Fear, Loathing and Child Abuse at CPAC

If you didn’t watch last night’s “Countdown,” just catch the conversation between Keith Olbermann and Eugene Robinson on the Conservative Political Action Conference. My only quibble is that the participants are not getting crazy. This is who they are.

Dave Neiwert explains how the Right is dreaming of a Road Warrior scenario in which civilization utterly collapses. This is not what they fear; it’s what they want.

So far their “resistance” amounts to talking to themselves and holding their little “tea parties.” But we’re going to be very, very lucky if there aren’t some nasty incidents of domestic terrorism coming from the Right in the next couple of years.

I mention child abuse — the righties have found a 13-year-old boy whose little pubescent brain has been thoroughly pickled in rightwing propaganda. The child gave a two-minute talk at CPAC, which essentially amounted to his standing on a podium and vomiting up all the crap he’s been fed all his life.

And maybe next year CPAC will feature a two-minute talk by a parrot. It would amount to the same thing.

The De-Reaganization of America

Paul Krugman is almost giddy about the Obama Administration’s first budget. Money for healthcare reform! Money for climate change! Woo-HOO!

And these new priorities are laid out in a document whose clarity and plausibility seem almost incredible to those of us who grew accustomed to reading Bush-era budgets, which insulted our intelligence on every page. This is budgeting we can believe in.

For a review of some of the atrocities of Bush Administration budgeting, see “Bust This Budget,” February 2008.

And get this:

Many will ask whether Mr. Obama can actually pull off the deficit reduction he promises. Can he actually reduce the red ink from $1.75 trillion this year to less than a third as much in 2013? Yes, he can.

A New York Times headline, “A Bold Plan Sweeps Away Reagan Ideas.” David Leonhardt writes,

The budget that President Obama proposed on Thursday is nothing less than an attempt to end a three-decade era of economic policy dominated by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his supporters.

The Obama budget — a bold, even radical departure from recent history, wrapped in bureaucratic formality and statistical tables — would sharply raise taxes on the rich, beyond where Bill Clinton had raised them. It would reduce taxes for everyone else, to a lower point than they were under either Mr. Clinton or George W. Bush. And it would lay the groundwork for sweeping changes in health care and education, among other areas.

More than anything else, the proposals seek to reverse the rapid increase in economic inequality over the last 30 years. They do so first by rewriting the tax code and, over the longer term, by trying to solve some big causes of the middle-class income slowdown, like high medical costs and slowing educational gains.

Headline in the Los Angeles Times: “Obama’s budget is the end of an era.”

Reporting from Washington — Not since Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt has a president moved to expand the role of government so much on so many fronts — and with such a demanding sense of urgency. …

… Even more stark than the breadth and scale of Obama’s proposals was his determination to break with the conservative principles that have dominated national politics and policymaking since Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980.

Mike Madden writes in Salon,

The 142-page proposal laid out a sweeping, ambitious agenda for the future: Obama would raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for healthcare for the uninsured; cap pollution emissions; put billions more dollars into infrastructure and new technology, building on the money in the massive economic stimulus program Obama already pushed through Congress; invest in new education programs; and roll back the U.S. troop presence in Iraq and, more slowly, Afghanistan. There were proposals to save money by modernizing the healthcare system, only paying for treatments that are proven to work, and by eliminating federal farm subsidies to the biggest and wealthiest recipients, mostly agribusiness interests. This is not, in other words, George W. Bush’s budget.

Congress — pass it, and let’s get on with healing our country.

Gimmicks and the GOP

Patrick Ruffini’s article “The Joe-the-Plumberization of the GOP” is as fascinating for what it unintentionally reveals as for what Ruffini argues. Let’s start here —

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

I’ll leave aside how legitimate Wurzelbacher’s policy beef was, and say that otherwise I pretty much agree with Ruffini. On to the next paragraph:

Since its very beginnings as a movement, conservatism has bought into liberalism’s dominant place in the American political process. They controlled all the major institutions: the media, academia, Hollywood, the Democratic Party, large segments of the Republican Party, and consequently, the government. Liberalism’s image of conservatives in the ’50s and ’60s as paranoid Birchers gave birth to a conservative movement self-conscious of its minority status. As in any tribe that is small in number and can’t fully trust its most natural allies (i.e. the business community or the Republican Party), the meta-debate of who is inside and outside the tribe is magnified exponentially.

