when it should, in fact, be a routine occurrence…”

Richard Cohen, WaPo, 6/2/83
Shocking that the Cohen we know now would have actually once said that, I'll admit.

On a proposed Soviet grain embargo in 1980, in response to their war in Afghanistan (from the “past is prologue” file)

1/7/80

“I just don’t believe the farmer should be made to pay a special price for our diplomacy, and I’m opposed to the (embargo.)” (Washington Post)

1/8/80

“If we are going to do such a thing to the Soviet Union as a full grain embargo, which I support, first we have to be sure our own allies would join us on this.” (Claremont – NH – Eagle Times)
On the 1980 U.S. Olympic Boycott...

“I just cannot within myself now find it right that the President of the United States should now be able to say to Americans who have violated no laws or anything, that they cannot go and cannot leave this country (to compete).” (The boycott was always voluntary, by the way.)

(New York Times, 4/9/80)

“I support the boycott today. I supported it yesterday. And I supported it when the President first called for it.”

(New York Times, 4/11/80)
In an attempt to downgrade President Jimmy Carter’s initiative on US-China policy, Reagan said, “In the first place, China relations had been normalized by the visits of a previous President from a previous administration (i.e., Richard Nixon). And I am not at all sure that (Carter) added anything to what had already been accomplished.” (WaPo, 5/5/83)

Carter added, of course, what WaPo columnist Philip Geyelin labeled “the hard part” – the 1979 “normalization” agreement that established full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Also, speaking in June 1982, Reagan described Syrian missiles in Lebanon as “offensive weapons,” adding, “There’s no question about the direction in which they’re aimed.”
Well, naturally, there was some question, since the weapons under discussion were surface-to-air missiles used for anti-aircraft purposes – they were, therefore, aimed in the direction of whatever was flying over them and were entirely defensive in nature. (WaPo, 6/17/82)

Continuing…

“We have never interfered in the internal government of a country and have no intention of doing so, never have had any thought of that kind.” (9/28/82)
Never? That’s not what an article on the front page of the New York Times on December 4, 1982 said: “United States covert activities in Central America, which began a year ago with limited aims, have become the most ambitious paramilitary and political action operation mounted by the CIA in nearly a decade, according to intelligence officials.” Nor is it what the President himself said half a year later: “Now, if they (House committee members) want to tell us that we can give money and do the same things we’ve been doing – money giving, providing subsistence, and so forth to these people (anti-Sandinista guerrillas trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua) and making it overt instead of covert – that’s all right with me.” (WaPo, 5/5/83)

Also…

“Well, I learned a lot…I went down (to Latin America) to find out from them and (learn) their views. You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.” (WaPo, 12/6/82)
Also…

“Because Vietnam was not a declared war, the veterans are not even eligible for the G.I. Bill of Rights with respect to education or anything.” (Newsweek, 4/21/80)
The vets were, in fact, eligible even if Vietnam wasn’t a declared war.

“Up until now (during the Soviet Afghan invasion) the Soviet Union has not used its own military forces in its imperialism. It’s taken over country after country, but it’s done so with proxy troops.” (Des Moines Register, 1/8/80)
Soviet troops were used in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

“Now, the Soviets have 945 warheads aimed at targets in Europe with their medium-range missiles. And we have no deterrent whatsoever…” (10/14/82)
Uh, no – at that time, the U.S. had, on submarines in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, 400 warheads targeted at the Soviet Union. Also on those subs were an additional 4,500 warheads not officially committed to NATO. Great Britain had 192 warheads targeted at the USSR; France had 98. Reagan also ignored the bomber forces of both the U.S. and NATO, which had the capacity to drop well over 1,000 nuclear weapons on the USSR.

“We then went back into negotiations on their (the Soviets’) terms, because Mr. Carter had cancelled the B-1 bomber, delayed the MX, delayed the Trident submarine, delayed the Cruise missile, shut down the…Minute Man missile production line…” (Presidential debate, 10/28/80)
It’s true that the B-1 bomber had been delayed. As for the rest: the Cruise missile and MX were under full-scale development; the Minute Man’s missile production line had been shut down because the production schedule had been met; and the first Trident submarine, the USS Ohio, had been launched on April 7, 1979.

“We’re in greater danger today than we were the day after Pearl Harbor. Our military is absolutely incapable of defending this country.” (New York Times, 4/12/80)
Spoken like someone who “served” during WW II on a Hollywood back lot, which is pretty much what he did, making 400 training films.

“Incidentally, the first man who proposed the nuclear freeze was in February 21, 1981, in Moscow – Leonid Brezhnev.” (12/10/82)
Nope. The freeze idea was first officially proposed by Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon), in 1979, as an amendment to SALT II.

“I was the one who took the lead to begin bringing about the first real arms reduction talks that we’ve ever been able to hold with the Soviet Union.” (2/16/83)
Here we go again. Again, remember SALT II? Some people think those were real arms reduction talks, especially since that agreement called for significant reductions in arms between the superpowers. Remember Richard Nixon? Gerald Ford? Jimmy Carter? They all supported SALT II.

On the economy:

“Their lives (the lives of workers and their families) have been shattered by a new depression – the Carter depression. The Carter depression was created and molded by Carter himself.” (8/28/80)
Whatever Carter did mold it was not a depression, or at least not according to Reagan’s own economic advisers. Alan Greenspan said, “I wouldn’t have used that term.” Martin Anderson pointed out that most economists believed the nation to be in a “very severe recession” (at that time). Anderson and his aides then went so far as to issue a clarification stating that “the Republican presidential nominee was not using the word ‘depression’ the way economists do.” Oh.

“Real earnings are at last increasing for the first time in quite awhile.” (5/16/82)
Try decreasing. The Labor Department reported in June 1982 that real average weekly earnings for American workers declined 1.2%.

“For four quarters we have seen a growth in the GNP.” (9/28/82)
Inflation-adjusted GNP had been declining for two of the four quarters under discussion.

Turning to one of Reagan’s pet peeves…

“We reformed welfare in California (when Reagan was governor from 1967-1975) and we saved $2 billion for the taxpayer over a three-year period…” (Washington Star, 3/2/80)
There was never $2 billion to save. That figure represents money that would have been spent had the number of people receiving welfare continued to increase, even after the recession ended and the rate of abortion increased. Anthony Beilenson (D-CA) used these same calculations to figure out that by 1978 55% of the state’s population would be on the dole; and that by 1984, everyone in the state including the governor would be on welfare. This claim sometimes appeared as “We returned $2 billion to the taxpayer,” which is even more wrong.

“What Congress, when they finished, gave him (President Kennedy) was 30% (in tax cuts) at the bottom levels of the income earners and 23% at the top levels, and it averaged out to 27%. So…Kemp/Roth (the first disastrous Reagan tax cut) is asking for exactly what, in amount, Kennedy asked for.” (CBS News, 4/3/80)
Not exactly. In 1963, JFK requested a tax cut of 18%, weighted in favor of lower-and-middle-income families. After his death, Congress enacted a 19% tax cut.

“History shows that when the taxes of a nation approach about 20% of the people’s income, there begins to be a lack of respect for government…When it reaches 25% there comes an increase in lawlessness.” (Time, 4/14/80)
History shows no such thing. Income tax rates in Europe have traditionally been far higher than U.S. rates, while European crime rates have been much lower.

“The percentage of your earnings the federal government took in taxes in 1960 has almost doubled.” (2/5/81)
No. As a share of personal income, federal individual income taxes were 10.4% in 1960 and 12.0% in 1981.

“The bipartisan (tax cut) proposal was designed to encourage small businesses…” (7/27/81)
If so, the proposal was poorly designed. About 80% of the Accelerated Cost Recovery System cut in corporate taxes went to the top one-tenth of 1% of America’s businesses, or those “small businesses” with assets of more than $250 million. Said William Hardman, a representative of the Small Business Legislative Council, “It would be difficult to write a tax bill better designed to speed the extinction of small business.”

“As a matter of fact, if anyone wants to look closely, our original tax plan did not contain the reduction of the 70% bracket (formerly the high-end rate, believe it or not). That was suggested by the Democrats.” (11/12/81)
No it wasn’t. The original Reagan tax plan called for a lowering of the top rates from 70% to 50%, to be phased in over a period of three years. As David Stockman so memorably explained, “Kemp-Roth was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate.”

