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Sullivan:

These are not the words of a president serious about cutting the debt. Cutting “waste” in government isn’t going to get you anywhere near what you need. And the president needs to get serious about the burgeoning long-term costs of Medicare. That requires real honesty about real future sacrifice – not blandishments about how we might be able to bend the cost curve slightly.

Can we, please, get something other than typical deficit-scold group think? Andrew seems to think that all we need is more seriousness and more sacrifice and then we’re golden. He decries the President’s desire to raise additional revenue as not serious because it won’t raise enough. Well, OK, I agree it won’t raise a whole hell of a lot. But previously Sullivan complained that the President wanted too much (relative) revenue! 

I would ask how much, specifically, is thecorrect amount? 

More importantly, I would ask how much deficit reduction, specifically, is the correct amount? 

We’ve already done $2.4 Trillion. But I guess that’s just not enough serious sacrifice for the deficit scolds. They won’t be happy until, well, they will never quite say. Is stabilizing the debt to GDP ratio sufficient? We can do that with another $1.2 Trillion. Obama’s “not serious” revenue ask gets us half way there. 

Alas, we will now continue our charade of THE DEFICIT WILL KILL US ALL MORE AUSTERITY NOW I’M VERY SERIOUS AUSTERITY NOW! followed by AUSTERITY WILL KILL US ALL! (remember the fiscal cliff?) and then back again. 

If you’re having trouble making sense of the Very Serious beltway opinion on fiscal matters, its because it doesn’t make a goddamn bit of sense. 

Sullivan finishes:

If you want to go small, Mr President, and leave the real debt cutting to your successor, that’s your prerogative. But it is not the change we believed in. Or voted for.

Well, actually that’s exactly what we voted for. Obama made no secret of his desire to squeeze revenue out of the rich via sunsetting the Bush tax cuts for only high earners and via closing Mitt Romney’s favorite loopholes. In fact, it was the entire premise of his campaign. Voters overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s (conflicting) versions of austerity for Obama’s “balanced” and minimally austere (by comparison) approach. 

I don’t ever recall Barack Obama running on a platform of “serious” austerity. Sullivan has been lamenting Obama’s failure to “embrace Bowles-Simpson” for two years, a lamentation that made as little sense then as now. On spending, Obama actually has (very nearly) embraced BS (in terms of net amounts, if not line items). On revenues, he never intended to. He’s made that abundantly clear for almost two years. 

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White Guys Have Opinions

Ever since the election, we’ve had waves of articles wherein conservatives say that they won “on the issues”, and only lost because of higher than expected “urban turnout”. Here’s Paul Ryan, saying precisely that:

“I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare, we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues,” Ryan to local station WISC-TV. “I think the surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.”

Well, OK, I guess that’s a natural response to a loss, chalk it up as a loss in name only. But do you pick up on the implication? The GOP won “on the issues” but only lost because black people voted. For the “win on the issues” bit to be true, then, it must also be true that the decisive votes of black people were not based on issues! (Otherwise, they would have lost on issues, too) 

This sentiment is really very common, and its disgusting. If black people vote for a black guy, its because he’s black. If women vote for a woman, its because she’s a woman. If white guys vote for the white guy, its because they agree with him about the need to reduce the deficit by reducing medicare payments and block granting it to state governments. 

You see, only white men are capable of making electoral choices based on issues. For everyone else, purely identity politics.

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This is part 2 of my thoughts on the GOP platform. Part 1 is here

The second part of the GOP platform is entitled We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government. It opens:

