Why the Democrats Need to Take Sides

Source: American Prospect

Author: Harold Meyerson

This spring, a prominent Democratic pollster sent a memo to party leaders and Democratic elected officials advising them to speak and think differently. The nation’s economy had deteriorated so drastically, he cautioned, that they needed to abandon their references to the “middle class,” substituting for those hallowed words the phrase “working people.” “In today’s harsh economic reality,” he wrote, “many voters no longer identify as middle class.”

How many voters? In 2008, a Pew poll asked Americans to identify themselves by class. Fifty-three percent said they were middle-class; 25 percent said lower-class. When Pew asked the same question this January, it found that the number who’d called themselves middle-class had shrunk to 44 percent, while those who said they were of the lower class had grown from 25 percent to 40 percent.

Americans’ assessment of their place in the nation’s new economic order is depressingly accurate. Though most of the jobs lost in the 2007–2009 recession were in middle-income industries, the lion’s share of the jobs created in the half-decade since have been in such low-paying sectors as retail and restaurants. Median household income has declined in every year of the recovery. The share of the nation’s income going to wages and salaries, which for decades held steady at two-thirds, has in recent years descended to 58 percent—the lowest level since the government began its measurements.

The waning of America’s middle class presents a huge challenge to the nation’s oldest political party. The Democrats’ ability to improve the economic lives of most Americans has been their primary calling card to the nation’s voters ever since Franklin Roosevelt became president. Since the 1940s, however, the Democrats’ preferred method of helping working- and middle-class Americans has tilted more toward spurring economic growth than aggressive redistribution. So long as the growth in the nation’s economy registered in the pocketbooks of most Americans, there was little need to adopt policies that put a high priority on, say, redirecting profits into wages.

And that was fine with the Democrats. When John F. Kennedy observed that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” he was not only accurately describing how the highly unionized and not-yet-globalized economy of the 1960s worked; he was also describing how the economy enabled the Democrats to establish a political framework in which they could seek and win support from both business and labor—from both Wall Street and Main Street.

But the kind of economy that once allowed the Democrats to be the world’s leading cross-class party has almost completely disappeared. American economic growth today goes to a relative handful of its wealthiest citizens—indeed, since the recovery began in 2009, 95 percent of the income growth has accrued to the wealthiest 1 percent, as University of California, Berkeley, economist Emmanuel Saez has shown. While the economy has grown by 20 percent since 2000, the median income for households headed by working-age Americans has shrunk by 12 percent. And as wages have sunk to a record-low share of the nation’s economy, the share going to profits has reached a record high.

The Democrats are hardly at death’s door. Abetted by the intransigence of a nativist, patriarchal, increasingly anti-science and fanatically anti-government Republican Party, they hold a commanding lead among the nation’s growing constituencies—Latinos, Asians, single mothers, millennials, and professionals. Demographics give the Democrats a clear edge in high-turnout elections, presidential elections most particularly. But demographics devoid of economics will sustain the party’s advantage for only so long—especially absent a serious plan for improving the prospects of today’s downwardly mobile. Bettering the economic lot of their constituents—particularly since those constituents are represented disproportionately among those Americans who now call themselves lower-class—will require the Democrats to do something they haven’t really contemplated, and have consistently avoided, since the 1930s: taking a side, with all that entails, in a class war.

Taking sides has never come naturally to the Democrats. Throughout its long history, the party has not merely contained multitudes but contradicted itself, frequently and ferociously. In 1860, confronted with the new Republican Party’s challenge to slavery, the Democratic Party split in two, nominating both a Northern and a Southern presidential candidate. In the early 20th century, its two centers of strength were the white, segregationist, nativist South and the urban political machines of such cities as New York and Boston, home to millions of Catholic and Jewish immigrants. The two groups clashed so irreconcilably on issues like Prohibition and the Ku Klux Klan (which reached its apogee in the 1920s by adding anti-Catholicism to its catalog of hatreds) that the party’s 1924 convention required two weeks and 103 ballots before it could settle on a presidential nominee—John W. Davis, an obscure Wall Street attorney—acceptable to both sides. It took the crisis of the Depression to compel the rival camps to call a truce and turn their attention to economic matters and to Franklin Roosevelt.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, as Labor Secretary Frances Perkins stands behind him.

Roosevelt commanded substantial business support during his 1932 campaign and in his first two years as president, though he kept Wall Street at arm’s length. When he was assembling his Treasury team prior to taking office, someone suggested he consider appointing Russell Leffingwell, a leading executive at the J.P. Morgan investment bank, which was headquartered at 23 Wall Street. Roosevelt thought about it for a moment and then shot down the idea. “No,” he said. “We can’t have anyone from 23.”

As Roosevelt moved left in 1935, signing into law the National Labor Relations Act, the Social Security Act, and a substantially higher income tax for the wealthiest Americans, many of his former business backers, most prominently former Democratic National Chairman John J. Raskob, who’d been the financial vice president of both DuPont and General Motors, turned against him. They founded and funded the Liberty League, which throughout the 1936 presidential campaign relentlessly attacked Roosevelt as a socialist. On the election’s eve, secure in the knowledge that he was about to win an overwhelming victory, Roosevelt struck back. In an address, broadcast on national radio, to a screaming crowd at Madison Square Garden, FDR singled out “business and financial monopoly, speculation, [and] reckless banking” as enemies of social peace. “Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob,” he continued. “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it theforces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it these forces met their master.”

Roosevelt’s speech remains the apogee of the Democrats’ taking up the cudgel of class war. No Democratic president or nominee has put it quite that way ever since. Nor, by the calculus of conventional politics, did Roosevelt’s successors need to. Economically, the New Deal reforms were a stunning success, setting in place the structures that ensured the 30-year boom that began with World War II would be felt across the economy. From 1947 through 1973, the nation’s productivity rose by 97 percent and its median compensation by 95 percent. Politically, the reforms fostered an era of Democratic dominance. An occasional Republican—Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon—would be elected president, but they did nothing to endanger the Democrats’ core economic programs. The Democrats’ hold on Congress during this period was almost unbroken.

The New Deal coalition broke up in the decades that followed, as many white Democrats rejected what they saw as the party’s targeting of tax dollars to help minorities. Pollster Stan Greenberg’s study of Macomb County, Michigan—a white working-class suburb of Detroit that had given John Kennedy 63 percent of the vote in his 1960 campaign against Richard Nixon and had given Ronald Reagan 66 percent in his 1980 campaign against Jimmy Carter—demonstrated that Macomb’s Democrats believed their party was taxing them to support Detroit’s African Americans.

The movement of the white South and elements of the white working class into the Republican column—a journey that began during Nixon’s presidency and has continued to this day—initially spurred centrist Democrats to push their party rightward on such issues as lengthening prison sentences and curtailing welfare. Ultimately, however, the wholesale flight of the white South into Republican ranks had the effect of greatly diminishing the divisions on racial, gender, and cultural issues that had rent the Democrats for much of the 20th century. As a Southernized Republican Party moved right on those issues, it prompted a countermovement from socially liberal professionals, many of whom had previously identified as Rockefeller Republicans, into Democratic ranks. As John Judis and Ruy Teixeira reported in their 2002 book The Emerging Democratic Majority, professionals—previously a solidly Republican constituency—backed the Democratic candidates in the elections of 1988 through 2000 by a margin of 52 percent to 40 percent. Henceforth, the issues that would divide the Democrats would be preponderantly economic.

During the 12 years in which Reagan and George H.W. Bush were president, centrist Democrats sought not only to win back the Reagan Democrats with more-conservative social and economic policies but also to cultivate more business donors for party candidates. Tony Coelho, a California congressman who spearheaded House Democrats’ fundraising efforts for much of the 1980s, shifted the balance of funds coming into the party’s coffers more toward Wall Street and other business interests. When political journalist Thomas Edsall, in his 1984 book The New Politics of Inequality, tallied the funds received by all congressional Democrats from business and conservative interests and compared the total to the funds they received from labor and liberal interests, he found that they evened out. The Democrats’ right-left funding ratio was 1 to 1. Republicans, by contrast, received $33 from business and conservative interests to every $1 they received from labor and liberal groups. Not surprisingly, on such fundamental economic questions as taxation, trade, and worker rights, Reagan-era Republicans had a clear sense of direction. Democrats were all over the map.

