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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m4s0n501

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

How To Dismantle A Country

Let’s say it’s the 1970s and you’re a foreign power of one sort or another – Soviet Union, China, Arab oil interests, secret cabal of billionaires, whatever – and you want to dominate the world. But the US is in your way…
Let’s say you do a comprehensive analysis of all the things that make the US a world power (for better or worse). Let’s say you develop a plan to infiltrate, undermine, weaken, fracture and ultimately dismantle each the institutions that made America so strong.

Looking back today, can anyone offer anything that could have been more effective at accomplishing this plan than funding America’s conservative movement?

They’re STILL Saying Taxes And Spending Hurt The Economy

Serious People were saying that budget deficits hurt the economy. Then we increased taxes on the rich so now deficits are wayyyyy down. So Serious People are saying that taxes hurt the economy. Or is it spending on schools and infrastructure that is going to kill the economy. Wait, it’s the new health care law — millions of people getting coverage is going to kill the economy. How come Serious People never complain that cutting schools, infrastructure maintenance, Social Security, scientific research (and other things We the People spend money on to make our lives better) really, actually does hurt the economy?

The Record On Taxes And Economic Growth

Last year the Congressional Research Service (CRS) took a look at the actual record of taxes and economic growth and issued a report, Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945. The report reported,

Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The real GDP growth rate averaged 4.2% and real per capita GDP increased annually by 2.4% in the 1950s. In the 2000s, the average real GDP growth rate was 1.7% and real per capita GDP increased annually by less than 1%. There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. The share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. The evidence does not suggest necessarily a relationship between tax policy with regard to the top tax rates and the size of the economic pie, but there may be a relationship to how the economic pie is sliced.

Translation from government to English: The top tax rate used to be over 90% and capital gains taxes used to be much higher. At that time economic growth was much higher. Then they dramatically lowered tax rates for the rich and economic growth went waaaaay down. (However, they can’t say for sure that cutting taxes on the rich caused the huge drop in economic growth.) Also the tax cuts didn’t boost saving, investment or productivity growth. BUT the rate-lowering appears to have caused incomes to concentrate at the top, which has screwed and squeezed the rest of us.

And, by the way, the tax cut did cause massive deficits and we stopped maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, cut back on education, universtities, scientific research, space exploration, medical research and so many other things that We, the People do to make our lives better.

You might not have heard about this study. Senate Republicans made the CRS withdraw the report.

Here is a chart I made some time ago, for the post, Conservative Tax Tricks – Did Tax Cuts Grow The Economy?

Trend line of growth, with top tax rates:

Top Tax Rate vs GDP

And as long as we’re looking at that post, this was also in there, top tax rates and national debt:

Top Rate vs Debt

Similar Claims, Same Results

Republican claims that taxes hurt the economy go hand-in-hand with similar Republican anti-government claims. The claims usually amount to “government is in the way,” “government hurts the economy,” “government spending is bad,” etc. A Google search of “government is in the way” finds many, many examples, including:

Government the Job Killer – John Stossel. In this one Stossel claims that building infrastructure is bad for the economy. “Building giant government projects is no way to create jobs. When government spends on infrastructure, it takes money away from projects that consumers might think are more important.” He actually claims that building the transcontinental railroad was a bad deal for the country.

A post at Noahpinion has been circulating around the economics blogs, Conservative economic arguments since the crisis: A review. The post looks at a number of Republican economic arguments of late, finding them all to be either mostly or completely … well … rubbish. Examples include “Fannie, Freddie, and possibly the CRA caused the crisis.” and “Welfare is the main force prolonging the recession, by discouraging people from working.”

And of course never forget, “Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes.” – Tom DeLay, House Republican leader, 2003.

Why do we listen to these clowns at all? (Because they are backed by the big, big money people who get all the money that come from these Republican schemes.) Why don’t we just create millions of jobs by investing in infrastructure and similar projects? Why don’t we just restore a top tax rate of 90% and a top corporate tax rate of 50%? Why don’t we boost capital gains taxes? Does it have something to do with the influence of money over politics?

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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

Will House Republicans Govern Or Destroy The Government They Hate?

The parents of the Republican Party are away for the summer and the Tea-nagers are ransacking the House. But is it really a surprise that people who hate government itself would act to destroy government itself?

Shut The Government Vs. Global Meltdown

There are more and more indications that Republicans might either shut down the government or “breach” the debt ceiling when they return to DC from the summer recess. Bill Scher’s Republicans Flinch Again, captures the essence of what this means,

A government shutdown would dent the American economy, inconvenience millions and generally make Republicans look like children. But preventing the government from paying its bills would wreck the full faith and credit of the government and spark a global economic meltdown.

Terrifying Scenario Developing

If you read this morning’s Progressive Breakfast (and you always should), you see a terrifying scenario emerging in DC. The Tea Party is working itself up into a full destruction tantrum, and it is hard to see a way around it. Remember that they left town for the summer after refusing to pass the “THUD” bill. This was the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill that tried to line up with the Republican-mandated “Ryan Budget” spending cuts that drastically reduces the things government does to help make We the People’s lives better — also called “government spending.” The cuts were too much for some Republicans to swallow, and not enough for others. So they gave up and went home without doing anything at all. (And of course they never took up a jobs bill at all.)

