Nicole Sandler Radio or Not Show

I was on Nicole Sandler’s Radio or Not show Monday. (You might know Nicole as the person who took over Randi Rhodes’ radio show when Randi wasn’t able to be there.)

Click here and then slide it to 1:38:12. It was a really good segment. We were talking about my recent post on Mitch McConnell’s threat to shut down the government if Obama won’t sign legislation to dismantle the government. Of course, you can also listen to the whole show.

Nicole does a 2 hour show, Mon-Fri, live from 10-noon ET. She is on youtube and 3 audio streams live… Plus a 24/7 tunein channel that carries the show live, and runs the most recent 5 shows back to back. Each morning’s show repeats at 3Pm ET.

The tunein url is http://tunein.com/radio/The-Nicole-Sandler-Show-247-Stream-s229127/, but it’s also accessible from the tunein app or directly from radioornot.com. The podcast is also on itunes (click here), Stitcher or any other podcasting service.

Nicole’s show is always free, but listener supported.

GOP Vows To Dismantle Or Shut Down Government If They Win Senate

A Politico story being promoted by the Drudge Report, “McConnell’s plan to shut down Obama,” makes it clear that if Republicans capture the Senate this fall they will, as the Drudge Report puts it, “play chicken” and shut down the government if President Obama vetoes their legislation to dismantle the government.

From the Politico interview, a threat,

“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”

Who does McConnell say would be to blame if the President vetoes bills and Republicans then shut down the government rather than compromise? “McConnell said it would be up to the president to decide whether to veto spending bills that would keep the government open.” (In a related story this week, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) blamed the United States for making them behead an American journalist.)

Dismantle Or Shut Down

Republicans say that if they take the Senate they will pass legislation to dismantle the government. Jim Manley, former aide to Sen. Harry Reid explained in April at the WSJ, “It is very difficult to imagine that House Republicans’ takeaway from such an election would be to search again for moderation.”

Republicans can be expected to:

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A Different View On Cantor’s Surprising Loss

Last week Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in a primary. He not only won’t be Majority Leader anymore, he won’t even be in Congress. This was an absolutely unexpected and shocking upset that has reversed the narrative that the Republican “establishment” has taken back momentum from the Tea Party.

The reason there as a fight over control between the Republican establishment and Tea Party was that the Tea Party uprising has threatened not only Republican electability nationally, but the domination of the Republican Party by Wall Street and the giant multinationals — the Chamber of Commerce types. The real grassroots-based core of the Tea Party is actually quite upset by the “crony capitalism” corruption that is rampant in Washington, DC and rampant in both political parties. (This is one thing the Tea Party types have in common with progressives.) The Tea Party types are anti-Wall Street and are very, very aware that the giant multinational corporations have been profiting from closing factories and moving jobs out of the country. This awareness threatens the Republican “establishment” because the Republican establishment is Wall Street and giant, multinational corporations. Hence the fight for control.

So there are lots of opinions talking about how the Republican Party establishment and the party’s Wall Street/corporate funders have “created a monster” with the Tea Party, and now the monster is turning on them. …

My Take: 12%

Here is my take on Cantor’s loss. Turnout was 12%. That’s what you need to understand about what happened.

You can’t tell anything about the electorate from a 12% turnout. You can’t learn about what the district wants. You can’t even learn what “the Republican base” wants. You can’t tell if immigration (or any other issue) is or is not a driving force and is or is not a candidate killer. You can’t really tell anything from this except that turnout was exceptionally low.

Here is the real reason this is bad for the Republican “establishment.” For decades the Republican Party has been engaged in efforts to drive down election turnout and this is the result.

Higher Turnout Favors Democrats

Here is a political truth: High turnout favors Democrats. So to elect Republicans they have to keep turnout low. Then Republicans use whatever it takes to get “their” voters to show up. For decades this has meant a combination of fundamentalist Christianity, racism, nativism, whatever.

The game is clear and cynical: Create apathy so people don’t vote. Make people hate government in general so they don’t vote. Make people feel like voting won’t change anything so people don’t vote. Use negative ads to turn people off from the process so they don’t vote. Create division and despair and so people don’t vote. Do what it takes to convince people not to bother to vote.

For the ones who will still bother to vote make it hard for them to vote — “suppression.” Make it hard to register to vote. Purge the voter roles. Enact restrictive ID laws hopefully requiring actual birth certificates. Only let the polls open for one day — a workday. Keep voting machines out of Democratic-oriented districts.

