Recently, healthcare and oil industry lobbyist Newt Gingrich published a book, To Save America, which argues repeatedly that the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are a “secular-socialist machine” that “represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.” But in 2005, during an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, host Sean Hannity asked Gingrich what he thought about MoveOn.org and Democrats supposedly “comparing George Bush to Adolf Hitler.” Gingrich replied, “maybe they’re becoming the unhinged party.” Today during a press conference in the Capitol Hill visitor center, ThinkProgress asked if Gingrich’s standard for being “unhinged” applied to his own frequent comparisons of Obama to Nazi Germany:
TP: In your new book, you argue that Obama and liberals quote “represent as great of a threat to America as Nazi Germany”–
GINGRICH: Not here, but I’m happy to talk about that–
TP: Just really quickly though, but during the Bush years, you said people who make Bush-Nazi comparisons were quote “unhinged.” By your own definition, are you unhinged?
GINGRICH: No. Nice try.
While Gingrich sees nothing absurd or hypocritical about his comparison between the Obama administration and Nazi Germany, he is facing increasing criticism for his assertion. This morning, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough ripped Gingrich’s Nazi-Obama comparison as “sick” and “pure wingnuttery.” Yesterday, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on the GOP to condemn Gingrich’s new book for his “dangerous anaology” between Obama and Nazi Germany. “Gingrich’s linkage not only diminishes the horror of the Holocaust, it also licenses the use of extremist language in contemporary America,” remarked David Harris, executive director of the AJC.
“I don’t have any doubt that ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ will be a memory by the end of this year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told Roll Call yesterday, before suggesting that she will have enough votes to pass the repeal and the more controversial Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). “I’m not going to bring up anything that’s not going to win,” Pelosi said. “And we feel that we’re in a pretty good, strong position on both bills”:
On Wednesday, Pelosi alluded to the thinking of many Democrats, which is to insert language repealing the policy into the defense authorization bill.
“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ if it were to be part of a defense authorization bill, it would have to be something that we would have to make a decision about sooner than [ENDA],” Pelosi said. “And we’re having our conversations. “I support ENDA. I have for decades and it’s very important to me,” said Pelosi.
“When the opportunity is there, we want to bring that up, and I hope that will be soon,” she said. “We’ll see what people want to do. It’s not my own personal decision. We’ll just see where we go from here.”
Repeal of DADT is certainly morel likely in the House than the Senate. Yesterday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) officially announced that he would not attach provision repealing DADT to his committee’s defense authorization measure, but leading sponsors of the measure, like Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) have pledged to move ahead on repeal — despite Robert Gates’ insistence that Congress hold off on legislation until the Pentagon completes its year-long review of the policy. Depending on what happens in the Senate next week — Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) is still struggling to convince 15 of 28 committee members to support the amendment in committee — Pelosi may either allow the measure to come to the floor for a vote or (should the Senate successfully attaches the measure) agree to it in conference.
Advocates are also eager to move ENDA, but worry that Republicans could include a ‘poison pill” motion to recommit that would strip the protections for transgendered individuals. The Hill reports, however, quotes “a leading House liberal” as saying that” House leaders had this week told similarly minded members of the caucus that ENDA was going to be taken up before the elections, regardless of what happens with “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” “It’ll be right before we leave,” this Democrat said, “to energize the base.” That vote may occur as early as the second week in June.
German and French government bonds rose, pushing yields to record low levels, and securities of so- called peripheral nations such as Spain fell on concern Europe lacks a united response to its debt crisis. [...] The spread between the bund and 10-year Treasuries narrowed five basis points to 55 basis points, indicating investors may perceive assets outside Europe as safer.
It’s true that there’s a growing perception of unsafety in Europe, but you already knew that. The interesting thing here is that German and French bond yields are falling to record lows. That prima facie looks like falling inflation expectations in Europe. Which in turn drives home the point that though Greece definitely has fiscal problems, the main issue in Europe isn’t in government budgets but in the lack of growth or prospects for growth. If your economy doesn’t grow, your budget will necessarily not add up. The ECB desperately needs to step up with more forceful intervention, and if European governments feel like taking politically difficult measures it would be better to focus on pro-growth structural reforms than on possibly counterproductive austerity budgets.