“I would like to have them (the critics of the plan) give a specific on where this is a budget for the rich. The bulk of the personal income tax cut goes right across from the lower income to middle America.” (2/8/82)
Well, here are some specifics. According to the CBO, 35.1% of the tax cuts went to the wealthiest 5% of the taxpayers. The National Journal, using CBO and Census Bureau information, estimated that, had the 1983 tax cuts gone into effect in 1981, they would have taken $1.2 billion from the poorest fifth of the income spectrum and added $36 billion to the income of the richest fifth.

“Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, ‘Keep the government poor and remain free’.” (6/15/82)
An official at the White House speechwriting office says the President “came up with that one himself. Holmes never said anything point-blank exactly like that…we’re still trying to track it down.” Professor Ed Bander of Suffolk Law School in Boston, a recognized Holmes scholar, didn’t think Holmes “ever said anything that I can see which resembles that quote.”

Oh, and here’s a budget flip-flop…

“We have no choice. This government must get back as quickly as possible to a balanced budget.” (New York Times, 11/21/75)

“In the first place, I said that (a balanced budget) was our goal, not a promise.” (12/17/81)
Continuing…

“And already, we can tell you that that $90 billion deficit of 1983 will actually be smaller in proportion to the GNP than the deficits were in 1975-1978…” (3/8/82)
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the 1984 budget of the US government estimated that the 1983 deficit would be 6.5% of GNP, which made it larger, not smaller, than percentages of GNP for any single year between 1975 and 1978: 3.1% in 1975, 4.0% in 1976, 2.4% in 1977, and 2.3% in 1978. In fact, when the House Budget Committee ranked post-World War II deficits as a percentage of GNP, Reagan’s budgets for his first term in office took four of the top five spots.

“If you’ll remember, there were 2 million who lost their jobs in the last six months of 1980, during the election…” (1/8/82)
The number of people employed increased in the last six months of 1980, ending the year with 283,000 more people working than in July.

“I realize there’s been an increase in unemployment. It’s been a continuation of an increase that got underway in the last several months of 1980.” (1/19/82)
Still wrong. In the last six months of 1980, unemployment declined from 7.8% to 7.3%. It declined further to 7.2% in 1981, before beginning to climb to double-digit figures.

“We have…in some of the hardest-hit states, extended the unemployment insurance. There’s nothing that strikes to my heart more than the unemployed…”(3/31/82)
Then how come the Labor Department estimated that changes in the eligibility formula for the 1981 budget reduced extended benefits for 1.5 million jobless workers? Moreover, changes in the way a state became eligible for the extended benefit program had Michigan – the hardest hit of the states, then pretty much as now – thrown off that program for 13 weeks just prior to the President’s heartfelt speech.

“Is it news that some fellow out in South Succotash somewhere has just been laid off?” (3/16/82)
Enough said.

“No, I want to be fair. Unemployment is 9.8%. When we took office it was 7.4%. Okay, I’ll take blame for 2.4% of the unemployment. And if, as everybody is worried about, it goes to 10%, well I’ll take blame for 2.6%” (10/6/82)
Let’s be fair to (every president to that point in time). In the past 30 years (from 1983), here’s how the unemployment rate changed during each president’s term in office. Republicans: Ike, +3.7%; Nixon, +2.0%; Ford, +3.1%; Reagan, +2.4%. Democrats: JFK, -.9%, LBJ, -2.3%, Carter, -1.0%. It’s hard to see why the Democrats should accept blame for 7.4% unemployment, when Republican presidents have always increased unemployment and Democratic presidents have always decreased it. And unemployment passed the 10% mark just two days after Reagan said that.

“When Chicago burned down they didn’t declare it a disaster area. They just rebuilt it, the people of Chicago, and this is the kind of America we can have again.” (Washington Star, 3/2/80)
This is the kind of America we’ve had all along. On October 10, 1871, the Secretary of War, Gen. William H. Balknap, declared the Chicago fire a “national calamity.” The mayor of Chicago gave absolute police authority to the US Army under Lieutenant General Philip H. Sheridan. Federal rations, tents, and other supplies arrived from all over the country. According to A.T. Andreas, author of History of Chicago, millions of dollars to aid in the rebuilding of Chicago came from all over the US, from the federal government, and from several foreign governments as well.

And in terms of Repugs not being able to cut from the budget today (at least not without getting their stinking tax cuts first), I believe you could consider this to be a prototype…

“What would I cut?...Right now the GAO has furnished the Congressional Budget Office with a list of 41 specific items. All of them are totally unnecessary, spelled out right down to the penny…they total $11 billion (in savings), those 41 items…” (Washington Star, 3/2/80)
They totaled zero, those 41 items, as least as far as the Government Accounting and Congressional Budget Offices are concerned – spokesmen for both said they knew of no such list.

“If the figures that I’ve been given are correct, in these last three years the federal government has increased by 131,000 (workers).” (Time, 4/14/80)
The figures were not correct. The Bureau of Labor Statistics put the average number of federal workers in 1976 at 2,733,000 and in 1979 at 2,773,000 – for a grand total increase of 40,000.

“The federal government did not create the states, the states created the federal government.” (Inaugural address, 1/20/81)
The original 13 colonies did get together and create our constitutional system, including the federal government. Yet the federal government “created” the other 37 states. Their land was either bought with federal monies or won at war by federal armies. Of the 37 states admitted to our nation after ratification, only Texas chose to become part of the US while a sovereign entity. The federal government did, however, assume Texas’ debt when it became a state.

“In England, if a criminal with a gun, even if he was arrested for burglary or theft or whatever he was doing, was tried for first degree murder and hung if he was found guilty.” (4/15/82)
A New York Times search of English law going back to the 14th century failed to turn up this legal standard. A member of the Law Society of Britain pointed out that there had once been a law that punished by execution the use of a gun that led to death, but never merely the carrying of a gun. After the error was pointed out, Reagan Press Secretary Larry Speakes commented, “Well, it’s a good story, though. It made the point, didn’t it?”

And here is some of Ronnie’s “compassion” on display…

“We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.” (TV speech for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, 10/27/64)

“…a faceless mass, waiting for hand-outs.” (Description of Medicaid recipients, 1965)
Continuing…

“There has been a great deal of misinformation and for that matter pure demagoguery on the subject of Social Security…” (Radio address, 9/24/81)
The misinformation was on the subject of just how much Reagan wanted to cut. He acted to eliminate Social Security benefits for students who are children of deceased and disabled workers; proposed cutting the minimum benefit for Social Security recipients; and allowed his Health and Human Services Secretary to propose cutting benefits at 62 years of age – a proposal rejected by the Senate 95-0.

During the 1982 election campaigns, a Republican TV advertisement showed a white-haired mailman delivering July’s Social Security check, which contained an automatic cost-of-living increase in benefits. “President Reagan kept his promise to the American people,” the ad proclaimed.

In fact, Reagan opposed the increase in Congress, which passed it anyway. Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL), chairman of the House Committee on Aging, said that for Reagan to claim credit for the increase “lowers the art of deception to depths not explored since the Nixon Administration.” (New York Times, 7/7/82)
Comparing Ronnie to Tricky Dick – pretty low…

“I don’t believe there is going to be any cut (in education funding) that’s going to affect students with true need…” (2/18/82)
In fact, the needier the student, the harder he or she would have been hit by Reagan’s student-aid cuts. For example, a college student whose family was unable to make any contribution relied on an aid package that included a maximum Pell Grant, a Supplement Grant, and a Direct Loan or Guaranteed Loan. Reagan’s proposed program would reduce that student’s Pell Grant, take away the Supplemental Grant and the State Grant, reduce the work-study award by 28%, make Direct Loans scarcer, and make Guaranteed Loans more expensive.

“The decrease in poverty I referred to earlier started in the 1950s. By the time the full weight of the Great Society programs was felt, economic progress for America’s poor had come to a tragic halt.” (9/19/82)
In 1967, the Field Foundation testified before Congress on hunger in America: “Wherever we went and wherever we looked, we saw children in significant numbers who were hungry and sick.” A decade later, the Field team retraced its 1967 steps and found “far fewer grossly malnourished people in this country…” They concluded that food stamps and other federal nutrition programs, implemented or inspired by Great Society legislation, had made the difference.