In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation, however, is fair game. In fact, the rest of this particular plank makes clear that the GOP doesn’t actually believe a word of that. They start out early, appealing to racist fears that Barack Obama is going to impose Sharia Law, or the black people equivalent of it, or something like that. I don’t the hell know, they wrote this, not me:
As a matter of principle, we oppose the creation of any new race-based governments within the United States.
So there you go. Now let’s start the fun:
A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
Wow! Hear that, gay people? Your marriages constitute an existential threat to our society. Pretty impressive. Do I need to point out that the definition of marriage has changed many, many times? That it has not existed in its present form “for thousands of years in virtually every civilization”?
We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
 Of course you do.
The Republican Party, born in opposition to the denial of liberty, stands for the rights of individuals, families, faith communities, institutions – and of the States which are their instruments of self government.
…how do you square this with the above? You just can’t.
I’m going to skip the bit about the preserving the electoral college and preventing voter fraud because really it just boils down to “Voter ID is KICKASS!”
Now, on to the first amendment! This section makes me want to scream and throw things, its truly astounding. They open by quoting Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, citing it as evidence that religious belief should be used as the foundation of public policy! But in that document, Jefferson acknowledges:
that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry
Jefferson further acknowledges:
that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous falacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own
Jefferson is concerned here that “the civil magistrate” (ie the government) will extend his religious opinions into policy, thus forcing them on others. He argued for precisely the opposite of this platform! He would later write, in a letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
And so originates the phrase. After using Jefferson as an excuse to talk about how awesome the Boy Scouts are for their gay bashing, the GOP gives us this:

We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights.

In what way does allowing a gay couple to marry violate the rights of “advocates of traditional marriage”? They would still be allowed to marry traditionally. They would remain married. Nothing at all would change! Thomas Jefferson, who I will continue to quote as this plank seems entirely based on an absurd twisting of his views, stated:

But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

This is directly applicable. A gay marriage has exactly zero impact on any other marriage! Not allowing the gay couple to marry, however, does actively deny them their rights. This is just purely an alternate reality. It is the most asshole-ish statement I have yet seen in a prepared document so far during this election. It reeks of bigotry, fear, resentment, and hatred. It has no place in this country, and certainly not in it’s government.

Moving right along, the GOP mentions briefly the fourth ammendment:

Affirming “the right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” we support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders. All security measures and police actions should be viewed through the lens of the Fourth Amendment; for if we trade liberty for security, we shall have neither.

This I very much agree with. I truly hope they actually believe it! If so, they could show that by proposing repeal of the PATRIOT act. I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath. I also agree with the proposal, in the section on the fifth amendment, that seeks to ensure adequate compensation in the case that private property is taken “for a compelling public use”. I should state that I know very little about this issue, but I can foresee the devil being in the details as to what constitutes “compelling”.

Next, while discussing a constitutional amendment to define life as beginning at conception (and hence banning all abortions), they state:

We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

But recall just a few pages earlier, and quoted above:

A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary

So keep this in mind. An “activist judiciary” only refers to judges with whom you disagree. Speaking of activist judges:

The symbol of our constitutional unity, to which we all pledge allegiance, is the flag of the United States of America. By whatever legislative method is most feasible, Old Glory should be given legal protection against desecration. We condemn decisions by activist judges to deny children the opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety, including “Under God,” in public schools and encourage States to promote the pledge.

So flag burning, which I would argue constitutes free speech, should be outlawed. How does that square with the section on freedom of speech?

we oppose governmental censorship of speech through the so-called Fairness Doctrine or by government enforcement of speech codes, free speech zones, or other forms of “political correctness” on campus.

How can you simultaneously oppose the “enforcement of political correctness” and support the banning of flag burning? This is just yet another example, much like the activist judges, of a principle applied only to those things with which the GOP agrees.

The GOP professes a reverence for the constitution and for the founding fathers. And yet, when it comes time to demonstrate those things, they fail utterly. They apply the constitution only in situations where it supports their views, and freely disregard it when it is no longer convenient. To show their reverence for the founders, they twist their words into the polar opposite of their originally intended meaning.

This platform isn’t a responsible set of governing philosophies and policy proposals, its a Christianist manifesto.

That’s all for Part 2. Energy, Agriculture, and The Environment is up next. Maybe tomorrow.

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I’ve been reading through the republican platform, and its become clear that this is not a document based in the real world. This isn’t exactly surprising, but here are some of the things that jumped out at me.