Is he saying conservatism did not exist before the 1950s? It’s more accurate to say that the current wave of movement conservatism was born after World War II, rising from the ashes of the conservatism that had pushed back against the New Deal and was opposed to taking sides against Hitler until after Hitler’s declaration of war on the U.S., in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Right’s climb back to political relevance began with the myth that Roosevelt somehow sold out to Stalin at Yalta (see Kevin Baker’s essential “Stabbed in the Back” from the June 2006 Harper’s). Of course, after the Joe McCarthy debacle had died down the GOP in the 1950s was more or less steered by moderates whose disagreements with Dems were more often in degree than in kind. But you all know the sad story of how the pseudo-conservatives morphed into Goldwater conservatives who morphed into Reagan conservatives, and how these conservatives insist on lockstep ideological purity, so that Eisenhower-style moderates are no longer welcome in the party.

There were, of course, some conservative intellectuals like Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley who managed to slap a veneer of erudition over ideological conservatism. But the rough beast that movement conservatism has become doesn’t know Kirk from mooseburgers, and even Buckley had more or less washed his hands of it before he died.

Ruffini continues,

The legacy of that early movement — alive and well at CPAC and in the conservative institutions that still exist today — is one driven inordinately by this question of identity. We have paeans to Reagan (as if we needed to be reminded again of just how much things suck in comparison today), memorabilia honoring 18th century philosophers that we wouldn’t actually wear in the outside world, and code-word laden speeches that focus on a few hot button issues that leave us ill-equipped to actually govern conservatively on 80% of issues when we actually do get elected.

For whatever reason, conservatives do tend to live in a mythologized past that never actually existed. But I would say that current “movement conservatives” don’t even have coherent issues any more. They have talking points. And the reason they are ill-equipped to actually govern conservatively is that they are ill-equipped to govern at all. “Movement conservatism” is so debased it has no philosophy of government, other than whatever them libruhls is fer, we’re agin’ it.

This culture of identity politics means we get especially defensive about the Liberal Majority’s main lines of attack, because we think of our position as inherently fragile.

There’s a Liberal Majority? Who knew? What happened to the center-right nation?

The truth is, from the 1980s and until about 2006 the Right had thoroughly run true liberalism entirely off the political radar. Genuine liberals, as opposed to ideological centrists who played liberals on TeeVee, were so marginalized in this country we were damn near invisible even to each other. (The Right mistook Bill Clinton for a liberal, but he was not. Clinton never governed as a liberal, but as a triangulator who finessed the Right rather than defeat it.)

But even when they had all the government, all the media, all the attention to themselves, the Right continued to run against the demon liberals they imagined lurked under every bed. Because that’s all they had. Ultimately, when you strip away the rhetoric and the posturing, all they have is resentment of whatever they think “liberalism” is. They have no interest in governing.

Skipping a bit —

This is so different than the psychology of the left. The left assumes that it is culturally superior and the natural party of government and fights aggressively to frame any conservative incursion on that turf as somehow alien and unnatural. (The “Oh God…” whisper being the perfect illustration.) They dominate Hollywood not by actively branding liberalism in their movies, but by coolly associating liberal policy ideas with sentiments everyone feels, like love (gay marriage) or fairness (the little guy vs. some evil corporate stiff).

Well, yeah, people do tend to approve of love and fairness and like to see these things reflected in popular entertainment. This has been true since at least Shakespeare’s time. But it’s not as if liberals get together and plan what values they are going to promote in next year’s films. It’s more a matter of liberalism by nature being more creative, I think. Whenever conservatives try to be creative they come across as either mean or smarmy. Or both. It’s the nature of the beast.

Skipping ahead —

Put another way, Republicans thrive as the party of normal Americans — the people in the middle culturally and economically. This is true of our leadership as well — we have a history of nominating figures who came first from outside politics. Our base is the common-sense voter in the middle who bought a house she could afford and didn’t lavishly overspend in good times and who is now subsidizing the person who didn’t.

That’s how Republicans want to see themselves, but I don’t think that’s been true for a long time. The suburbs didn’t abandon the GOP in the last election because of Barack Obama’s dazzling rhetoric. They abandoned the GOP because the GOP has nothing to offer them except culture war and erosion of the health care system.

This is why Obama’s pitch is fundamentally off-key if framed correctly. People’s first instincts in a recession are not to overspend, but to tighten their belts.

Yes, and a frightened horse’s first instinct is to run back into the stable, even if the stable is on fire. But it is because people are tightening belts that the government has to pump cash into the economy asap.

