A Neoliberal Democrat Concedes Defeat

If you read nothing else today, read the interview of Brad DeLong by Zack Beauchamp at Vox. And then read Greg Sargent’s column on the interview. Brad DeLong has some comments on the interview at his blog.

Brad DeLong says he identifies as a mostly neoliberal guy who prefers market-oriented solutions to problems. But, he acknowledges, that approach doesn’t work politically any more and hasn’t for some time. From Vox:

The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”

Greg Sargent:

Instead, once Republicans took total control for two years, we saw the rewards granted to Democrats for trying to be compromising. The reward for adopting Mitt Romney’s health-care plan in hopes of getting bipartisan support for it was unremitting scorched-earth opposition to Obamacare, including a failed effort to repeal it entirely, which Republicans undertook while pretending they were maintaining people’s protections.

The reward for Obama and Democrats reaching deals to cut spending and treading lightly in response to the worst economic crisis in 70 years, and keeping full-blown economic populism at bay, was President Trump’s massive deficit-exploding corporate tax cut that showered enormous benefits on top earners, which Republicans passed while pretending their plan was pro-worker.

The reward for Obama and Democrats embracing market-oriented “cap and trade” climate policy was that Republicans blocked it with a wall of intransigence and fossil-fuel-industry-funded climate change denialism. Now Republicans are all-in with Trump’s even more explicit climate denialism and a full-scale effort to roll back everything Obama did to combat global warming, including Trump pulling us out of a painstakingly negotiated international deal in a manner that is enraging our allies.

As a result, DeLong concedes that it’s time for the “centrists” to pass the torch to the Left. That’s because the centrist political approach depends on there being reasonable Republicans to make deals with. There are no such people in Washington any more. I’d say there haven’t been enough reasonable Republicans in Washington to accomplish anything for at least twenty years. Arguably thirty. Why has it taken the “centrist” Democrats so bleeping long to figure that out?

Waldman writes that the working political theory was that “striking broad bipartisan deals on policy might be worth doing, even if the result is somewhat less progressive,” because it would result in the policies being more popular and more strongly entrenched.  But, again, how long has it been since that actually worked? Instead, using that theory, Democrats have delivered watered-down crap policies that nobody cares about because they don’t do all that much.

And the Democratic party brand became meaningless, and as the quality of life for middle- and working-class people became more and more precarious, and  Republicans successfully blamed everybody’s problems on liberalism, and right-wing populism grew, and then Mrs. Pragmatic Incremental Do-Nothing Democrat lost to Donald Trump. Brilliant.

It’s time, then — well, it was time twenty or thirty years ago — for the neoliberals to step aside and let the leftists (who occupy where the center used to be, remember) take the lead.

Not everybody gets it. Paul Waldman writes that former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who announced his candidacy for the presidency today, is clueless. “I’m running for president because I believe that not only can I beat Donald Trump but that I am the person that can bring people together on the other side and actually get stuff done,” Hickenlooper said.

Has he been paying no attention at all lo these many years?

See also Martin Longman, “The Sanders and Hickenlooper Fallacies.” The Bernie Sanders fallacy, according to Longman, is “a grass-roots movement so powerful that it would force Republicans in Congress to vote for things they despise such as single-payer health care and free college.” I don’t think Sanders ever suggested Republicans would support those things; he has been about getting head-up-their-asses centrist Democrats to support those things. But let’s go on. Longman writes,

The second fallacy can be called “the John Hickenlooper fallacy,” after the former Denver mayor and Colorado governor who just announced his candidacy for president. In this scenario, you can convince a sufficient number of Republicans to vote for your agenda by having a respectful dialogue with them.

Which of course is absurd. The current Republican party has to die. There is no other way the government is going to work again.

Longman doesn’t think the Dems have a prayer of taking the Senate back in 2020. I hadn’t heard it was that bad. But if it is, that means that the neocons really should have wised up twenty years ago, because the United States can’t survive much more of this.

Trumpism Is Not Going to End Well

Some parts of “mainstream” media have gone so far as to call Trump’s CPAC speech “unhinged.” So it will not surprise you to know that the Right loved it. Indeed, one of the libertarians at the comically named Reason magazine said of the speech, Trump Just Might Have Won the 2020 Election Today. “The president’s speech at CPAC was a bedazzling mix of bravado, B.S., humor, and positive vision no Democrat will be able to top,” the article blurb gushes.

