For many political analysts, it’s an established truism that religion — for better or worse — is a force to be reckoned with in American politics. The religious affiliation of candidates (or lack thereof) is at least a minor point of discussion in virtually every election, and pundits regularly pour over data about the “Evangelical vote,” the “Catholic vote,” and even the “nonreligious vote.” Implicit in all of this number-crunching is the idea that when it comes to a American voter’s political opinions, religion matters.
But despite all the attention given to the voting patterns of the faithful, the question remains: does where you go to church (or temple, or mosque, or service, etc.) actually dictate your political views? A new chart, compiled by Tobin Grant of the Religion News Service and using data from Pew Research’s 2008 Religious Landscape Survey, takes a stab at answering this question by visually illustrating the general political beliefs of religious people on two policy questions. In it, an individual’s income bracket — and political opinions generally reflective of one’s economic situation — looks to coincide with what “kind” of church he/she attends. Except for when it doesn’t:
CREDIT: TOBIN GRANT, RELIGION NEWS SERVICE. CLICK HERE FOR A LARGER VERSION WITH MORE INFORMATION.
As Grant explains: “This new graph maps the ideologies of 44 different religious groups using data comes from Pew’s Religious Landscape survey. This survey included 32,000 respondents. It asked very specific questions on religion that allow us to find out the precise denomination, church, or religion of each person.”
In other words, the dimensions of each color-coded circle reflect the relative size of the religious group it represents, and a circle’s position on the graph illustrates how the faithful feel about the government’s involvement in both the economy (bigger government with more services vs. smaller government with less services) and morality (greater protection of morality vs. less protection of morality). While the chart is revealing on its own, the policy questions in play — the economy and morality — are perhaps best analyzed alongside data detailing the average income of religious people from different faith groups. Pew Research has information on just that, which was used by GOOD magazine and Column Five in 2010 to create this beautiful infographic:
CREDIT: GOOD AND COLUMN FIVE. CLICK HERE FOR A BIGGER VERSION.
At first glance, one of the most notable correlations between the two charts is how closely racial and economic trends track with the demographics of religious groups — particularly on the question of government services. Since churches often serve as community hubs, pastors and congregants — and, by extension, full denominations — are usually sensitive to issues faced by people in their pews. Historically black Protestant denominations, for instance, are shown as having a high percentage of congregants (roughly 47 percent) who make less than $30,000 a year. This income bracket disproportionally benefits from crucial social programs such as the Affordable Care Act and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a., food stamps), so it makes sense that denominations such as National and unaffiliated Baptists show up as overwhelmingly in favor of a government that offers more services. Similarly, White Mainline Protestants such as the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) have some of the wealthiest congregants in the country (36 percent of White Mainliners make over $75,000 a year) who don’t usually come in contact with many social services. As such, it’s not entirely surprising that they skew towards the “smaller government, less services” section of Grant’s scale. Meanwhile, Catholics, whose numbers include a relatively even distribution of income brackets that closely matches the national average, are situated roughly in the center of the chart.
But while income seems to indicate the probable political positions of some faith groups on the graph, Grant’s compilation also highlights several notable — and politically perplexing — exceptions. Sixty-five percent of Hindus make over $75,000 a year, for instance, but Grant’s chart depicts this wealthy group as firmly endorsing big government. Conversely, 58 percent of evangelicals — who, in Pew’s designation, are overwhelmingly white — make less than $50,000 a year, and many benefit directly from social services: white non-Hispanics make up 42 percent of our nation’s poor and receive 69 percent of government benefits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yet most of the evangelical denominations, marked in dark blue, are huddled near the upper right side of Grant’s graph, indicating a solid preference for a smaller government with less services.
There are also odd outliers, such as white Pentecostals — who, on average, arepoorer and less educated than the average American. They, like historically black churches, show up as decidedly left-of-center on the big government question, breaking the trend set by their fellow white conservative Christians.
Interestingly, the economic divide is also arguably even more consistent on the question of whether or not the federal government should do more to protect morality. One could contend, for example, that Grant’s graph adds weight to studies positing that wealthier people tend to gravitate towards looser moral standards. As mentioned, historically black churches and conservative evangelical denominations both have high percentages of churchgoers who earn less money than the national average, and both groups sit almost entirely on the half of the graph that calls for a greater protection of morality. But groups with high income rates — Buddhists, Unitarians, non-conservative Jews, the religiously unaffiliated (listed here as “nothing in particular”), and Mainline protestants — all lean towards a hypothetical administration that does less to reinforce moral codes. But this “the rich hate morals” argument gets muddled pretty quickly: Mainline protestant denominations are relatively wealthy, but they are also decidedly more liberal than evangelicals on social issues such as homosexuality. As such, it’s possible that these progressively-minded respondents conflate the idea of “protecting morality” with harmful policies that restrict the rights of LGBT people.