In these serious times, conservatives need to get serious and ditch the gimmicks and the self-referential credentializing and talk to the entire country. If the average apolitical American walked into CPAC or any movement conservative gathering would they feel like they learned something new or that we presented a vision compelling to them in their daily lives?

A compelling vision is one thing; knowing one’s ass from one’s elbow is something else. The GOP is basically in denial of the nature of the problems we face, which is why they can’t come up with solutions that might work in the real world. The GOP needs to do more than just scrap the gimmicks. It needs to take a deep breath, calm down, and think hard about what government is and what citizens need from it. What is the appropriate role of government? “None” is no longer a viable answer.

This is why I love Newt’s emphasis on finding 80/20 issues and defining them in completely non-ideological terms.

You want to know what “Newt’s emphasis” is? I followed Ruffini’s links and came to this. It’s a bleeping joke. Just a laundry list of discrete right-wing bugaboos like making English the official language and keeping “One nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Please.

Like I said, this is as fascinating for what it reveals as it is for what Ruffini argues.

See also The American Conservative, Daniel Larison, “Needed: Confidence And Wisdom.”

It seems to me that conservatives and Republicans have assumed the GOP is the natural governing party, at least regarding the Presidency and to some extent as it relates to Congress since ’94, which is why so many have continued to insist that America is a “center-right nation” in the face of mounting evidence that it is not and hasn’t been for a while. Symbolic gimmickry does stem in part from a lack of confidence, but it is more the product of a movement and party that have ceased to understand, much less address, most of the pressing concerns of working- and middle-class Americans. The party assumes that all it needs to do is show up, push the right pseudo-populist buttons and reap the rewards, and for the most part the movement cheers. See Palin, Sarah.

The GOP settles for offering “symbolic, substance-free BS” because enough conservatives are already persuaded that Republican policies obviously benefit the middle class, so there is no pressure to make Republican policy actually serve the interests of Republican constituents. It is taken for granted that this is already happening, but voters have been showing for several cycles that many of them do not believe this. Politically Democrats have been gaining ground in such unlikely places as Ohio and Indiana, which would be inexplicable if the GOP obviously and reliably represented working- and middle-class Americans. Of course, lately these voters don’t see it that way, but instead see the right’s pseudo-populists denounce workers for being overpaid, reject measures that would direct some spending to American industries that their free trade zeal has helped gut and even talk about a spending freeze in the middle of a severe recession.

So Much for Bobby Jindal

Earlier this week, Gov. Jindal sold out the unemployed people of Louisiana for the sake of his own political career. Well, folks, all indications are that Jindal’s career is pretty much over now. He’s still governor of Louisiana, of course, but his performance last night delivering the GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s speech was so bad even the Right is embarrassed by it.

As Tbogg says, if even the rightie blogger Ace of Spades is calling you a dork, “There’s not enough Bactineâ„¢ in the world to make that sting go away.”

The Faux Nooz panel panned Jindal’s delivery, although not what he said. David Brooks, on the other hand, was embarrassed by what Jindal said:

Today Michael Gerson has a puff piece on Jindal in the Washington Post, indicating that the GOP was planning to promote him as the future of the party. Well, kiss that off. He’s toast.

Some of the most interesting, in an anthropological sense, responses are on R.S. McCain’s site. McCain (in short, “He’s no Sarah Palin”), wrote,

A big wiffle-ball swing and a miss for the consensus favorite 2012 candidate of Republicans who look down their nose at Sarah Palin.

And the first commenter said,

I think she has bigger balls. Seriously, this guys burnt Milquetoast.

I think McCain may be right that Jindal was being groomed by the faction of GOP insiders who consider Palin a disaster for the party. And I also think the commenter is right that Jindal fails to manifest the macho swagger so essential to a true movement conservative leader. The candidate who makes their extremities tingle is one who reflects their resentments and fears and sasses back to the scary, dark world with style and lots of ‘tude. Whether the candidate can find Canada on a map is irrelevant.