There is simply no potential candidate in the Democratic Party who wouldn’t be absolutely blown off the stage by him. I say this as someone who is neither a Trump fanboy nor a Never Trumper. But he was not simply good, he was Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great, deftly flinging juvenile taunts at everyone who has ever crossed him, tossing red meat to the Republican faithful, and going sotto voce serious to talk about justice being done for working-class Americans screwed over by global corporations.

In a heavily improvised speech that lasted over two hours, the 72-year-old former (future?) reality TV star hit every greatest hit in his repertoire (“Crooked Hillary,” “build the wall,” “America is winning again,” and more all made appearances) while riffing on everything from the Green New Deal to his own advanced age and weird hair to the wisdom of soldiers over generals. At times, it was like listening to Robin Williams’ genie in the Disney movie Aladdin, Howard Stern in his peak years as a radio shock jock, or Don Rickles as an insult comic. When he started making asides, Trump observed, “This is how I got elected, by going off script.” Two years into his presidency and he’s just getting warmed up.

Whether the qualities the writer, Nick Gillespie, describes here are qualities most Americans actually want to see in a president is another question, of course. And from here I could launch into a diatribe on the irony of self-described “libertarians” aligning themselves with the increasingly anti-liberty and authoritarian Party of Trump. But let me just link to some stuff in the archives for that — see “The Black Heart of Libertarianism,” “Libertarianism is BS,” “Libertarianism vs. Liberty,” “Libertarianism vs. Reality,” and “The Libertarian Mytisque.”

The basic thrust of all of these posts is that libertarianism is a strategy for privileged white people to bullshit themselves into believing they are some kind of principled freedom fighters when they are really just protecting their own property and privilege. It shouldn’t surprise us that libertarians would cheer for Trump, because deep down they recognize he expressess their deepest and most cherished value — the hell with anyone else; what’s in it for me?

What I really want to talk about, though, is the shocking immensity of delusion one must be living in to not see that Donald Trump is, um, a really bad president. Not to mention a really bad human being. Seriously, Trump admirers are not living in the same time-space continuum as the rest of us. I’m saying that the behavioral model that comes closest to Trumpism is not a political or ideological movement, but a religious cult.

https://www.theroot.com/donald-trump-white-jesus-1822913114

Now, what often happens when a religious cult breaks apart? Think David Koresh or Jim Jones. People who have been living that deeply in a grotesquely fantastical mass delusion often would rather die than face the reality that the universe that they inhabited and the beliefs that took hold of the center of their lives and the core of their own self-identities were all lies. Violence and mass suicide result. I don’t see Trump himself commiting suicide because he’s too much of a weenie. He’ll probably just flee the country if it comes to that. But if the Trump bubble ever breaks, expect at the very least to see clusters of murder-suicides that, unfortunately, will include children. Replays of Ruby Ridge wouldn’t surprise me, either.

And it could easily be worse. In his testimony this week, Michael Cohen said he was concerned Trump would refuse to vacate the office peacefully if he loses the 2020 election. However he is removed from office, if he resists his culties could take the cue to attempt violent resistence against the nation at large.

So no, this is not going to end well.

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/07/27/trump-supporters-hiding-plain-sight

CPAC, Cows, and the Green New Deal

Last week a woman told me that the Green New Deal would outlaw all but electric cars. This week the nutjobs meeting at CPAC are raving that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to take away their hamburgers.

Sebastian Gorka: “They want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

Here is the text of the Green New Deal bill that was introduced to Congress. It doesn’t say squat about automobiles or hamburgers. Or beef, cows or even livestock. It does say that reducing gas emissions is an essential goal. This is the section that addresses gas emissions and agriculture —

(2) the goals described in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of paragraph (1) (referred to in this resolution as the “Green New Deal goals”) should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization (referred to in this resolution as the “Green New Deal mobilization”) that will require the following goals and projects—

(A) building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies;

(B) repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including—

(i) by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible;

(ii) by guaranteeing universal access to clean water;

(iii) by reducing the risks posed by climate impacts; and

(iv) by ensuring that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change;

(C) meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including—

(i) by dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources; and

(ii) by deploying new capacity;

(D) building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and “smart” power grids, and ensuring affordable access to electricity;

(E) upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification;

(F) spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including by expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and industry;

(G) working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—

(i) by supporting family farming;

(ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and

(iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food;

(H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—

(i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;

(ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and

(iii) high-speed rail;

From this, the nutjobs at CPAC have concluded that the Left is coming for their hamburgers. See also The Energy 202: How the hamburger became the GOP’s rallying cry against the Green New Deal.