First of all, Republicans propose to “simplify the tax code” which typically means eliminating deductions. They propose an across the board 20% reduction in rates, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts! They claim to be able to do this in a revenue neutral manner, but such a massive reduction in revenue would mean tremendous cuts in spending, which just aint gonna happen. We’ve been over this before. 

Then, we get this:

Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering benevolence and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation, and donations to them should continue to be tax deductible.

I actually agree with that, I just would like to point out that there, right off the bat, is a deduction that can’t be eliminated. And so the quest for revenue neutrality gets a bit harder. 

Up next:

In any restructuring of federal taxation, to guard against hypertaxation of the American people, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.

Hypertaxation! Wow, that’s one hell of a word! Its terrifying! Never mind, of course, the fact that tax rates are currently at their lowest point in 60 years. Also, good luck making the elimination of income tax revenue neutral.

Naturally, now that we’ve covered the part where we eliminate federal revenue, we get to the Very Serious part about the debt:

Over the last three and a half years, while cutting the defense budget, the current Administration has added an additional $5.3 trillion to the national debt—now approximately $16 trillion, the largest amount in U.S. history.

First off, the defense budget. It should be cut! But the Republicans certainly won’t do that. Keep that in mind, for later. The important part here, though, is the con they’re trying to pull. Notice the part I bolded. It’s important to only consider that time frame, because if you extend it back to, lets say around January 2001, then you’ll see where the real debt came from.Tax cuts and two unfunded wars! So remember kids, debt is bad, mmkay? Unless it’s Republican debt, in which case its freedom, markets, and responsibility. So what would the Republicans propose to do about debt? This:

We can preempt the debt explosion. Backed by a Republican Senate and House, our next President will propose immediate reductions in federal spending, as a down payment on the much larger task of long-range fiscal control. We suggest a tripartite test for every federal activity. First, is it within the constitutional scope of the federal government? Second, is it effective and absolutely necessary? And third, is it sufficiently important to justify borrowing, especially foreign borrowing, to fund it?

OK, that all sounds perfectly reasonable. So reasonable, in fact, that I submit to you that we already do this. First, we have an independent judiciary with the power to strike down laws that violate this part of the test. Second, we have the “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution. See part one. Third, we have a democratically elected congress that answers this question by voting on things. 

Against those standards we will measure programs from international population control to California’s federally subsidized high-speed train to nowhere, and terminate programs that don’t measure up.

Wait what? What the hell is “international population control”? Are we doing it? Are we debt financing it? Just… huh? OK, moving right along, the federal budget process:

Republican Members of Congress have repeatedly tried to reform the budget process to make it more transparent and accountable, in particular by voting for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, following the lead of 33 States which have put that restraint into their own constitutions. We call for a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions for only war and national emergencies, and imposing a cap limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP so that future Congresses cannot balance the budget by raising taxes.

Two things. First, the super majority to raise taxes idea has been tried, in California, and it has had disastrous consequences on the state’s fiscal health. Secondly, limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP is monumentally stupid, not to mention completely arbitrary. Times and situations change, and limiting our spending based on (in part) how much George Washington spent needlessly hobbles our ability to react to those changes. Although, it would probably wind up being meaningless anyway. If congress decides it wants to spend eleventy bajillion dollars to clone velociraptors to patrol the Arizona border, they would just say the spending is in response to the national emergency of a lack of Jurassic border patrol agents. All that being said, I can get behind the idea that if we’re going to fight wars, we should raise taxes to pay for them. Then we would do it less. I’m not saying that idea should be constitutionally enshrined, just that its a practice we should be following. 

Up next, Ron Paul gets his plank. Audit the Fed! I could be OK with this, provided the point of the audit would actually be increasing transparency and not just a partisan fishing expedition looking to dig up dirt. Given the actions of this party in the recent past, I find that condition unlikely to be met. 

At the beginning of this post, I said that this was a document not based in the real world. Well, now we’ve arrived at the paragraph from which I drew that conclusion:

Determined to crush the double-digit inflation that was part of the Carter Administration’s economic legacy, President Reagan, shortly after his inauguration, established a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency. The commission advised against such a move. Now, three decades later, as we face the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current Administration’s policies, we propose a similar commission to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar.