See also:

John Cole, “The Morning After Look at the Jindal Response

Greg Veis, “Epic Fail, SOTU Rebuttal Version

The Obama Code

George Lakoff dissects Obama’s moral vision in The Seven Intellectual Underpinnings of the Obama Code. It appeared in concert with Obama’s SOTU address, on several websites – you may have already seen it. If not, it’s a bit long but well worth reading. Some excerpts: st obama

…Obama’s second …move concerns what the fundamental American values are. In Moral Politics, I described what I found to be the implicit, often unconscious, value systems behind progressive and conservative thought. Progressive thought rests, first, on the value of empathy—putting oneself in other people’s shoes, seeing the world through their eyes, and therefore caring about them. The second principle is acting on that care, taking responsibility both for oneself and others, social as well as individual responsibility. The third is acting to make oneself, the country, and the world better—what Obama has called an “ethic of excellence” toward creating “a more perfect union” politically.

Historian Lynn Hunt, in Inventing Human Rights, has shown that those values, beginning with empathy, lie historically behind the human rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Obama, in various interviews and speeches, has provided the logical link. Empathy is not mere sympathy. Putting oneself in the shoes of others brings with it the responsibility to act on that empathy—to be “our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper”—and to act to improve ourselves, our country, and the world.

The logic is simple: Empathy is why we have the values of freedom, fairness, and equality — for everyone, not just for certain individuals. If we put ourselves in the shoes of others, we will want them to be free and treated fairly. Empathy with all leads to equality: no one should be treated worse than anyone else. Empathy leads us to democracy: to avoid being subject indefinitely to the whims of an oppressive and unfair ruler, we need to be able to choose who governs us and we need a government of laws.

This is key:

Obama has consistently maintained that what I, in my writings, have called “progressive” values are fundamental American values. From his perspective, he is not a progressive; he is just an American.

That is a crucial intellectual move.

Those empathy-based moral values are the opposite of the conservative focus on individual responsibility without social responsibility. They make it intolerable to tolerate a president who is The Decider—who gets to decide without caring about or listening to anybody. Empathy-based values are opposed to the pure self-interest of a laissez-faire “free market,” which assumes that greed is good and that seeking self-interest will magically maximize everyone’s interests. They oppose a purely self-interested view of America in foreign policy. Obama’s foreign policy is empathy-based, concerned with people as well as states—with poverty, education, disease, water, the rights of women and children, ethnic cleansing, and so on around the world….

We talk all the time about how empathy is crucial distinction between left and right.

The third crucial idea behind the Obama Code is biconceptualism, the knowledge that a great many people who identify themselves ideologically as conservatives, or politically as Republicans or Independents, share those fundamental American values—at least on certain issues. Most “conservatives” are not thoroughgoing movement conservatives, but are what I have called “partial progressives” sharing Obama’s American values on many issues. Where such folks agree with him on values, Obama tries, and will continue to try, to work with them on those issues if not others. And, he assumes, correctly I believe, that the more they come to think in terms of those American values, the less they will think in terms of opposing conservative values.

Biconceptualism lay behind his invitation to Rick Warren to speak at the inaugural. Warren is a biconceptual, like many younger evangelicals. He shares Obama’s views of the environment, poverty, health, and social responsibility, though he is otherwise a conservative. Biconceptualism is behind his “courting” of Republican members of Congress. The idea is not to accept conservative moral views, but to find those issues where individual Republicans already share what he sees as fundamentally American values…

Biconceptualism is central to Obama’s attempts to achieve unity —a unity based on his understanding of American values…

Finally, as a consequence of low empathy…

Conservatives tend to think in terms of direct causation. The overwhelming moral value of individual, not social, responsibility requires that causation be local and direct. For each individual to be entirely responsible for the consequences of his or her actions, those actions must be the direct causes of those consequences. If systemic causation is real, then the most fundamental of conservative moral—and economic—values is fallacious. Global ecology and global economics are prime examples of systemic causation. Global warming is fundamentally a system phenomenon. That is why the very idea threatens conservative thinking. And the global economic collapse is also systemic in nature. That is at the heart of the death of the conservative principle of the laissez-faire free market, where individual short-term self-interest was supposed to be natural, moral, and the best for everybody. The reality of systemic causation has left conservatism without any real ideas to address global warming and the global economic crisis…

I’ve often said that conservatives cannot see past the ends of their own noses. Read the whole thing.

State of the Union Open Thread

I will be away from home and will miss the SOTU, but you are free to discuss it here. I will be back around 10 pm to find out how it went.

Update: Jindal: Hey, I’m nonwhite, too!

Jindal: Yes, we Republicans have to be the workers President’s’ strongest allies. Of course, government will screw up.

The way to lead is to not lead, but cut y’all loose to sink or swim. Good luck!

Wasn’t the rail from Los Angeles to Las Vegas a myth? I thought someone had debunked that?