CPAC

Trump gave a two-hour speech at CPAC today. I don’t know if he mentioned hamburgers. There is no transcript; I take it there was no script.

The rollicking two-hour-plus appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland offered the president a brief respite from an otherwise miserable week in which his much-touted summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ended in failure and his former personal lawyer delivered explosive testimony to Congress.

Trump, basking in the adoration of the crowd, largely glossed over the North Korea summit’s collapse, instead reviving several of his greatest hits, from rehashing the 2016 election to obsessing over the crowd size at his inauguration.

The speech amounted to a boatload of red meat for conservatives, with Trump promising he’ll protect them from undocumented immigrants, socialism and liberal Democrats he claims are dead set on bankrupting the country with proposals like the Green New Deal.

“You know I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. As his meandering remarks continued, it became clear that his assessment was an understatement.

See also GOP strategist stunned by reception to Trump’s ‘unhinged’ CPAC speech: The Republican Party is dead

Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, GOP strategist Rick Tyler was visibly upset at what he heard from Donald Trump during his speech at CPAC, and even more so by the enthusiastic reception the president was receiving.

“It’s interesting about CPAC,” Tyler began. “It used to be the confab of conservatives who would get together once a year but it’s not CPAC anymore — it hasn’t been since 2016. It’s now Trump-pac and should be TPAC.”

“The people there talk about being pro-tariffs, anti-justice, anti-law enforcement, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, pro-Russia, pro-autocrat,” he continued. “It’s unrecognizable what Donald Trump has done to the party and what he’s done to the conservative movement — it’s a shame.”

Asked by host Witt, “What can be done to resurrect the Republican Party as it was — or is that gone?” Tyler said the party is dead.

“Rest in peace,” he lamented. “No, it’s over. The problem is that the Republican Party has no grounding governing philosophy anymore because they’ve signed on to all these things as I just mentioned that were antithetical to the conservative movement.”

“So it’s the Trump party,” he conceded. “When Trump passes on, one way or the other, the party will no longer exist and the Republican party will have — it has no fundamental belief. You have to believe in something, and I don’t know what the Republican Party believes in or what its message is anymore.”

He could be right.

No Joy in Hanoi

We’re getting conflicting reports about what went down in Hanoi that abruptly ended the “negotiations.” Trump said that Kim Jong Un wanted all U.S. sanctions lifted in exchange for closing only one nuclear site. North Korean’s foreign minister said his country wanted only partial sanctions relief as part of a framework for more dismantling of nuclear weapons facilities. And, of course, they both could be lying.

Perhaps Trump will tire of his fake diplomacy publicity stunts and leave the nogotiations to diplomats. Nicholas Kristof writes that Trump had already overplayed his hand before the meeting began. 

In particular, he signaled that he eagerly wanted a deal and that “fantastic success” was likely, all of which probably led Kim to raise demands in the belief that Trump would fold.

With normal presidents, summit deals are largely agreed upon ahead of time. As one veteran diplomat put it, presidents pull rabbits out of hats, after diplomats have worked diligently ahead of time to stuff the rabbits into the hats. But Trump has never had much patience for that meticulous diplomatic process, instead placing excessive faith in breakthroughs arising from personal relationships — and his faith was clearly misplaced this time.

The North Korean side had refused to hash out the summit outcome in advance with the highly regarded U.S. special envoy, Stephen Biegun, presumably because Kim thought that he could outfox Trump in person in Hanoi the way he had in Singapore nine months ago.

I’m guessing that’s exactly what went down. But with Mike Pompeo in charge of the State Department, I am not hopeful follow-up negotiations will do any good. It’s also possible that Trump was so unhinged over the Cohen testimony that he had to be stuffed into a straightjacket and loaded on Air Force One before he started World War III.

Cohen Sings

I’m listening to Michael Cohen’s opening remarks. If you want to comment on the unfolding testimony, feel free.

Update: The Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are mostly just yelling that Michael Cohen is a liar. There was a poignant moment in which Cohen told the Republicans that they were just protecting the president, as he used to do.

Update: Other stuff going on —

Pakistan says it shot down two Indian warplanes in Pakistani air space. Note that both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons.

Whether the photo op with Trump and Kim in Hanoi is anythiing but a photo op isn’t yet clear. I can’t tell if any firm agreement on anything has been reached.

