Things Republicans Need to Explain

Back in August 2020, which seems like eons ago, the people of Missouri passed a referendum to expand Medicaid, 53.25% to 46.75%. The referendum wrote Medicaid expansion into the state constitution so that the legislature couldn’t pass a bill to nullify it. This means that 275,000 uninsured Missourians would have become eligible for Medicaid on July 1, except that yesterday the Republican-dominated Missouri Senate refused to appropriate money to fund it. Too expensive, they said.

Note that the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost of people covered under the expansion. Note also that the state is in decent financial shape, mostly because it doesn’t spend money on anything that I know of and has received billions in federal aid from the federal government in the past year. Indeed, as I wrote earlier this month, the state is sitting on more than $1 billion in covid aid, going unused. The notion of spending the money to do somethng for citizens is just too radical for Republicans to process, so they haven’t figured out what to do with it..

And Missouri really needs Medicaid expansion. Many of the rural areas of this state are desperately poor. Rural hospitals are closing because people who use them are uninsured and can’t pay their bills. Ten hospitals have closed in Missouri since 2016, half in southeast Missouri, the poorest part of the state. The Republican who represents most of this area in the U.S. House, Jason Smith, has complained that people living in rural areas deserve health care, too. But I don’t see him proposing to do anything specific and tangible about the problem. The free market ain’t gonna do it alone. If the state would expand Medicaid it would at least slow the death spiral of rural hospitals and save some of the ones remaining.

However, as I wrote last year, these same poor rural counties (big time Trump Country!) voted against the expansion. Someone spent a lot of money sending big, glossy postcards to everyone in the state urging them to vote down the referendum. Taxes will go up! Illegal immigrants will get the benefits! Government-run health care! blah blah blah. Fortunately, turnout in urban areas was strong enough to override the rural vote. But that also means the state legislators who are denying Medicaid benefits to poor rural folk probably won’t be punished for it by their voters.

I expect there will be court challenges to the legislature’s decision, but I doubt anything will be resolved before July 1.

So what I want these Republicans to explain is, what do you think government is for?

If it isn’t, for example, to use tax money to provide things people really need that they can’t get for themselves and which will not be provided by private business, then what is it for? Yes, the Preamble calls for government to provide for the common defense. But it also says something about promoting the general welfare, as I recall.

Paul Krugman writes about Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. The main elements of the plan would provide transformational benefits to millions of Americans, he says, and Republicans will never be able to reverse those benefits. “I mean, just imagine trying to take away affordable child care, universal pre-K and paid leave for new parents once they’ve become part of the fabric of our society,” Krugman writes.

The primary arguments coming from Republicans against these benefits are that raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations will kill jobs, and that the benefits themselves are a huge intrusion into private life. But Krugman painstakingly points out that raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy has never destroyed jobs in the real world, any more than cutting taxes on those same privileged entities has created jobs. And when you compare the tax rates and job availability in other countries, you see the same thing.

However, the Republican obsession with austerity, by which they mean cutting government costs on the backs of the poor, really does hurt the economy.

How can employment be so high in countries with lots of “job-killing” taxes? The answer is that taxes don’t visibly kill jobs — but lack of child care does. Parents in many rich countries are able to take paid work because they have access to safe, affordable child care; in the United States such care is prohibitively expensive for many, if they can get it at all. And the reason is that our government spends almost nothing on child care and pre-K; our outlays as a percentage of G.D.P. put us somewhat below Cyprus and Romania.

Conservatives from Miz Lindsey to columnist Henry Olson have complained recently that the increased unemployment benefits people have been receiving have kept them from going back to work, which is hitting restaurants hard. So we’ve got to squeeze the peasants enough to get them back into the kitchen. This is how conservatives think.

See also Michelle Goldberg’s America Is Brutal to Parents. Biden Is Trying to Change That. In the U.S., trying to balance a job and family responsibilities can be genuinely brutal, and how much it holds back women with children is incalculable. Among other things, Goldberg writes,

There are several reasons our domestic policy has long been uniquely hostile to parents, but two big ones are racism and religious fundamentalism. Essentially, it’s been politically radioactive for the federal government to support Black women who want to stay home with their kids, and white women who want to work.

Without reliable and very inexpensive day care, low-income mothers are pretty much screwed. If they have to pay for day care, taking a minimum-wage job may make them worse off, financially and any other way, than staying home. And if taking a job with no health benefits gets them dropped from Medicaid, they are doubly screwed. I’ve tried for years to explain that to Republicans, and it’s like talking to a lamp post.

So, what is government for? In Missouri, the people decided that they wanted government to expand Medicaid, and government is refusing to do it. Just because. The Republican chair of the state House Budget Committee has been screaming that Medicaid expansion is a “lie” (?) and it’s his job to save the people of the state from the lie, so he worked hard to block it. (I spent some time googling to find out what this meatball is for. I still don’t know.)

And for that matter, I have not heard that Republicans in the Missouri legislature have given any thought whatsoever to the problem of vanishing rural hospitals. They don’t seem to think that’s their problem.