Ooo, I just noticed that MSNBC has squiggly lines on the bottom of the screen, like CNN had during the debates. Cool.

This is the first close look I’ve had of Bobby Jindal, and may I say I dislike him intensely. He’s basically saying the Republicans want to work with President Obama, but they oppose everything he wants to do.

Jindal. Gag.

Apparently Jindal bombed with conservatives also. Josh Marshall called the speech “cringy,” and I would say “creepy.”

Polls: “Stop the Insanity”

Glenn Greenwald looks at polls to shred apart the “Americans want bipartisanship” myth. In polls and in the voting booth, the only time Americans are expressing a desire for bipartisanship is when it is applied to Republicans.

Let me suggest that what Americans long for is not “bipartisanship,” but sanity. They’re tired of the clown show.

People allegedly want “bipartisanship.” The nation’s political and media powers translate that to mean people want both parties to have an equal say in government, and that policies should be crafted to the “center” of the current political spectrum in Washington.

But I do not think that’s what most people want at all. What most people want are politicians to stop squabbling like children and get serious about governing. They are tired of childish partisan games sucking all the energy out of government. They want real problems addressed in a real-world way. They don’t care which party is in power so long as that party is behaving like grownups.

The GOP continues to behave like 2-year-old stuck in the “no!” phase.

I think what people want from Washington isn’t “bipartisanship” as the villagers understand the word. What they want might more honestly be called “post-partisan” or “anti-partisan” or just plain “not-partisan.” They want the games to stop.

That doesn’t mean they expect Congress to be of one mind. However, they want opposition to the administration to come from somewhere else than Mars. They want opposition that comes from an honest desire to solve problems and make America better, not from whatever pathological character disorders propel right-wingers to grab power, by any means, that they clearly are not responsible to hold.

If you look at today’s headlines, you’d think President Obama is somehow failing the people on “bipartisanship.” For example, the Washington Post: “Obama Gets High Marks for 1st Month, But Survey Finds Sharp Erosion in Bipartisan Support

Large majorities of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll support his $787 billion economic stimulus package and the recently unveiled $75 billion plan to stem mortgage foreclosures. Nearly seven in 10 poll respondents said Obama is delivering on his pledge to bring needed change to Washington, and about eight in 10 said he is meeting or exceeding their expectations. At the same time, however, the bipartisan support he enjoyed as he prepared to take office has eroded substantially amid stiff Republican opposition to his major economic initiatives.

In other words, everyone but bitter-ender Republicans approves of Obama. Then the pathological intransigence of the GOP is framed as Obama’s failure and not theirs.

For ABC News, Gary Langer reports — “A Strong Start for Obama – But Hardly a Bipartisan One.”

Barack Obama’s month-old presidency is off to a strong start, marked by the largest lead over the opposition party in trust to handle the economy for a president in polls dating back nearly 20 years. But the post-partisanship he’s championed looks as elusive as ever.

Again, when people express a desire for “post-partisan” government, this does not mean they want right-wing lunatics to have an equal say in government. They want the insanity to stop. Cenk Uygur explains:

As DougJ at Balloon Juice says, “villager” opinion and public opinion have rarely been so far apart.

Blinking on Banks

Paul Krugman argues that the Obama Administration should just nationalize the banks and be done with it.

The real question is why the Obama administration keeps coming up with proposals that sound like possible alternatives to nationalization, but turn out to involve huge handouts to bank stockholders.

For example, the administration initially floated the idea of offering banks guarantees against losses on troubled assets. This would have been a great deal for bank stockholders, not so much for the rest of us: heads they win, tails taxpayers lose.

Now the administration is talking about a “public-private partnership” to buy troubled assets from the banks, with the government lending money to private investors for that purpose. This would offer investors a one-way bet: if the assets rise in price, investors win; if they fall substantially, investors walk away and leave the government holding the bag. Again, heads they win, tails we lose.

Why not just go ahead and nationalize? Remember, the longer we live with zombie banks, the harder it will be to end the economic crisis.

I have to agree with Professor Krugman on this one. Prairie Weather says Obama is listening to too many former Wall Street and financial industry guys right now, and he’s probably right.

Whose Denial?

In his column today, Frank Rich correctly points out that America suffers from chronic denial.

One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly “changed everything,” slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable. Obama’s toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.

