Friday, November 16, 2012

Why Is The Republican Party The Party Of Ultimate Failure?


Slimy Republican senators-- particularly off-the-rails Mormon obstructionist Orrin Hatch (R-UT)-- say the lame duck session is no place for so important a job as confirming almost two dozen judicial nominees. Changing the American social contract to wreck Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid... that's just what lame ducks are for in Orrin Hatch's oxygen-deprived world. That and overturning the very recently expressed will of the voters.
Voters were sending a clear message on taxes: it is time for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

• Fully 62% of voters say they were sending the message that, “We should make sure the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes;” and these voters supported President Obama by 55 points. Only one in three voters wanted to reduce tax rates for all taxpayers.

• By 17 points, voters say they want to end the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 (55% to 38%).

• A strong majority (65%) oppose eliminating taxes on U.S. corporations’ offshore profits.

• There is also bipartisan support for ending preferential tax treatment for corporations that ship jobs overseas, with 64% of all voters favoring ending those loopholes. This includes 61% of Republicans, and 63% of self-identified Conservative Republicans.

In a very divided electorate, Obama voters and Romney voters agree on one thing: we should protect Medicare and Social Security.

• Fully three-quarters of the electorate report sending this message with their vote: “We should protect Medicare and Social Security benefits from cuts.” By contrast, just 18% feel that “we should reduce spending on Medicare and Social Security to bring down the budget deficit.” Both Obama voters (86% to 8%) and Romney voters (62% to 28%) agree that their vote was against-- not for--cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

• Sixty percent (60%) oppose raising the Social Security retirement age, and 68% oppose raising the Medicare eligibility age.

• Voters also overwhelmingly oppose cuts to Medicaid benefits (23% in favor, 69% oppose).

• Instead of cutting benefits, Americans want to reduce Medicare costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs for seniors. Nearly 90% of voters support that change, compared to only 8% who oppose it.

There is virtually no support (outside the Beltway) for Congress and the President to move quickly to complete a “grand bargain” that reduces Social Security and Medicare benefits.

• When voters are informed of a possible “grand bargain” budget deal that would overhaul the tax code, reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits, and reduce the budget deficit, their reaction is overwhelmingly negative. Fully 75% say Congress should take more time and allow for public debate before even considering such large changes, while just 16% favor the “grand bargain.”

• Among President Obama’s supporters, just 8% say they voted for him so that he could work with Republicans for a deficit reduction deal, while 77% voted for him so that he would fix the economy by rebuilding the middle class and investing in America.

Voters remain focused on the core issue of protecting jobs, and helping Americans who are still struggling to find employment.

• By an overwhelming 70% to 25%, voters say they want Congress to continue federal unemployment insurance benefits for those who have lost their jobs and are unable to find new jobs.

• By more than two to one, Americans favor providing federal funding to local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers (64% favor, 31% oppose).

• More than 6 in 10 Americans favor maintaining public investments that create jobs while gradually reducing the budget deficit compared to just 31% who favor large reductions in spending in order to bring down the deficit now.
You may have noticed all the hubbub this week about how Romney had basically doubled down on his 47% comments-- even though the 47% turned out to be 53% of the voters earlier this month-- and claimed the reason he and Ryan lost wasn't because their ideas and agenda was defeated but because Obama had been handing out gifts to traditional Democratic voting blocs-- Latinos, Blacks, young people. Presumably he was talking about food stamps, health insurance and protection from Republican disenfranchisement efforts. No mention of the gifts he had been promising his wealthy donors-- tax breaks for them, failed Austerity policies for everyone else.
Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity-- I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”
The ultimate irony is, of course, how Republican policies create poverty and misery and that the states that they control-- the red states-- are the states that fall behind... in everything. Republican states, particularly the old slave states, the solid base of the GOP, are what Paul Ryan would call "the takers, not the makers." They're the states that pay in less in taxes than they take back from the federal government. And they whine about it nonstop, primarily because they are also the least educated, most illiterate areas of the country, most prone to Bronze Age religionist superstitions and mindless brainwashing by Fox and Hate Talk Radio and historically the most easily manipulated by demagogues and plutocrats. Notice in the chart below that 100% of the top tax-producing states vote for Democrats and that 80% of the top tax-dependent states vote for Republicans:

And that carries over on a county by county level as well:
The Blue counties contribute the most state taxes relative to the services they consume. The Red counties consume the most services relative to the taxes they pay. For example, a recent study documented the pattern in Washington state. King County, the solidly-Democratic county that surrounds Seattle, provides "nearly 42% of the state's tax revenues, yet receives only 25% of the money spend from Washington's general fund." Conversely, five counties that require the most in services relative to the taxes they pay are largely Republican.