Finally, a President Is Standing Up to Reaganism

Perhaps the most startling thing about President Biden’s speech last night is that it inspired Chris Cillizza to say something pretty much true:

In the course of his address Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden said more than 6,000 words. But,11 in particular — all part of a single sentence uttered toward the end of the speech, were the most important.

There are those words: “My fellow Americans, trickle-down, trickle-down economics has never worked.”

With that simple sentence, Biden sought to officially close the book on the dominant economic theory of the last 40ish years: That success by affluent people at the top of the economy would, eventually, trickle down to the average American. It’s been the theory behind every major tax cut pushed by Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan — including Donald Trump’s 2017 cut — and is so closely associated with our 40th president that the economic idea is known colloquially as “Reaganomics.”

And, to be honest, I’m a tad gobsmacked that that’s pretty much true. Joe Biden is, at long last, the president who stood up to Ronald Reagan and said no. No more trickle down, and no more “government is the problem” crap. Joe offered government as the solution, and his solution is to build back the nation not by going through corporations and billionaires but by directly putting working people to work doing it. Barack Obama almost went there but got wobbly. Joe Biden has declared he’s ready to do it.

David Sander writes in the New York Times,

It will take years to know whether Mr. Biden’s initiative will have the lasting power of the New Deal or the Great Society, or whether it can “change the paradigm,” as he argued a few weeks ago.

Yet it is already clear it is based on the gamble that the country is ready to dispense with one of the main tenets of the Reagan revolution, and show that for some tasks the government can jump-start the economy more efficiently than market forces. Mr. Biden has also made a bet that the trauma of the coronavirus pandemic and the social and racial inequities it underscored have changed the political center of gravity for the nation.

I think the political center of gravity could have changed a long time ago if the Democrats had displayed more vision and leadership instead of remaining stuck in Clinton-era “third way” triangulation crap.

Reuters reports that people agree with Joe: trickle down has failed.

A majority of Americans support measures favored by President Joe Biden to substantially redistribute U.S. wealth, according to an Ipsos poll for Reuters released on Thursday, including tax hikes on the wealthy and a higher minimum wage.

The national opinion poll also found that Republican voters were divided over the “trickle-down economics” championed by their party’s leaders since President Ronald Reagan some 40 years ago.

Get that? Republican voters are divided over trickle-down economics. Not-Republican voters have believed it to be a crock for some time.

Even so, last night’s speech was just the opening volley. The war has yet to be waged. Paul Waldman:

… don’t count Reaganomics out. The wealthy who benefit from it, and the Republican Party that still believes in it with every fiber of its being, will never abandon it, no matter how much they might be on their heels right now. It’s an indefatigable zombie, and it’ll be back.

Miz Lindsey has hustled forth to declare Biden’s proposals “socialism,” because that’s what Republicans do these days. But watch out, Miz Lindsey; viewers really liked the speech. CNN says 73 percent said they believe Biden’s proposals would lead the country in the right direction. A CBS poll said 85 percent of viewers approved of the speech.

Of course, people who didn’t watch the speech, which I assume is most Americans, will believe what they are told about it.

I confess I didn’t watch much of the Republican rebuttal. I listened to a little bit of it, and then hit the mute button. I am tired of politicians who do nothing but mouth slogans divorced from reality, and that’s what he was doing. Life is just too damn short.

Going forward, of course, a lot will depend on how much of the agenda is enacted. And that depends a lot on Joe Manchin, unless one Republican senator can be persuaded to support it. There are “secret talks” going on between the White House and Republican senators, Axios reports, I am not optimistic about this.

Open Season on Everybody Is About to Begin

The Supreme Court is about to hear a case that could overturn many state gun control laws and limit the ability of state and local governments to limit firearm carrying in public.

As it says at Vox, this case could make the NRA’s dreams come true.

The case is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett.  As Ian Milhauser at Vox says, “The case involves New York state’s handgun licensing law — a law that has been in place since 1913 — which requires someone who wishes to carry a handgun in public to demonstrate “proper cause” in order to obtain a license permitting them to do so.” There are several kinds of gun permits in New York. If you have a job that requires you to carry large amounts of money and jewels you can get a permit to carry a handgun while on the job, for example. But a permit to carry a firearm in public for no specific reason other than hypothetical self-defense doesn’t rise to the level of “proper cause.”

The plaintiffs in Corlett applied for a permit to carry a gun in public and were denied. They argue that the Second Amendment gives them such a right that the state cannot deny. And the concern, of course, is that the current Supreme Court is right-wing crazy enough to agree with them.

What this would mean is that state permit laws would evaporate overnight. It would be open season on humans in the U.S.

Ian Milhauser provides a brief history of Second Amendment case law, much of which you probably know. Until 2008 the Court took the first thirteen words of the amendment — “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” — very seriously, and determined that the Second needed to be understood not as an individual right but as a provision that allowed for an armed militia.

This makes more sense when you understand that the militia originally organized by Congress in the 1790s was self-armed. The second Militia Act of 1792 provided that every citizen enrolled in a state militia “shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service…” The cost of this was born by the individual.