Now they are getting ready to return, and the early indications are that there will be more of the same. There will be no governing in the House, just more of the same: posturing and destroying,

“Flirting With A Fail”

Politico, Eve of Destruction, “Republicans are in jeopardy of convincing voters they simply cannot govern.”

Republicans are all flirting with a fall that could see influential party voices threatening to default on the debt or shut down the government — and therefore ending all hopes of proving they are not insane when it comes to governance.

The NY Times digs a bit deeper into the problems, in Puzzle Awaits the Capital: How to Solve 3 Fiscal Rifts,

On the endgame for the budget showdown looming in Washington this fall, only this is clear: President Obama thinks Republicans cannot risk another debt crisis or government shutdown, and Republican leaders agree.
[. . .] Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has reiterated that Republicans will not raise the debt limit without offsetting spending cuts. … But Mr. Obama, burned by the downgrade of the United States debt rating after those 2011 negotiations, insists he will not negotiate on the issue this time.

The Base

Meanwhile the Republican “base” is demanding a shutdown over Obamacare. Erick Erickson at Redstate today,

Stay focused. Show up and confront your Congressman. Tell him if he votes to fund Obamacare, he cannot really say he is fighting against it.

Heritage Foundation has a campaign to shut the government over Obamacare. They are pushing the idea that a shutdown “won’t hurt” the Republicans (with no mention of, or concern over, the millions of Americans who will be hurt).

So here it comes people. In a short time we find out whether the Republicans are going to close the government they hate or destroy the “full faith and credit” of the United States, which would destroy the government they have along with the economy of the world.
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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

While Tax-Evading Corporations Paid Only 12.6%, We Cut Schools, Firefighting, Etc.

Republicans insist on cutting and gutting the things government does to make our lives better because, they say, “we’re broke.” Meanwhile a new study by Congress’ Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that in 2010 the big U.S. companies paid only 12.6% in taxes on their reported worldwide profits. Corporate taxes have gone from 5-6% of GDP down to only a third of that. The corporate share of all taxes paid has gone from 28% to a third of that, too. And these lower taxes have hurt, not helped our economy and country.

Republicans Say “We’re Broke”

Republicans say we have to cut spending on schools, infrastructure, research, cancer clinics, everything government does to make our lives better because “we’re broke.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/7xdsHP3Qb9U[/youtube]

We aren’t “broke.” We are the richest country in history, but those riches are now being channeled to a very few people instead of shared among We, the People. This video will help you understand where the money went.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/IkCWwpCCisI[/youtube]

We are currently in year one of the “sequester.” Even cancer clinics are forced to close. This follows trillions of dollars of other budget cuts. Our infrastructure if falling apart, bridges are falling down, our ancient power grid can’t keep up with demand, our rail system system is like something in the third world compared to other countries, and at the same time we are experiencing extreme income and wealth inequality as more and more of everything goes only to a top few.

But hey, corporate taxes are low.

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Republicans Moving From Obstruction To Outright Sabotage

During the first years of the Obama administration the Republican strategy was to obstruct efforts to improve the economy and crate more jobs. Then, at election time they went to the public saying, “Obama hasn’t made things better.” But now they are moving into outright sabotage of  things that government does for people, like the new health care law, with election plans to campaign on the failure of government to do things for people.

Public Not Aware Of Health Care Law

Most of the new health care law goes into effect next year, with the “exchanges” beginning at the end of this year. But the public has little, if any, understanding of what is coming and what it means to them.

An April Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking poll found that only 40% of the public even knows that the health care law has been upheld by the courts and not repealed by Congress. “Also about half the public says they do not have enough information about the health reform law to understand how it will impact their own family, a share that rises among the uninsured and low-income households.”

And less than 10% report hearing anything good about the new law.

Republicans Threaten Sports Leagues

The government is beginning (really, really late in the game) to try to get information to the public. Among other efforts, the Dept. of Health and Human Services had been talking to sports leagues about ways they can help educate the public. Republicans immediately moved to nip that in the bud.

TPM: GOP Leaders Warn Pro Sports Leagues Not To Promote Obamacare

Senate Republican leaders have sent letters warning six professional sports leagues not to provide the Obama administration any assistance in promoting Obamacare.

The letters, dated June 27, warn the chiefs of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Professional Golf Association and NASCAR that partnering with the administration to publicize the benefits of the health care law would damage their reputations.

It worked: CNN, NFL has ‘no plans’ to promote Obamacare.

The reason Republicans went after the sports leagues is because in a past public-information effort sports turned out to be a good way to get information out to the public. In 2007 the Boston Red Sox assisted then-Gov Romney in promoting the new Massachusetts health care law. This helped spread public knowledge and understanding of the new law.

But public knowledge and understanding is to Republicans like garlic is to vampires. Increased public knowledge and understanding get in the way of their agenda.

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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