Bad news after bad news — the mortgage meltdown, the financial crisis, steroid use in professional baseball, that we went to war in Iraq over imaginary WMDs — are disasters some saw way in advance, Rich writes, yet most Americans were late to notice them and were caught completely off guard. Yes, but …

I’ll put aside the question of how much Frank Rich knew and when he knew it. I propose that Frank Rich and others who spend their lives in national news media leave their newsrooms and spend some time purely as news consumers. Pick some nice “heartland” community at random — maybe Cedar Falls, Iowa, or Talking Rock, Georgia — and live there for a year. Then they should cut off ties to buddies still working in the news biz and get all of their information from the same sources their neighbors use. That, probably, will be mostly radio and television.

I think then they might get a clue why Americans don’t know what’s going on. Mass media truly is a vast wasteland in which one might occasionally stumble upon factual information about substantive issues, but I wouldn’t count on it.

For example: I don’t often watch daytime television, but from what little I have seen it appears daytime cable news currently is obsessed with some child battering or homicide cases, and the few public details of these tragic stories are repeated incessantly. One might occasionally see a headline crawl like “Expert says millions of Americans will lose their homes.” But for the most part, viewers are shown the same little bits of video of the suspects, over and over again, and invited to speculate whether the girlfriend done it.

Remember “bread and circuses”? Well, bread is getting pricey, but we’ve got plenty of circuses.

Nighttime cable has its little windows of sanity (e.g., Rachel Maddow), but for the most part the producers still lack the imagination not to interview Ann Coulter whenever she publishes more of her pathological projections about liberals. And, of course, we still have wingnut talk radio and Faux Nooz, where right-wing shills like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity sit in front of cameras and make shit up.

Most people, busy with the details of their own lives, don’t have the time or resources to separate wheat from chaff. Especially when there’s so little wheat and so much chaff.

Choosing Sides

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has chosen to refuse $90 million of federal dollars that would have benefited his state’s unemployed citizens. His reason for this is that the state would have been required to change its own laws and expand unemployment eligibility. The federal money would fund the expansion for only three years, after which time the state would have to tax businesses to make up the slack. Therefore, accepting the $90 million would hurt business.

Of course, there is no earthly reason why Louisiana couldn’t plan on phasing out the expansion once the federal money ran out. We’re in an emergency mode, after all. And one would think that putting a little extra money into the pockets of Louisiana residents would be, you know, good for business. People who understand these matters better than I do say that unemployment benefits are a particularly effective stimulus, because nearly every penny is spent:

Temporary increases in unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are particularly effective as stimulus: the benefits go to workers who have lost their jobs, so the added income is likely to be spent quickly. As CBO director Orszag recently told the House Budget Committee, “research has shown that the unemployment insurance system is among the most effective dollar-for-dollar economic stabilizers that we have in terms of counterbalancing periods of economic weakness.”

Already Louisiana is a state that receives more in federal tax dollars than it pays. According to the Tax Foundation, in 2005 for every dollar paid in federal income taxes, Louisiana got $1.30 back. Louisiana got $1.37 back in 2004, so don’t blame Katrina.

Governor Jindal, however, has chosen sides. He is being hailed as a hero by the wingnuts, who are calling the federal dollars a “bribe” and the stipulations attached to it “unconstitutional.”

On the other hand, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just signed into law a $12.5 billion tax increase. Michael Finnegan writes for the Los Angeles Times,

With that, the Republican governor broke one of the few bonds left between his shrunken party and California’s mainstream voters, marring its hard-won image as a guardian against higher taxes.

Actually, California has a hard-won image of a state that lacks the sense to come in out of the rain, or back away from a mudslide, or whatever.

To be sure, none of the GOP lawmakers who demanded that the state close its $42-billion shortfall without raising taxes detailed the doomsday cuts that approach would entail, nor did the activists who lobbied against the tax increases. If the state had laid off its entire workforce of 238,000 — every prison guard, firefighter and clerk — it still would have fallen billions shy of a balanced budget.

I bet no one in the GOP still is talking about a constitutional amendment that would allow Ahnold to be president.

Anyway, these two governors have chosen their sides. Gov. Jindal chose to stay on the sinking ship that is the GOP. Gov. Schwarzenegger, whatever his many faults, at least is smart enough to know when it’s time to grab a lifeboat.

Update: From Liberal Journal

Keeping money out of the hands of the unemployed during a severe recession is just the kind of stunt that could vault him to the top of the Republican Presidential primary field in 2012. And with potential competition from the mighty Sarah Palin, BJ can’t leave anything to chance.