Obviously, if the federal government put limitations on firearm ownership it would interfere with militia service, which was mandatory for able-bodied white men between the ages of 18 and 45. You might wonder why the federal government would do that. Well, here is the answer — during the Constitutional Convention, the anti-federalists who were mostly slave-owning southerners were dragging their feet about ratification. In their states the militia was mainly used to keep enslaved persons under control. (Before the Constitution was ratified, militias were entirely under state control, but the Constitution in Article I, Section 8, paragraphs 15 and 16 said that militias were to be organized by the U.S. Congress.) The Second Amendment was worded as it was to mollify the slave-owners, who feared that some day the federal government would disarm their slave-controlling militias.

It wasn’t until the 2008 decision District of Columbia v. Heller that the Court called arms-bearing an “individual right.” Then in 2010 the Court decided in McDonald v. City of Chicago that the Second’s limitations on federal power also applied to states.

Now the Court has a big, fat opportunity to determine that state and local governments must allow citizens to carry firearms in public. And I bet they will do it.

The result of this will be that no matter how you and your neighbors feel about it, these people can march through your neighborhood whenever they like. The citizens of your community will have nothing to say about it.

Gun rights advocates march in Richmond, January 2020.

The other result will be carnage. The Giffords Center has a page of data and charts showing the correlation between firearm deaths and “gun law strength ranking,” The Harvard School of Public Health also has published considerable research showing that more guns = more homicides. Allowing citizens to carry firearms everywhere “for safety” means we’re all less safe.

So about the time we can all stop wearing masks we’ll need to start wearing bullet-proof vests. Way to go, America.

Welcome to Another Episode of, Are They Really This Stupid?

Sen. Ron Johnson wants to know why the government is in such an all-fired hurry to get everyone vaccinated.

Josh Kovensky writes at TPM:

In an interview first noticed by Forbes, Johnson told right-wing Wisconsin radio host Vicki McKenna on Thursday, “Why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine, to the point where you’re gonna impose it, you’re gonna shame people.”

“I see no reason to be pushing vaccines on people, and I certainly am going to vigorously resist any government use of vaccine passports,” Johnson added.

Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 in October, as Wisconsin faced a large outbreak. The senator later used that as a justification to avoid getting the vaccine, against CDC guidelines, telling a Wisconsin CBS affiliate that he had no plans to get the shot.

All together now — is he really this stupid?

He may indeed be that stupid. He has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Minnesota. Most of his business experience was gained by working for the plastics company owned by his wife’s family. There’s nothing in his background that suggests intellect. No offense to the University of Minnesota.

If anyone visits this blog and doesn’t already know why the government is in an all-fired hurry to get people vaccinated quickly, do read How a sluggish vaccination program
could delay a return to normal and invite vaccine-resistant variants to emerge. I’m assuming most of you aren’t that stupid.

See also Once again, we’re being held hostage by Republicans’ delicate feelings by Paul Waldman and Nation Faces ‘Hand-to-Hand Combat’ to Get Reluctant Americans Vaccinated.


A Time of Revelations

It’s the day after the Chauvin verdict. Even as we heard that Derek Chauvin is guilty, guilty, guilty, we also were hearing about a black teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio, who had been just killed by police. Details of this new shooting are sketchy. It appears 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was brandishing a knife, and so she had to be shot? Somehow I think there must be other ways to deal with such situations. That’s what we keep saying after every wasted life.

As many people have pointed out, one verdict hardly erases all the injustice that has gone before and doesn’t mean anything will change. It does represent an opportunity for change, however. I think a lot of white people especially who watched this trial (except on Fox News) may have gained some understanding of what’s wrong with U.S. policing.

Chauvin had a history of doing to other detained people what he did to George Floyd — forcing them to lie face down, and then putting a knee on their necks. He had done this six times before, that we know of. People had complained. The Minneapolis police did nothing. Now the U.S. Justice Department has announced an investigation of “the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department,” it says here. Let’s hope some reforms come from that. But that’s just one municipal police department.

This moment has also laid bare the unvarnished racism harbored by a lot of influential people. I mean, Tucker Carlson? He’s gone from supporting racist “replacement” theory to calling the Chauvin verdict “an attack on civilization.” Now he’s saying the only reason the jury convicted Chauvin is that … they feared for their lives? Or that they thought Black Lives Matter would burn down Minneapolis? It’s not clear. Erik Wemple:

Leave it to Fox News host Tucker Carlson to skip past the evidence in search of some way place an asterisk on this moment of racial justice. “The jury in the Derek Chauvin trial came to a unanimous and unequivocal verdict this afternoon: Please don’t hurt us,” said the host on Tuesday evening.

What did that mean? As best we can surmise, Carlson was suggesting that a motivation behind the verdict was to head off the the protests that would likely have erupted after an acquittal. “The jury spoke for many in this country,” continued Carlson. “Everyone understood perfectly well the consequences of an acquittal in this case. After nearly a year of burning and looting and murder by [the Black Lives Matter movement], that was never in doubt.” (In fact, the overwhelming majority of racial justice protests have been peaceful.)

Tucker interviewed Former NYC Deputy Sherriff Ed Gavin, who had some constructive and reasonable suggestions for reform. Tucker wasn’t having it.