While in Vietnam, Trump took a heroic stand for censorship and totalitarianism by banning reporters who asked him questions he didn’t like

Reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters were excluded from covering the dinner because of what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said were “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays.” Among the questions asked of Trump was one about the congressional testimony of his former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Update: If only there were a way to ban grandstanding by committee members, because that’s all the Republicans are doing. It’s tiresome.

Update: Ann Telnaes is live-sketching the hearing.

Update: Charles Pierce, The Republican Party Completely and Utterly Disgraced Itself at Michael Cohen’s Hearing

Paying for the Green New Deal, One Way or Another

A few days ago a video of Sen. Dianne Feinstein lecturing some school children that the Green New Deal can’t be paid for and isn’t going to pass went viral. The video encapsulates what is so exhausting about the Democratic Party old guard — they’re over cautious, stuck in the past, and still playing defense against being called “tax and spend liberals.”

The children were part of the Sunrise Movement, a a youth-led organization promoting a Green New Deal. Someone might explain to Sen. Feinstein that these young people will be the ones to pay for her inaction. Climate change will demand payment, one way or another.

Bill McKibben writes in the New Yorker,

Well, maybe. But Feinstein was, in fact, demonstrating why climate change exemplifies an issue on which older people should listen to the young. Because—to put it bluntly—older generations will be dead before the worst of it hits. The kids whom Feinstein was talking to are going to be dealing with climate chaos for the rest of their lives, as any Californian who has lived through the past few years of drought, flood, and fire must recognize.

This means that youth carry the moral authority here, and, at the very least, should be treated with the solicitousness due a generation that older ones have managed to screw over.

Sen. Feinstein let the children know she didn’t respond to ultimatums, and she also told them she had her own proposals for dealing with climate change. McKibben continues,

Later Friday evening, Feinstein’s aides released portions of her proposal, and on first view they appear to be warmed-over versions of Obama-era environmental policy: respect for the Paris climate accord, a commitment to a mid-century conversion to renewable energy.

It’s not that these things are wrong. It’s that they are insufficient, impossibly so. Not insufficient—and here’s the important point—to meet the demands of hopelessly idealistic youth but because of the point that the kids were trying to make, which is that the passage of time is changing the calculations around climate change. …

… The irony is that, when Feinstein said she’s been “doing this for thirty years,” she described the precise time period during which we could have acted. James Hansen brought the climate question to widespread attention with his congressional testimony in 1988. If we’d moved thirty years ago, moderate steps of the kind that Feinstein proposes would have been enough to change our trajectory. But that didn’t get done, in large part because oil and gas companies that have successfully gamed our political system didn’t want it to get done. And the legislators didn’t do anywhere near enough to fight them. So now we’re on the precipice. Indeed, we’re over it. The fires that raged in California last fall were the fires of a hell on earth.

Sen. Feinstein isn’t the only Dem who doesn’t get it. When asked about the Green New Deal in an interview, Nancy Pelosi responded, “It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” If she wasn’t ready to endorse it, she could have said something like “Yes, that’s one of the exciting proposals we’re considering.”

David Roberts at Vox wrote in December,

If the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to be believed, humanity has just over a decade to get carbon emissions under control before catastrophic climate change impacts become unavoidable.

The Republican Party generally ignores or denies that problem. But the Democratic Party claims to accept and understand it.

It is odd, then, that Democrats do not have a plan to address climate change.  … Plenty of Democratic politicians support policies that would reduce climate pollution — renewable energy tax credits, fuel economy standards, and the like — but those policies do not add up to a comprehensive solution, certainly nothing like what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests is necessary.

There are a lot of details to be worked out. The Green New Deal as it currently exists is more about the goals to be achieved than how to achieve them. It is, essentially, a proposal to mobilize the nation and put solutions to climate change on the front burner. David Roberts:

As we will see, the exact details of the GND remain to be worked out, but the broad thrust is fairly simple. It refers, in the loosest sense, to a massive program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, meant to transform not just the energy sector, but the entire economy. It is meant both to decarbonize the economy and to make it fairer and more just.

So let’s talk about paying for it. “We can’t pay for it” is not an answer. A little girl who confronted Feinstein asked why there was infinite money for a military but not to address climate change. Feinstein brushed off the question. But in fact, climate change is becoming a bigger threat to the nation than other nuclear powers.

Let’s ask an economist about this — Here’s Paul Krugman:

Specifically, let me suggest that there are three broad categories of progressive expenditure: investment, benefits enhancement, and major system overhaul, which need to be thought about differently from a fiscal point of view.