The notable outlier on the morality question is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), or Mormons, who live pretty comfortably as a people yet fervently support a more morally-minded administration. There are a number of possible explanations for this, but one could be that the top-down style of the LDS church simply has an unusually deep impact the lives of Mormons. Three scholars actually explored this phenomenon in a new book about the church, highlighting how Mormons are now one of the most “politically cohesive” groups in the country. This “theological impact” argument could also explain another odd division within the Jewish community that shows up in Grant’s chart: Adherents to Judaism fair relatively well economically across the board, but Conservative and Orthodox Jews seem to prefer a government that does more to protect morality. More liberal Jews, on the other hand, deeply support leadership that does less to protect moral standards.
Grant’s graph also exposes some possible disconnects between the professed beliefs of religious institutions and the opinions of those in their pews. For example, according to the chart, virtually all Mainline protestant denominations are firmly situated in the “smaller government, less services” side of the ideological spectrum. Yet Mainline protestant denominational heads have repeatedly and passionately claimed to be members of the “Circle of Protection,” an ecumenical effort to safeguard social services that help poorer Americans. The same is true for Catholics: Catholic leaders have lobbied fiercely for both social programs (such as food stamps) and against policies they see as morally abhorrent (such as contraception), yet Pew’s data and Grant’s chart shows the average Catholic as roughly centrist on these questions.
So does where you go to church dictate your politics? Well, sort of. Regarding the two issues discussed above, the data hints that a voter’s religious affiliation is a strong indicator of their political beliefs, but it’s not totally clear whether religious teachings are the main force shaping those political beliefs. A longer analysis of history, theology, and actual voting patterns of parishioners would be required to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on here. However, it is clear that your wallet can say a lot about what kind of faith community you might attend. How you respond to the teachings of your church once you get there — and whether you’re self-selecting a religious community based off of your income bracket — is still mostly up to you.
Unfortunately, to the extent there is something that can be called a “libertarian moment” in the Republican Party and the conservative movement, it owes less to the work of the Cato Institute than to a force genuine libertarians clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged are typically horrified by: the Christian Right. In the emerging ideological enterprise of “constitutional conservatism,” theocrats are the senior partners, just as they have largely been in the Tea Party Movement, even though libertarians often get more attention.
There’s no universal definition of “constitutional conservatism.” The apparent coiner of the term, the Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz, used it to argue for a temperate approach to political controversy that’s largely alien to those who have embraced the “brand.” Indeed, it’s most often become a sort of dog whistle scattered through speeches, slogans and bios on various campaign trails to signify that the bearer is hostile to compromise and faithful to fixed conservative principles, unlike the Republicans who have been so prone to trim and prevaricate since Barry Goldwater proudly went down in flames. The most active early Con-Con was Michele Bachmann, who rarely went more than a few minutes during her 2012 presidential campaign without uttering it. It’s now very prominently associated with Ted Cruz, who, according to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has emerged as “the new standard-bearer for constitutional conservatism.” And it’s the preferred self-identification for Rand Paul as well.
What Con-Con most often seems to connote beyond an uncompromising attitude on specific issues is the belief that strict limitations on the size, scope and cost of government are eternally correct for this country, regardless of public opinion or circumstances. Thus violations of this “constitutional” order are eternally illegitimate, no matter what the Supreme Court says or who has won the last election.
More commonly, Con-Cons reinforce this idea of a semi-divine constitutional order by endowing it with — quite literally — divine origins. This is why David Barton’s largely discredited “Christian Nation” revisionist histories of the Founders remain so highly influential in conservative circles, and why Barton himself is welcome company in the camps of Con-Con pols ranging from Cruz and Bachmann to Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee. This is why virtually all Con-Cons conflate the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, which enabled them to sneak both Natural and Divine Law (including most conspicuously a pre-natal Right to Life) into the nation’s organic governing structure.