And this is shades of Glenn Beck…

“Anyone who wants to take a look at the writings of the members of the brain trust of the New Deal will find that President Roosevelt’s advisers admired the Fascist system.” (New York Times, 8/17/80)
Some of the New Dealers made references to the efficiency of the Italian government. So did Winston Churchill. This does not add up to an admiration of fascism. Neither FDR nor the New Deal brain trust ever hinted at adopting that political program.

On the environment…

“Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources.” (Sierra, 9/10/80)
Talk about the commonsense gap. Trees do emit hydrocarbons, but the EPA does not find that cause for concern. Trees decay into nitrous oxide, which is not an immediate threat to human health. On the other hand, the EPA projected that emissions of man-made oxides of nitrogen – which are harmful and which those “tough emission standards” are intended to control – would increase by about 50% at least by the year 2000.

“As governor of California, I took charge of passing the strictest air pollution laws in the United States – the strictest air quality law that has ever been accepted.” (Presidential debate – 10/28/80)
Dead wrong. It was under Governor Pat Brown, who preceded Reagan in office, that California adopted the toughest anti-pollution measures in the nation. Reagan did put his name to some air and water quality legislation, but only under the most intense pressure from California environmentalists. The record shows that during his eight-year reign as governor, Reagan worked to undermine and weaken environmental standards. California Journal reported that by 1973 the Air Resources Board had “faded from national prominence into a strange kind of bureaucratic malaise, in which it inhibits rather than aids the smog-control effort.”

And I give you Ronnie on nuclear energy…

“It takes 12 years to get a nuclear power plant built in America. It only takes four or five in most other countries. The seven or eight years’ difference is not construction time in our country, it is paperwork and the multitudinous permits required by the government.” (Radio, April 1979)
Wrong again. It does take ten to twelve years to build a nuclear power plant in the US, but that puts us ahead of India, Spain, Italy and Britain, and behind Japan and France. In fact, the only country to do it in four years is Japan – once. As for the charge of regulatory sabotage, a congressional report concluded these claims “have been grossly exaggerated.” The reasons for the French and Japanese lead are more logistical than bureaucratic. The Japanese work on their reactors around the clock, and the French have maximized efficiency by standardizing design.

And I give you Ronnie on gas mileage…

“Trains are not any more energy efficient than the average automobile, with both getting about 48 passenger miles to the gallon.” (Chicago Tribune, 5/10/80)
The US Department of Transportation figured that a 14-car train travelling at 80 mph gets 400 passenger miles to the gallon. A 1980 auto with good mileage carrying an average of 2.2 people got 42.6 passenger miles to the gallon.

And this has been in the news a bit lately…

“…first of all – the Hatch Act, there are some fifteen million public employees in the United States. If you grant each one of them only influence over one additional vote, such as a family member, you are talking about a voting bloc of 30 million people who conceivably can have any number of conflicts of interest…” (NBC, Meet The Press, 5/1/77)
First of all, that voting bloc already exists. The Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from participating in political campaigns, does not prevent them from influencing the votes of their immediate family.

Pro:

“I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at the point of a bayonet, if necessary.” (L.A. Times, 10/20/65)

Con:

“I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” (L.A. Times, 6/17/66)
Ronnie on the law…

“(John Marshall) wasn’t even a lawyer.” (Presidential debate, 3/13/80)
The great Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court received his law license in 1780 and set up practice in 1783. According to Reagan aide Martin Anderson, Reagan meant to say that Marshall never went to law school, since his formal training was a matter of a few lectures at the College of William and Mary. Anderson: “He says it wrong. That’s all.”

Ronnie on school prayer…

“The big spenders…even drove prayer out of the classrooms.” (TV commercial, 10/31/82)
School prayer was abolished in 1962 by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Engle v .Vitale. The Court does spend money on its operations, but it uses funds appropriated by Congress. When asked by the New York Times to identify the “big spenders,” Mort Allin, an assistant White House press secretary, could not be specific. “They know who they are,” he said.

Elizabeth Drew wrote in the June 21, 1982 New Yorker of a White House meeting in which the President lauded the inventor of Rubik’s Cube as exemplifying the virtues of American free enterprise. Erno Rubik, the inventor of the cube, was a Hungarian professor living in what was, at the time, Communist Budapest.
And here’s some telltale “humor” from Ronnie…

2/18/80:

“How do you tell who the Polish fellow is at a cockfight? He’s the one with the duck. How do you tell who the Italian is at the cockfight? He’s the one who bets on the duck. How do you know the Mafia was there? The duck wins.” (Washington Star, 2/18/80)

2/19/80:

“I don’t like that type of humor, and in a conversation about stories once, this came about with one of the reporters on the plane and I had given this as an example. And on the bus, he (the reporter) asked me the other day, he said, “What was the sequence of that story,” and I paused and told him, and…I think it’s a cheap shot to use it.” (Washington Post, 2/19/80)
And I give you the following from “Tear Down This Myth” by Will Bunch, published in 2009...

(pg. 3)

…Jim Cramer, the popular, wild-eyed TV Stock guru, and hardly a flaming liberal – was giving a speech at Bucknell University in which he traced the roots of the current mortgage crisis all the way back to the pro-business policies initiated nearly three decades earlier by America’s still popular – even beloved by some – fortieth president, the late Ronald Wilson Reagan. “Ever since the Reagan era,” Cramer told the students, “our nation has been regressing and repealing years and years’ worth of safety net and equal economic justice in the name of discrediting and dismantling the federal government’s missions to help solve our nation’s collective domestic woes.”

(pgs. 9-10)

…there is the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a name change that was announced in 2000 when friends of the ex-president, then deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease, said they would raise $150 million for the facility. The irony was not lost on some of the staff, who recalled that as president, Reagan sought to cut federal funding for medical research and that he also had become governor of California in 1966 largely by crusading against the hospital’s parent, the University of California, by calling its main campus in Berkeley “a hotbed of communism and homosexuality.” At the time of the announcement, one staffer compared it to “renaming the Federal Reserve for Herbert Hoover” (president during the beginning of the Great Depression)…
And by the way, in case you think all I’m going to do here is bash Reagan, I give you this…

(pg. 15)

Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which legalized an estimated 2.7 million undocumented workers in the US – an action he never renounced in the ensuing years.
Also, this tells you how the 2008 Repug presidential candidate started out in public life (in opposition to Reagan, as it turned out – not a complaint, just an observation)…

(pg. 16)

….if (John McCain) returned to DC from Arizona as a “foot soldier” in the “Reagan Revolution” in 1983, there were times when he could have been tried for mutiny. Two months after he was sworn in that year, the freshman GOP congressman sounded at times like a Democrat when he told the National Journal that the administration was wasting money on defense, expressed alarm about soaring deficits, and said the GOP needed to reach out to minorities and women, as he urged Reagan to name a commission on equal rights for women. Two years later, he was voting against legislation supported by the Reagan White House nearly a third of the time.
And here is something else that’s ignored by the Reagan revisionist historians…

(pg. 17)

(Reagan’s) 1981 tax cut was followed quickly by tax hikes you rarely hear about (the ’82 increase was the largest peacetime tax increase in this country’s history), and Reagan’s real lasting achievement on that front was slashing marginal rates for the wealthy – even as rising payroll taxes socked the working class. His promise to shrink government was uttered so often that many acolytes believe it really happened, but in fact Reagan expanded the federal payroll, added a new cabinet post, and created a huge debt that ultimately tripped up his handpicked successor, George H.W. Bush. What he did shrink was government regulation and oversight, which critics have linked to a series of unfortunate events from the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s to the subprime mortgage crisis of the 2000s (Bunch also notes that the ’81 cut passed with “surprisingly little debate”).

(pg. 35)

In 1984, when President Reagan was seeking reelection, reports would surface of two conversations – one with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and another with famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal – in which Reagan claimed that he personally had filmed the liberation of Nazi death camps during World War II and even saved the footage that he shot as proof that the Holocaust occurred. Clearly such an event could not have taken place, as Reagan never left the country during the entire war.