During Reagan’s presidency, and again during George W. Bush’s, centrist Democrats backed reductions in top tax rates that the Republican presidents had proposed. During the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, House Democrats passed bills amending labor law so that workers could join unions without fear of being fired, but centrist Democratic senators kept those bills from passing in the upper house, while Carter and Obama—and Bill Clinton as well—failed to make labor-law reform a legislative priority. The fiercest battles in the Democrats’ class war have come over trade. A majority of House Democrats, echoing labor’s argument that such deals only hastened offshoring and job loss, voted against both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 and establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China in 2000. This year, three-quarters of party members have gone on record against fast-tracking the current proposed Trans-Pacific trade deal through Congress absent major modifications intended to preserve American jobs. Senate Democrats, who receive a higher percentage of their campaign funding from Wall Street (ever the most avid promoter of free trade) than House Democrats, backed NAFTA and PNTR.

It was Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, of course, who sent these trade deals to the Hill. Both had received major funding from the financial sector when they sought the presidency; both had selected as their chief financial advisers and policymakers a network of investment bankers and their protégés, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Timothy Geithner most prominent among them. While backing many of their president’s more progressive social policies, this network also avidly promoted the trade deals, financial deregulation, and post-recession recovery measures that benefited Wall Street at the expense of the great majority of Americans. FDR’s reluctance to entrust the Treasury Department to Wall Street bankers did not get passed down to his more recent Democratic successors.

To be sure, Republican opposition to workers’ concerns has been the biggest and most constant impediment to Democrats’ initiatives on working Americans’ behalf. Nor is this to gainsay the epochal advances in racial and gender equality and economic security that the post-Roosevelt Democratic Party has helped realize. Medicare and Obamacare affirmed the nation’s responsibility for the health care of its citizens. Medicaid and a raft of other programs targeted various forms of public assistance to the poor. But none of these programs—nor any of the party’s signature civil-rights legislation—specifically sought to advance workers’ interests against their employers’. That had been taken care of by the National Labor Relations Act and minimum-wage legislation. That was a fait accompli. The party had been there and done that.

Except, as American capitalism changed, what the Democrats had done had come undone. As corporations steadily weakened their workers’ bargaining power by shifting work abroad and breaking their unions at home, the link between productivity and workers’ income was severed. Since 1979, the nation’s productivity has risen by 65 percent and its workers’ compensation by just 8 percent. As well, businesses have changed the forms of employment they offer. Workers who formerly would have been full-time employees have been labeled as independent contractors or listed as working for temporary-employment agencies—changes that have stripped from them the right to unionize and the protections of wage-and-hour laws. The number of part-time employees has ballooned.

The Democrats haven’t been insensible to working Americans’ concerns during these years. When they had the votes, they raised the minimum wage, increased the funding for college grants and loans, and initiated public-works programs during recessions. At the same time, however, they largely failed to grasp the full extent of the erosion of middle-income jobs, the decline in worker bargaining power, and the stagnation of Americans’ incomes (offset, until 2008, by the corresponding increase in Americans’ debt). The idea that the nation’s middle-class majority wasn’t a permanent axiom of American life, that it might one day cease to exist, simply didn’t occur to most party leaders, as it didn’t occur to most members of the country’s political and economic elites.Democrats now find themselves in an unfamiliar world—not of their making, exactly, but one whose creation they didn’t do much to retard. It’s a world where they can no longer deliver job-based prosperity—at least, not without radically altering their politics. Rebuilding that middle-class majority requires Democrats to embrace ideas and find a voice as new to them as the cadences of the New Deal were to the Democrats of 1933.

The new base of the Democratic Party appears primed for such a change. The share of liberals in party ranks has swelled. In 2000, Gallup reports, 44 percent of Democrats identified as moderates, and 29 percent as liberals. Today, the share of moderates has dropped to 36 percent, while that of liberals has increased to 43 percent.  This leftward movement at least partly reflects the growing weight of Latinos and millennials within Democratic ranks. Like African Americans, Latinos differ sharply from white Americans in their level of support for government. Asked in a 2012 Pew survey whether they preferred a smaller government with fewer services or a bigger government with more services, Latinos backed the bigger-government option by a 75 percent to 19 percent margin, even as the general population supported the smaller-government alternative by 48 percent to 41 percent. Since California Latinos began voting in large numbers in the mid-1990s, they have proved the state’s strongest supporters—even more than African Americans—of ballot measures protecting workers’ rights and authorizing more spending on schools.

As with Latinos, so with millennials. A Pew survey of those young Americans from March of this year found them to be the only age group in which the number identifying as liberals (31 percent) exceeded the number calling themselves conservative (26 percent). Fifty-three percent of millennials preferred the bigger-government-with-more-services option, and just 38 percent the smaller.

One reason millennials lean left, of course, is that each successively younger cohort of Americans contains a larger share of Latinos (not to mention Asians and secularists). White millennials preferred the smaller government option by 52 percent to 39 percent, but millennials of color supported the bigger-government alternative by a hefty 71 percent to 21 percent margin.

But millennials’ left-leaning politics is also the result of their having borne the brunt of the economy’s dysfunctions. It’s disproportionately the young who have been saddled with a trillion dollars in student-loan debt. It’s millennials who have experienced the highest levels of unemployment. Nor is their employment anything to boast about: In 2012, 44 percent of young college graduates were employed in jobs that didn’t require a college degree.

Small wonder, then, that America’s young adults harbor the greatest skepticism toward the nation’s economic system. A 2009 Center for American Progress survey showed that their view toward unions was 9 percentage points more favorable than the overall population’s. And a 2011 Pew Poll revealed the somewhat astonishing fact that 49 percent of millennials had a positive view of socialism, while just 46 percent of them viewed capitalism positively. (Just 31 percent of all Americans viewed socialism positively; 50 percent of them felt that way about capitalism.) The rising number of left-leaning Latinos and millennials gives Democrats sound reason for believing that their future is bright—assuming elections can be reduced to demographics. With Republicans working overtime to estrange nearly every growing group in the political landscape, while Democrats have championed such policies as the legalization of undocumented immigrants and equal rights for gays and lesbians, the demographic tide is certainly running in the Democrats’ direction. Minorities and the liberal young have already pushed America’s cities decidedly leftward: 26 of the largest 30 now have Democratic mayors, the greatest partisan imbalance in history. They have turned such onetime Republican bastions as Florida and Virginia into proto-Democratic states. Georgia and North Carolina, and, within two or three presidential-election cycles, Texas and Arizona will likely fall prey to the same purpling. To be sure, the movement of young people and African Americans out of some longtime Democratic bastions in the industrial Midwest, and the understandable reluctance of immigrants to move into this economically embattled region, may turn such states as Michigan into Election Day toss-ups. Any Republican gains in the Midwest, however, could be more than offset by the Democrats’ pickups in the South and Southwest. As the South—the Republican Party’s chief electoral fortress—edges into the Democratic column, the Democrats may be able to contemplate a new era of political dominance. Provided they can figure out how to reinvent broadly shared prosperity.  For despite their new adherents’ liberal leanings, the Democrats are sure to pay a price if they can’t arrest the downward spiral of Americans’ economic lives. The price isn’t likely to take the form of increased millennial or minority support for Republicans. More likely, many in these groups will just disengage from politics and cease showing up at the polls. Despite their liberalism and preference for a government that smooths out the economy’s increasingly jagged edges, young Americans don’t invest a lot of hope in the political process. Just 31 percent of millennials say they see a great deal of difference between the two parties—the lowest level of any age group in the Pew survey. Similarly, 50 percent of millennials identify as independents, while 27 percent call themselves Democrats and 17 percent say they’re Republicans. If the Democrats are to establish the enduring majority that many of them see in the offing, they will have to shift the rewards of economic growth from profits, dividends, and rents to the wages and salaries on which the majority of Americans depend.