Wemple again:

When Gavin started to suggest reforms, Carlson cut him off: “How about enforce the law? Do we need to do that? So hold on, wait a second. So, wait, slow down. Do we enforce the law? Like let’s say, people are going through the windows in Macy’s and the cops are just standing there, do they resign?” As Carlson was concluding the discussion, Gavin tried to get in one more point. “Nope, done,” scolded Carlson.

So that’a another revelation. Not that I’d ever confused Tucker for a lover of civil liberties, but this is just bare-assed racism/authoritarianism. Sieg heil, Tucker.

At this moment, Americans have to decide whether they’re with Black Lives Matter or with Tucker Carlson. No fence sitting allowed. Make up your mind. Justice or injustice? That’s the choice.

Why It’s Not 2009 Any More

Or, at least I hope it’s not 2009 any more. But the difference between 2009 and 2021 seems to be that Democrats really have changed. Not all of them, but enough of them that it’s making a difference. Paul Krugman compares the Obama Administration and the Biden Administration so far.

One striking thing about the Obama years, in retrospect, was the deference of Democrats to people who didn’t share their goals. The Obama administration deferred to bankers who warned that anything populist-sounding would undermine confidence and to deficit scolds demanding fiscal austerity. It wasted months on a doomed effort to get Republican support for health reform.

And along with this deference went diffidence, a reluctance to do simple, popular things like giving people money and taxing corporations. Instead, the Obama team tended to favor subtle policies that most Americans didn’t even notice.

I could be wrong, but I have long suspected that the Obama Administration fell short of the vision he initially ran on because he deferred too much to the Clintons and their many loyalists embedded in the Dem party hierarchy. Deferral to vested interests and “subtle policies that most Americans didn’t even notice” especially was Hillary Clinton’s style. But let’s go on.

Now the deference is gone. Wall Street clearly has a lot less influence this time around; Biden’s economic advisers evidently believe that if you build a better economy, confidence will take care of itself. The obsession with bipartisanship is also gone, replaced with a realistic appreciation of Republican bad faith, which has also made the new administration uninterested in G.O.P. talking points.

And the old diffidence has evaporated. Biden isn’t just going big, he’s going obvious, with highly visible policies rather than behavioral nudges. Furthermore, these forthright policies involve doing popular things. For example, voters have consistently told pollsters that corporations pay too little in taxes; Biden’s team, buoyed by the Trump tax cut’s failure, is willing to give the public what it wants.

Why has that been so hard? Of course, Biden’s policies will rise or fall in popularity depending on how well they work, and that’s how it should be. This is what so many of us have been saying for years. For example, see We Need a Progressive Movement from 2010. See also Matt Taibbi in 2016:

The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.

This is especially the case now that the Republican Party has collapsed under the weight of its own nativist lunacy. It’s exactly the moment when the Democrats should feel free to become a real party of ordinary working people.

Just as Barack Obama seems to have lost his nerve in 2009 — perhaps he had less nerve than we assumed — the entire Democratic Party lost its nerve in 2016, which helped elect Donald Trump, the one candidate who was promising big, splashy change as opposed to Hillary’s incremental tweaks to the status quo. That Trump failed to deliver has yet to register with his loyal supporters, of course.

But back to Paul Krugman:

Another factor working in Biden’s favor is the closing of professional Republicans’ minds. Even before conspiracy theories took control, Republican politicians were living in a mental bubble; in many ways the modern G.O.P. is more like a cult than a normal political party.

And at this point Republicans seem so deep in the cult that they’ve forgotten how to talk to outsiders. When they denounce every progressive idea as socialism, declare every center-left politician a Marxist, rant about “job creators” and insist on calling their rival the “Democrat Party,” they’re talking to themselves and persuading nobody.

If you want to see Republican tone-deafness in action, look at Senator Marsha Blackburn’s recent attack on the jobs plan. It’s not really about infrastructure, she proclaimed; why, it would spend hundreds of billions on elder care. And she apparently imagined that voters would see helping the elderly as a bad thing.

For so long, all most working people have got from either party has been nothing but “messaging,” i.e., bullshit. Deep down, many Americans probably don’t believe real change is possible and have settled for symbolic change, e.g., “owning the libs.” Sometimes it seems the only people who think big change is emanant are the QAnon culties. Maybe it’s their deep need to believe change is possible that fuels the cult.

So how revolutionary would it be for someone to deliver significantl change that really benefited most working people? It’s been a very long time since something like that happened. The Affordable Care Act was the closest thing to a New Deal style program than we’d had since the 1960s, and even that was too compromised and easy to demagogue because it didn’t effect enoujgh people directly.

Greg Sargent picks up on this same theme today in Biden’s next big plan could blow up one of the GOP’s worst lies.

If Joe Biden won, then-President Trump told us, the mentally declining Biden would fall captive to his party’s rabid socialist left flank, which would immediately drive the country into a depression.

This lie lives on — Republicans continue to tell repurposed versions of it right now — yet precisely the opposite is happening. It’s not just that the center and left of the Democratic Party are working together more collaboratively than expected. It’s also that Biden’s willing incorporation of leftist ideas is exactly why he’s posting some early successes.