As ThinkProgress noted last night, Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul criticized a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal because he doesn’t “like the idea of telling private business owners” that they can’t discriminate. Paul defended his position in subsequent interviews with MSNBC and NPR, admitting that there are sections of the bill he doesn’t “favor.” “When you support nine out of 10 things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it?” Paul said to Rachel Maddow. “And I think, sometimes, those are difficult situations.
The conservative media largely stayed silent on Paul’s incendiary position until after he backtracked in a statement declaring that he “will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964″ and an interview with Laura Ingraham in which he said that he would have voted for the law. Fox News, which hosted Paul at least 21 times since last May, didn’t feature a segment on the controversy until this afternoon when Megyn Kelly hosted libertarian John Stossel, who said that he’s “in total agreement” with Paul:
KELLY: He is getting excoriated for suggesting that the Civil Rights Act — what he said was, look, it’s got ten parts essentially. I favor nine. It’s the last part that mandated no discrimination in places of public accommodation that I have a problem with because you should let businesses decide for themselves, you know, whether they’re going to be racist or not racist because once the government gets involved it’s a slippery slope. Do you agree that?
STOSSEL: Totally. I’m in total agreement with Rand Paul. You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it’s a private business and if a private business wants to say we don’t want any blonde anchorwomen or mustached guys, it ought to be their right.
To her credit, Kelly challenged Stossel aggressively, saying that it was “necessary” to bar private businesses from discriminating in order to guarantee equal rights. But Stossel persisted, saying that he would repeal the section of the Civil Rights Act that covers private businesses:
STOSSEL: And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement and say it’s time now to repeal that part of the law.
STOSSEL: Because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won’t ever go to a place that’s racist. And I will tell everybody else not to and I’ll speak against them, but it should be there right to be racist.
As The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer points out, Paul and Stossel’s “free market fundamentalism is being expressed after decades of social transformation that the Civil Rights Act helped create, and so the hell of segregation is but a mere abstraction, difficult to remember and easy to dismiss as belonging only to its time.” “It’s much easier now to say that ‘the market would handle it.’ But it didn’t, and it wouldn’t,” writes Serwer.
Paul’s campaign has backtracked even more now, with spokesman Jesse Benton issuing a statement that Paul “supports” the power of the federal government “to ensure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race.” Page One Kentucky notes, however, that in 2002, Paul wrote a letter to the Bowling Green Daily News in opposition to the Federal Fair Housing Act because it prohibited discrimination on private property. “Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate,” wrote Paul.
Bruce Bartlett writes, “as we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. … Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn’t work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.”
The Associated Press’ Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar has a story out today claiming that the Obama administration oversold the small business tax credit provision in the new health care law. Under reform, businesses with 25 workers and average annual wages under $50,000 technically qualify for a credit, but in reality, many could come out dry. “The credit drops off sharply once a company gets above 10 workers and $25,000 average annual wages,” he argues:
It’s an example of how the early provisions of the health care law can create winners and losers among groups lawmakers intended to help — people with health problems, families with young adult children and small businesses. Because of the law’s complexity, not everyone in a broadly similar situation will benefit.
Consider small businesses: “The idea here is to target the credits to a relatively low number of firms, those who are low-wage and really quite small,” said economist Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute public policy center. The smallest businesses are at greatest risk of losing coverage — assuming they can afford it in the first place, research shows. On paper, the credit seems to be available to companies with fewer than 25 workers and average wages of $50,000. But in practice, a complicated formula that combines the two numbers works against companies that have more than 10 workers and $25,000 in average wages.
Indeed, the new law provides the smallest businesses with the greatest aid and uses two separate phase out formulas — one for size of the company and the other for amount of wages — to determine how much each business can receive. But it’s inaccurate to describe the businesses that don’t qualify for the credit as “losers.” After all, if they don’t currently receive an added (extra) benefit, what exactly do they lose? Nothing.