(pg. 57)

There is one thing about the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 that doesn’t get mentioned during the incantations of the Reagan tax cut mantra today; it was a major unexpected windfall for America’s oil companies. As the AP reported while the bill was awaiting the president’s signature, “The nation’s oil industry hit a small gusher in President Reagan’s new tax-cutting package, with special breaks for both independent producers and the energy giants.” The breaks, inserted into the bill at the last minute, include a repeal of a windfall profits tax that lawmakers would unsuccessfully seek to restore a generation later, adding up to more than $12 billion. One of the few who paid attention was Democratic Representative James Shannon of Massachusetts, who said, “That $12 billion is more than all taxpayers making under $30,000 a year will get out of this bill next year. There’s no way we can justify what we have done for the oil industry…”

Meanwhile, signs that the tax law wouldn’t have the predicted economic impact popped up immediately. Supply-side boosters like (Jack) Kemp and (Arthur) Laffer had said that Wall Street would soar immediately, but a UPI story on the day after the bill signing was headlined “Stocks Go Nowhere In Dull August Week.” In fact, the economy dipped back into a recession in September, one month after the bill was predicted to provide such a great stimulus, and unemployment continued to spike through 1982 until it finally surpassed 10 % by year end.

(pg. 61)

…the federal government grew in size under Reagan. The feds’ civilian workforce increased during his two terms from 2.8 million to 3 million, even though his successors George H.W. Bush and especially Bill Clinton showed that government could be slashed (down to just 2.68 million by the time the budget-balancing Democrat left the White House). While the Gipper rode into Washington with tough talk about wielding an axe that might slash two cabinet agencies (Education and Energy), he left eight years later having added one, Veterans Affairs. Today, Reagan’s biggest mythmakers will insist that she slashed federal spending. But he didn’t. While Reagan was in office, federal spending grew by 2.5 percent per year, even when adjusted for inflation. As a share of America’s gross national product, federal spending barely moved during the Reagan years, dropping just a couple of tenths of a percentage point.

(pg. 63)

That’s not to say that Reagan’s economic policies didn’t have an impact – they did, certainly, and do to the present day. Remember that he rode into Washington promising not only to slash everyone’s taxes and reduce government but to ease up on what he described as oppressive government regulations. The irony is that most experts say that Reagan’s legacy on deregulation is overhyped and that Carter, who deregulated America’s airlines in 1979, and the subsequent Clinton administration accomplished a lot more in this area. But there was one exception: the easing of rules of the financial industry – with disastrous consequences.

“All in all, I think we hit the jackpot,” Reagan said on October 15, 1982, when he signed into law a bill that lifted many restrictions on the savings-and-loan industry, giving thrifts the power to make large real estate loans and to compete with money market funds. Some seven years later, after Reagan was safely out of office, the S&L industry was on the receiving end of the largest bailout in American history, with American taxpayers footing the bill of the $160 billion tab even as the nation was still dealing with the original Reagan federal budget deficits. The “jackpot” that Reagan had spoken of quickly became a fool’s gold rush into high-risk commercial real estate ventures, many of them tarnished by corruption.

(pg. 65)

The United States had been a creditor nation since 1914, fueling its rise as a global superpower, but under Reagan’s watch it quickly reverted to the world’s greatest debtor nation. By 2008, the amount of US debt held by overseas central banks, primarily in China and elsewhere in Asia, had swelled to a staggering $2.3 trillion., leaving America at a grave risk that not necessarily friendly outsiders could determine its financial fate.

(pg. 66)

In many ways, what happened in the early 1980s was a remarkable yet largely unrecognized turning point in American history. As Paul Krugman and other economists noted, the original great divide between the rich of America’s Gilded Age and the poorer masses in factories and on farms was mended, to an amazing extent, in a period called the Great Compassion, triggered at the time of FDR’s New Deal and the industrial buildup to World War II. For the next two generations, America’s growth and prosperity was shared by a broad middle class. Then came the era that Krugman and others call, in contrast, the Great Divergence – of America’s wealthiest and the working class. The economic data that the Reagan mythmakers tout to show America’s economic miracle of the 1980s and beyond don’t reflect how unevenly the nation’s prosperity has been shared, then and since. The median income of an average American family, in real dollars, grew by just 13 percent from 1979 to 2005, but for the wealthiest 0.1 percent the comparable number is 296 percent. That simply didn’t happen in other industrialized Western nations. (Measured another way, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1991 that incomes during the 1980s rose 44 percent in noninflation-adjusted dollars for people making from $20,000 to $50,000, but 697 percent for those making from $200,000 to $1 million and 2,184 percent for those who earned more than $1 million).

The poorest Americans fared even worse during the decade. The president who is today hailed as the modern savior of the American economy saw poverty actually increase while he was in the White House. The percentage of individual citizens living below the poverty line in this country rose sharply from the tail end of the Carter presidency through the first two years of the Reagan White House, peaking over 15 percent, or higher than when Lyndon Johnson had been moved to launch his War on Poverty in 1964. The numbers only eased down slightly during the rest of Reagan’s presidency, even when those other economic indicators like the Dow took off.

(pg. 217)

In fact (on energy), Reagan even took down the solar panels that Carter had installed on the roof of the White House. In August 1986, there was some work done on the roof below the panels, and they were never put back. Said a Reagan spokesman at the time: “Putting them back up would be very unwise, based on cost.” This may have been a small gesture with greatly ironic overtones, but there were many other big decisions on energy policy that look extremely unwise today, with the aid of hindsight. The damage that the Reagan administration did to solar energy programs in general was much more severe. For example, Carter had created a Solar Energy Research Institute, which received $124 million in federal funding in 1980, but Reagan slashed that by more than half in just two years, and by 1985 the GOP-led White House had also allowed tax credits for homeowners using solar power to elapse. Reagan made identical moves against research and tax breaks for wind power.

By his second term, Reagan got help for these maneuvers from plummeting oil prices, and for the most part they would remain low for the next generation. Of course, the steep downward spike in oil prices in 1986 had been largely due to the failure of the global OPEC oil cartel to remain united – and a key reason for that had been reduced demand from America and the West, thanks to conservation. It was a story whose moral was completely lost on the Reagan White House. Not only did the administration set back alternative energy research, but it also helped bring gas guzzlers back onto the American highways. Beginning in 1986, the Reagan team worked successfully to roll back the corporate automotive fuel economy standards, or CAFÉ, the federal program that had doubled average mileage on US-built cars to 27.5 miles per gallon; that standard was relaxed to as low as 26 miles per gallon. Reagan’s transportation secretary Jim Burnley later explained that “the whole CAFE scheme is in terms of public policy ridiculous, and has the practical effect of driving U.S. jobs abroad.” The first rumblings of the SUV, or sport utility vehicle, also came during the Reagan presidency. In addition to the fuel economy issues, the Reagan Administration also turned a blind eye in 1986 to consumer safety complaints about SUVs, keeping within the president’s broad mandate that the U.S. auto industry “simply needs the freedom to compete unhindered by whimsical bureaucratic changes in energy, environmental, and safety regulations.”

At the same time, the Reagan White House was ignoring a number of new reports showing that burning of fossil fuels was creating so-called greenhouse gases that were in turn accelerating the warming of the planet. In 1983, two years after leaving the White House, Carter chose environmental issues as the subject for his sharpest attack on the Reagan presidency, stating that Reagan “has stood almost alone in our refusal to cooperate with international efforts” on the new research into climate change, as well as other problems. That same year, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that said “substantial increases in global warming may occur sooner than most of us would like to believe” was rejected at the White House as alarmist, and Reagan would not increase funding for global warming research until the end of his second term.
I realize that this writeup, long as it is I know, barely touches on Reagan’s foreign policy, so this timeline of events should suffice (a laundry list of military misadventures, hostage taking and negotiating with Hezbollah – with Iran playing Reagan and company for utter suckers by engaging in arms deals on the one hand and encouraging a terrorist network guilty of criminal acts against our people on the other – also, Reagan and company kept the Iran-Iraq War going for as long as they could by selling weapons to both sides, and played games in Central America to get around the Boland Amendment with illegal money deals, all followed by the typical denials of wrongdoing).

Oh, and let us not forget that Reagan once referred to the Nicaraguan “contras” fighting the Sandinista government of that country “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers” here (outrageously disgusting rhetoric about a crew supervised by a bunch of graduates from what was once called the School of the Americas).