What a lot of those who instinctively think of conservative Christians as hostile to libertarian ideas of strict government persistently miss is that divinizing untrammeled capitalism has been a growing habit on the Christian Right for decades. Perhaps more importantly, the idea of the “secular-socialist government” being an oppressor of religious liberty, whether it’s by maintaining public schools that teach “relativism” and evolution, or by enforcing the “Holocaust” of legalized abortion, or by insisting on anti-discrimination rules that discomfit “Christian businesses,” has made Christian conservatives highly prone to, and actually a major participant in, the anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party. Beyond that, the essential tea party view of America as “exceptional” in eschewing the bad political habits of the rest of the world is highly congruent with, and actually owes a lot to, the old Protestant notion of the United States as a global Redeemer Nation and a “shining city on a hill.”
So perhaps the question we should be asking is not whether the Christian Right and other “traditional” conservatives can accept a Rand Paul-led “libertarian” takeover of the conservative movement and the GOP, but whether “libertarians” are an independent factor in conservative politics to begin with. After all, most of the Republican politicians we think of as “libertarian”—whether it’s Rand Paul or Justin Amash or Mike Lee—are also paid-up culture-war opponents of legalized abortion, Common Core, and other heathenish practices. As Heather Digby Parton noted tartly earlier this week:[T]he line between theocrats and libertarian Republicans is very, very faint. Why do you think they’ve bastardized the concept of “Religious Liberty” to mean the right to inflict your religion on others? It appeals to people who fashion themselves as libertarians but really only care about their taxes, guns and weed. Those are the non-negotiable items. Everything else is on offer.
And then there’s the well-known but under-reported long-term relationship of Ron and Rand Paul with the openly theocratic U.S. Constitution Party, a Con-Con inspirational font that no Republican politician is likely to embrace these days.
The more you examine the evidence, the more it seems plain that the “libertarian moment” in the GOP, even it’s real, and even if it’s advanced by Rand Paul as a presidential candidate, isn’t necessarily of a nature that’s going to be wildly popular among secular-trending millennials — or among Draper’s hipsters. To the extent it has a mass base, it’s likely as much or more among conservative Christian soldiers who despise government so long as they don’t control it as among dope-smoking free-loving free-thinking anti-interventionist Reason readers. So the latter might want to think twice before climbing onto the Rand Paul for President bus, or consigning their fate to Republican politics.
h/t: Ed Kilgore at TPM
The largest election in history just concluded in the world’s largest democracy. Here’s what you need to know.
The results are in from the largest election in the world’s history. Narenda Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not only won the election, pushing the long-ruling Indian National Congress from power for the first time in a decade, but in a huge way. The votes are still being tallied, but so far it appears that the BJP will have won enough of the electorate to not only top any government, but to rule without forming a coalition. There’s a lot to unpack in this news from the world’s largest democracy, but here are the basics:
Indians are betting on the potential for economic growth.
One of the largest issues going into this election — and the platform on which Modi ran and won — was the state of the Indian economy. A Gallup poll released just as voting was set to begin found that a record one in three Indians say that their economy is getting worse. While the country is still doing far better than the United States in terms of annual growth, it’s still been lagging over recent years, plunging to 4.7 percent in 2012 from 10.3 percent in 2010. Modi made a name for himself as the chief minister of Gujarat state in India, whose economic growth the prime minister candidate put forward as a main reason for him to replace outgoing prime minister Mohammed Singh and the Congress. Whether the policies enacted at the state-level can be replicated at the national level is a question that remains uncertain, but given the fact that 102 million people still live on less than $1.25 a day in India, any increase in economic growth that also includes them would be welcomed.
Large margin of victory = fewer extremist groups.
One of the biggest concerns for observers of Indian politics was that in victory, Modi’s party would be unable to have enough votes in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament, to govern without drawing in support from some of the smaller parties. Given the right-wing nature of the BJP, the smaller, more extreme of Indian parties would likely have been the ones to fill the void. This would include its coalition partner during the last time they were in power, Shiv Sena, which many have called extremist for its ultra-Hindu nationalist positions. Current estimates, however, show that the BJP alone is on course to win at least 275 seats in the lower house — 272 are needed to be able to choose the Prime Minister According to The Economist, this is the first time since 1984 that a single party has had enough to rule without assistance. This could also end some of the gridlock seen in the Lok Sabha, as the coalition governments have had difficulty passing major legislation.
There are worries about rising Hindu nationalism.