So, first off, investment – typically spending on infrastructure or research, but there may be some room at the margin for including spending on things like childhood development in the same category. The defining characteristic here is that it’s spending that will enhance society’s future productivity. How should we pay for that kind of outlay?

The answer is, we shouldn’t. Think of all the people who say that the government should be run like a business. Actually it shouldn’t, but the two kinds of institution do have this in common: if you can raise funds cheaply and apply them to high-return projects, you should go ahead and borrow. And Federal borrowing costs are very low – less than 1 percent, adjusted for inflation – while we are desperately in need of public investment, i.e., it has a high social return. So we should just do it, without looking for pay-fors.

Much of what seems to be in the Green New Deal falls into that category. To the extent that it’s a public investment program, demands that its supporters show how they’ll pay for it show more about the critics’ bad economics than about the GND’s logic.

To be, this is the difference between can’t and won’t. We can pay for whatever we want to pay for. It’s just a matter of priorities. If we borrow money to invest in improvements that will create great value, if not direct financial returns, that is good investing, especially if the alternative is letting the nation rot or even putting it in danger.

Put it this way — if we found out that an asteroid was about to take out most of the midwest, and stopping it would take spending the equivalent of our entire GDP for the year, would we do it? Or would we sit around and argue about paying for it? And for that matter, when are we going to fix the infrastructure?

See also The Green New Deal Is Better Than Our Climate Nightmare.

Taxes in the News

The IRS has admitted that the average tax refund has shrunk by nearly 17 percent this year. This is for the early filers, of course, and the early filers tend to be people who usually get big refunds. Now there are lots of news stories about lots of people who were shocked at their tax bills; see, for example, Denver Woman Surprised With $8,000 Tax Bill After Expecting Refund.

This  has left Republicans scrambling to explain why their glorious tax cuts are leaving people with bigger tax bills.

With headlines blaring about smaller refunds in the first weeks of the three-month filing season, GOP lawmakers and their supporters are working in tandem to remind people that the GOP tax overhaul cut almost everyone’s taxes last year, regardless of what their tax refunds look like this year.

Typically, Republicans are falling back on blaming the victim — people who owe money didn’t withhold enough. Democrats have accused theTrump IRS of deliberately miscalculating withholding to give people more take-home pay and the illusion of a larger tax cut. This was supposed to help Republicans win the midterms, remember. But never fear — Banks made record profits last year thanks to the Republican tax cuts.

At least, maybe it’ll be harder for Republicans to sell tax cuts as the cure for all ills going forward. We’ll see.

Elsewhere — Paul Manafort could get as much as 22 years in prison, according to a court filing unsealed today. He’ll be sentenced next month.

How Bernie Sanders Already Won

I don’t know who the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee will be. I can’t even say who I’m going to vote for. But I do want to offer thanks to Sen. Bernie Sanders for accomplishing something remarkable.

Thanks in large part to the Senator’s 2016 presidential campaign, it’s now okay for Democrats to talk about what’s wrong with capitalism and what might be done to fix it.

For example, Paul Waldman writes that “In 2020, we may finally get to talk about what kind of capitalism we want.”

The upcoming presidential election is starting to look as though it will feature something extraordinary, even revolutionary: a genuine debate about whether American capitalism needs an overhaul. The only surprising thing may be that it took a decade after the worst financial crisis in 80 years for us to get deep into this discussion.

It isn’t just happening in the presidential race, but that’s also where this kind of debate can play out in the most high-profile, attention-grabbing way. With everyone thinking about 2020, a proposal such as the Green New Deal immediately gets tossed into the presidential campaign, with candidates forced to take positions on it and their own proposals compared with it. And though not all of the Democratic candidates were prepared to get down to the fundamental question of what sort of capitalism we ought to have, they may have no choice.

You can call it a result of the Democratic Party “moving left,” but that may be too simplistic a way to think about it. It’s also about a new refusal among liberals to accept that the system as it exists now is how it has to be.

I am remembering a moment in the 2016 primary campaign that annoyed the hell out of me. In one of the few Democratic primary debates, in October 2015, Sen. Sanders said,

And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent — almost — own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

To which Hillary Clinton responded,

But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we’re seeing in our economic system.

But we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.

What built the greatest middle class in the history of the world was the New Deal, which “centrist” Democrats like Clinton had long ago abandoned in all but name. But worse, the “we are not Denmark” line smacks of American exceptionalism and the notion that everything we do is best and we have nothing to learn from those other, inferior countries, an attitude that is slowly strangling us. It prevents us from even dealing with problems that other nations have addressed successfully. It assumes the status quo is the only way things can possibly be and to think otherwise is just crazy. It’s why we can’t have nice things.