Then, after you have done everything possible to keep most people from voting stir up the activists and rubes — your activists and rubes — with distractions and fear to get them to the polls. This is why you see so many “Democrats secretly plan to ban the Bible” and “black mobs attack white women” and similar headlines at the right’s paid outlets.

Once Elected Pass Capital Gains And Corporate Tax Cuts

Once your people are elected they vote for capital gains tax cuts, corporate tax cuts and deregulation. Ignore the distractions that you used to get your activists and rubes to the polls. If you actually give them what they want you can’t offer it to them next time.

After decades of driving down turnout this is the result. Only the farthest-right talk show listeners are turning out now and the Republican establishment can’t control them. And they actually remember that they were promised something last time. Maybe it was abortion, maybe it was immigration … they remember and want it, not capital gains tax cuts and lower corporate taxes.

This bit Eric Cantor in the ass and it is finally biting the Republican Party establishment in the ass. And there is nothing Republicans can do about it, because higher turnout always favors Democrats. To keep turnout low Republicans have driven the morale of the voters down and down and down. They have driven the economy down and down and down. They have driven the process down and down and down. They have driven everything we value down and down and down.

Now they have literally hit bottom.

Benghazi WTF?

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Republicans aren’t for things. Instead they run from one hysterical anti-something scream to the next. They have shifted from the “noun-verb-911″ of the Bush years to “Obama said you didn’t build this” road and bridge, then to “Obamacare failed” and after Obamacare succeeded it was “Bundy” then it was “Oops” and now it’s “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” all the time. So what is Benghazi about?

First, you have to sift through all the wild conspiracy theories. Many Republicans say that Obama ordered the military to “stand down” and allow the attack to take place. Some Republicans say the attack was a “hit job” ordered by Obama to kill our ambassador. Others say Obama is having Benghazi witnesses and even investigators killed.

Now Speaker Boehner is setting up a Spanish inquisition special committee to “investigate” and deliver anti-Obama conclusions just in time for the election. Boehner said the committee will look into why the administration is “obstructing the truth about Benghazi.”

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Will The GOP Get Away With Its Economic Sabotage?

Republicans smell an election opportunity – but only if they can keep the economy down, jobs down and wages down. Most recently to keep people and the economy miserable they filibustered long-term unemployment assistance, and are working to cut back from the meager 26 weeks of assistance the states offer.

The New York Times explains in “States Cutting Weeks of Aid to the Jobless,” “[L]ast July, North Carolina sharply cut its unemployment program, reducing the maximum number of weeks of benefits to 20 from 73 and reducing the maximum weekly benefit as well.”

When North Carolina did this, a huge number of people just gave up looking for work and disappeared from the workforce. This made it look like the unemployment rate went down because only people who are actively looking are counted in the statistics. But what actually occurred was an increased need for food stamps and other aid. This, of course, doesn’t save the government money because, instead of paying unemployment, they are paying for this assistance.

As Republicans explain it, their idea is that people getting unemployment assistance are too “comfortable.” So the have to force these lazy, comfortable people into conditions that are so bad they will take any nasty, low-wage, humiliating, dangerous job. Of course, this means they will work for even less than the people who are already in such jobs. Meanwhile, the reality is that there is only one job for every three people looking for work.

Here is the thing: Obviously cutting this assistance drags down the surrounding economy as even more people can’t pay their mortgage or rent or buy shoes, gas, clothes of even enough food. So local stores have to cut back, causing even more unemployment. Billions are taken out of the economy, things get worse… And now more “red” states are working on doing the same thing.

The Bet Is That The Public Will Blame Democrats

Republicans are betting that voters will blame the “party in power,” which means the party of the president. Our corporate media is complicit in this strategy. If Americans found out that it is Republican filibusters in the Senate and obstruction in the House that keeps bills from even getting a vote that is holding back the economy, they would know who to blame. The media works to keep that a secret.

For example, from the New York Times story cited above:

A federal program supplying extra weeks of benefits to the long-term unemployed expired at the end of 2013, and congressional Democrats failed in an effort to revive it.

Right, It was Democrats who “failed to revive it.” This surely tells voters to hold Democrats responsible for the cutoff of long-term unemployment assistance. With media reports like this, Republicans will win their bet.