Even in regions where Democrats dominate, numerical majorities will not suffice. The left-leaning constituencies need to form durable alliances—almost invariably in opposition to the prevailing Democratic establishments—in order to secure pro-worker reforms.It’s in America’s cities, home to the largest influx of immigrants and millennials, where this strategy has had the most effect. In New York, Boston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, New Haven, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Santa Fe, and a host of other municipalities, voters have elected progressive mayors and city council members whose candidacies were backed, and in many cases incubated, by these new alliances. The key players in these coalitions tend to be service-sector unions (representing janitors, hotel and health-care workers, supermarket clerks), immigrant-rights groups, working-class neighborhood organizations active in African-American communities (many of them successors to ACORN), and affordable-housing and environmental-justice advocates. The ordinances enacted by these new governments run the gamut of causes important to the cities’ working classes: raising the minimum wage, setting living-wage standards for city contract workers, mandating paid sick days, requiring developers to construct affordable housing in return for their building permits, reining in discriminatory police practices, and curtailing the police’s cooperation with federal officials seeking to deport noncriminal undocumented immigrants.

Although America’s demographic changes reach well beyond city lines, it’s only in these urban areas that the new Democratic and largely working-class constituencies have organized themselves sufficiently to attain power. The politics of California provides a case in point. No other state has seen its population so thoroughly transformed in the past three decades, with Latino and Asian immigrants not only pushing Los Angeles and the Bay Area further left but also moving many historically Republican regions—San Diego, northern Orange County, the Inland Empire, and parts of the San Joaquin Valley—solidly into the Democratic column. By the early 2000s, it was clear that the California Legislature would be under Democratic control for the foreseeable future. At which point, the state’s business community—oil companies, banks, apartment owners’ associations, chambers of commerce—began to cultivate candidates of their own in Democratic primaries. Since then, those primary contests frequently pit business-backed candidates against candidates supported by unions, environmentalists, and other progressives.

In the Bay Area and Los Angeles, the progressive candidates usually prevail. In other parts of the state, business-backed Democrats frequently win. In 2012, Democrats won more than two-thirds of the seats in both houses of the legislature, but while the legislature has enacted some significant progressive statutes, others have fallen victim to a coalition of the business Democrats and 2012, Democrats won more than two-thirds of the seats in both houses of the legislature, but while the legislature has enacted some significant progressive statutes, others have fallen victim to a coalition of the business Democrats and the Republicans. The defeated bills included one that would have put a moratorium on fracking and another that would have allowed San Francisco to slow the flood of evictions in hopes of keeping developers from eliminating what remains of the city’s affordable housing stock.

In late May, the Senate approved a bill raising the state minimum wage to $13 an hour. Notwithstanding the Democrats’ supermajority, the bill narrowly squeaked through, with business-backed Democrats abstaining, despite representing such working-class cities as Fresno, Stockton, and Santa Ana, where wages are notoriously low. Those are cities, however, where the kind of labor-left alliances that have formed around San Francisco and Los Angeles are still too weak to prevail electorally. Nationally, New York’s Working Families Party is the most successful alliance to have achieved sufficient density across an entire state to affect state-level politics, but it is still far stronger in New York City—whose new mayor, Bill de Blasio, was one of the party’s founders—than it is upstate. In Minnesota, another such statewide alliance scored a surprising victory in 2012 when it persuaded voters to reject a ballot measure that would have required them to produce photo IDs at polling places, but like the Working Families Party, it is far stronger in its state’s urban center, the Twin Cities, than elsewhere.

One impediment to the emergence and growth of these progressive alliances is the ability of centrist Democratic officials to pick off the support of these alliances’ constituent organizations by adopting policies that benefit those groups only. Even the strongest such alliance, New York’s Working Families Party, was pressured by many of the unions that have historically supported it to endorse Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid this spring without even winning Cuomo’s commitment to causes the unions supported. Cuomo had declined to campaign against continuing Republican control of the state Senate, which had bottled up legislation to create public funding of election campaigns and to let cities raise their minimum-wage standards. However, Cuomo had also helped many unions win particular campaigns, and those unions feared his support for their efforts would prove fleeting if the WFP didn’t endorse him forthwith. Only an extraordinary campaign by Working Families Party leaders, who threatened to run a candidate against him, compelled Cuomo to reverse his stance on the state senate and the minimum wage in order to win the party’s backing.

The appeal of transactional politics—in which a group supports a politician in return for his support for their cause, regardless of his positions on other issues—runs deep in America, where larger ideological or class concerns have never loomed as large for Democrats as they have for European social democrats. The appeal of transactional politics grows even stronger when organizations are so embattled they feel required to support anyone who will help them on a particular issue—a situation in which most unions have found themselves in recent decades.

But the leftward movement of the Democratic base has undermined at least some of the foundations of such transactional politics. The Working Families Party was able to pressure Cuomo to reverse field because polling showed that a generic WFP candidate on the November ballot would diminish Cuomo’s support from roughly 60 percent of the electorate to roughly 40 percent. New York’s unusual election laws, which permit third parties either to back major-party candidates or to run candidates of their own, gave the WFP more leverage than kindred alliances may have in other states and cities, but the entire episode (and the polling) demonstrated the depth of support from the Democrats’ new base for policies that advance working-class interests, and the disdain for Democratic pols unwilling to fight for them. Traditional pro-Democratic institutions that continue to play the transactional game may find themselves retarding the growth of a new Democratic electorate demanding the very policies that would most benefit working people’s organizations and prospects.

What might those policies be? While the new urban regimes are enacting a host of progressive ordinances, local governments lack the power to create the kind of economic transformations that the nation’s 99 percent need. Even at the state and federal level, raising the minimum wage, say, directly affects just a fraction of American workers. What else can government do to re-establish the link between economic growth and Americans’ incomes?The single most helpful reform would be to restore workers’ bargaining power. With the rate of unionization in the private sector falling beneath 7 percent, the ability of workers to bargain collectively for improvements in their pay, benefits, or hours is effectively nonexistent. Efforts to shore up their power by strengthening their capacity to form unions without fear of being fired, however, failed during each of the four most recent Democratic presidencies (Johnson’s, Carter’s, Clinton’s, and Obama’s). Progressives cannot abandon this fight, but it’s time to open other fronts as well—particularly since years of polling show stronger support for such labor-backed causes as greater tax equity, higher minimum wages, and restrictions on corporate offshoring than they do for unions themselves.One way to restore the link between the economy’s growth and most Americans’ incomes would be to enlist corporate tax reform in that battle. As WilliamGalston, the onetime leading light of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, has argued, lowering taxes on employers who give their workers a wage increase commensurate with the nation’s annual productivity growth, while raising taxes on employers who don’t, would go some of the way to reconnecting growth to income. The scope of such a reform would increase by requiring employers whom is classify their workers as independent contractors or “temps”—a wage-suppressing dodge that’s long been the norm in such industries as trucking, cab-driving, and warehousing and is now spreading to manufacturing as well—to cease such mislabeling and acknowledge that the workers are in fact their employees. The conventional viewpoint within the economics and business establishments is that workers’ declining incomes are the inevitable result of globalization and the automation of work. This viewpoint neglects to consider how the structure of corporate decision-making affects workers’ experience in the face of these trends. In Germany, laws that require corporations to split their boards between management and worker representatives have led to the preservation of the highest-skilled and-value-added jobs at home—a key reason that country has become an export giant and boasts a far more secure and prosperous working class than ours. A law greatly reducing taxes on corporations that adopt this worker-management balance on their boards, and increasing them on corporations that don’t, could have a profound effect on the way corporations look at such matters as offshoring and the proper division between profits and wages.These proposals would surely encounter massive opposition, but they have the virtue of appealing to Americans’ sense of equity and collegiality, as well as their skepticism about corporate managers, without raising the specter of big government.Democrats must also pursue policies with a more conventional pedigree: investing in public works both because we need to and because it’s impossible to foresee how we get close to full employment or environmental remediation without doing so; steeply raising the tax rates on the top income levels; raising taxes on capital gains and dividends (and perhaps devoting those revenues to a greatly increased Earned Income Tax Credit); regulating finance to the point that it can no longer dominate the economy; and diminishing the responsibility of students and their families for covering the costs of public higher education. But the emphasis on increasing worker power and pay should be central to the Democrats’ concerns, both politically and economically. If the American economy is indeed descending into what economist Larry Summers terms a state of secular stagnation, the low pay of American workers, which has depressed their purchasing power and reduced the profits of all but the highest-end retailers, is largely to blame. Like the other Democratic elected officials of her generation, Hillary Clinton came of age and (more than the others) thrived in an economic and political system in which Kennedy’s rising tide did lift all boats,cohabiting with both Wall Street and working people’s organizations was routine, and the pressure to take a side in a slowly emerging class war could barely be felt. Today, however, that pressure is palpable—and increasingly uncomfortable to a host of Democratic pols, Clinton most especially.  How this conflict affects the 2016 presidential race, the more-likely-than-not Hillary Clinton presidency, and the larger future of the Democratic Party remains to be seen. Despite its demographic advantages, the party cannot indefinitely retain its electoral edge if it fails to address the falling power and income of ordinary Americans—even if such policies cost the party the backing of financial elites at a time when elections are more driven by money than ever before. It’s time for Democrats to disenthrall themselves from their routine conciliation of interests that have become profoundly opposed. It’s time for them to welcome more hatred from the successors to Roosevelt’s forces of selfishness. Harder choices than those Clinton chronicles in her new book await them.

