Former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole said Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have been accepted in today’s GOP. Maybe, like Dole, he just wouldn’t have understood today’s D.C.
Where did the whole idea of sequestration originate? It goes back to 1985. The tax cuts of Ronald’s Reagan early years, combined with his aggressive defense buildup, produced a growing budget deficit that eventually prompted passage of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. GRH set out a series of ambitious deficit reduction targets, and to put teeth into them it specified that if the targets weren’t met, money would automatically be “sequestered,” or held back, by the Treasury Department from the agencies to which it was originally appropriated. The act was declared unconstitutional in 1986, and a new version was passed in 1987.
Sequestration never really worked, though, and it was repealed in 1990 and replaced by a new budget deal. After that, it disappeared down the Washington, DC, memory hole for the next 20 years.
What about the 2013 version? Where did that come from? In the summer of 2011, Republicans decided to hold the country hostage, insisting that they’d refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to substantial deficit reduction. After months of negotiations over a “grand bargain” finally broke down in July, Republicans proposed a plan that would (a) make some cuts immediately and (b) create a bipartisan committee to propose further cuts down the road. But they wanted some kind of automatic trigger in case the committee couldn’t agree on those further cuts, so the White House hauled out sequestration from the dustbin of history as an enforcement mechanism. It would go into effect automatically if no deal was reached.
In the end, no immediate cuts were made, but a “supercommittee” was set up to propose $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction later in the year. To make sure everyone was motivated to make a deal, the sequester was designed to be brutal: a set of immediate, across-the-board cuts to both defense spending and domestic spending, starting on January 1, 2013. The idea was that everyone would hate this so much they’d be sure to agree on a substitute.
Needless to say, no such agreement was reached. So now we’re stuck with the automatic sequestration cuts.
More: The Sequester, Explained
When he was in his late 20s, John Roberts was a foot soldier in the Reagan administration’s crusade against the Voting Rights Act. Now, as chief justice of the Supreme Court, he will help determine whether a key part of the law survives a constitutional challenge.
Memos that Roberts wrote as a lawyer in President Reagan’s Justice Department during the 1980s show that he was deeply involved in efforts to curtail the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, the hard-won landmark 1965 law that is intended to ensure all Americans can vote. Roberts’ anti-VRA efforts during the 1980s ultimately failed. But on Wednesday, when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, he’ll get another chance to gut the law. Roberts’ history suggests a crucial part of the VRA may not survive the rematch.
At issue in Shelby County is whether a major portion of the Voting Rights Act, called Section 5, is constitutional. Section 5 compels jurisdictions with a history of discrimination, mostly in the South, to ask the Justice Department for permission—preclearance, in legalese—before making any changes to election laws. Shelby County, Alabama, is arguing that Section 5 is an extreme measure that is no longer justified because racism is no longer the problem it once was. If Section 5 is overturned, voting rights groups say, the federal government’s ability to ensure Americans are not denied the right to vote on the basis of race—at a time when race has been used as a proxy for party identification—will be severely weakened.
Shelby County offers Roberts an opportunity to complete a mission he began three decades ago. When the chief justice was a young lawyer, in 1981, Southern legislators hoped an ascendant conservative movement could pressure Reagan into opposing an extension of the VRA. In June of that year, Reagan wrote a letter to Attorney General William French Smith requesting an “assessment” of the law.
The real fault line for Republicans is between Norquist-style radicals and Ronald Reagan, who presided over the bipartisan 1986 tax simplification deal by closing loopholes to raise revenues. As Reagan said at the time, “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.” In addition, the “sainted” Reagan oversaw some 11 tax increases during his administration. To be sure, his overall goal was to slash rates and simplify the system — but he was not nearly as absolutist as his activist acolytes who do not have to deal with actually governing.
Norquist’s hold on the GOP has been loosening as congressional leaders recognize that this extreme, unelected activist is helping to hold a balanced bipartisan deal hostage. The election is over. The time for hatred, ideological obstruction and overheated rhetoric has passed. Reasonable Republicans and Democrats need to take on their respective special interests to get a long-term deficit and debt deal done.