The real Big Lie, of course, is the one Republicans have lived by for forty years and more. That’s the lie that says cutting corporate taxes and giving lots of bennies to the rich would be the rising tide that lifts everyone’s boat. Instead, over these past forty years we’ve seen real wages adjusted for the cost of living stagnate, manufacturing jobs grow scarce, the middle class shrink, even the life expectancy of white working people get lower.

Further, the pandemic has laid bare realities about our economy that people have been ignoring; for example, who the real “essential workers” are. And it ain’t investment bankers or hedge fund managers. It’s the people who move goods and stock shelves. And it’s the people who take care of others.

Our caregiving economy has been woefully underfunded, and the crucial societal contribution of care work — including child care — is badly undercompensated. Far too many are denied basic human goods like college education and the opportunity to take time off work to heal or spend time with a newborn.

Republicans are big believers in sticks over carrots. For example, in WaPo today conservative columnist Henry Olsen opined that generous unemployment benefits were keeping restaurants from reopening for lack of workers.

People on unemployment currently receive a supplemental federal payment of $300 a week on top of their normal state benefits regardless of their prior earnings. Given the relatively low earnings many restaurants and other service industry workers typically receive, they are likely to make as much or more by not working than they would if they returned to their jobs. That means they have little incentive to get back to work, which may even make them less likely to get vaccinated to begin with.

Yeah, they should be eager to go back to a tiring and underpaid job that includes lots of public exposure during a pandemic. Let’s cut off their benefits so that Henry can get his squid ink risotto. But it’s also that the day care system has collapsed, never mind in-person schooling. It’s too many workers who don’t get paid sick leave.Vaccines have only recently, like this week, become available to most people of an age to be restaurant workers. This brings us to the deeper meaning of infrastructure — it’s not just bricks and mortar, but whatever a society needs to function. No day care, no workers.

I’m thinking also of the drama we went through at the end of last year over the passge of the bill that would release some more relief funds. Republicans signed on to a reduced amount only to help their candidates in the Georgia Senate race. Then Trump held it up for no good reason other than to draw attention to himself, making people wait until after Christmas to know if their benefits would continue, or not. That was cruel. The relatively quick passage of the bigger covid bill by the Biden Administration guaranteed that Republicans could get no traction by whining it wasn’t “bipartisan.” People whose lives were hanging by a thread didn’t give a hoo haw how it got done, just that it got done.

So let the Republicans complain that raising corporate taxes will hurt the “job creators.” Popular opinion is on the other side, and on the side of a higher minimum wage, and on continuing unemployment benefits until it’s safe for everything to open, and of people not being evicted, and of people getting the medical care they need, and of getting more assistance with day care and elder care and a lot of the expense and worry that chips away at a lot of us. No more 2009. No more incremental tweaks.

Guilty Guilty Guilty

I was writing something else when the verdict came. It’s a huge relief. Never was there such a slam-dunk case, but it only takes one moron to hang a jury.

It’s too soon, I suppose, to declare that some kind of corner has been turned. Still, we can hope that this trial and conviction — on national television — will be a watershed moment, like the Army-McCarthy hearings, that impacts everything to come. Let us hope the very righteous conviction of Derek Chauvin is not an aberration.

Ten GOP Senators, Sitting in a Tree …

It is alleged there are ten “moderate” (a relative term) Republican senators who call themselves the “G-10” (nobody will say what the G stands for) and who feel very put out that they can’t get President Biden to negotiate with them. He didn’t negotiate on the covid bill, they say, and he isn’t negotiating on the infrastructure package.

It’s not clear to me which ten are THE ten. The ten who met with President Biden on the covid bill were Bill Cassidy, Louisiana;  Susan Collins, Maine; Shelley More-Capito, West Virginia; Jerry Moran, Kansas; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Rob Portman, Ohio; Mitt Romney, Utah; Mike Rounds, South Dakota; Thom Tillis, North Carolina; and Todd Young, Indiana. But some new reports make Roy Blunt, Missouri, one of the “moderate” Republican senators put out because the administration didn’t negotiate with him. That would make eleven.

The truth is that this crew are terrible negotiators. Matt Bai writes at WaPo:

After Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion relief bill, on which he was probably expecting a reasonable counteroffer, the 10 Republican senators answered with a proposal for … $600 billion. That wasn’t even in the Zip code of reasonable.

Even then, they couldn’t guarantee the vote of every Republican in the room for their smaller package, much less anyone else in the caucus.

And yet these senators were apparently shocked when Biden refused to stop Democratic leaders from advancing his bill along party lines. I guess he was supposed to bargain against himself instead.

Of course, in the past the Democratics did bargain against themselves, so being unreasonable has worked for Republicans. Oh, and Bai thinks the “G” stands for “grumpy” or “geriatric.”

All this might have made sense if it were really just the kind of strategic feint Republican leaders used during the Obama years: Offer something obviously untenable and then gleefully blame the president for refusing to compromise. But this group actually seemed to think they were going to drive away in the car.

They seem to have forgotten that when a president wins an election by almost five percentage points, gets control of both chambers of Congress and proposes legislation that clear majorities of the country support, he really doesn’t need to meet you halfway.


They just spent four years watching a president of their own party rack up ungodly debt for no reason other than to reward rich people with tax cuts, and they barely registered a complaint.