Emphasis Mine


Paul Krugman on the Real Reason Behind the Deficit Panic and the Terrible Damage It Has Wrought

Source: AlterNet

Author: Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman attacks the recent, years-long panic over the national debt and deficits in today’s column reminding readers that this once relentless topic in the news has pretty much disappeared from view. And for good reason, Krugman says, “The whole thing turns out to have been a false alarm.”

There was a time not so long ago when it was all you could read or hear about. The media and politicians of both stripes kept sounding the alarm over budget deficits and rising debts. Very serious people said the U.S. would soon turn into Greece unless something was done. Obama tried to strike a “Grand Bargain” with Congress for a balanced budget. But, of course, this Congress does not bargain—refuses to raise taxes—and no deal was struck.

Writes Krugman:

I’m not sure whether most readers realize just how thoroughly the great fiscal panic has fizzled — and the deficit scolds are, of course, still scolding. They’re even trying to spin the latest long-term projections from the Congressional Budget Office — which are distinctly non-alarming — as somehow a confirmation of their earlier scare tactics. So this seems like a good time to offer an update on the debt disaster that wasn’t.

About those projections: The budget office predicts that this year’s federal deficit will be just 2.8 percent of G.D.P., down from 9.8 percent in 2009. It’s true that the fact that we’re still running a deficit means federal debt in dollar terms continues to grow — but the economy is growing too, so the budget office expects the crucial ratio of debt to G.D.P. to remain more or less flat for the next decade.

Krugman goes on to responsibly inform readers that things will get more complicated after about a decade as an aging population makes increasing demands on Medicare and Social Security. But, on the plus side, healthcare costs have dramatically slowed down, which none of the doomsday prognosticators saw coming. Krugman writes:

As a result, despite aging, debt in 2039 — a quarter-century from now! — is projected to be no higher, as a percentage of G.D.P., than the debt America had at the end of World War II, or that Britain had for much of the 20th century. Oh, and the budget office now expects interest rates to remain fairly low, not much higher than the economy’s rate of growth. This in turn weakens, indeed almost eliminates, the risk of a debt spiral, in which the cost of servicing debt drives debt even higher.

OK, but still, Krugman allows, rising debt is not good. He also points out that it would take “surprisingly little” to avoid it.

The budget office estimates that stabilizing the ratio of debt to G.D.P. at its current level would require spending cuts and/or tax hikes of 1.2 percent of G.D.P. if we started now, or 1.5 percent of G.D.P. if we waited until 2020. Politically, that would be hard given total Republican opposition to anything a Democratic president might propose, but in economic terms it would be no big deal, and wouldn’t require any fundamental change in our major social programs.

In short, the debt apocalypse has been called off.

So, having cleared up the economics, Krugman turns to the real reasons behind the fiscal panic. It is, as you might have imagined, politically and ideologically motivated. So much so that conservative thinkers like Alan Greenspan have expressed disappointment that the Greece-style crisis never arrived. Even in Europe, the crisis was dealt with rather quickly, in fact, “once the European Central Bank began doing its job, making it clear it would do ‘whatever it takes’ to avoid cash crises in nations that have given up their own currencies and adopted the euro,” Krugman illuminates. “Did you know that Italy, which remains deep in debt and suffers much more from the burden of an aging population than we do, can now borrow long term at an interest rate of only 2.78 percent? Did you know that France, which is the subject of constant negative reporting, pays only 1.57 percent?”
No, that story is not told here. Nor is the simple fact that we do not have a debt crisis. Why is that? Krugman suspects that it has served a political purpose, namely  it suited those powerful conservative interests that want to dismantle Social Security and Medicare. That desire in itself is cruel and irresponsible enough, but these deficit hawks also did a lot of collateral damage along the way, distracting all of us from real problems like unemployment and decaying infractructure and climate change for far too many years.
And who is going to pay for that?

Emphasis Mine


The Rise of the Non-Working Rich

Source: RSN

Author Robert Reich

In a new Pew poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.”

In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.

The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing.

In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.

The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge amounts on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, or as high-tech entrepreneurs.

It’s going to their children, who did nothing except be born into the right family.

The “self-made” man or woman, the symbol of American meritocracy, is disappearing. Six of today’s ten wealthiest Americans are heirs to prominent fortunes. Just six Walmart heirs have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined (up from 30 percent in 2007).

The U.S. Trust bank just released a poll of Americans with more than $3 million of investable assets.

Nearly three-quarters of those over age 69, and 61 per cent of boomers (between the ages of 50 and 68), were the first in their generation to accumulate significant wealth.

But the bank found inherited wealth far more common among rich millennials under age 35.

This is the dynastic form of wealth French economist Thomas Piketty warns about. It’s been the major source of wealth in Europe for centuries. It’s about to become the major source in America – unless, that is, we do something about it.

As income from work has become more concentrated in America, the super rich have invested in businesses, real estate, art, and other assets. The income from these assets is now concentrating even faster than income from work.

In 1979, the richest 1 percent of households accounted for 17 percent of business income. By 2007 they were getting 43 percent. They were also taking in 75 percent of capital gains. Today, with the stock market significantly higher than where it was before the crash, the top is raking even more from their investments.

Both political parties have encouraged this great wealth transfer, as beneficiaries provide a growing share of campaign contributions.

But Republicans have been even more ardent than Democrats.

For example, family trusts used to be limited to about 90 years. Legal changes implemented under Ronald Reagan extended them in perpetuity. So-called “dynasty trusts” now allow super-rich families to pass on to their heirs money and property largely free from taxes, and to do so for generations.

George W. Bush’s biggest tax breaks helped high earners but they provided even more help to people living off accumulated wealth. While the top tax rate on income from work dropped from 39.6% to 35 percent, the top rate on dividends went from 39.6% (taxed as ordinary income) to 15 percent, and the estate tax was completely eliminated. (Conservatives called it the “death tax” even though it only applied to the richest two-tenths of one percent.)

Barack Obama rolled back some of these cuts, but many remain.

Before George W. Bush, the estate tax kicked in at $2 million of assets per couple, and then applied a 55 percent rate. Now it kicks in at $10 million per couple, with a 40 percent rate.

House Republicans want to go even further than Bush did.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s “road map,” which continues to be the bible of Republican economic policy, eliminates all taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains, and estates.