While Republicans are doing everything they can to hold back economic recovery, the right’s propaganda machine is blasting out that the economy is terrible. For example, one of the headlines at Drudge this week, “Wall Street Advisor: Actual Unemployment is 37.2%…,” was right there next to the usual drumbeat, “Record 20% of Households on Food Stamps…

The strategy is paying off. This from The Hill: “Boehner touts poll finding more blame Obama for economy than Bush“:

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday used a private meeting with House Republicans to tout polling that suggests that voters now blame President Obama more than former President George W. Bush for the state of the economy.

. . . Republicans, he argued, now have the upper hand when it comes to the economy.

. . . After Obama’s 2012 reelection, according to Winston’s polling, 53 percent of voters said “policies of the past” were causing the nation’s economic problems, while 44 percent blamed policies “of the present.” Polling in November 2013 found those numbers largely reversed; 41 percent blame the policies of the past, while 49 percent blame current policies.

Other Sabotage Examples

Related to this is the ongoing Republican effort to sabotage Obamacare. This Wednesday TPM had this: “Republicans Seek To Sabotage Obamacare With Higher Premiums“:

Conservative wonks and Republican lawmakers are coalescing around a new strategy to sabotage Obamacare by repealing a temporary piece of the law designed to hold down premiums in the event of major market disruptions.

. . . The conservatives are open about the end goal: collapse Obamacare by causing higher premiums on the law’s marketplaces for the newly insured, which progressive experts who support Obamacare agree would occur if the provision is scrapped.

But wait, there’s more. The Guardian reported last month that “State conservative groups plan U.S.-wide assault on education, health and tax.”

Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Here’s the strategy: Sabotage things, wait as corporate media doesn’t inform the public who is filibustering and obstructing, let conservative propaganda outlets tell the public to blame Democrats for the terrible suffering and economic catastrophe that result. Over time people really don’t have much choice except to blame the people who the radio and TV and FOX News and all the other outlets tell them to blame: Obama and the Democrats.

The sabotage strategy is starting to become apparent. Brian Beutler at Salon recently wrote this article, “GOP’s ulterior motive on unemployment: Economic sabotage?

Unemployment benefits make people’s lives better and buoy a fragile, but possibly accelerating recovery. Some Republicans are apparently reluctant to give the economy, and by extension the Democrats, a shot in the arm right now.

A while back I posted this at Crooks and Liars, “It’s Economic Sabotage As GOP Obstructs Infrastructure Work” and C&L published this video at the top:

5 Years of Republican Economic Sabotage Explained in 3 Minutes

Rev. Al Sharpton had this on the air:

Here is the Economic Policy Institute, a year ago, in “The congressional GOP has smothered a more rapid economic recovery“:

If this ideologically driven objective of deeply cutting spending is met, this will represent just one more way that the GOP Congress has managed to delay full recovery from the Great Recession. The evidence continues to pile up that these spending cuts, forced on a still-depressed economy, can easily throw the nation back into an outright recession and prolong the nation’s economic misery.

Is this an overly harsh read on the motivations of GOP members of Congress? Not at all. Motivations aside—regardless of whether they deeply believe that their ideological goal of reducing government spending will help the economy or whether they think that a slowed economy will simply help their own electoral prospects—the facts are simply that congressional Republicans have consistently hamstrung efforts that a large consensus of economists agree would have provided crucial help in lowering American unemployment.

[. . .] Conclusion

Concern that the GOP Members of Congress have a vested interest in slowing economic recovery has been brewing for quite some time. Speaking at Cuyahoga Community College ahead of the election, former President Bill Clinton accused congressional Republicans of deliberately trying to keep the unemployment rate elevated for political gain.

Here is Talking Points Memo from June 2012, “Harry Reid Accuses Eric Cantor Of Economic Sabotage“:

It’s a theory that progressives have grown sympathetic to as Republicans make it ever-more difficult for President Obama to govern and thwart initiatives in Congress to stimulate the economy. Democratic operatives have loosely floated the claim in broad ways by suggesting the GOP is hoping for economic failure, but Reid’s pointed accusation took it to a new level.

But these are not the outlets that reach the broad majority of Americans. Will the Republican strategy of economic sabotage win them the House, Senate and maybe even the presidency? If it does succeed, what does this mean for the future of our economy and our country?

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Senate Democrats: Change Filibuster Rules, Make Them Talk

Republicans filibustered the extension of unemployment benefits on the Senate floor Tuesday. Why? Because they can get away with it. Look at how the press reported what happened.