And I give you the following from here…

"The election of Reagan coincided with the bloodiest outbreak of Guatemalan death squad actions in history. Almost five hundred deaths a month, almost all attributed to the right, were being reported by the American Embassy, but even that figure was considered low by most other monitoring groups. Piles of mutilated bodies were being discovered every morning throughout the country." President Lucas Garcia, alleged to have personally raised half a million dollars from (Reagan advisor Michael) Deaver's Guatemala businessmen for the Reagan campaign, was said in February 1981 by the New York Times (citing Amnesty International) to be directly supervising the security agency in charge of the death squads."
Also under Reagan’s watch, four American churchwomen were raped and murdered by government security forces in rightist-ruled El Salvador, and as a result of this tragedy, we saw Reagan Secretary of State Al Haig testify with grotesque absurdity that the women somehow exchanged fire with security forces and were responsible for their own deaths (here). To be fair, though, Reagan deserves credit for pursuing nuclear disarmament, though he did so to regain his popularity as a result of the blowback from the Iran-Contra scandal.

In addition, on the subject of Reagan and racism, we have the following from George Curry here.

I suppose I owe a debt of thanks to Will Bunch, because it never would have occurred to me that there would be such an effort put into this 100-year Reagan remembrance had I not heard about it from his book a couple of years ago. But after I read about it, I immediately recalled all of the glossy Reagan remembrances at the occasion of his death in 2004, and I felt that it was important to respond (if I heard one more talking head on TV say that we loved Reagan for his optimism, or words to that effect, I would have vomited – it’s really easy to be an optimist when you’re a goddamn millionaire, and as Bunch has noted in his book, everyone remembers the doddering individual with a smile who could make nice speeches, but not nearly as many people remember the image of Reagan as California governor, a guy with a squint, a snarl, clenched jaw, and black slicked-back hair who was itching for a fight).

It’s pretty amazing to me that Jim Cramer, of all people, would have sized up Reagan so well, but I believe he did in that speech noted earlier. Under Ronnie, the “great swindle” began for real, with economic war waged against the middle class that built this country in the pursuit of dismantling government piece by piece on behalf of the “pay no price, bear no burden” investor class in the never-ending pursuit of the consolidation of wealth. And to achieve that foul ends, he crafted better than anyone else the template of the convincing-sounding politician peddling evasions, lies and half-truths with a nod and a wink (and in Reagan’s case, employing years of training as a Hollywood actor to “close the deal”…and his acolytes carrying on the fiction into perpetuity, as noted here).

I wasn’t blogging in 2004, so allow me to articulate what I truly wish for The Gipper on this occasion.

May you roast on a spit in hell forever, you dunce.

Update 1: Think Progress reminds me of some stuff that I forgot about here, and I managed to somehow forget about this as well.

Update 2: And here's another bald-faced Reagan lie about not raising taxes, which he did in 1986 (two years after this debate) after also doing so in 1982 and 1984 (and Walter Mondale didn't have many high points in his 1984 presidential campaign, but zinging Reagan here over his "there you go again" line was one of them).



Update 2/6/11: And somehow I forgot about this also - my apologies.

Update 2/7/11: What Mark Sumner sez here...

Update 3/30/16: Lots of related food for thought here...

Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Stuff

OMG, don't you remember how Andrew Breitbart secretly hearts al Qaeda? I mean, it's in this video, so it must be true, right? Just like the recent Planned Parenthood videos, right?



...and I quite rightly dumped on our PA-08 U.S. House rep today, but there actually is at least one good Mike Fitzpatrick out there, and he's the front man for this great group.

Friday Mashup (2/4/11)

  • I give you the following from the front page of the Bucks County Courier Times today (somehow, this ran in the banner instead of the legitimate news story about Egypt…but then again, we are talking about the PR service for Mikey The Beloved here)…

    The federal government is "way too involved" in education, and national efforts to regulate schools haven't made our kids any healthier or smarter, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick said this week.

    In a meeting with the newspaper's editorial board, Fitzpatrick questioned the need for a federal Department of Education, with its annual budget of $63 billion.

    "In the 1950s, we educated the kids that eventually landed on the moon with no federal Department of Education," said Fitzpatrick,R-8. "Our children were healthier. Our children were smarter. Our children achieved better grades in standardized testing when the locals controlled the school districts.
    Uh, Mikey, I hate to break the news to you, but as noted here, none of the astronauts from the Apollo missions were born after 1935 (what a maroon).

    More to the point, though, this whole bit about abolishing the Department of Education is yet another dog whistle to the teabaggers (their hero and Repug U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky echoed much of the same sentiments here, and as far as Paul’s ridiculous “two mommies” comment is concerned, I would only ask that you watch the video from here once more with the defense of same-sex marriage by Zach Wahls of Iowa, who probably doesn’t want much of a spotlight but has drawn one for his courageous remarks…and here is more information on what Mikey would abolish in the event that his ridiculous, and dangerous, notions were ever implemented).

    Our PA-08 congressman has been busy lately, I must point out – this story appeared in the Courier Times yesterday…

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick heard from several hospital officials Tuesday about the challenges they're facing as Republicans try to undo the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats one year ago.

    "Hospitals have spent money trying to attain the goals in the legislation," said Tim Ohrum, director of Legislative Services for The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. "Now we're worried that money may not come back."

    Ohrum's group is an advocate for hospitals and supported the law signed by President Barack Obama "even though there are a couple of areas we see as problems."

    A consensus in the room of eight hospital administrators, including Ed Nawrocki, president of St. Luke's Quakertown Hospital, which hosted the event; Richard Reif, president and CEO of Doylestown Hospital; and Mark Horne, senior vice president of Grand View Hospital, was that getting more people insured would benefit the industry.
    OK, so Tim Ohrum, as noted above, is “director of legislative services for the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.”

    What that basically means is that he’s a lobbyist (noted here). And as noted here (have to scroll down a bit), the campaign donations between Mikey, Grand View Hospital and Ohrum’s group, while not illegal as nearly as I can tell, have definitely been more than a little cozy.

    As far as I’m concerned, this story wasn’t about “several hospital officials” meeting with Mikey to discuss “the challenges they’re facing” over the new health care law (and I would like to hear Ohrum talk specific dollars and cents about which “hospitals” have “spent money,” and how much exactly, as a result of the law).

    This meeting was a legislative strategy session, people. And it should have been reported as such.

    Oh, sorry…I forgot that this is another creation from Mikey’s stenographer Gary Weckselblatt (better not waste too much more time – don’t know how much longer Pottery Barn will be hiring).


  • And I suppose that’s a fair transition to last week’s Congressional votes from the Philadelphia Inquirer for the week ending 1/30 (I would provide a link as per usual, but with the advent of the digital versions of that paper and the Daily News, you cannot imagine what a fiasco they have made of the linking process)…

    House

    Republican budget cuts. Voting 256-165, the House approved a measure (H Res 38) setting the stage for votes on a Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending in the final seven months of fiscal 2011. The measure authorizes the Budget Committee to set the terms of a catchall appropriations bill the House will take up in mid-February. After clearing the House, the bill would be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    A yes vote was to approve the measure.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    As noted here, this bill will block further discretionary government spending and pull back the budget to levels before the stimulus bill was enacted in 2008 (and give unprecedented power to Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who our corporate media continues to treat as some kind of budget expert – in response, I give you Prof. Krugman here…and this is another chicken vote by “Democrat” Tim Holden).

    Sending U.S. jobs overseas. Voting 184-242, the House defeated a Democratic bid to use H Res 38 (above) to curb the practice of U.S. companies sending jobs overseas. The motion sought to deny federal contracts to any company determined by the Department of Labor to be outsourcing its workforce.

    A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    And this from the party that claims to be focused on job creation – what a pathetic joke.

    Taxpayers’ campaign funding. Voting 239-160, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 359) to repeal a post-Watergate law under which taxpayers can use the checkoff box on federal tax returns to voluntarily contribute $3 or $6 of their tax liability to presidential-election campaigns and nominating conventions. The bill is projected to save $617 million over 10 years.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, and Schwartz.

    Not voting: Holden.
    The Repugs like to whine that President Obama’s decision to forego public financing of his presidential campaign in 2008 is the reason they passed this measure, which is ridiculous given what has happened to the bipartisan efforts to strengthen public campaign funding when the Repugs ran Congress as noted here. And this is even more hypocritical given that Cantor, The Orange One and the rest of the Repug House “leadership” promised greater transparency.