Yet the specter of an entire generation who do nothing for their money other than speed-dial their wealth management advisors isn’t particularly attractive.

It’s also dangerous to our democracy, as dynastic wealth inevitably accumulates political influence.

What to do?  First,restore the estate tax in full.

Second, eliminate the “stepped-up-basis on death” rule. This obscure tax provision allows heirs to avoid paying capital gains taxes on the increased value of assets accumulated during the life of the deceased. Such untaxed gains account for more than half of the value of estates worth more than $100 million, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Third, institute a wealth tax. We already have an annual wealth tax on homes, the major asset of the middle class. It’s called the property tax. Why not a small annual tax on the value of stocks and bonds, the major assets of the wealthy?

We don’t have to sit by and watch our meritocracy be replaced by a permanent aristocracy, and our democracy be undermined by dynastic wealth. We can and must take action — before it’s too late.


Emphasis Mine


GOP Self-Destruction Complete: Millennials Officially Hate Conservatives

Their Person...

Their Person…

Source: AlterNet

Author: Ana Marie Cox

Conservatives are stuck in a perpetual outrage loop. The reappearance of Todd Akin, the horror-movie villain immortality of Sarah Palin, theunseemly celebration of the Hobby Lobby decision – these all speak to a chorus of “la-la-la-can’t-hear-you” loud enough to drown out the voice of an entire generation. Late last week, the Reason Foundation released the results of a poll about that generation, the millennials; its signature finding was the confirmation of a mass abandonment of social conservatism and the GOP. This comes at a time when the conservative movement is increasingly synonymous with mean-spiritedprank-like and combativeactivism and self-important grand gestures. The millennial generation has repeatedly defined itself as the most socially tolerant of the modern era, but one thing it really can’t stand is drama.

Republicans were already destined for piecemeal decimation due to the declining numbers of their core constituency. But they don’t just have a demographic problem anymore; they have stylistic one. The conservative strategy of outrage upon outrage upon outrage bumps up against the policy preferences and the attitudes of millennials in perfect discord.

We all can recognize the right’s tendency to respond to backlash with more “lash” (Akin didn’t disappear, he doubled down on “legitimate rape”), but it seems to have gained speed with the age of social media and candidate tracking. The Tea Party’s resistance to the leavening effect of establishment mores and political professionals has been a particularly effective accelerant. Palin’s ability to put anything on the internet without any intermediary has rendered her as reckless as any tween with a SnapChat account. Akin’s whiny denouncement of Washington insiders is likely to make him more credible with a certain kind of base voter. The midterms are, as we speak, producing another round of Fox News celebrities, whether or not they win their races: the Eric Cantor-vanquishing David Brat, Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel and the hog-castrating mini-Palin, Jodi Ernst of Iowa.

The fire-with-fire attitude of hardline conservatives has its roots in the petulant cultural defensiveness adopted by the GOP – especially the Christian right – during the culture wars of the 90s. Their siege mentality bred an attitude toward liberals that saw every instance of social liberalization as proof of their own apocalyptic predictions and conspiracy theories. Gay marriage will lead to acceptance of beastiality and pedophilia. “Socialized medicine” will lead to the euthanizing Grandma. Access to birth control will lead to orgies in the streets.

Then came Obama’s election, the Zapruder tape for the right’s tin-foil hat haberdashers – a moment in history that both explained and exacerbated America’s supposed decline. Dinesh D’Souza, the Oliver Stone of the Tea Party, has now made two movies about the meaning of Obama’s presidency. The first, 2016: Obama’s America, garnered an astounding $33m at the box office, and his lawyers blamed disappointing returns from this summer’s America on a Google conspiracy to confuse moviegoers about its showtimes. (Of course.)

The GOP has long staked a claim on The Disappearing Angry White Man, but they have apparently ever-narrowing odds of getting a bite at millennials, who appear to be more like The Somewhat Concerned Multicultural Moderate. This generation is racially diversepro-potpro-marriage equality and pro-online gambling. They are troubled by the deficit but believe in the social safety net: 74% of millennials, according to Reason, want the government to guarantee food and housing to all Americans. A Pew survey found that 59% of Americans under 30 say the government should do more to solve problems, while majorities in all other age groups thought it should do less.

The Rupe-Reason poll teases out some of the thinking behind the surge of young people abandoning the GOP, and finds a generation that is less apt to take to the streets, Occupy-style, than to throw a great block party: lots of drugs, poker and gays! Millennials don’t want to change things, apparently – they want everyone to get along. The report observes “[m]any specifically identified LGBTQ rights as their primary reason for being liberal”; and “[o]ften, they decided they were liberals because they really didn’t like conservatives.”

But liberals can’t be complacent about their demographic advantage. Their challenge is to resist the impulse to copycat the hysteria that has worked so well for the right historically. “No drama Obama” was the millennials’ spirit animal – his popularity has sunk with the economy, but also with the administration’s escalating rhetoric. Today, under-30 voters show a distinct preference for Hillary Clinton (39% according to Reason,53% according to the Wall Street Journal), and no wonder: she’s as bloodless as Bill was lusty, as analytical as Bill was emotional. The professorial Elizabeth Warren is the logical (very logical) backup.

Right now, Democrats benefit from both the form and content of conservative message: this next generation is not just inclusive, but conflict-adverse. Millennials cringe at the old-man-yelling-at-gay-clouds spectacle of the Tea Party. Perhaps this comes from living in such close proximity of their parents for so long. If this generation does have a political philosophy, it’s this: “First, do no harm.” If it has a guiding moral principle, it’s simpler: “Don’t be embarrassing.”

Ana Marie Cox is political columnist for the Guardian US. 

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-self-destruction-complete-millennials-officially-hate-conservatives?akid=12015.123424.z4TDon&rd=1&src=newsletter1011265&t=5

Turns Out, Republicans Love Obamacare!?!

WeLoveObamacare2Source: Think Progress

Author: Igor Volsky

Conservative groups have invested millions of dollars in opposing the Affordable Care Act, but they appear to have had little success in turning Americans against the law. In fact, according to a new poll from the Commonwealth Fund, individuals and families who enroll in Obamacare — including the overwhelming majority of Republicans — are satisfied with the product:

Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before — including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year — were happy with their new coverage.

The study also found that the percentage of uninsured has dropped, from 20 percent to 15 percent, after the first open enrollment period, with 9.5 million fewer people now uninsured. Latinos, the most likely of any racial group to lack health insurance, are seeing the biggest gains in coverage. “The percent uninsured fell from 36 percent in July–September 2013 to 23 percent in April–June 2014,” Commonwealth reports.

Moreover, states that expanded their Medicaid programs experienced the biggest drop in uninsurance rates for low-income citizens. In the 25 states and the District of Columbia that implemented coverage expansion for poorer residents, the average uninsured rate for people living below the poverty level fell to 17 percent from 28 percent. The 26 states that have rejected Medicaid expansion continue to see the uninsured rate among low income individuals hover at 36 percent.

The number of uninsured young adults dropped the most, the survey found, from 28 percent to 18 percent.

Commonwealth Fund conducted the survey from a July-to-September 2013 period, before Americans began enrolling in the Affordable Care Act, and then again from April-to-June 2014, following the end of open enrollment.


Significantly, the survey also found that more than half of adults — 58 percent — “with new insurance said they were better off now than they were before.”

Emphasis Mine


GOP’s culture war disaster: How this week highlighted a massive blind spot

Source: Salon.com

Author: Joan Walsh

Progressives often comfort themselves that while they’re losing a lot of economic battles, at least they’re winning the so-called culture wars. New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a staunch proponent of both gay marriage and tax cuts for the wealthy, symbolizes that political paradox for the left. But lately it’s impossible not to notice that even our culture war victories are uneven. They mostly involve gay rights, particularly marriage equality, and rarely women’s rights.