If the public doesn’t know that filibusters are occurring, how can democracy hold Republicans accountable for doing it? Instead they hear from the corporate media that the bill is “stalled,” “the Senate failed” or “the Senate deadlocks” due to “finger-pointing” or “partisan squabbling.” What message does the public get from that? Probably that they shouldn’t bother to vote.

The New York Times: “Unemployment Extension Is Stalled, With 2 Proposals Defeated in the Senate“: “Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed — and millions more in the future — were imperiled on Tuesday after Senate efforts to reach accord on legislation to revive them collapsed in partisan finger-pointing.”

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GOP Economic Sabotage Continues With Filibuster of Jobless Benefits

Republicans are engaged in yet more hostage-taking obstruction. (Whatever gave them the idea that hostage-taking can work?) They are engaged in a filibuster of the effort to extend unemployment insurance, using it as a hostage to try to get even more cuts to the things government does to make our lives better. Their “pay-for” demand is really a demand for Democrats to agree to even more economic sabotage.

Senate Republicans Monday continued to fight Democratic efforts to pass an extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits for people who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. Traditionally our government has provided this assistance to unemployed workers at times of high unemployment. This is an “automatic stabilizer,” meaning that this assistance helps stop the downward spirals that occur when business hit recession. Unemployed workers aren’t forced to pull back from paying mortgages or rent, or buying food and other basic needs, which then causes even more unemployment.

Many feel this economic stabilization effect is the reason Republican oppose the extension. They suspect Republicans want the loss of this assistance to cause more layoffs, foreclosures and economic hardship. This way the economy looks worse as the 2014 elections approach, and voters will turn on what they perceive as the “party in charge” – namely the Democrats.

By requiring “pay-fors” – cuts somewhere else – in exchange for allowing this assistance to the unemployed, they are removing the economic boost that the program provides, causing damage to the economy. In other words: they are engaged in economic sabotage.

One such proposal from Republicans is to stop working people with disabilities from claiming both Social Security Disability Insurance and federal unemployment benefits. Cutting this really means preventing people with disabilities from taking the risk of going out and working to see if they can get off of disability. Michael Hiltzik writes about this at the Los Angeles Times in “An awful idea: Hammer the disabled to pay for unemployment benefits”:

It uniquely burdens the disabled among all workers, and it sets a terrible precedent of raiding Social Security to pay for other social programs.

… The idea that disabled persons are “double-dipping” by collecting wages or other compensation while also getting a disability check is enshrined in conservative attacks on disability. But it’s untrue. The Social Security disability program is designed as a bridge to full employment. Its benefits aren’t intended as a substitute for wages, but a supplement.

Michael Tomasky writes about the hostage-taking involved here in “The Fight Over Unemployment Benefits Underscores the Right’s Extremism” at The Daily Beast:

Republicans are insisting on cuts from elsewhere in the federal budget to pay for the benefits’ $6.4 billion cost. And Democrats are talking with them. But there’s no progress yet. In fact, it seems today that even the six Republicans who voted in the Senate last week to allow debate to proceed would not vote to extend the benefits just yet.

[. . .] if Democrats win, great. But it looks like they’ll only win by agreeing to the pay-for demand, which means that there’ll be new demands next time. There’s no end to how far right these people will go.

Richard Eskow (who really should have a column in the New York Times) writes about the economic sabotage of “pay for” in “No, Congress, You Shouldn’t “Pay For” Extending Unemployment Insurance”:

The simple truth is, Democrats are still being outmaneuvered by Republicans on economic policy. They’re letting the GOP call the shots, rhetorically, even though Republicans lost two out of three seats of federal government (the Senate and White House). They even lost the total popular vote for the House of Representatives.

… Here’s a better idea: Don’t try to pay for extended unemployment benefits. Don’t boast, as Reid did last week, that the extension is “entirely paid for.” Sure, Democrats will eventually need to make a deal – if they can – in order to extend unemployment insurance benefits. But why aren’t they first making the case against “paying for” those benefits on the Republicans’ terms?

Why aren’t Democrats instead speaking up against the “pay for” logic that gives a free pass to the wealthy and corporations – especially when the total cost is a blip, a rounding error, on a $1 trillion 2014 federal budget?

Economically, “pay for” is a Catch-22: It means every job-creating proposal must be offset with job-killing cuts elsewhere.