California shows a similar pattern. Republican Modoc and Tulare Counties consume the most in taxpayer-funded services from the state on a per-capita basis. Says San Francisco Chronicle writer Kevin Fagan: "The prevailing attitude among the right-wing ranchers and modern hippies who define Modoc County is of fierce self-reliance-- but more people here than just about anywhere else depend on welfare checks of some kind to get by." In contrast, famously liberal San Francisco and Marin Counties generate the most tax revenues for the state on a per capita basis.

Why do people in Red states and counties resent government spending so passionately even as they need so much of it? The central problem is poverty. Many of the residents of these counties are poor. They are ill-prepared to make a decent living no matter how hard they tug on their own bootstraps. For example, in California's conservative Modoc county only 12 percent of adults over 25 have a bachelor's degree. Nearly 20 percent live below the poverty line. Many Modoc residents can't afford to send their children to college. They need government programs to survive, let alone improve their financial outlook.

Without government support it's hard to see a way to break the cycle of poverty and dependence. At least so far, the formula of small government, limited services, low investment, and low taxes that conservative states have implemented for themselves hasn't helped their economies much.

This situation would be funny if it weren't so tragic. When a tax protester yelled "Keep your goddamn government hands off my Medicare" many scoffed at that one person's ignorance. But most Americans who rail against taxes and the size of government are profoundly unaware that taxes they hate fund the programs they want and need. And they are unaware that the states and counties inhabited by "welfare queens" and "freeloading illegals" are actually sending them the money that keeps them fed, cared for, and educated. 
Funny that Romney and Ryan-- avatars of the Austerity policies that produce these kinds of results-- kept referring to Obama as "the food stamp president." In a report in The New Republic last month, Jonathan Cohn pointed out the differences in how states with Democratic governance responds to the basic needs of their citizens in comparison to the hellholes that have fallen into the grasp of Republicans.
Today, Texas doesn’t even try to provide the kind of protection for its vulnerable residents that Massachusetts does. It has more uninsured residents than any other state in the country; its lawmakers have repeatedly refused money from the federal government to expand health insurance for kids. Its welfare program is among the nation’s stingiest: Eligible families get less than $300 a month, about 19 percent of the federal poverty line. The Texas state housing budget is a mere $5.5 million-- a tiny fraction of what Massachusetts spends, even though Texas has almost four times as many people. “There’s no other state money allocated for housing,” says John Henneberger, co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, “unless you want to count prisons.”

This pattern generally holds for the red states and the blue states overall. In a statistical comparison complied at the request of The new republic, experts Marcia Meyers from the University of Washington and Sarah Bruch from the University of Iowa compared state performances on nine safety net programs for unemployed workers and low-income families. They found that blue states assisted more people in need and provided more generous benefits than the red states-- even after adjusting for the fact that the blue states tend to be more expensive places to live. “The story is pretty clear,” Meyers says. “If you are poor, you want to live in a blue state.”

Blue states also invest a higher proportion of their budget on safety net spending, according to a study compiled by Curtis Skinner, director of family economic security at the National Center for Children in Poverty. This category includes major, means-tested programs like Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, as well as smaller programs for foster care, homeless shelters, and so on. The ten “highest expenditure” states are blue states; eight of the ten “lowest expenditure states” are red.

The easiest way to grasp what this means for the actual residents of red and blue America is to look at Medicaid. Although the federal government sets minimum standards for coverage and benefits, states have discretion over how many additional people to include. Based on data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the five states with the strictest criteria for working parents are Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, and Texas. The five states with the least restrictive requirements are Minnesota, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and Wisconsin. A Minnesota mom with two kids and a job that doesn’t offer health insurance can get Medicaid as long her annual income doesn’t exceed about $40,000. But if she moves to Arkansas, she’ll be ineligible for Medicaid as soon as her household income reaches $3,150 a year-- not nearly enough to pay for basic living costs, let alone health insurance.

...By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. It’s impossible to prove that this is the direct result of government spending. But the correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. (The fifth is New Mexico, which has turned blue.) And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways. A recent study by researchers at the American Institute for Physics evaluated how well-prepared high schoolers were for careers in math and science. Massachusetts was best, followed closely by Minnesota and New Jersey. Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.

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At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Reid demand that the judicial nominations be voted upon -- all of them -- before he agrees to address the fiscal curb.


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