In the same few years that one state after another has legalized gay marriage, with occasional help from the Supreme Court, dozens of states have restricted abortion, and contraception has become controversial and divisive in a way it hasn’t since the Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut ruling almost 50 years ago. On the heels of the court’s awful Hobby Lobby decision Monday came welcome word that a judge had struck down Kentucky’s gay marriage ban. There have been plenty of bittersweet days like that over the last year.

I don’t mean to pit women against the LGBT community, or suggest one side is “winning” at the expense of the other. Women make up at least half of LGBT folks, so their advances are advances for women’s rights, and many barriers to their freedom and full equality remain. But why, when women’s concerns stand alone, are their rights so often abridged?

I’ve come to believe that the difference exists because, except for far right religious extremists and outright homophobes, marriage equality is, at heart, a conservative demand – letting gays and lesbians settle down and start families and have mortgages just like the rest of us will contribute to the stability of families and society. In his 1989 essay “Here comes the groom: The (conservative) case for gay marriage,” Andrew Sullivan argued that marriage would “foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence,” particularly among gay men too often viewed through the lens of partying and promiscuity.

Twenty years later Ted Olson updated those ideas in his wildly influential “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage,” as he took up the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 with David Boies, arguing “same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize.”  Not all conservatives celebrate marriage equality, not yet, but many have come to agree with Sullivan and Olson.

That just points up the fact that advancing female autonomy and freedom, by contrast, is still perceived as threatening and undermining to family and society, particularly when it involves (as it always essentially does) issues of sexual freedom. The Hobby Lobby decision, and the conservative reaction to it, made this dynamic particularly and depressingly clear. Some pundits hailed its implications for religious liberty, but a whole lot of them welcomed it as a rebuke to slutty females having sex on their dime.

Sexually insecure sad sack Erick Erickson tweeted, “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer subsidized consequence free sex.” Utah Sen. Mike Lee hailed the decision for giving employers the freedom not to subsidize something that is “largely for recreational behavior,” not procreation. Bill O’Reilly tool Jesse Watters called it a setback for “Beyonce voters” (Way to get race in there too, Jesse!) who “depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands.” (Somebody should tell Watters that Mrs. Carter appears to depend on her husband quite comfortably, thank you very much).

Even the court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn betrayed a blinkered view of women as an underclass of workers who lack basic rights – especially when they work in the home. We’re moving fast on marriage equality, but when it comes to questions of work, family, sexuality and women’s equality, we are still fighting the culture wars of the 1960s. And women are still losing ground. Yes, Republicans are also losing political ground, as women recognize the party’s retrograde views and flee. But it’s not clear that women can be mobilized fast enough to protect their own rights.

* * *

In her withering dissent from the Hobby Lobby ruling, Ginsberg quotes the court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, which affirmed the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Ronald Reagan appointee, wrote for the majority. More than two decades later, both of those abilities – to “participate equally” and “control their reproductive lives” — are still widely contested for women.

Justice Samuel Alito worked so assiduously to narrow the implications of the court’s Hobby Lobby ruling that he made its disrespect for women’s health, privacy and autonomy even more obvious and outrageous. The decision, he wrote, “concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.”

Oh, thank god: Men won’t lose any of their access to healthcare coverage under the ruling. (In fact, Hobby Lobby’s insurance covers Viagra and vasectomies.)

The ruling won’t let corporations practice racial discrimination, either, even if their religion somehow justified it, Alito assured us. “The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.” Apparently Alito doesn’t think the HHS contraception mandate is tailored to achieve a “compelling interest” or a “critical goal.”  Though he notes that “HHS asserts that the contraceptive mandate serves a variety of important interests,” Alito is unconvinced. “[M]any of these are couched in very broad terms, such as promoting ‘public health’ and ‘gender equality.’ ”

“Gender equality” … pshaw! One wonders if Alito also put “public health” in quotes because he knows HHS is really only talking about “women’s health.”

How did it happen that the only issue on which religious liberty trumps existing employment law, for the court’s conservative majority, is the issue that pertains to women’s freedom and sexuality? By emphasizing how narrowly tailored the court’s decision is, Alito only underscored its sexist radicalism. But that’s fitting. From the beginning, the entire controversy over the ACA’s contraceptive mandate served to highlight the backlash against women’s freedom we’ve endured in the last few decades.

Discomfort with women’s sexuality and autonomy was made plain in the earliest debate over the ACA’s contraception coverage. From Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” for supporting the mandate, to Mike Huckabee lamenting that Democrats were using it to appeal to women who “can’t control their libidos,” the outrage and abuse exposed the deep fear of women’s freedom at the heart of the modern conservative movement. We saw it throughout the 2012 Republican primary campaign, when candidates competed over who could more alarmingly blame our economic troubles on the “breakdown” of the family, and particularly, the rising numbers and power of single women – who by the way, tend to vote Democratic.

“When the family breaks down, the economy breaks down,” Rick Santorum told us, as he promised to be a president who’d talk about “the dangers of contraception,” which provides “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Apparently “how things are supposed to be” involves a husband, a wife and nothing but sweet, sweet procreative love. Long before Hobby Lobby voiced its religious objections to the contraception mandate, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele opposed it for marginalizing men.

“You have effectively absolved the male of any responsibility in the relationship with this woman,” he complained on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” “It’s not just about giving women access to contraception. It’s about the responsible behavior that goes with that access.” He went on: “It’s nice for Barack Obama to tell women, ‘I got your back. Here, have a pill … But I’m saying it’s also this other piece that doesn’t get talked about in terms of the responsibility of fathers, or potential fathers, in this relationship.”

To conservatives, the contraceptive mandate wasn’t the ACA’s only controversial women’s health benefit; they also found fault with its requiring that all insurance policies offer maternity coverage. The party that allegedly stands for motherhood and all that is holy was outraged that maternity care became a basic right for the insured, and that women no longer pay higher premiums than men. North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers ridiculed former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for making maternity coverage universal, asking at a congressional hearing, “Has a man ever delivered a baby?” Ellmers was effectively supporting the transfer of millions of dollars of wealth back from women to men, by pushing to liberate men from having to subsidize baby making or women’s health in any way.

But it’s not that conservatives think women shouldn’t get any help at all with the financial burden of child-bearing, or of maintaining all those extra-special body parts that keep the entire human species alive. They deserve help – from their husbands. Bill O’Reilly’s dudebro assistant Jesse Watters probably put it best after the Hobby Lobby decision, when he trashed “Beyonce voters” — all the single ladies! — who “depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands.” See, it’s your husband, not Barack Obama, who should be saying (in Michael Steele’s words), “I got your back. Here, have a pill.” And if you don’t have a husband? Well, don’t have sex, and you won’t need that pill.

Oh, and if your husband is Rick Santorum? You might not get that pill anyway.

* * *

These backward attitudes don’t reflect majority opinion. On abortion, on the contraception mandate, on women’s rights generally, Americans remain broadly supportive of measures to allow women to “participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation,” to use Sandra Day O’Connor’s words from Casey.

But the far right learned to use the fear unleashed by the necessary and long overdue changes that began in the 1960s and ’70s to power a political backlash that we’re still fighting today. The liberation of women seemed to coincide with the unraveling of family life — an increase in divorce rates and single parenthood; even married moms left their children for the workplace. Instead of trying to understand the social and economic forces behind those changes, the project of the so-called “New Right” was to turn back the clock and push those women back into the home. In the reddest precincts of America, the same fear and dread animates conservative voters to this day.

Interestingly, if we can’t pinpoint the exact moment when progress for women stopped accelerating, we can identify a major one: when Richard Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act in 1972. Until that point, Nixon had gone along with the expansion of government that had its roots in the Progressive movement and the New Deal. He signed bills establishing the Environmental Protection and Occupational Safety and Health agencies. He pioneered federal affirmative action. He pushed healthcare reform that looked a lot like Obamacare.  Two out of three Supreme Court justices he appointed supported the majority in Roe v. Wade.

But Nixon drew the line at a bill that would massively subsidize childcare, even though it passed the Senate 63-17. “For the Federal Government to plunge headlong financially into supporting child development would commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over against [sic] the family-centered approach,” he wrote in a veto message.