It’s foolish to be afraid of Norquist. The only pledge members of Congress should take is the Pledge of Allegiance.
After embracing stridently partisan positions during the primaries, campaigns traditionally etch-a-sketch to the center after securing the nomination. But while Romney adopted his fair share of conservative positions to squeeze past Santorum, he has yet to move back to the center: He hasn’t discovered any new centrist positions, he hasn’t attempted to co-opt any Democratic strengths, he hasn’t established an independent-minded theme, and he hasn’t found a Sister Souljah moment. He could use one.
Most presidential candidates adopt an image that distinguishes them from the most partisan wing of their party, whether it was Bush running as a “compassionate conservative,” Clinton’s “New Democrat,” Obama’s post-partisan appeals to change, or McCain’s “maverick.” And realistically, Romney needs it as much or more than any of those prior candidates. The Republican Party is decidedly unpopular—more unpopular than the parties were in any of those prior presidential elections (with the exception of McCain in 2008). Yet here’s Romney, a candidate who entered presidential politics positioned to run as a moderate, running as a generic conservative Republican candidate with a splash of Bain Capital.
It’s important to remember that Romney needs moderate, independent, and even traditionally Democratic-leaning voters to win this election. It’s not 2004 anymore: The influx of non-white voters into the electorate over the last eight years, as well as their movement toward the Democratic party, has raised the bar for what Romney needs among white voters. Romney will probably need to carry at least 60 percent of white voters to secure the presidency, more than any GOP candidate since Reagan. Now, deep dissatisfaction with Obama’s performance and the state of the country has given Romney a real opportunity to pull that off, but that essentially requires Romney to sweep persuadable swing white voters—and we can infer that many have traditionally voted for Democratic candidates in national elections.
Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will visit the United Kingdom and Poland at a time when the GOP’s policy toward Europe seems to be trapped in the days of the Cold War. It will be a chance for him to update his outdated views.
Mitt Romney’s first foreign tour as the Republican Party’s likely presidential candidate includes visits to two European states. While designed to send a message to potential voters at home, particularly blue-collar Reagan Democrats in the Midwest, the trip will be about photo opportunities. Romney’s visit to London is meant to echo his own successful management of the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City and play into a campaign narrative built on executive experience and sober business acumen.
His visit to Gdansk and Warsaw will highlight the triangle that broke the back of communism: the Polish people’s courage, their Catholic faith and Western resolve. Not coincidentally, Polish-American immigrants dot the landscape in important battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Romney’s visit will inevitably draw parallels to that of candidate Barack Obama, who on a visit to Germany in July 2008, resolutely declared on the steps of Berlin’s Victory Column that he is a “citizen of the world.” Now the Republican candidate has an opportunity to articulate his vision for US relations with Europe, which has so far remained underdeveloped and reliant on dated platitudes.
In light of the Going Postal episode in an Aurora movie theater (just a few miles from Columbine), I want to highlight the expose book by gonzo journalist Mark Ames (frequent guest on Dylan Ratigan’s show).
I know this will be a controversial thesis but to Ames of exiledonline.com these mass shooting “going postal” episodes in America (school, workplace, etc) as a result of the mental damage caused to society by the imposition of the Darwinian capitalist model after Reagan fired the Air Traffic controllers.
OK, I know as soon as you read that your first instinct is to become incredulous. I was too but I actually read the book and it is not as far fetched as it sounds.
Basically, Ames equates these going postal episodes to the slave revolts of the past. The slave revolts also were violent episodes that had no organization and resulted from slaves ‘snapping” as a result of their degraded condition.
Your thesis that these rage murders are effectively failed slave rebellions takes you back in your book to consider in some depth the circumstances of slave rebellions in the antebellum South. At what point did the parallels start to dawn on you?
I really started with the idea that in every age, there is some awful oppression that is not yet recognized and therefore doesn’t exist, but later seems horribly obvious. This became clear to me working in Moscow in the ’90s. No one in the “liberal” Western press corps, academia, world financial aid organizations or Clinton Administration had a shred of sympathy for the millions of Russians suffering from so-called “privatization” programs that we rammed down their throats. Literally millions of Russians went to their graves early in the ’90s, yet many respectable Westerners openly said that the old generation would “have to die off” before the proper mindset set in to allow full Westernization in Russia.