In fact, they have much to gain. The law explicitly exempts small businesses with fewer than 50 workers from the free rider penalty and provided tax credits for small business employees to purchase insurance, allows businesses to pool risk through SHOP exchanges (a long time NFIB goal), and will distribute grants for employer wellness programs. To be sure, Congress could have included more money for small businesses. But they were operating under a certain cap and had to stay within certain fiscal limits. But just because the law doesn’t do enough, doesn’t mean it does nothing at all.
Ron Wyden’s op-ed about Senator Bob Bennett’s late career gets too treacly about bipartisanship for my taste, but it does feature the critical observation that “[w]hile it is certainly true that legislating can be (and is) turned into a zero-sum game, despite what you hear on cable news, not every issue has diametrically opposed Democratic and Republican ideologies.”
It’s always very important to understand which things in life are zero-sum and which aren’t. Politics contains examples of both. Competition for office is zero-sum. If I’m winning, you’re losing. Passing a health care bill either benefits Democrats electorally or else it benefits Republicans electorally. But public policy isn’t zero-sum and consequently compromise doesn’t need to be difference-splitting. But the more members of congress see themselves as engaged in electoral competition between the parties rather than legislative collaboration with their fellow members, the more impossible it becomes to ever reach compromise. Which I don’t particularly think is a problem, except that our political system in most cases requires some measure of bipartisanship for a bill to pass.
On this front, something has to give. Either members of congress (especially in the Senate) need to start caring less about the overall partisan balance of power or else institutions need to change to leave the majority with a freer hand to govern.
Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of moria.
I’m glad that Matt Yglesias has reaffirmed conversations I’ve had with, among other people, my trainer and Katie recently about the unnecessity of yet another Robin Hood movie. If you’re going to make a historical movie about the period, there are so many fresher stories to tell. Why not do a Richard the Lionheart feature, rather than casting the guy who a) may have been gay, b) led a Crusade, c) got kidnapped by the Duke of Austria, handed over to the Holy Roman Emperor who was ultimately excommunicated for holding him prisoner, and was ultimately ransomed by his own mother, at enormous cost to his country, as a bit player in Robin Hood movies? Speaking of said mother, why not do an Eleanor of Aquitaine, who would be a ferociously entertaining character for some marquee actress to rip into and carry off, and whose intelligence, humor, taste, manipulations and weaknesses are far too badass to be contained into a frame narrative about one of her husbands or one of her sons. Let the Earl of Huntington, or whoever Robin Hood really was, have a rest for a bit. And give some other, perhaps more deserving, folks their cinematic turn.
By Climate Guest Blogger on May 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm
Quotes IEA: “Every year the world fails to seriously deal with climate change raises the price tag by $500 billion — a lot of which, no doubt, Americans will be on the hook for”
Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) have provided Congress with an opportunity. Their climate bill, released last week, is imperfect. But it offers a start, very much in the right direction. Contrary to popular wisdom, acting on global warming is not going to get easier after this year’s election. Legislators should seize this moment.
Since its opinion pages have been quite dreadful on this issue, the Washington Post‘s editorial on the climate and clean energy jobs bill deserves to be read in full:
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attempted to invoke cloture on Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) financial regulatory reform bill. However, the attempt failed 57-42, due to a number of factors: the absence of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) changing his vote, and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) refusing to end debate without consideration of provisions that would strengthen the bill. Today, Reid moved to invoke cloture again, and due to Specter’s arrival and Brown switching to yea, the vote succeeded, 60-40.
In addition to Brown, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted in favor of cloture. Cantwell and Feingold voted no, again. There will now be 30 hours of post-cloture debate, including votes on an amendment proposed by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) that would exempt auto dealers from new consumer protections and an amendment proposed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) that would ban banks from proprietary trading.
The Senate voted tonight to pass the bill as amended, 59-39. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) voted in favor. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) voted no. Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) did not vote.