If you want to understand the expansion of the low-wage economy, the stagnation of family income and the erosion of the middle class since then, it’s all there in the attitudes that led to Nixon’s veto (the message was crafted by Pat Buchanan, by the way). Whether by choice or necessity, women were moving into the labor force, and the country faced a decision: to make it easier for them and their families, or to make it harder. Mostly, we chose harder.

Unlike other developed nations, we never developed any kind of widely available subsidized childcare or preschool. We have no federal paid family leave. Most of the work that women used to do in their own home – from childcare to caring for sick or elderly family members – is now done by other women, many of color, who dwell in a low-wage, rarely unionized, shadow economy. Until recently, many workplace protections didn’t apply to them, because they were working in the home, not a factory. It’s as though society said: If women won’t do those jobs for free in their own homes any longer, we sure as hell won’t pay the women who replace them a living wage, or respect them as workers doing work that we value.

Or at least that’s what SCOTUS just said in Harris v. Quinn. Plaintiff Pam Harris was just a “mom” fighting to stop “the threat of unionization in a family home,” who sued the state of Illinois to avoid having to pay union dues out of funds she gets from Medicaid to care for her disabled son. Listen closely to the rhetoric of Harris and her supporters, and you could hear echoes of Nixon railing against “communal approaches” vs. “the family centered approach.” Harris is a vestige of a time when caring for everybody — young, old, disabled — was done by women, unpaid, in the home, and she’s a hero to people who think things should still be that way.

Of course, Harris is the ultimate free rider, not just on the labor movement but on the women’s movement, since she’s taking Medicaid dollars and being paid, for “women’s work,” as her son’s attendant. The Fox reporter who interviewed Harris about her Supreme Court victory Monday closed his segment by declaring that now, thank god, nobody could say “this home on the Illinois/Wisconsin border is somehow a union shop.”

That’s just the kind of phony issue the right used in the ’70s – fear of a world grown cold, a house that’s no longer a home, where moms demand money to do work they once did out of love – if they bother doing any of that work at all.

* * *

The contrast between the status of gay rights and women’s rights was made particularly stark in this Huffington Post piece, “In Wreckage of Supreme Court Decision, Gay Rights Groups See Hope.” The limited way Alito crafted the Hobby Lobby decision, LGBT leaders believe, meant it couldn’t be used to duck anti-discrimination laws or an executive order implementing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) they are pressing President Obama to issue soon. (Although on the heels of the Hobby Lobby ruling, evangelical megachurchman Rick Warren is asking the president to carve out a broad religious exemption from ENDA.)

That the Hobby Lobby ruling doesn’t hobble anti-discrimination law is good news for progressives. We all want to see the realm of freedom expanded. But I wish Ted Olson’s next essay would be “The Conservative Case for Women’s Equality.” Thirty years ago, it wouldn’t have been hard to imagine. Not long ago, issues of women’s freedom had bipartisan support. George H.W. Bush sponsored Title X family planning legislation that was signed by Richard Nixon, and Planned Parenthood was once the cause of Republican women from Barbara Bush to Peggy Goldwater to Ann Romney. But now women are scapegoats, the menacing agents of change who’ve unraveled society. In the neo-feudal worldview of the modern right, they must provide the free labor in the home as well as the force that “civilizes” men and shackles them to marriage and wage labor.

No less an eminence than Rafael Cruz Sr. put it this way recently:

As God commands us men to teach your wife, to teach your children—to be the spiritual leader of your family—you’re acting as a priest. Now, unfortunately, unfortunately, in too many Christian homes, the role of the priest is assumed by the wife. Why? Because the man had abdicated his responsibility as priest to his family…So the wife has taken up that banner, but that’s not her responsibility. And if I’m stepping on toes, just say, ‘Ouch.’

Ouch indeed. Cruz Sr. is twice-divorced, by the way, so that old “priest to the family” thing is not working out too well for him. No one has bothered to ask Sen. Ted Cruz what he thinks about his father (and mentor’s) backward views of women.

But such patriarchal ravings aren’t limited to the pulpit. Just last month the Washington Post published an Op-Ed originally headlined: “One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married,” by University of Virginia sociology professor Brad Wilcox. Replying to the Twitter activism around violence against women in the wake of Elliot Rodger’s misogynistic killing spree, Wilcox and his team opined: “The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies.” The Post changed the display copy to the not much better “One way to end violence against women? Married dads. The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer with fewer boyfriends around their kids.”

Not only must women turn to their husbands for contraception (if he deigns to believe in it); they need husbands to avoid being raped, beaten or murdered. A woman can’t expect the state to keep her safe, Wilcox is telling us, or men to treat her with respect, if she doesn’t have the sense to get and keep a husband. Thanks, Brad.

Of course #notallmen, and certainly #notallwomen, believe that. The GOP backlash against women has now created exactly what they feared. No, I’m not saying we’re all going to stop loving men, getting married and having babies. Most women continue to do those things, even as our rights are eroded. We’re patient that way. But the right’s increasingly unhinged fear of women has in fact created a big problem for Republicans — those “Beyonce voters” who increasingly vote Democratic.  Not because they want “gifts” from the government, as Mitt Romney crudely put it after he lost the presidency. But because they want respect, and to “participate fully” in society, as Sandra Day O’Connor saw – and today only one party wants to make that possible.

The GOP’s last reliable female voting bloc is older, married, white Christian women, and their time is passing. It will pass more slowly if other women fail to vote in 2014, but the right’s crippling panic over women’s autonomy will eventually doom it to irrelevance. In the meantime, though, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority will do its best to stem the tide.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is Salon’s editor at large and the author of “What’s the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.salon.com/2014/07/03/gops_culture_war_disaster_how_this_week_highlighted_a_massive_blind_spot/

Independence Day Special: Thirteen Facts About America Conservatives Would Like You to Forget

Source: Daily Kos

Author Richard Riis

1. Conservatives opposed the Founding Fathers, the American Revolution and a lot of other righteous stuff as well.

By definition a conservative is one who wishes to preserve and/or restore traditional values and institutions, i.e. to “conserve” the established order. No surprise then that 18th century American conservatives wanted no part of breaking away from the British Empire and the comforting bonds of monarchical government. Those anti-revolutionary conservatives were called Tories, the name still used for the conservative party in England. The Founding Fathers? As radically left-wing as they came in the 1770s. The Boston Tea Party? The “Occupy Wall Street” of its day.

Some of the other “traditional” values supported by conservatives over the course of American history have included slavery (remember that the Republican Party was on the liberal fringe in 1860), religious persecution, the subjugation of women and minorities, obstacles to immigration, voter suppression, prohibition and segregation.  Conservatives started off on the wrong side of American history, and that’s where they’ve been ever since.

2. The United States is not a Christian nation, and the Bible is not the cornerstone of our law.

Don’t take my word for it. Let these Founding Fathers speak for themselves:

John Adams: “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797)

Thomas Jefferson:Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.” (Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814)

James Madison: “The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.” (Writings, 8:432, 1819)

George Washington: “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” (Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789)

You can find a multitude of similar quotes from these men and most others who signed the Declaration of Independence and/or formulated the United States Constitution. These are hardly the words of men who believed that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible, as a disturbing fundamentalist trend today would have it be.

3. Long before the United States even existed, it was drawing “problem” immigrants.

After being pretty much run out of England as anti-government radicals, the religious dissidents we know today as the Pilgrims settled in Leiden, Holland, where they set about making themselves that nation’s immigrant problem. Sticking to themselves and refusing to “blend in” with their new homeland, the Pilgrims grew alarmed by the unpalatable ideas to which their children were being exposed, such as religious tolerance (good for the Pilgrims, bad for everyone else) and national service (like all Dutch residents, the Pilgrims were eligible for the draft). When their children began picking up the Dutch language, the Pilgrims had had enough. By then the Dutch had, too. Next stop: Plymouth Rock.