Those millions of deaths are still not seen as part of something larger and evil. Later I looked at the details of these American rage murders — they were all similar, mostly normal Middle Americans attacking seemingly “at random.” If they weren’t psychopaths, which they aren’t, then that meant their attacks were very deliberate, that they were attacking something as a response. That’s when I decided that it was the culture which was viewing the murders “at random,” the culture which refused to see the purpose.
I simply assumed, from experience in Russia, and from looking at modern rage rebellions, that early slave rebellions would be completely misunderstood in their day as random acts of crazed evil just as modern “rage rebellions” are, and from the evidence I uncovered, it seems they were.
How much blame do you place on Reaganomics for the changes in the workplace that you argue lead to rage attacks?
Put it this way: rage murders in the workplace never existed anywhere in history until Reagan came to power. Reagan made it respectable to be a mean, stupid bastard in this country. He is the patron saint of white suckers. He unleashed America’s Heart of Vileness — its penchant for hating people who didn’t get rich, and worshipping people who despise them, and this is the essence of Reaganomics.
I hate to sound like a Clintonite here, but let’s remember Hillary Clinton became the most hated human being alive because she tried to give most Americans the opportunity to lead longer, healthier lives, while these same Americans adored goons like Sam Walton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump — everyone who has dedicated their lives to transferring wealth, health and pleasure from the masses to a tiny elite. Liberals are hated in America precisely because they want to help people, which is seen as “patronizing.”
You can see how this kind of cultural insanity, unleashed by Reaganomics after decades of New Deal (relative) harmony, could make someone snap, when the cognitive dissonance suddenly strikes on a very personal level, and you realize that you’ve been screwed hard by your own dominant ideology.
The implication of your thesis, of course, is that millions of Americans are living lives in many respects no different from slaves — in some respects eagerly, and willfully. I suspect that’s a realization for many people out there that they just won’t be able to face, and you will no doubt draw some attention for saying so. You also argue that part of human nature — despite conventional precepts about a universal human desire for freedom — is our capacity and desire to be ruled, to obey, and to accept hierarchy, as well as adapt to almost any circumstance at all and eventually regard it as normal … until there’s a breaking point.
Why do you think we have all of these “wage slave” and “temp slave” T-shirts and e-jokes around? Americans like to turn everything painfully true into a little quip, as if by quippifying the painful truth, as if by becoming self-aware of one’s shameful and intolerable existence, one partially nullifies one’s pain. This is what you’d call “slave humor.” Slaves did the same thing, turning their pain into quips. And remember, there were almost no slave rebellions at all in America, less than a dozen.
As for the slave tendency in humanity, I think it’s a lot stronger in America than in most other countries in part because no other country on earth has so successfully crushed every internal rebellion. Slaves in the Caribbean for example rebelled a lot more because their oppressors weren’t as good at oppressing as Americans were. America has put down every rebellion, brutally, from the Whiskey Rebellion to the Confederate Rebellion to the proletarian rebellions, Black Panthers, white militias… you name it. This creates a powerful slave mentality, a sense that it’s pointless to rebel.
And this in turn creates pointless rebellions like modern workplace and school rebellions, just like our early slave rebellions were carried out in totally pointless, seemingly random ways. Or it creates a mass of quipping slave-comedians, like we have today.
Read more. Link above.
Ronald Reagan got a rare honor on the other side of the pond on the Fourth of July.
A bronze statue of the 40th U.S. president was unveiled outside the U.S. embassy in London.
A crowd of admirers, mostly Americans, took their seats in one of London’s leafiest and most historic parks for the ceremony, reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.
It came on the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth or, as Ronald Reagon Presidential Foundation Chairman Fred Ryan told the crowd, “as I think he would describe it, the 61st anniversary of his 39th birthday!”
The backdrop was festive Fourth of July pomp.