5 Reasons To Extend Unemployment Insurance

The AFL-CIO Now blog offers “5 Reasons Congress Must Extend Unemployment Insurance.” (Click through for details, charts and links.)

1. The long-term unemployment rate is higher than ever before.
2. The typical unemployed worker has been out of work longer than ever before.
3. More unemployed workers are running out of benefits than ever before.
4. The unemployment rate remains unacceptably high.
5. There are still three job seekers for every job opening.

Call To Action

The Coalition on Human Needs wants us to “tell your senators to renew federal unemployment insurance now, before the next recess, and don’t tie renewal to harmful amendments like denying the Child Tax Credit to low-income immigrant families or denying aid to unemployed workers with disabilities.”

If you haven’t called your senators yet (or even if you have!) please call 1-877-267-2485 (Toll Free). (Thanks to AFSCME for making this toll-free number available.)

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Who Will Fight To Help The Unemployed?

At the beginning of November, the poor went over the “Hunger Cliff” as Food Stamps were cut. Now long-term unemployment assistance will run out at the end of December. Regular people think the government has given up on them. They have been hit by one blow after another, with little or no help in sight. They see shutdowns and budget cuts at the very time the government needs to spend more to help Americans.

This is part of the Republican effort to turn Americans against government, because the public will blame Democrats. Democrats have to stop letting Republicans get away with it, and return to being seen as trying to help the unemployed and poor.

Long-Term Unemployment Assistance Running Out

In a few days, long-term unemployment benefits run out in spite of a “budget deal.” This cutoff of long-term aid means that in most states aid will end after a person is unemployed for 26 weeks, and in other states even less – some dramatically less. It occurs at a time when the average length of unemployment is 37 weeks, and there is still only one job for every three people still bothering to look for work.

1.3 million people will lose this assistance immediately, just after Christmas. By mid-2014 another 2 million will lose this aid as well.

“If my wife loses her benefit before she finds a job, we lose our house.” – Philadelphia resident.

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Budget Deal Is More “Awesomely Destructive,” Economy-Killing Austerity

Austerity is holding back our economy — and that’s the plan. There is simply no other way to explain it. Republicans know voters blame (or credit) the party of the President for the economy, and they are doing everything they can to make things as bad as can be. This new “budget deal,” for example, holds the country in full austerity, with spending lower than even the original “Ryan budget” that shocked everyone.

Austerity kills economies and jobs, and they know it. We know it, they know it, everyone knows it. It is obvious in front of our faces, and Republicans continue to force cuts — with many Democrats going along.

Spending

Since the financial collapse government spending has been cut and the results have been terrible for the economy. Under every previous President government spending and hiring propped up the economy until recovery was underway. Republicans as well as Democrats understood this is how it has to be done. Until now.

In Charts: What if Obama spent like Reagan? Ezra Klein explains, “It’s simply a fact that real government spending fell in three of President Obama’s first four years.” Klein compares government spending to Reagan and ‘W’ Bush:

Under Reagan and ‘W’ spending went up. This helped the economy get out of recessions. Under Obama, with a much worse recession, Republicans forced spending to go down.

What was the effect of these cuts? This next chart shows how this is a drag on GDP:

So yes, the spending cuts are obviously hurting the economy.

Paul Krugman’s blog post, Unprecedented Austerity comments on this. He starts with a chart showing what has happened to government spending since Obama took office, writing, “Look at total government spending — federal, state, and local — and correct it for inflation …”

Krugman writes, “You can see that there was a brief, modest spurt in spending associated with the Obama stimulus — but it has long since been outweighed and swamped by a collapse in spending without precedent in the past half century.” He calls this, combined with private-sector deleveraging, “awesomely destructive.”

“Awesomely destructive.” And you can see it.

That “modest spurt in spending associated with the Obama stimulus”? This is the effect the stimulus spending had on jobs:

The stimulus took us from losing more than 800,000 jobs each month to gaining jobs every month since. It completely turned the situation around. But then it stopped and Republicans were able to force austerity and kill off the recovery.

This Budget Deal

So that’s the story of what has happened to government spending as Republicans impose austerity. Down down down. Now we have a “budget deal” (that even leaves out help for the long-term unemployed and doesn’t replace the “Hunger Cliff” $5 billion Thanksgiving Food Stamp cut, etc…) This next chart shows where this budget deal fits with earlier budgets proposals.