4. Those Pilgrims were commies… and it saved their lives.

Governor William Bradford’s memoirs confirm that the first thing the settlers did upon arrival in the Plymouth Colony was to set up a textbook communist system of production and distribution. Every resident of the colony was expected to share, to the extent of his or her ability, the chores of hunting, farming, cooking, building, making clothing, etc., and, in exchange, everyone shared the products of that communal labor.

That commie-pinko economy sustained the Pilgrims through their first brutal year in the New World, after which it was decided that the colony was sufficiently stable to allow householders their own plot of land on which to grow crops they were free to keep for themselves. The fact that the colonists’ productivity increased exponentially with their own land begs the question: were the Pilgrims working harder now that they got to keep the product of their own labor or, conversely, were they prone to slacking off when the goods came whether they worked hard or not?

I guess you could say the Pilgrims were the kind of lazy, shiftless “takers” that conservatives are always railing against.

5. One of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, hated Thanksgiving.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson once called a national day of Thanksgiving “the most ridiculous idea” he’d ever heard of.

Despite being first proclaimed by George Washington in 1789, Jefferson believed a national day of thanksgiving was not consistent with the principle of separation of church and state and refused to recognize the holiday in any of the eight years in which he was president of the United States. “Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason,” Jefferson once wrote, “and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

For the record, Presidents Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor refused to issue Thanksgiving Day proclamations during their administrations, too. Can you imagine what Fox News Channel would have made of these administrations’ “War on Thanksgiving”?

6. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist.

The Pledge was written in 1892 for public school celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Its author was Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, Christian socialist and cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy. Christian socialism maintains, among other ideas, that capitalism is idolatrous and rooted in greed, and the underlying cause of much of the world’s social inequity. Kinda puts the red in the ol’ red, white and blue, doesn’t it?

7. Roe v. Wade was a bipartisan decision made by a predominantly Republican-appointed Supreme Court.

Technically, Roe v. Wade did not make abortion legal in the United States, the Supreme Court merely found that the state of Texas’ prohibition on abortion violated the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause and that states could exercise varying degrees of discretion in regulating abortion, depending upon the stage of pregnancy. The Court also held the law violated the right to privacy under substantive due process.
That being said, the landmark 1973 ruling that conservatives love to hate, was decided on a 7-2 vote that broke down like this:

Majority (for Roe): Chief Justice Warren Burger (conservative, appointed by Nixon), William O. Douglas (liberal, appointed by FDR), William J. Brennan (liberal, appointed by Eisenhower), Potter Stewart (moderate, appointed by Eisenhower), Thurgood Marshall (liberal, appointed by LBJ), Harry Blackmun (author of the majority opinion and a conservative who eventually turned liberal, appointed by Nixon), Lewis Powell (moderate, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 3 liberals, 2 conservatives, 2 moderates.

Dissenting (for Wade): Byron White (generally liberal/sometimes conservative, appointed by JFK), William Rehnquist (conservative, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 1 liberal, 1 conservative.

By ideological orientation, it was an across-the-board decision for Roe: conservatives 2-1, liberals 3-1, moderates 2-0; by party of presidential appointment: Republicans 5-1, Democrats 2-1. No one can rightly say that this was a leftist court forcing its liberal beliefs on America.

8. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan once signed a bill legalizing abortion.

The Ronald Reagan conservatives worship today is more myth than reality. Reagan was a conservative for sure, but also a practical politician who understood the necessities of compromise. In the spring of 1967, four months into his first term as governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that, among other provisions, legalized abortion for the vaguely-defined “well being” of the mother. Reagan may have been personally pro-life, but in this instance he was willing to compromise in order to achieve other ends he considered more important. That he claimed later to regret signing the bill doesn’t change the fact that he did. As Casey Stengel liked to say, “You could look it up.”

9. Reagan also raised federal taxes eleven times.

Okay, Ronald Reagan cut tax rates more than any other president – with a big asterisk. Sure, the top rate was reduced from 70% in 1980 all the way down to 28% in 1988, but while Republicans typically point to Reagan’s tax-cutting as the right approach to improving the economy, Reagan himself realized the resulting national debt from his revenue slashing was untenable, so he quietly raised other taxes on income – primarily Social Security and payroll taxes - no less than eleven times. Most of Reagan’s highly publicized tax cuts went to the usual handout-takers in the top income brackets, while his stealth tax increases had their biggest impact on the middle class. These increases were well hidden inside such innocuous-sounding packages as the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987. Leave it to a seasoned actor to pull off such a masterful charade.

10. Barry Goldwater was pro-choice, supported gay rights, deeply despised the Religious Right, and – gasp! – liked Hillary Clinton.

It’s a measure of just how much farther right contemporary conservatism has shifted in just a generation or two that Barry “Mr. Conservative” Goldwater, the Republican standard-bearer in 1964, couldn’t buy a ticket into a GOP convention in 2014.

There’s no debating Goldwater’s deeply conservative bona fides, but check these pronouncements from the man himself:

“I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state.  The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.” (Interview, Washington Post, July 28, 1994)

A woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.” (Interview, Los Angeles Times, 1994)

“The big thing is to make this country… quit discriminating against people just because they’re gay. You don’t have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay. … They’re American citizens.” (Interview, Washington Post, July 28, 1994)

“Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know; I’ve tried to deal with them. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’” (Congressional Record, September 16, 1981)

“If [Bill Clinton] let his wife run business, I think he’d be better off. … I just like the way she acts. I’ve never met her, but I sent her a bag of chili, and she invited me to come to the White House some night and said she’d cook chili for me.” (Interview, Washington Post, July 28, 1994)

11. The first president to propose national health insurance was a Republican.

He was also a trust-busting, pro-labor, Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist. Is there any wonder why Theodore Roosevelt, who first proposed a system of national health insurance during his unsuccessful Progressive Party campaign to retake the White House from William Howard Taft in 1912, gets scarce mention at Republican National Conventions these days?

12. Those “job-killing” environmental regulations? Republican things.

Sometimes being conservative can be a good thing, like when it applies to conserving America’s clean air and water, endangered wildlife and awesome natural beauty. Many of Theodore Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishments as president were in the area of conserving America’s natural environment. In 1905, Roosevelt formed the United States Forestry Service. Under his presidential authority, vast expanses of American real estate were declared off limits for private development and reserved for public use. During Roosevelt’s time as president, forest reserves in the United States went from approximately 43 million acres to about 194 million acres. Talk about big government land grabs!

The United States Environmental Protection Agency, arch-enemy of polluters in particular and government regulation haters in general, was created by that other well-known GOP tree hugger, Richard Nixon. In his 1970 State of the Union Address, Nixon proclaimed the new decade a period of environmental transformation. Shortly thereafter he presented Congress an unprecedented 37-point message on the environment, requesting billions for the improvement of water treatment facilities, asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions, and launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution. Nixon also ordered a clean-up of air- and water-polluting federal facilities, sought legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes, proposed a tax on lead additives in gasoline, and approved a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of petroleum spills. In July 1970 Nixon declared his intention to establish the Environmental Protection Agency, and that December the EPA opened for business. Hard to believe, but had it not been for Watergate, we might remember Richard Nixon today as the “environmental president”.

Oh, yes – conservatives would rather forget that Nixon was an advocate of national health insurance, too.

13. President Obama was not only born in the United States, his roots run deeper in American history than most conservatives’ – and most other Americans’ – do.

The argument that Barack Obama was born anywhere but at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, is not worth addressing; the evidence is indisputable by any rational human being. But not even irrational “birthers” can dispute Obama’s well-documented family tree on his mother’s side. By way of his Dunham lineage, President Obama has at least 11 direct ancestors who took up arms and fought for American independence in the Revolutionary War and two others cited as patriots by the Daughters of the American Revolution for furnishing supplies to the colonial army. This star-spangled heritage makes Obama eligible to join the Sons of the American Revolution, and his daughters the Daughters of the American Revolution. Not bad for someone some conservatives on the lunatic fringe still insist is a foreigner bent on destroying the United States of America.


Emphasis Mine



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