But this year, several of the candidates are more than ready to talk about big, bold programs that smack of Scandanavian socialism. I don’t believe any of the crew currently running would be so tone deaf to say “we are not Denmark.”

Liz Warren just trotted out a proposal for universal child care. Kamala Harris wants to reverse the Trump tax cuts, raising taxes on the rich and giving working- and middle-class tax cut akin to the Earned Income Tax Credit giving up to $500 a month to families. Cory Booker is promoting a “baby bond” program that would give every child a US Treasury bond at birth. Several  are willing to go beyond saving Obamacare and toward Medicare for All. Several candidates have expressed support for the Green New Deal. And, of course, Bernie is still running on the issues he’s been running on for many years.I’ve heard very few noises about being “pragmatic” and “incremental.” Thanks goodness.

(And I realize that a lot of Bernie fans are going to reject any candidate but Bernie. Booker and Harris in particular already are being vilified as “corporate whores.” I’m too old to be that picky. It will be okay, I say.)

Paul Waldman writes that Republicans frame all economic issues as if the only alternative to our present system is Venezuela, and any deviation from free market, cut-taxes-on-the-rich ideology is nothing but insanity. (See, for example, this Marc A. Thiessen column. Even better, skip to column and just read the comments.) But now even the “establishment” Democratic candidates are not afraid to say that a problem is a problem, even if the Right disagrees, and to propose something new and bold to fix it.

And I say credit for this new boldness goes to Bernie Sanders. Even though he came up short in primary votes in 2016, he showed the Democratic Party that a whole lot of voters were tired of being told what they can’t have and that their concerns are not important. And many Democratic politicians now have a clue that “safe” and “cautious” and “incremental” doesn’t win elections. Even if he doesn’t claim the nomination this time — and I suspect it will be even harder for him than it was in 2016 — in a sense, he’s already won.

So now all we have to do is take back all of Congress and the White House, and we can start turning the country around again. Let’s hope.

Trump’s Bitter Enders: White Evangelicals

The only poll I’ve seen about the phony national emergency, by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, says that the public disapproves of Trump’s phony national emergency declaration by 61 to 39 percent. “Nearly 6-in-10 also don’t believe there is an emergency at the southern border and that the president is misusing his presidential authority. They also believe that his decision should be challenged in court,” NPR reports. Here is a more detailed demographic breakdown.

Republicans, naturally, are more approving of the declaration than the public at large. But Paul Waldman points out that this isn’t necessarily good news for Trump.

The question is whether he can duplicate his 2016 electoral college hat trick by dramatically energizing noncollege whites again, and by winning independents and others who decide they don’t like either candidate (as Trump did in 2016).

And among those groups, the poll finds surprising levels of opposition. Large majorities of independents tilt against Trump on these questions. And non-college-educated whites disapprove of the national emergency declaration by 53 to 43; they lean slightly against the idea that there’s even any emergency (49-47); and even marginally say that it makes them less likely to vote for Trump (46-41).

However, there is one demographic that’s still in the tank for Trump.

White evangelical Christians. They approve of the declaration by 67 to 26; think there is a national emergency on the border by 70 to 22; say he’s properly using his powers by 69-23; and say this makes them more likely to vote for him by 60 to 22..

I have to say that even I am a bit nonplussed by the white evangellical Christians, even though as a child of the Bible Belt I suppose they shouldn’t surprise me.

There was a very disturbing op ed in the New York Times a couple of months ago that relates to this — “Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus” by Katherine Stewart. There’s a big chunk of white evangelicals — a not insubstantial part of the population — that sincerely wants Trump or somebody like him to seize power and establish a right-wing theocracy. That’s more important to them than those piddly theological concerns such as morality and Jesus.

Today’s Christian nationalists talk a good game about respecting the Constitution and America’s founders, but at bottom they sound as if they prefer autocrats to democrats. In fact, what they really want is a king. “It is God that raises up a king,” according to Paula White, a prosperity gospel preacher who has advised Mr. Trump.

Ralph Drollinger, who has led weekly Bible study groups in the White House attended by Vice President Mike Pence and many other cabinet members, likes the word “king” so much that he frequently turns it into a verb. “Get ready to king in our future lives,” he tells his followers. “Christian believers will — soon, I hope — become the consummate, perfect governing authorities!”

The great thing about kings like Cyrus, as far as today’s Christian nationalists are concerned, is that they don’t have to follow rules. They are the law. This makes them ideal leaders in paranoid times.