This is what is missing from the explanations of this budget “deal:” spending will still go way down. This is not a spending increase, it is less of a destructive, devastating cut than the full “sequester” would be next year. But it is still a cut, and it will still cost us jobs and economic growth. It will still be “awesomely destructive.”

And that is their plan. It will still let them campaign on “Obama’s terrible economy.”

Jobs

This chart from Calculated Risk shows how government hiring pulled us out of previous recessions, which government firing is holding us in this one.

Key point, Presidents Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton and ‘W’ all increased public hiring to help get us out of recessions. But under Obama and austerity the public sector has lost 703,000 jobs.

The public sector grew during Mr. Reagan’s terms (up 1,414,000), during Mr. G.H.W. Bush’s term (up 1,127,000), during Mr. Clinton’s terms (up 1,934,000), and during Mr. G.W. Bush’s terms (up 1,748,000 jobs).

However the public sector has declined significantly since Mr. Obama took office (down 703,000 jobs). These job losses have mostly been at the state and local level, but more recently at the Federal level. This has been a significant drag on overall employment.

The 2014 Election

So let’s take bets: do you disagree that Republicans are planning to campaign in 2014 by saying that the terrible economy is Obama’s fault?

PS: Some of these charts are from Three Charts That Show That Republicans Have Won The Budget War by Danny Vinik, who writes that “the fact of the matter is that the GOP has won the budget wars.” Let’s see if they take credit for the economy and terrible human pain they are causing.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Misunderestimating Who They Are

There is a miscalculation at the core of Democratic strategies for ending the shutdown and avoiding default. Democrats keep saying, “They wouldn’t really do that.” But this calculation doesn’t “get it” about who and what the country is dealing with.

Here is the miscalculation: If you listen to right-wing radio, watch FOX News and read their online media and take it seriously (because they do) then you would know that many on the right don’t want to live in a country that has Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, the minimum wage, Food Stamps, immigration, public schools, infant nutrition programs and the rest of the things government does to make our lives better. And they don’t want anyone else to live in a country that has those things, either.

They are willing to destroy the village to keep the village from having those things. If you don’t “get that” before entering into negotiations, you’re at risk of making a terrible mistake — like the sequester.

The Sequester

Remember what led to the sequester? There was a fundamental miscalculation that led to these terrible economy-killing cuts taking effect. White House negotiators believed the sequester cuts were so terrible and stupid that Republicans wouldn’t really let that happen. So they offered these cuts as an inducement — a worst alternative — to coming to an agreement about taxes and cuts. (Never mind the mistake that any deficit reduction at all right now is economy-killing.) The idea was that the sequester cuts are so terrible and have such a disastrous effect on the country and economy — and people — that “they wouldn’t really do that.”

But they did that. Now many Republicans are celebrating the sequester cuts, calling the sequester an accomplishment. They are celebrating the damage that they have caused to our government.

If you “got it” about who they are then you knew that of course they would do that. Offering the terrible sequester cuts because they were so terrible and stupid that “they wouldn’t really do that” was a fundamental miscalculation of how terrible and stupid — and destructive — their insular ideology has become. It was based on a fundamental misunderestimation of who they are.

Misunderestimating Who They Are

Are enough Democrats listening to right-wing radio, watching FOX, reading the right’s online media? Are they taking what they see and hear seriously? We listen to Rush Limbaugh and laugh. But they listen to Rush Limbaugh and believe.

Are Democrats and the President making a fundamental miscalculation by assuming the right-wingers of the Republican Party don’t want the country to default, and the terrible economic destruction that would bring? A strategy based on the idea that movement conservatives will yield rather than do that much harm to the country and economy and people, like the sequester strategy, is a fundamental miscalculation, fundamentally misunderestimating who they are: They do want things to be that bad!

Don’t Give In

The strategy of offering terrible and stupid cuts to an opposition that is bent on destruction only led to terrible and stupid cuts becoming the ongoing baseline, with them celebrating the sequester as a victory. Trying to scare and shame them with the terrible specter of the destruction from default could be offering them just what they want.

I am certainly not saying here that Democrats should give in to avoid the destruction Republicans are willing to cause. Giving in — or miscalculating and accidentally handing them what they want (like the sequester) — means they will just escalate the destruction — as they have done each time. That has been their game and will be their game. It’s just time to realize this and change strategies.