    Senate

    Filibuster dispute. Voting 46-49, the Senate defeated a bid to require senators to be present and talking on the Senate floor while conducting filibusters aimed at killing bills and nominations. The defeat of this proposal (S Res 21) left in place rules that allow senators to keep filibusters in force even though they are away from the chamber. This means that filibusters, also known as extended debate, will flourish in the 112th Congress essentially as they have in recent Congresses.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

    Voting no: Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).
    So Toomey favors keeping the ridiculous process in place by which a senator can filibuster legislation without actually being present. Got it.

    Filibuster thresholds. Voting 12-84, the Senate defeated a proposed change in Senate rules (S Res 8) that sought to reduce the number of votes needed to shut down filibusters. The number is now 60 votes. Under this proposal, as debate moves forward, the threshold would be gradually lowered to a simple majority of 51 votes.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Lautenberg.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Coons, Menendez, and Toomey.
    Once again, Lautenberg “walks the walk” here (part of me really wanted to see this pass to end the filibuster nonsense, but part of me envisions a day when the Dems could be in the Senate minority, and if that happens, they should be allowed to gum up the works just like the Repugs).

    Senators’ secret holds. The Senate voted, 92-4, to curb the practice of individual senators’ placing indefinite secret holds on pending bills or nominations. Under the change in Senate rules (S Res 28), holds can remain anonymous for two days. If the sponsor does not step forward at that time, procedures are put in effect to induce him or her to do so.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Toomey.

    Reading of amendments. Voting 81-15, the Senate approved a rules change (S Res 29) ending the practice of opponents stalling votes on amendments by requiring them to be read aloud by Senate clerks.

    A yes vote backed the rules change.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, and Menendez.

    Voting no: Toomey.
    So Toomey favors yet another move to gum up the Senate and render it ineffective (and again, the Dems could capitalize on this if the Repugs end up in charge after 2012, and again, that’s something we must work tirelessly to prevent).

    This week, the Senate took up a bill on the Federal Aviation Administration, while the House was in recess.


  • Also, it looks like Senator “Country First” (which one, I always wonder) is none too happy with The Former Defense Secretary You Have Instead Of The One You Want To Have for throwing all of his former Bushco pals under the proverbial bus in his new book (noted here), saying “Thank God that (Rumsfeld) was relieved of his duties” by Number 43.

    Gee, I wish McCain had been that emphatic here when he said that Rummy "deserved our gratitude and respect" after it actually happened in 2006.


  • Next, I give you the following from economics expert John Ratzenberger at the Daily Tucker (yes, this is snark – here)…

    Despite amazing innovations and inspired workers, the tragic reality is that American industry and trades are under assault from within — we don’t have enough skilled workers to make America work anymore. Many companies are literally begging workers to come on board, offering well-paying, high-skilled work and training just to stay afloat.

    The most popular phrase in today’s political lexicon is “job creation.” Americans of all persuasions are demanding that something be done about jobs. Seeking a fast fix, leaders in Washington and in the states are offering up tax cuts, low interest rates, and the promise of “green jobs,” all of which have some merit.

    But in an American economy that’s losing its industrial base, “fast fixes” won’t prevent the coming tide of job loss and the entire culture of American productivity that goes with skilled work. The impact will be devastating.
    Oh, and by the way, this column serves pretty much exclusively as a setup to Ratzenberger’s series “Industrial Tsunami.”

    Perhaps the reason I’m inclined to dismiss this out of hand is that it comes from a guy whose primary claim to fame is his voice-overs for cartoon movies, but I think it’s also important to note the following (from here)…

    America is at real disadvantage compared to Europe and the East Asian countries in this respect. In Japan and Korea the predominance of large interlinked firms means that these companies are able to shift skilled workers between divisions. In Japan or Korea, the mechanism that's going to allow skilled workers to move between the auto sector and wind turbine manufacturing, for example, is that single firms operate across a number of sectors. In a very real sense, the government missed the opportunity to partner GM with a wind turbine manufacturer to achieve a similar end with regard to retooling transmission plants to build turbine gearboxes. The problem is that there is little desire in the manageriat to pursue this sort of thing. Much easier just to shift production to a low income country, than to make the minimal effort required to recognize the potential of domestic innovation. But remember it's a lack of willingness for workers to stomach have their pay slashed in half that's the problem. Not an utter lack of basic managerial competence. The Germans may provide us a better model of how to achieve the type of skill transfer that we are talking about. The combination of union oversight and cooperation between firms means that a number of firms can achieve efficiencies of scale and promote innovation because they draw from common training programs. We don't have this so we have the absurdity of inter-sectoral skills disparities.
    And as you might expect, Prof. Krugman had a good take on the whole “not enough skilled workers” mythology which we’ve been hearing from as far back as the last depression faced by this country (here).

    God, couldn’t the Travel Channel have found someone besides Ratzenberger to host this program? They could have even used a lazy Boston mailman who liked nothing more than to pontificate in a bar about how knowledgeable he supposedly was instead of trying to find a way to do his job more efficiently.

    Oh, wait…


  • Finally, I have a bit of a case study as to why I truly despise conservative wingnuts.

    As you can read here, someone named Kevin Williamson at Irrational Spew Online is harrumphing about some video in which progressives are protesting at a conference in which the Koch Brothers appear, with some advocating violence and one saying that Clarence Thomas of the Supremes should be hanged, with Williamson intoning that “I’m ashamed to be a member of the same species as these creatures.”

    Goodness gracious me, somebody sure is in a snit.

    So, let’s break this down a bit more, then, and see what’s going on.

    When you click the link in Williamson’s post, it takes you right to the “Big Government” web site, which is your first hint of trouble, with some Andrew Breitbart clone named Christian Hartsock promoting a video allegedly of the Koch event (Hartsock being one of the people who erroneously claimed that alleged Tucson shooter Jared Loughner was a “left-wing political radical” and “quite liberal” here, for the record).

    The video starts out well enough, with people under a sign saying "quarantine the Kochs," which is OK I guess. The clip then shows snippets of Jim Hightower and Van Jones speaking to a gathering, with the crowd they’re speaking to not shown in the clip.

    Immediately after the Jones clip ends, though, we have some doofus with a camera supposedly asking progressives all kinds of incendiary questions about all of the usual right-wing suspects, with some loon saying “kill the bastard” when asked about Fox News head Roger Ailes. Also, some woman talks into the camera about supposedly dueling Glenn Beck, and there are other questions from the cameraman along the lines of “what should we do to so-and-so,” until the cameraman at the end asks some guy holding a blue sign what should be done about Clarence Thomas. “Hang him,” the blue-sign guy says (and I guess that is supposed to be the “money quote,” because the film immediately ends after that).

    I want to emphasize that absolutely no one is identified here. Not the cameraman, not the subjects…no one. They could all be planted by Breitbart and his pals (and given his rank history of this sort of thing, they probably are). And this is the clip upon which Kevin Williamson bases his indignation that he’s “ashamed to be a member of the same species as these creatures.”

    Oh, and one more thing – the next time Hartsock decides to film one of these little “hit pieces” of his, he should remember to edit out any film in which Breitbart actually does appear (he shows up for about a second or two halfway through). It’s more than a little bit of a giveaway.


  • Update 2/19/11: More Hartsock dirty tricks are on display here.

    Thursday, February 03, 2011

    Thursday Stuff

    God bless Zach Wahls of Iowa for this (a clip from "The Last Word" last night, and Lawrence O'Donnell's interview with him and his family tonight was pretty good also - I'll keep an eye out for the video)...



    ...and I'm sure you share my utter disgust with the events going on in Egypt - if we ever had any doubt that Hosni Mubarak's concept of "democracy" is an utter fraud, then his truly criminal treatment of his own people and journalists in particular has made that crystal clear.

    And before anybody thinks "God, what a naive song to listen to while this horror is going on," consider that this embedded tune (no video) came out in the summer of 1968, and we know what was happening at the time. I've had it in my head lately and I think it's appropriate (this is also a response to the truly obnoxious YouTube commenter bluesboy25000 who didn't care for this selection at this moment - probably applies to the "Last Word" clip also).



    Update 2/4/11: And speaking of reporters being attacked - well, this was predictable, wasn't it?