“When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?” Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, asked in 2016. If you’re hearing those boxcars pulling up in the distance, as it were, you don’t merely overlook the antisocial qualities of a prospective leader, you embrace them as virtues.

See also this discussion on white Christian evangelicals and Christian nationalism at Vox. White evangelicals have a long history of cherry-picking scripture to support whatever they want to believe, going back to their antebellum support for slavery in the South.

You never hear devout evangelicals say that God raised up Trump to punish or chastise evangelicals for placing too much of their hope in power politics or political strongmen. Evangelicals are modern people — they believe in certainty and often insist that they know the exact will of God on all matters. In other words, they do not share the Catholic or Orthodox idea of the “mystery of faith.” They also have a long history of cherry-picking from the Bible to justify their politics.

Some believe that Trump, like King Cyrus, is delivering them from the “captivity” of the Obama administration. Bible verses calling for obedience to government are used to justify immigration policies that seem to contradict the teachings of the Scriptures in relation to refugees and “strangers.” They find some verses useful and ignore others.

If the Obama Administration is their idea of “captivity,” obviously there’s no reasoning with these people. They are nuttier than a Payday bar. But this also explains the Trump/Republican bizarre obsequiousness to Bibi Netanyahu and their conflation of being anti-government of Israel with anti-Semitism. White evangelicals are anti-Semitic lovers of Israel because Israel fits into Dispensationalist ideas of prophecy; see Nancy LeTourneau, “A More Twisted Form of Anti-Semitism.” They’ve figured out a way to complain about alleged rising anti-Semitism on the Left while absolving themselves of the same sin.

Is there anything Trump could do to shake their faith? Maybe if it was proved he had paid mistresses to get abortions, but I doubt even that would do it. However, as Paul Waldman says, there aren’t enough of them to re-elect Trump by themselves.

Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Why I Don’t Give Money to NARAL

Cheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times:

In the 116th Congress, if you’re a Democrat, you’re either a socialist, a baby killer or an anti-Semite.

That, at least, is what Republicans want voters to think, as they seek to demonize Democrats well in advance of the 2020 elections by painting them as left-wing crazies who will destroy the American economy, murder newborn babies and turn a blind eye to bigotry against Jews.

This sort of tactic is nothing new. Here is a story from 2004:

The Republican Party acknowledged yesterday sending mass mailings to residents of two states warning that “liberals” seek to ban the Bible. It said the mailings were part of its effort to mobilize religious voters for President Bush.

They do this stuff because it works. And at this point the Republicans are out of ideas — all they’ve got left is cutting taxes, banning abortion and investigating Hillary Clinton. So they lie.

But the lies work for them, for several reasons. The biggest one is that the abandonment of the working class by the Democratic Party means that there’s a big demographic of Americans that never hear anything Democrats have to say. There is a near complete shut out of Democratic and progressive messaging in large parts of the country. It’s also the case that Republicans spent decades building an interconnected infrastructure of media and think tanks to generate and promote Republican propaganda, and Democrats don’t have anything to compete with that.

And then there’s the fact that some advocacy groups on “our” side, groups that soak up our donations and support, are pretty close to worthless. NARAL is a case in point.

The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws was founded in 1969, when the fight to legalize abortion was being fought state-by-state. When the Roe v. Wade decision struck down most state laws in 1973, the organization changed its name to National Abortion Rights Action League. Today it calls itself NARAL Pro-Choice America, and it is a 501(c)(4) organization headquartered in Washington, DC. There is also a NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and a NARAL PAC.

Why do I think NARAL is a waste of time? Let me count the ways.

Being fervently in favor of reproductive rights, back in the 1970s I became a dues-paying member of NARAL. In the late 1970s I was living in Cincinnati, which is a conservative town with a big Catholic presence. Everywhere I looked, I saw anti-abortion propaganda, from billboards to the way the issue was covered in the local newspapers. I remember a lot of photos of sweet-faced nuns at candlelight vigils on the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. If a pro-reproductive rights viewpoint was presented at all, it was badly written and on page B12.  I wrote many letters to editors in those days, none of which were published.

Where was NARAL? One day their newsletter arrived in the mail. And I learned from the newsletter that the organization had decided to put all of its resources into lobbying. There would be no public outreach or even attempts to get the pro-choice perspective into the nation’s newspapers. Just lobbying.

That’s when I stopped sending them money.