Even when Donald Trump sought to overturn an election and dismantle the democracy, the self-aggrandizing G-10 did nothing but issue a few disparate statements.

But when Biden passes an economic bill by reconciliation, and then threatens to drive through an infrastructure bill rather than meet Republican demands to cut it by more than half, these same moderates suddenly care deeply about fiscal sanity and fair process.

GOPers gonna GOP.

Last week Paul Levitz at New York Magazine wrote a piece called Moderate Republicans Accuse Biden of Trying to Pass His Agenda. It begins:

Moderate Republicans are accusing Joe Biden of secretly plotting to enact the policies he campaigned on.

In interviews with Politico Wednesday, staffers for the “G-10” — a group of ten Senate Republicans with an ostensible appetite for compromise — claimed that the president’s avowed interest in bipartisanship is insincere. In their account, Biden’s negotiations with the G-10 over infrastructure are a mere formality; his true intention is to make Republicans an offer they can’t accept, then use their refusal as a pretense for passing his $2.25 trillion plan through budget reconciliation.

Levitz writes that the “moderate” Republicans seem to not realize how weak their position is. And it’s weak for several reasons. First, the infrastructure bill is polling very well.

It’s hard to make voters afraid of better-paved highways, new manufacturing jobs, at-home care for the elderly, or any of the American Jobs Plan’s other components. Recent polls from Morning Consult and YouGov suggest that virtually every item in Biden’s proposal commands supermajority support, while 65 percent of voters endorse paying for the measures through a corporate tax hike.

Second, Democrats just learned they can pass a big bill on a party-line vote and not suffer a backlash. Hmm. It’s also the case that a “majority of Republican House members voted to nullify the 2020 election because Democrats won it,” which kind of makes their declarations of love for bipartisanship ring a tad hollow.

Also last week, Paul Waldman wrote a column called Do Republican moderates even know what they want?

He notes that Republicans engaged in talks with the White House are feeling used. “But what is it that these Republicans actually want?” He asks. After they had made a stupidly low offer on the covid bill, the Administration actually gave them something — “making the bill’s stimulus payments phase out more quickly for those with higher incomes, an issue they raised specifically.” But of course they all voted against the bill anyway.

So they’re scared that this bill will turn out the same way the American Rescue Plan did: The moderate Republicans have some meetings with Biden; he listens to their ideas and perhaps adopts a bit of what they want; in the end they say, “Not good enough,” and all vote against the bill; the bill passes through reconciliation with only Democratic votes; it gives the public a bunch of things they like; and Biden gets all the credit.

Yes. And why would the Democrats not do that? This is what the allegedly “moderate” Republicans can’t seem to grasp.

Waldman makes a bold proposal: These ten (or eleven) Republicans could easily put themselves back in the game by really negotiating and pledging to vote as a block for the bill if they get certain changes, and then make a reasonable offer. As Matt Bai wrote, you don’t offer $3,000 on a $10,000 car. Maybe if they’d offer $8,000 they’d get the car. And then they’d have their names on a popular bill, and ten Republican votes means the filibuster isn’t an issue.

That’s the only thing they have to offer. The onus is on them to convince Biden and Democrats that if the right deal can be worked out, all of them, without exception, will defy Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and vote with Democrats on an infrastructure bill — even knowing Biden will get most of the credit for the results of the bill and for being bipartisan, too.

Yes, that’s the only thing they have to offer. A pledge of ten Republican votes would be valuable to the Democrats. And it probably won’t happen.

Since all 10 of them voting for any bill that would help a Democratic president is so unlikely, and since Democrats have reconciliation as the trump card they can use if they have to, the Republicans are in an extremely weak position. That means that when it comes time to negotiate the details, they have to meet the Democrats not just halfway, but more than halfway. Maybe two-thirds of the way, or even five-sixths of the way (which would seem appropriate if they’re going to be 10 votes out of 60).

That’s the reality of negotiating from a position of weakness: You’re just not going to get everything you want. If you want to get anything at all, you’re going to have to give up a lot.

So to repeat: What exactly do these Republicans want?

But that’s the problem — all they want is to not pass most of the bill. They’re only against stuff, not so much for stuff.  It’s hard to imagine what bill they would vote for.

So now the Republican moderates are faced with two choices: They can make real substantive and political sacrifices to have a genuine role in shaping the bill, or they can just whine about not getting everything they want. I know which outcome I’d put my money on.

This afternoon President Biden met with a small “bipartisan” group of senators, some from both parties, to discuss the infrastructure package, and we’ll see if anything comes out of it. The Administration has already agreed to not raise the corporate tax rate above 25 percent, a concession to Joe Manchin. Other adjustments may have to be made to pay for the bill. A disagreement among Democrats has emerged over the SALT tax cap. SALT stands for “state and local tax” deduction on federal taxes, and some Dems in blue states like New York very much want to lift the cap that the Trump Administration put on deducting the taxes. So there’s a long way to go yet on this bill, it appears. Republicans can jump in any time they want to get real.

The “moderate” ten, possibly.