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    Wednesday Stuff

    Glad to see Punxsutawney Phil is trying to do his part to get us through this winter (more here - I know there's bad stuff going on in Cairo also...sorry, but I don't know what I can do about it except to express my disgust over it and emphasize my opinion that Mubarak's decision to step down by September isn't nearly good enough)...



    ...so I should try to do my part to get us through this winter too.

    Wednesday Mashup (2/2/11) (updates)

    (I have a feeling that posting is going to get flaky again over the next few days – I’ll keep you up to date.)

  • I give you the following from former Bushco flunky Dana Perino (here)...

    Does anyone else see the irony of the president last night calling on a country in the middle of a political crisis to allow for open access to information and a free media … and then today holding a stills-only event in the Oval Office for a bill signing? A bill signing?! And for a treaty that they called a major signature foreign-policy achievement? C’mon!
    Yeah, it sure is a drag when presidents sign off on legislation behind closed doors – isn't it?


  • Next, I give you the following from the truly odious Ron Johnson, Repug U.S. Senator from Wisconsin who the eternally stupid voters of that state elected to replace Russ Feingold (here)…

    “I hope the president and his allies in Congress accept a simple truth: big government is blocking job creation, not helping it (Johnson said). The sooner Washington ends its dependence on more spending, the sooner our economy will see real growth.”

    Johnson...said that he bring the perspective of “someone who’s been creating jobs, meeting a payroll, balancing a budget and living under the rules, regulations and taxes that politicians … impose on the rest of us.”
    If anything, this human being has grown more deceitful and detestable since the day he was elected, which was entirely predictable.

    In response, this tells us the following…

    In 1979 a company called Wisconsin Industrial Shipping Supplies, owned by Johnson's brother-in-law, received a $75,000 development grant from the city of Oshkosh to build a rail spur to a plant it was building. One of the conditions of the grant required WISS to hire 11 people in exchange for the funds. Just a few months later, WISS became Pacur -- the company Johnson owns today -- and the factory was opened. The factory itself was also built with the help of a $1 million government-issued development bond.

    Years later, as president of the board of the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh, Johnson would investigate the possibility of obtaining stimulus money to help pay for theater renovations.
    In addition…

    The Oshkosh plastics factory owned by (then) Republican senate candidate Ron Johnson was built, in part, with the assistance of a $1 million government-issued industrial development revenue bond.....



    Gary Green, a UW professor and economic development expert, says bonds like the ones issued by the city of Oshkosh are widely used.

    "The issue seems to be does government create jobs?" he said. "Most economic development professionals across the state see industrial development revenue bonds as the primary tool in which local government can actively try to create jobs in their communities."
    And in the matter of “living under the rules” when “creating jobs, meeting a payroll” and blah blah blah, this tells us that he used prison labor instead of hiring out-of-work Wisconsinites, for whom he’d have to pay benefits.

    Johnson is utter lying scum, and I don’t know what else there is to say beyond that (and if this isn’t further proof, I don’t know what is).


  • Also, perhaps, like me, you’ve been wondering exactly what “No Corporate Tax Pat” Toomey has been up to since he started taking up space in the U.S. Senate, supposedly representing PA.

    Well, wonder no more; as noted here…

    Last week, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., introduced the "Full Faith and Credit Act." At one level, it was an attempt to shift the debate over the coming debt ceiling vote. That's how Toomey explained it at the Tea Party Caucus's meeting on Thursday -- the argument that failure to raise the debt ceiling would lead the U.S. to default would be taken out behind the barn and dealt with. That's how Republicans interpret it.
    And Toomey’s bill is also supported by Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul (what an unseemly bunch – figures, though).

    It should be noted, though, that, while a certain Former President Highest Disapproval Rating in Gallup Poll History inhabited An Oval Office, congressional Repugs voted seven times to raise the debt ceiling, as noted here (with Toomey playing right along when he served in the House, as noted here).

    Cutting to the proverbial chase, I think dday tells us what’s really going on (here)…

    …if the Republicans take the debt limit hostage, the banks would get paid first. What that means, of course, is that everything else the government does – health care, Social Security, federal employee salaries, etc., etc. – would have to get in line behind debt service. Some states, including California, work this way. But it’s really a naked attempt to protect banks from the consequences of irresponsible Republican actions.

    This is a “best of both worlds” scenario for the Republicans – they get to take hostages over spending cuts while also exempting the banks from any hardship. If this becomes the “compromise” option, we’re all in for it.
    Still, it must be killing a “values” wingnut like Toomey that he can’t vote on an anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-human cloning or some other type of bill which has not one thing to do with actual job creation, even though what he’s trying to get away with here is scary enough.


  • Continuing, it looks like Repug U.S. House Rep Mike Pence isn’t going to let a crisis go to waste, as somebody once said, based on this…

    The recent release of an undercover video exposing duplicity and potential criminality by an employee of Planned Parenthood is an outrage.
    Pence is referring to the dustup over what the manager of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth Amboy, NJ apparently said in response to yet another right-wing sting operation perpetrated by a fellow traveler with James O’Keefe named Lila Rose (noted here).

    And “potential criminality,” Congressman? Really?

    Well, Pence may be right, but not in the way he thinks…

    (Phyllis Kinsler, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey) condemned Live Action's sting, questioning how dramatically the video was edited.
    Indeed, and more on that shortly – continuing…

    By day’s end, Kinsler said, three Planned Parenthood clinics under her supervision — Perth Amboy, Hazlet and Shrewsbury — had received about 10 "harassing" phone calls, including one saying, "They should just bomb your place." She reported the calls to the FBI and local police and asked for their help tightening security.
    I swear, sometimes I feel as if Tucson never happened.

    The Media Matters post shows the former manager of the Perth Amboy Planned Parenthood office, Amy Woodruff, making some snide remarks about the nurse practitioner at the office (again, heavily edited, but some remarks showed poor judgment).

    However, it should also be noted (and pointed out by Media Matters) that, according to even the doctored Rose tape and transcript, Planned Parenthood is too scrupulous for anyone else in the office to be let in on the "cover-up," and when it comes to abortion, the "pimp" and "prostitute" are advised to go to another facility entirely to avoid the diligence of Planned Parenthood.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh).


  • Update 2/3/11: What Atrios sez here...

    Update 2/4/11: Real! Shocking! Expose! Planned! Parenthood! Does! Nothing! Wrong! (here)…

    And in a related story, as they say, here is the latest development in the ongoing war against the dreaded “lady parts” waged by House Republicans (and if you guessed that Pancake Joe Pitts is right in the middle, then you win two tickets to the next production of “The Vagina Monologues”…probably learn a thing or two).

    Anybody realize that this is pretty much what would happen when the Repugs were given any kind of governmental power again? Tax cuts, fiscal “austerity” and “values voter” bullshit?

    Morons.


  • Finally, I know that ridiculous vote on repealing the health care law is taking place in the Senate today, and in response, I give you the following from Dem U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (though we already know the answer to the question she asks at the very end here…and I thought this was a really good related post).



    And of course, the repeal amendment failed.

    But they’ll be back.


  • Update: This should be mandatory reading for all of us, including Mikey The Beloved (not that it would matter to him, I realize). And that goes for the stuff at the end about Obama too (and, sadly, the possible loss of the Senate in 2012, something we must work tirelessly to prevent, including supporting this guy).

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    "WTF" indeed (h/t Daily Kos)...

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    From Russia With Gov
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/
    Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook


    ...and yep, I guess this definitely qualifies me as a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but this song springs to mind when I consider Palin in any way at all.

    Tuesday Mashup (2/1/11)

  • Being a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, I’m inclined to wonder how much sooner the apparently-pro-Democracy uprisings in the Middle East would have happened had not a certain Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History decided to press for Palestinian elections won by Hamas, as well as launch a war of choice in Iraq and pretty much ignore another in Afghanistan.


  • Also, I give you the following from the Bucks County Courier Times today (here)…

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is planning to meet with the CEOs of all Bucks County hospitals today, and it's highly likely the main topic will be Monday's ruling that the Democrats' health care overhaul is unconstitutional.
    And as we know, Mikey’s recent town hall was such a smashing success that, as noted in this Guest Opinion yesterday, he somehow paid more attention to the supposed amount of paperwork Wal-of-China Mart would have to do than he did to the cutoff age after which a son or daughter could no longer remain covered by their parents under the new law (which is 26, Mikey).