In the years since I’ve observed anti-abortion talking points dominate news coverage. I’ve seen the same stupid and easily refutable arguments made, over and over, and rarely answered. I’ve seen nothing in the way of public education about abortion law and practices in the U.S., a topic of which most Americans are grossly ignorant, which is why the Right gets away with lying about it.

The single biggest lie about abortion law that the Right has used successfully for years is that abortion is legal in the U.S. throughout pregnancy, and even immediately after. They can murder newborn babies! But no, they can’t.

The fact is that Roe v. Wade allows states to ban elective abortions after the gestational age at which a fetus might be viable. Then as now, that’s considered after the 23rd week of pregnancy. According to Alan Guttmacher, 43 states have gestational limits on legal abortion ranging from 20 to 24 weeks.

The remaining states are California, Colorado, District of Columbia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. There’s a big fight going on in Vermont right now over abortion access. It turns out that while there is no specific gestational limit on the books in Vermont, there are no abortion providers in Vermont performing third-trimester abortions.

The Vermont Medical Society testified before the House Human Services Committee on H.57 earlier this month.

“Vermont law currently is silent on abortion and allows abortion with no restriction,” it said. However, in 2016, the latest year for which abortion data is available, “91.7 percent of all Vermont abortions happened within the first trimester (12 weeks or less) and only 1.3 percent of Vermont abortions occurred in 2016 after 21 weeks.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control on abortions nationwide in 2015 shows that seven abortions were conducted in Vermont after 21 weeks — 0.7 percent of all abortions in the state — but doesn’t give a more specific breakdown for when those procedures were performed.

The medical society added that woman simply do not elect to terminate pregnancies in the final few months, as opponents of H.57, like Coyne, suggest.

“‘Late term’ abortion is a social construct introduced to create an image of an elective abortion that happens closer to 8-9 months, which does not happen and is not a term that is used medically,” the society says.

And even if a woman wanted to abort a pregnancy that late, there are no providers who would do it in Vermont, according to the medical society.

“No abortion providers in Vermont perform elective abortions in the third trimester,” it says.

Lucy Leriche, the vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the only time when a woman might get an abortion that late in their pregnancy would be “under really severe circumstances for health of mother or because the viability of pregnancy is at risk.”

Doctors who do carry out elective procedures that late in pregnancy, she added, would face dire professional consequences for violating their licensure and committing medical malpractice.

If you check out the circumstances in the other states, you find the same thing. Even where there is no specific gestational limit on elective abortion, doctors simply don’t do them, and women aren’t asking for them. When pregnancies have to be terminated in the third trimester because the mother is at risk, every effort is made to save the baby.

Yet for years — nay, decades — the anti-reproductive-rights people have been keeping their supporters whipped up with stories of full-term babies killed in abortion procedures. This simply is not happening. Why hasn’t there been a robust public education effort being made all this time explaining the facts?

NARAL? (Cricket chirps)

For that matter, the whole emphasis on “choice” is off. Where abortion is criminalized, women still get abortions. Criminalization doesn’t even slow it down, as a great deal of real-world experience shows us. That doesn’t mean that criminalization doesn’t cause a lot of suffering to women or doesn’t force some women to carry pregnancies to term against their will. Criminalization has many consequences no one is talking about. In Latin American countries, for example, women suffering natural miscarriages are criminally investigated. See “What Happens When Abortion Is Banned?” for the real-world details. See also “When Abortion Is Illegal, Women Rarely Die. But They Still Suffer.” From the latter article:

If other countries are a guide, abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place: According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are similar to those in countries where it’s illegal. In parts of the world where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8 to 11 percent of all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 each year.

But abortion-related deaths are much less common than they were a few decades ago, especially in countries with functional health-care systems. Since the early ’90s, abortion fatalities have declined by 42 percent globally. This is despite the fact that about 45 percent of all the abortions in the world are still performed in “unsafe” circumstances—meaning without the help of a trained professional or with an outdated medical method. Unsafe abortions are more common in countries where the practice is illegal.

While fewer women are perforating their uterus or dying of sepsis, if women who attempt to perform their own abortion are taken to the hospital with complications, they might be reported to the authorities and face jail time.

That’s the future criminalization will bring us.

The 501(c)(4) portion of NARAL has an annual budget of about $8.5 million, according to several sources. According to a recent annual report from NARAL, 85 percent of their budget is spent on “program services.” My impression from reading the report is that their biggest effort these days is working to elect pro-choice politicians to office, and that’s fine. But wouldn’t some effort at public education pay bigger dividends?