OK, so when His Majesty arrived on the scene, we had double digit inflation. This fact necessitated a commission to study a return to the gold standard. They thought it was a bad idea. But now, seeing as how we’re back to double digit inflation, we need to pick this back up!  But wait! We aren’t experiencing double digit inflation. We are experiencing 2% inflation. I suppose, if you really want to see two digits, I could type that as 2.0% inflation. Look, this is simple. Despite all the running around screaming with our hair on fire silliness we’ve been hearing for years about the horror of inflation which will be unleashed on us at any moment, it simply has not happened. Inflation is low, and it is stable.

The next section is on infrastructure, but I’m not going to bother excerpting it because the massive tax cuts and ramped up defense spending mean there won’t be any money there. Also on the “not going to bother” list: China. Simply put, Republicans suggest we call them names, and fart in their general direction. We should also engage in more union busting.

This concludes part 1. Next up in part 2, the constitution.

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One More!

I’m having a lot of fun attacking Paul Ryan today, (same thing we do every day, Pinky…) so here’s one more.

Paul Ryan has no business experience. No private sector experience. Now personally I couldn’t care less, but Mitt Romney seems to think that such a lacking resume means you are unsuited to the presidency. That makes Paul Ryan, by Mitt Romney’s own metrics, a very irresponsible choice for VP, yes?

So much fun pointing out these glaring double standards, isn’t it? And so easy.

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I’ve said this plenty before, but here it is again. When Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan tell you their plan to cut taxes and increase defense spending is revenue neutral, they are lying. They’ll make up the difference through reduced spending and eliminating tax deductions they say. But they won’t.
Cutting taxes is easy (who doesn’t want to pay a lower tax rate). Increasing defense spending is easy (you want our troops to have body armor, right?) Those things are easy. But cutting spending is hard because a lot of government programs are very popular. Eliminating deductions is hard for the same reason. So they won’t actually do it. This way, they get all the political gain of being “responsible” and “courageous” without any of the costs of, ya know, actually being those things. And so the debt, necesarily, skyrockets.

If you believe the Romney administration will reduce the national debt, you are being conned. It really is that simple.

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Paul Ryan is a Very Serious Person, because he “makes hard choices” to “reduce the deficit”.

Except he doesn’t. At. All.

He spent the entire Bush administration voting for all of Bush’s debt exploding policies, and even thought the Bush tax cut was too small and too focused on the middle class! As for the tough choices he supposedly makes, what are they? The only things his budget is specific on is reducing taxes and increasing defense spending. For those of us that can add and subtract numbers, this would result in an increase in the deficit. The solution? Cut spending! Make tough choices! Ok, Mr. Ryan? Where will we cut? We don’t know, because Paul Ryan won’t tell us. But if you try to suggest something that could be cut, Paul Ryan will just wave his hands and say oh no I never said I would cut that!

Tough choices! Responsibility! Very Seriousness!

But he has everyone fooled! Apparently no one knows basic math anymore? Let me reiterate. Paul Ryan spent the entire Bush administration increasing the debt, and agreed with Cheney that deficits don’t matter. His budget plan would massively increase the debt, and only claims to reduce it via unspecified cuts and supply side pixie dust (if we cut taxes, then explosive growth! Pay no attention to actual economic data).

Paul Ryan is a fraud. His “debt cutting” seriousness is just an excuse to gut democratic programs that he doesn’t like. That is the opposite of political courage. If you don’t like government programs and think they should be eliminated that’s fine. Have the balls to stand up and fucking say it. Tell us what you actually propose to do and let us vote. Don’t just hide behind a Very Serious budget and a press corps that’s too busy asking you to the prom to do some basic math.

Paul Ryan is a feckless little weasel. Or, if you are a reporter at a national publication, he’s a “big thinking policy wonk”.

Fucking Paul Ryan. The next three months are going to be unbearable.

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