It is late in the game, much harm has been done, much harm is being done, but it is time for a shift from “get along” strategies to reach “bipartisan compromise” to instead realizing this crowd fundamentally opposes and seeks to dismantle the very things that most of us treasure about our country.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

If Dems Give In Now, Social Security And Medicare Will Be Future Hostage-Taking Targets

Remember how Republicans “won” the 2000 election? Remember how they tricked the country into going to war in Iraq? They used non-democratic means to get what they couldn’t get legitimately, and it worked, so they did it more. They got used to getting their way using bullying, so they did it more. Now it’s flat-out hostage-taking. And they’re doing it more.

Again and again, Republicans take a hostage and demand something they could not get through elections or the legitimate constitutional legislative process. The hostages over the last few years have included (but are not limited to) unemployment benefits, the Federal Aviation Administration, the “fiscal cliff,” disaster relief, government funding, even the debt ceiling. Manufactured crisis after manufactured crisis…

Again and again, they take a hostage and demand they get their way. Never mind election results, House and Senate majorities, and especially never mind the will of the people.

And then they have the nerve to mock democracy, saying, “How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for ya?”

The Ongoing Obstruction And Today’s Hostage-Taking Are The Same Game

Here is something to recognize as part of what is happening today. They have also used obstruction to take hostage the power of We the People to legislate. They have used the filibuster in the Senate and the “Hastert Rule” in the House to obstruct almost everything We the People tried to do to make our lives better in the last several years.

They have blocked bills to hire millions to fix the infrastructure. They blocked bills to remove the incentive to move jobs out of the country. They blocked further stimulus to get the economy going. They blocked efforts to fix immigration laws. They blocked the “public option.” They blocked nominees and judges. They have blocked … everything.

This obstruction is part and parcel of what we are experiencing with this shutdown and the threats to force the country to default. It is about getting what they want but can’t win in elections or through legitimate legislative means.

It Will Not Stop Here If They Win

They continue these tactics because it is getting them what they – and the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them – want. They do it because it works. And then they do it again, because it worked.

Here’s the thing about this budget “standoff.” If Democrats or President Obama give in again, Social Security and Medicare will certainly be targets, sooner than later. What else?

Things Republicans hate:

  • #1 of all time: Social Security.
  • #2 of all time: Medicare.
  • Public schools.
  • Environmental Protection.
  • The Food and Drug Administration.
  • The minimum wage.
  • The eight-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek.
  • Unions and the National Labor Relations Board – the right of workers to organize.
  • The 47% of Americans who they say are “takers” and “moochers.”
  • Anything other than fossil fuels to provide energy.

This is not a complete list. Think of things Republicans hate, and then try to picture them not using hostage-taking to dismantle whatever you are thinking of.

Constitutional Crisis: Self-Government Under Attack

It has to stop.

This is a constitutional crisis – as in Republicans have thrown out the idea of following the Constitution, democracy and law, recognizing only power. Republicans have one power that We the People have not yet managed to take away from them: the power to destroy. And they’re using that power to get what they want for the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them.

If we are going to maintain the idea of government by We the People, using elections and the legislative process and everything else the country is supposed to be about, we can’t let them win again. If they win again, they’ll just escalate.

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P.S. I looked through just a few of the posts I have written covering the hostage-taking of the last few years…

March 31, 2011 Budget Fight: Why Are Republicans Forcing a Shutdown?

Sept. 23, 2011 ANOTHER Hostage-Taking Threat To Shut Down Government,

Just weeks after the “debt-ceiling” hostage-taking, forcing trillions to be cut out of the economy, the hostage-takers are at it again. Now they are threatening a government shutdown, demanding even more cuts in the “continuing resolution” that keeps the government operating. This time they even want to cut the disaster-relief spending that helps people hit by wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Sept 26, 2011 Shutdown and Hostage-Taking — It Is NOT Both Sides Doing It.

Nov. 29, 2011 Will Republicans Shut Down The FAA Again To Help Deltas Union Busting.

Dec. 15, 2011 Republican Hostage-Taking Threat Again Guess Who Benefits,

Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People — “the 99%” — do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don’t get their way. This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here’s the thing, they say they want “cuts” but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.

Jan 10, 2013 Disarm The Hostage Bomb: Stop Governing Based On Threats, Intimidation And Lies,

The “fiscal cliff’ was the result of the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies…

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary