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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Pant Suit vs. Pant Load, Part III

(Note: this week there will be no Sunday Cartoon Blogging, since Wrongo will be visiting MA and PA through Sunday, returning on Monday.)

Wrongo and long-time blog reader Terry engaged in a short email dialog on how to “fix” the US political system. We were concerned that there is no individual Congressperson accountability. A backbencher can follow an agenda that can imperil our nation (and a few have done just that) without consequence.

But in America, accountability is managed by election district. Your only alternative is to round up enough votes to replace poor representation. So, if you wanted to reform the impact that money has in our politics, or the way the filibuster works in the Senate, you have to reform Congress.

Yet, under our Constitution, only Congress can reform Congress. And today, there are three parties vying for control of it, and since they rarely are willing to work with each other, not much gets done. So you can completely forget about Reform.

And the parties have not been willing to deal with the not-so hidden desperation in America that shows up in statistics like increasing opioid addiction and suicide rates. The political class ignores how lethal the US economy is for the less fortunate: The New York Times reported this week that US death rates have risen for the first time in a decade.

The increase in death rates among less educated whites since 2001 is roughly the size of the AIDS epidemic. One reason is the use of opioids. And, despite Mr. Obama’s speech in Elkhart, IN where he said our economy is doing well, there has been a spike in suicides to levels higher than during the 2008 financial crisis.

The little people know that the economic policies followed by both parties have brought income inequality to Gilded Age levels. They know that all of the post-crisis income gains have accrued to the top 1%. Unlike in China which continues to grow, our economic expansion has brought with it high unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the young.

As a result, people feel powerless. In fact, a RAND survey in January found that 86.5% of GOP voters who strongly identified with the statement “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does” were Trump supporters.

And, since so much of politics is about corralling money into the bank accounts of our politicians, your Congresspersons have no intention of listening to you unless you have given at least $10,000 to their campaign fund, or are the CEO of a major employer in their district or state. In US politics, money=speech. But, there is little meaning to free speech without free access to influence the political process.

Many of us feel nihilistic about our politics and our government. So the Pant Load’s support seems a lot like a form of public political vandalism where The Donald is the can of spray paint.

Most people can see that a large portion of Americans are poorer with each new election cycle. After all, the reason Trump (and Sanders) are doing well is because many, many workers are seeing their job security, income security, and retirement security all go up in smoke. That’s no mystery, just the natural outcome when the government fails to represent the people in favor of the rich who fund their campaigns. It’s no wonder the Pant Load is easily corralling the frustrated.

But can the Pant Suit reverse the Democratic Party’s abandonment of the working class in America?

We know that she needs to focus on drawing more potential working class and young supporters, but so far, Democrats are content to run only in their municipal strongholds, following a strategy of stitching together interest groups, largely in states with big urban populations.

Energizing people around the fact of our corrupt political system is both a way to get higher turnout, and a way to elect members of Congress and state legislatures to fix the corrupt system. That is Bernie’s message, what he calls a “political revolution.” But Sanders is not the person to bring this about. Consider Sanders just the messenger.

Strategically, the Pant Suit needs to figure out how to get folks energized enough to vote for her and against Trump for reasons that don’t so paralyze them with fear that they stay home. If she is successful, it could be the start of re-establishing the New Deal coalition, and a re-installation of the principles of the civil rights movement.

That’s a huge job that will not be completed in one election cycle.

This threat is the GOP’s worst nightmare. They have worked for 40 years to eliminate these ideas, so expect the GOP to unanimously support the Pant Load:

COW Never Hillary

The Bernie Dems will rally behind Hillary for similar reasons.

Trump/Arpaio 2016: Because immigrants are the greatest threat to the nation.

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There Is No Hope For The GOP

While we are busy obsessing about the Donald and Hillary, the Congress is supposed to be governing in the background. They aren’t.

After Paul Ryan (R-WI) replaced John Boehner as House Speaker, the idea was that Republicans would have more of a united front. And specifically, when it came to Ryan’s specialty, the federal budget, the idea was that Republicans would have an “ah-ha” moment, craft a budget, and then put pressure on Obama to go along.

But the change in leadership changed nothing for those divided House Republicans. Despite months of budget negotiations, the House Freedom Caucus, the 40 Republicans that ousted Boehner as Speaker, have now rejected Paul Ryan’s budget, probably leaving the Republicans with no budget to pass this year. More from HuffPo: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The budget, a non-binding resolution laying out spending priorities for the next 10 years, is little more than a press release, except in one key area: It sets the spending limits for the next fiscal year. And without those individual allocations, there’s little point in Republicans trying to go through appropriations process.

If there is no budget, there won’t be appropriations bills. A return to the regular legislative process for appropriations was a key tenet of Ryan’s program for the Speakership. Republicans overwhelmingly support the process of sending up individual spending bills so that they can add policy riders to legislation, putting the squeeze on Mr. Obama to choose between funding parts of the government, or keeping the Democrat’s social policies intact.

Dave Dayden said in the Fiscal Times:

The Freedom Caucus essentially wants to control government from a base of 40 members of the House, with only a few allies in the Senate and no president willing to agree to their demands. They want to…balance the budget through massive spending cuts, dismantle government healthcare programs, and overturn every executive order of the past eight years…

For months, Ryan has attempted to broker a deal on a budget resolution, which sets topline numbers for the appropriations committees to use to fund government operations. A bipartisan deal with the White House had set those numbers in stone, at $1.07 trillion for the next fiscal year. But the Freedom Caucus wants to cut that by $30 billion, back to the level mandated by Sequestration, the automatic spending cuts implemented in 2011.

Nevertheless, the Freedom Caucus formally opposed the deal, unable to stomach the nominal $30 billion spending increase (all of which was offset by cuts elsewhere). While Ryan had offered them votes on individual elements on the budget, members dismissed the additional votes as meaningless, because the Senate was unlikely to take them up.

Because Democrats don’t usually agree to budget resolutions from the other side, losing a 40-member bloc is enough to ensure that Ryan’s budget won’t have enough votes. That means it’s likely the government will be funded with a Continuing Resolution (CR) at current levels for the near future. And Democrats will have to supply most of the votes for the CR to pass.

And the lack of a budget is just a sidelight to the continuing irreconcilable differences between GOP factions. The GOP cannot fix this. Only a purge of one side of the Party, or the other, will do it.

If Paul Ryan cannot mediate this intra-party dispute, who can? Is Trump believable as a mediator?

If they can’t agree on something as simple as a topline budget number, what can they agree on?

The Trump phenomenon may succeed, or it may not. But the Freedom Caucus phenomenon seems far more consequential to the GOP and the country than Trump. And it’s hard to figure out how Republicans will get to where they are trying to go with the Tea Party or with Trump.

So, here’s a Wake Up Call for the GOP: Your “Big Tent” strategy with the Tea Party has failed. You gotta split up with the Teahadists and return to your roots, the roots that allowed you to govern back in the day. Then you can begin working to take back the seats you have lost to the Freedom Caucus.

To help the GOP wake up, here is a song by Girlyman, a group that broke up in 2013 at the height of their powers. Girlyman called their musical style “harmony-driven gender pop.” They had a strong following in the gay community. Here is “Joyful Sign” recorded in NYC at City Winery on April 16, 2011. And, its a break up song:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Enabling the Tea Party Revolution

Tuesday is the first Democratic Presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle. It is 100% certain that you will not hear any one of the Democratic hopefuls discuss how the Democrats in the House of Representatives have enabled the current chaos in the House by Republicans.

How have they enabled Republicans? Democrats routinely save them from their dysfunction. On Sunday, we discussed that raising revenues and deciding where to allocate funds was the primary task of the party that controls Congress.

That would be the Republicans.

We also said that whenever John Boehner has tried to pass his own spending bills using just Republican votes, he’s failed. He then goes to Nancy Pelosi and asks her to get some Democrats to vote to keep the government open, and the Democrats then vote for a Continuing Resolution, or a short-term Debt Limit increase. This is enabling bad behavior.

Enabling is doing certain things for someone that they could, and should be doing themselves.

They enable Republicans by bailing them out when they have painted themselves into a corner on fiscal matters, in the same way that people help alcoholics continue to (ab)use their drink of choice, by allowing them to avoid the full consequences of their actions.

When John Boehner can’t keep the government open or pay our bills and protect our nation’s credit rating, his party should crash and burn. Instead, his “friend” Pelosi does the equivalent of hiring a high-priced lawyer to quash Boehner’s drunken driving arrest. Boehner drives on, but his party doesn’t govern on its own.

And when the smoke clears, the Republican leadership extracts no price from their Republican Revolutionaries, who are allowed to keep their committee assignments, and receive campaign funds from the National Republican Campaign Committee.

So, there is no political price that the Republican Revolutionaries have to pay for bad behavior.

Democratic enabling has allowed a minority of Republicans to not just persist with their brinksmanship, but along the way, they have vastly strengthened their political power. There is no reason why Dems should vote for Republican appropriations bills, that is the job of the majority. The GOP needs to act like a majority party, which means they must learn how to fund the government on their own, or share power with those who will work with them to fund it.

The value to Democrats for their enabling is that they can say they are saving the country from the Republican Revolutionaries. But, the opposite result has actually happened. Democrats have enabled the Republicans to badmouth Washington DC and Congress, to bluster about how they can insist on defaulting on our debts, or about shutting down the government.

This has allowed Republicans to develop an increasing tolerance for avoiding basic political realities. Now, the Republican Party has snapped its moorings. Now, they have to dig out of the hole they have spent time and effort digging, all the while “supported” by the Democrats.

There are two possible outcomes. First, the Republicans could elect a Speaker that they agree to follow, but that seems to be the opposite of what the Republican Revolutionaries want, which is a Speaker who will follow their demands. The link details the 21 demands of the Freedom Caucus, including that the Speaker candidate must agree to shut down the government until some of the legislative achievements of the Obama Administration are repealed. Otherwise, the Caucus will deny their votes to that candidate.

The second possible outcome is a bipartisan coalition that will keep the government open and pay our bills.

Since we definitely need to do that, then that coalition should elect the next Speaker. Given the makeup of Congress, that Speaker ought to be a Republican. But for Democrats to enter a coalition, they need to extract concessions: The Republican Speaker needs to bring some Democrats onto the leadership team, demoting recalcitrant Republicans.

We could be at a turning point in the House’s process. It has been a two-party place for most of its history, with the majority party electing the Speaker. But there was a four-party stalemate of the House during the Eisenhower administration. The Democrats split along FDR/Farm-Labor/Dixiecrat lines, while the Republicans were split between the Old Guard Republicans who supported big business and dismantling the New Deal; and the Modern Republicans, who supported individual freedom and the market economy, but thought the government should provide necessary social welfare assistance.

That split was the start of the modern conservative movement’s push for ideological purity, that push and the Democrats’ recent enabling has given us the three party split we now see in the House of Representatives.

The Republicans could elect a Speaker at any time, and restore the two-party process.

Otherwise, we could be in a three-party scenario that might function like a parliamentary system, with occasional votes of “no confidence”, and the formation of a new coalition that elects a new Speaker, and then, new committee chairs.

If a coalition happens, it will happen because the Republicans realize that they cannot elect a Speaker on their own who hasn’t promised to deliver a global economic catastrophe in early December when we have to raise the debt ceiling.

Interesting times, eh?

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 28, 2015

Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right were in South Hero VT for the weekend. Here is a pic just after sunset, looking west towards Plattsburg NY. There is little fall color in Northern Vermont yet:

Lake Champlain Sunset

A few thoughts about Boehner’s resignation. Boehner faced a choice between a coup and a shutdown. That led him to make a deal with the Teahadists: If he stepped down as Speaker, they would vote for a “clean” Continuing Resolution (CR) and avoid a government shutdown. Several members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservative group that led the revolt against Boehner’s leadership, said they will now support the spending bill without demands that it include language to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Alex Pareene summed up the Boehner era:

It was not a distinguished tenure. His meager accomplishments came in spite of himself and to the great consternation of his Republican colleagues. He pinballed from one pathetic humiliation, usually at the hands of his own caucus, to the next. The only reason Boehner remained speaker for as long as he did—to his eternal regret, it is clear—is because his bitterest opponents were too stupid to figure out how to oust him, and his likeliest replacements never wanted the job.

So, at least as of the time this is written, the corporate wing of the GOP will get their clean funding bill (and retain a shot at the Presidency next year), at the same time, the Teahadists are allowed a “victory” by getting rid of Boehner. The corporate wing will insert another one of their guys in the Speaker position and a year down the road, Boehner is out from under the lobbyist rules, and goes on to a job paying 10 times of his current salary.

But we’ve got unfinished business, like the transportation bill, the Debt Ceiling and the Omnibus Spending Bill to keep government functioning into next year. These will be left for the next Speaker.

The GOP establishment looks to be fragmenting into two parts. They have the majority, but they have lost Eric Cantor, their rain-maker. Boehner, another rainmaker and cat-herder, is now gone. McConnell has now lost the air support he used to enjoy from the House. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may need to be the next head on the chopping block, particularly for his unwillingness to get rid of the Senate filibuster. From Salmon:

We made a lot of promises to the American people, that if we took the Senate, that we would do certain things and those things have not been accomplished…A lot of the problems we are engaged in is because the Senate doesn’t take any action on anything and there’s nothing that any presidential candidate on our side says that will ever be realized as long as the modern-day filibuster is enacted in the way it is today.

The firebrands in the House say that Sen. Ted Cruz is the defacto leader of the party. The Presidential primaries might determine a different leader, but the establishment wing of the GOP doesn’t have the control it used to have.

But, all is good in the cesspool. So, let’s try to wake up both John Boehner and the Freedom Caucus. Here are The Rolling Stones with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, recorded live at the Max in October 1990 and released in 1991:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 29, 2014

Americans prefer not to think about, and rarely allow elections to turn on foreign policy. Events, however, are not cooperating.

No Exit from Iraq:

COW-Exit-Ramp

The cartoon points out a different, subjective “reality.” Objective reality knows that there is always an exit ramp out of that loop. We perceive it doesn’t exist, since we fear the possible consequences. That blinds us to the options of seeing and using the exit.

Dems and Repubs send same message on Iraq:

Our options in Iraq are poor, and none:

However, sending Cheney to help ISIS might work:

In domestic news, Boehner digs in on Executive Orders:

The GOP feels that the primaries vindicated their approach:

Football not anywhere near as confusing as Cricket:

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