    Continuing…

    U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson agreed with 26 states, including Pennsylvania, that the new law violates people's rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties. He went a step further than a previous ruling against the law, declaring the entire thing unconstitutional if the insurance requirement does not hold up.

    The Obama administration was relying on that provision to force younger people, who are more likely to be healthier and uninsured, into the system to help defray the plan's $938 billion cost.

    Asked how he would make plans more affordable, Fitzpatrick said "If you were to make health care policies portable to employees, they could have them through their lifetime. Younger workers would then be encouraged to purchase those policies."
    The more Mikey opens his mouth on this issue, the more you realize that he doesn’t have the first clue as to what he’s talking about.

    I have a feeling that “portable to employees” is right-wing code for allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines, which, as Ezra Klein points out here, is "a terrible, no good, very bad health-care idea” (sorry for the garbage characters)…

    Insurance is currently regulated by states. California, for instance, says all insurers have to cover treatments for lead poisoning, while other states let insurers decide whether to cover lead poisoning, and leaves lead poisoning coverage—or its absence—as a surprise for customers who find that they have lead poisoning. Here's a list (pdf) of which states mandate which treatments.

    The result of this is that an Alabama plan can't be sold in, say, Oregon, because the Alabama plan doesn't conform to Oregon's regulations. A lot of liberals want that to change: It makes more sense, they say, for insurance to be regulated by the federal government. That way the product is standard across all the states.

    Conservatives want the opposite: They want insurers to be able to cluster in one state, follow that state's regulations and sell the product to everyone in the country. In practice, that means we will have a single national insurance standard. But that standard will be decided by South Dakota. Or, if South Dakota doesn't give the insurers the freedom they want, it'll be decided by Wyoming. Or whoever.

    This is exactly what happened in the credit-card industry, which is regulated in accordance with conservative wishes....Citibank wrote an absurdly pro–credit card law, the legislature passed it, and soon all the credit-card companies were heading to South Dakota. And that's exactly what would happen with health-care insurance.
    If Mikey is talking about something else, then I give you the following from yesterday’s Guest Opinion in the Courier Times on this subject…

    For example, Fitzpatrick repeatedly stated that he wants a bill that increases competition and allows consumers to purchase insurance plans across state lines. This prompted several frustrated constituents to point to the part of the law that includes insurance exchanges, which provides the competition Fitzpatrick is asking for.

    Beginning in 2014, these exchanges would allow individuals and small businesses to pool together and shop for the best price by comparing plans from a variety of insurance providers. This is a major component of the new law, one which will have a major impact on making health insurance more affordable.

    After few awkward moments of silence, Fitzpatrick conceded that he was not familiar with that aspect of the bill, and said it was something he would "have to look at."
    Yeah, you do that, Mikey (and today’s Courier Times story also tells us that Fitzpatrick whines that Medicare and Medicaid “costs are out of control,” though he has not a clue as to how states are supposed to do a better job of administering Medicaid, including this one…nice for his designated stenographer Gary Weckselblatt to overlook that – must be good training for that job at Pottery Barn that surely awaits).


  • Also, John Harwood brings us the latest commercial from the Republican National Committee (here)…

    Even with a projected 2011 deficit three times that large, no one expected Mr. Obama to lay out peremptory solutions in his State of the Union. “That would be self-destructive,” said Robert Reischauer, who led the Congressional Budget Office during the 1990 deal.

    But Mr. Obama could have initiated negotiations with Republicans. He did not.
    Um…probably because Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao has no interest in actual negotiation unless Obama gives him everything he wants, which of course isn't "negotiations" at all, as noted here.

    Continuing…

    The president is safeguarding two fragile recoveries — of the economy, and of his own popular standing. He promised in 2008 not to raise taxes on middle-class Americans; Mr. Bush’s re-election defeat in 1992 underscores the risk of breaking such vows.
    I swear, is Obama EVER going to get credit from corporate media jackals like Harwood for passing the largest middle-class tax cut in history through the stimulus two years ago??!!

    But wait – there’s more…

    The House speaker, John A. Boehner, and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, have reason to be wary, too. Accepting tax increases would incite a Tea Party revolt. Embracing entitlement curbs that Mr. Ryan has proposed would provoke fierce Democratic attacks just after a Republican midterm triumph that was fueled by older voters.

    Thus, Mr. Ryan said, “a down payment on debt reduction” may be the best achievable outcome before 2012 elections. With 87 first-term House Republicans, he noted, “we’ve got a maturation process to go through” in understanding budget trade-offs.
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    So that’s what it’s called, a “maturation process”? You mean, while you clowns preoccupy yourselves with dog-whistle garbage for the lower life forms who voted for you (abortion of course, funding NPR, and passing that “dead on arrival” health care repeal)? I don’t recall that a “maturation process” was given to the 110th and 111th Democratic congresses, particularly the 111th that passed so much historic legislation.

    If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Harwood was taking hallucinogenic drugs (and I’m going to keep reminding him that he said that until he apologizes, assuming I ever see the day).


  • Speaking of moronic legislative ideas from Republicans, I give you the following from U.S. House Rep Dan Burton of Indiana (here)…

    It looks like the third time won’t be a charm for Republican Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana. A review of his resolution to encase the House visitors’ galleries with Plexiglass will likely not pass the House Administration Committee, whose chairman “will not support the bill.”

    Sixteen days after the shooting in Arizona that left six dead and Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords seriously injured, Burton submitted House Res. 50,“[Providing] for enclosing the visitors’ galleries of the House of Representatives with a clear and bomb-proof material.”

    The resolution was immediately referred to the House Administration Committee, where it has sat since Jan. 24.

    “At this point, there’s not any intention to move this bill through committee,” said Salley Wood, a spokeswoman for California Rep. Daniel Lungren, chairman of the HAC.

    Wood said Lungren “does not support the bill.”
    Actually, I don’t think Burton has to worry, particularly since nobody will be shooting at a pumpkin (see #7 here)…and speaking of firearms, to me, there is nothing whatsoever that is “liberal” about Arizona’s insane non-gun restrictions (here).


  • Next, it looks like The Orange One isn’t going to support Obama’s call for a capital gains tax break for small businesses, as noted here…

    The White House on Monday announced that it will propose extending capital gains tax breaks for small business as part of its 2012 budget proposal due out in two weeks.

    The announcement is part of an effort by the Obama administration to show it is focused on “winning the future” through job creation and investment even as congressional Republicans are focused on budget cutting. The winning the future theme was introduced in President Obama's State of the Union address last week.

    Republican leadership quickly dismissed the initiative as too small and called for larger tax incentives and protection from regulation for small businesses.
    Funny, but Boehner had no trouble supporting capital gains tax breaks in 2001 and 2005, as noted here (oh, sorry, I forgot – that was before that Kenyan Marxist who won’t show us his Hawaiian birth certificate was elected without the help of the Supreme Court and electoral fraud in Florida and Ohio).


  • Finally, I give you the latest fake scandal from The Daily Tucker (here)…

    Activist group Judicial Watch is appealing a decision by the Air Force to withhold documents related to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s use of military airplanes.

    Documents released by the Air Force show Pelosi was provided chocolate-covered strawberries on one flight to celebrate the California Democrat’s birthday, among other luxuries. But of 43 flights, only 11 expense reports were provided to the group.
    Don’t worry, though – the “story” is amended at the bottom to tell us that the strawberries were provided by Air Force officials and were not requested by Pelosi and her staff.

    “Ah, but the strawberries,” right, Tucker…



    (I just felt like watching that scene again from this flick – wonder if Tucker and his pals have a Bogie-like fixation on this? And by the way, that’s a terrific performance as Queeg, and the best part of the movie for me is when Jose Ferrer throws the champagne in Fred MacMurray’s face.)

    And as long as I’m on the subject, let me point out that the practice of flying the House speaker on an Air Force jet originated with Dennis Hastert after the 9/11 attacks (here), which is wise given that the Speaker of the House is second behind the veep in presidential succession (God, “President” Boehner??)

    I tell you what; I’ll do a deal – if Tucker stops asking for Air Force jet expense reports for Pelosi, then I won’t ask for a daily itemized list of GOP fundraisers attended by The Teary One. I’m sure the former speaker’s expenses would pale next to the cash raised by the current one.