The Truth About Anglo-Saxons

So this happened:

Hard-right House Republicans on Friday were discussing forming an America First Caucus, which one document described as championing “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and warning that mass immigration was putting the “unique identity” of the U.S. at risk.

I’m at a loss to know what “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” are, considering that the Angles and Saxons lost control of their territory in Britain a thousand years ago with the Norman Conquest of 1066. Most of the developments in British law and government that got exported here to the colonies were developed by the Normans, who came from France. This includes the Magna Carta (1215) and English Common Law, upon which early U.S. law was based. English Common Law was very much a Norman thing, according to Britannica.

Saxon Cosplayers

This got me wondering how “Anglo-Saxon” came to be a synonym for “white people,” since most white people are not Anglo-Saxon. Indeed, it’s estimated that only about a third of the DNA of modern-day English people is Anglo-Saxon.

This is a simplified map. The invadors didn’t all come from Denmark.

Greatly over-simplifying a lot of history: After the Roman occupation of Britain ended in about the year 410, German-speaking tribes crossed the channel and began taking over. The three major tribal groups were the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. Everybody forgets about the Jutes, who may have been lovely people for all we know, but let’s continue. The diverse tribes spoke similar Germanic languages (the original Old English was a Germanic language), and once in Britain they appear to have forged a common cultural identity, although according to one scholar the term “Anglo-Saxon” didn’t come into widespread use until the 18th century or so. The Germans in 1st millennia Britain more often called themselves either “Angle” or “Saxon” than Anglo-Saxon.

What little we know of that period of British history shows us that the German invaders fought the indigenous Celts and eventually occupied a territory that was roughly where England, Angle-land, is now. The Celts appear to have been pushed into the “fringe” — Scotland, Wales, Cornwall — by the Germans. That’s a bit disputed, but it’s a common view. There is a popular but unproven theory that the original “King Arthur” was a Celtic chieftan who fought the Saxons. And then in the 11th century the dominance of the Germanic tribes in Britain came to an end with the Norman Conquest. In the years that followed there was resistance and rebellion, but in the end the Normans prevailed. Much of the old Angle and Saxon nobility fled their confiscated lands and headed for Celtic territory or Scandanavia.

Knowing this, how did it come to pass that “Anglo-Saxon” came to designate “white people,” at least among English speakers, and “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant,” or WASP, came to be shorthand for “snotty upper-class white people”?

The scholar cited above, Mary Rambaran-Olm, and some of her colleagues say the whole notion of Anglo-Saxons as the epitome of whiteness began in the late 1700s. At the time, the British were keen to justify their growing colonial empire around the globe, and a myth of the very white Anglo-Saxons as the creators of English civilization, even though they weren’t, seized the public’s imagination at the time and “informed” the English that they were a naturally superior people who were doing all these simple brown natives a favor by exploiting them. I assume the Normans, being French, just weren’t white enough to serve the same purpose.

This makes me think of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and his novel Ivanhoe. If you have read it or seen one of the film versions, you’ll remember that the title character is a fair and noble Saxon being oppressed by the sleezy Normans, and in the novel much attention is paid to the blondness of the Saxons in comparison to the darker Normans and the even darker Jewish characters, Isaac of York and his daughter Rebecca, who at least were treated sympathetically. In the 1952 film version Rebecca was played by Elizabeth Taylor.

As a sidebar, do read ‘It’s all white people’: Allegations of white supremacy are tearing apart a prestigious medieval studies group about how Mary Rambaran-Olm resigned from being a vice president of the prestigious International Society of Anglo-Saxonists because, she said, the term “Anglo-Saxon” has too many racist implications and the society had refused to change its name. Another scholar who resigned, Eileen Fradenburg Joy, said,

“The entire field of medieval studies is undergoing massive upheaval because they have not dealt with long-standing issues of racism and sexism,” Joy said. “This name change controversy is sowing the fault lines that still exist between white scholars — because it’s all white people, a bunch of white people arguing over whether they’re racist.”

So there’s that. I honestly don’t know much about the Anglo-Saxons except that they wrote Beowulf (probably) and made fancy helmets.

The Anglo-Saxon myth is similar to the even dumber Aryan myth. In the late 19th century the notion took hold in Europe that an ancient people who migrated around from Eurasia to the Ganges and called themselves “Aryans,” or “noble ones,” were somehow the original white people who created civilization itself. From this came Aryanism, or the theory that since white people created civilization, whites were naturally a superior race entitled to rule other races.

In reality, “Aryan” and its many derivatives in several early Indo-Persian languages was probably less a racial than a cultural or tribal designation, and if we could go back in time 3,000 years or so and take a look at the people calling themselves Aryan most of them probably wouldn’t be all that white. It’s also the case that long after the great pyramids had been built in Egypt, the Aryans were still nomads who would have been challenged to erect so much as a storage shed. And archeologists say they made really bad pots.

Now let’s go back to the America First Caucus and their Anglo-Saxon political traditions.

Far-right Republicans in Congress are forming an “America First Caucus” that would promote nativist policies, according to materials outlining the group’s goals first obtained by Punchbowl News.

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) are reportedly behind it, with Reps. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) signed on as early members. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who faces federal and House Ethics Committee investigations over allegations of sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, tweeted that he was joining Greene in the caucus.

Even some of the other hard-right specimens in Washington recognized that this was going beyond dog whistles and into white sheet/burning cross territory. See Andrew Solender, Forbes, America First Caucus Rejected By Right-Wing Freedom Caucus.

Members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus are among a wide array of House Republicans rejecting a nascent group being organized by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) whose platform reportedly aims to preserve “anglo-saxon political traditions.”

The publication Friday by congressional newsletter Punchbowl News of a seven-page document appearing to be the America First Caucus’ platform was met with “fury” by top members of the Freedom Caucus, a source with knowledge of the group’s internal discussions told Forbes. …

…Freedom Caucus members that Punchbowl reported to have “agreed to join” the America First Caucus, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Barry Moore (R-Ala.), told Forbes they have not yet decided whether to do so.

That’s on top of criticism from other House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chair Liz Cheney, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) calling for the GOP to expel any conference member who joins and strip their committee assignments.

Marjorie Taylor Greene had already been relieved of her committee assignments, of course, so I doubt she cares. However, by today she was saying that she hadn’t even read the document published in Punchbowl. So she must have been slammed pretty damn hard by other House Republicans. Can’t say the quiet part out loud, Marjorie. You need to learn that.

Capitalism Left Us Vulnerable

At Washington Monthly, Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer explain How Mistreating Nursing Home Staff Helped Spread Covid-19.

By the end of May 2020, half of all cases among the elderly were brought in by “direct care workers,” such as nurses, nursing assistants, physical therapists, maintenance and kitchen staff. These people are among the most essential workers—and some of the worst paid. In 2019, their median hourly wage was just $12.80. Nearly half live in low-income households. More than half receive public assistance. The vast majority are women and three in five are people of color.

Add poor pay to no sick leave or health insurance, and many direct care workers can’t afford to stay home when they are sick. Jen Hurst is a critical care speech pathologist in Kansas City, Missouri. For 15 years, she’s worked for the same long-term care company, which has never given her a full-time job or benefits. She can’t afford to take time off when she’s sick. When she developed symptoms that seemed like Covid-19, she briefly thought about going into work before deciding to stay home—and that required tapping her family’s modest savings.

Note that there are a wide variety of nurses. A registered nurses has had anywhere from two or three years of classroom study in medical science to a Ph.D. in nursing. LPNs, licensed practical nurses, generally have a year or so of classrom study and clinical experience before getting licensed. But a “nurse” might also be a CNA, a certified nursing assistant, who has a high school diploma and four to twelve weeks of training, mostly to do things like giving baths and helping patients transfer from a bed to a wheelchair. I suspect these are the nurses the article is talking about.

Nursing home staff qualify as “health care workers” but are often on the periphery of medicine. They are not paid well, and some employers limit their hours in order to limit their benefits. The article explains that a lot of infections happened because people work for multiple facilities in order to make a living. One study showed that roughly half of all covid deaths in nursing homes could be traced to staff moving between facilities.

There is a direct link between low pay and benefits for nusing home staff and high rates of covid infection and death. Unsurprisingly, the for-profit nursing homes had higher rates of death than those run by nonprofit organizations. A google search brought up all kinds of articles and studies (example) saying that for-profit nursing homes tend to have lower quality of care, lower staff-to-patient ratios, are more likely to overbill Medicare, etc.

It’s also the case that there are much lower vaccination rates among nursing home staff than hospital staff. Harvard Medical School reported in February that a high percentage of nursing home staff had no plans to get a vaccine, even though their employers offered it to them. Remember, many of these workers have little to no classroom instruction in science, in spite of being classified as “health care workers,” and many don’t trust their employers.

But the bottom line here is that there is a direct link between the way nursing home staff are considered nothing but cost who must be denied sick days and a living wage for the sake of profits, and a whole lot of death. And this ought to tell us that you can’t protect a population during a pandemic if you’re not protecting all of the population during a pandemic. That includes low-wage workers stocking shelves or cleaning bedpans; this includes undocumented immigrants who may have no access to vaccines. The virus doesn’t care what documents you have or how much money you make.

This is just one way our stubborn insistence on for-profit health care got in the way of the pandemic response. See Elizabeth Rosenthal at the New York Times, We Knew the Coronavirus Was Coming, Yet We Failed, May 6, 2020.

… our system failed in its response. Heroic health care providers were left to jury-rig last-minute solutions to ensure that the toll wasn’t even worse.

But the saddest part is that most of the failings and vulnerabilities that the pandemic has revealed were predictable — a direct outgrowth of the kind of market-based system that Americans generally rely on for health care.

Our system requires every player — from insurers to hospitals to the pharmaceutical industry to doctors — be financially self-sustaining, to have a profitable business model. As such it excels at expensive specialty care. But there’s no return on investment in being primed and positioned for the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Combine that with an administration unwilling to intervene to force businesses to act en masse to resolve a public health crisis like this, and you get what we got: a messy, uncoordinated under-response, defined by shortages and finger-pointing.

The prevailing faith in the Free Market to provide for all left us vulnerable. Free markets don’t fix infrastructure (see: Texas). Free markets go where the profit is, but not everything people really need can be made profitable.