For all that Modi came into power on the promise of economic growth for everyone, there’s still the fact that his government will be far more right-wing that the outgoing leaders to consider. While the BJP will be able to rule without the support of Shiv Sena in the cabinet, the party remains nationalist in nature. The principle belief of the BJP has been described as “Hindutva, Hindu-ness, an unabashed belief in the supremacy of Hindu religion and culture over Christian, Muslim and other minorities,” a mindset that has some of India’s large Muslim population concerned. And while Modi himself is viewed at least somewhat positively, other members of the BJP have voiced opinions that many in the U.S. would find repugnant. During a diplomatic row with the United States, one BJP official suggested arresting all gay Americans in India to prove a point. Another has been recorded describing just why Hindus should not sell property to Muslims. Given this company, Modi will have a lot of ground to make-up to convince the world that his government believes different.
The specter of the Gujarat Riots will be prominent.
The violence that took place in Gujarat in 2002, while Modi was executive in the state, will hang like a shroud over the new prime minister’s time in office. That year, a train filled with Hindu pilgrims making their way back from Ayodhya — the scene of 1992 riots over the destruction of a mosque built on top of a Hindu holy site — stopped in the town of Godhra. There several passengers got into an altercation with some of the local Muslims, leading to an escalating series of events culminating in one of the train cars being lit on fire.
Though the Indian government later ruled that the car’s ignition was an accident and not set by Muslims, the violence spread throughout Western Gujarat and in the following weeks Hindu mobs sought vengeance on Muslims. “About 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, are killed. Some 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship are destroyed, and roughly 150,000 people are displaced,” the New York Times says in its timeline of the riots. While Modi’s reputation has clearly improved since then, and he has never been officially implicated as being behind the riots, they still happened on his watch — a fact that not all of India’s voters have forgotten.
China, Pakistan, and the U.S. will be watching for foreign policy changes.
While Modi is going to be primarily focused on domestic challenges and economic issues, India’s role, at times, as a seemingly reluctant potential heavyweight in the region will mean that the BJP government will have to grapple with foreign policy. With his victory still fresh, key countries are already extending a hand to Modi to ensure stable relations with the incoming government. Modi had been previously banned from obtaining a visa into the United States, a situation that the State Department now says will be reversed once Modi takes office and forms a government. And Modi has already been in contact with his counterpart in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, according to Indian newspaper Desh Gujarat. “Pakistan and India will wage a war against poverty,” the paper cited Modi as saying.
This outreach doesn’t mean that the potential for problems in relations between Modi’s India and other states no longer exist. While Modi is known for his economic acumen and is well aware of the potential for growing links with China, he has also warned of Beijing’s “expansionary mindset” when it comes to territory. And with Modi potentially looking east, towards southeast Asia and other neighbors, as opposed to west, the lynchpin of the Obama administration’s ‘rebalance to Asia’ may be at risk. Indo-American relations under Singh and Obama have had their high and low points, but finding common ground with the Modi government on matters such as managing China’s rise and engaging in counter-terrorism strategy in Afghanistan will be all the more difficult — and important.
Source: Hayes Brown for ThinkProgress
Narendra Modi’s going to ruin India for a long time to come.
Time to #BringBackOurGirls!!!
A search of The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s website using Sterling’s name, date of birth, and address turns up a Republican registration, and the registrar-recorder’s office confirmed the information to TPM on Monday. (The initial tip came to TPM from public records compiler eMerges.)
(Search result on Monday for Donald Sterling’s voter registration.)
Conservatives — including Matt Drudge, The National Review, and The Daily Caller — have taken time since the Sterling story broke to describe him as a Democrat or point to Sterling’s past contributions to Democratic politicians.
Sterling has given money to Democrats, though his most recent donations appear to have taken place more than a decade ago. According to the Center For Responsive Politics, those donations include $2,000 to then-Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ) in 1989, $1,000 to future California Gov. Gray Davis (D) in 1991, and $1,000 to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in 1991. Records kept by the National Institute on Money in State Politics also indicate that Sterling gave another $5,000 to Davis in 2002.
By Monday afternoon, The National Review had updated its piece on Sterling’s political ties. The correction read as follows:
"An earlier version of this post identified Sterling as a Democrat. Although his political donations appear to have been exclusively to Democrats, his official party affiliation is not known. A Clippers did not respond to requests for his present political affiliation."
(h/t Mother Jones)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told George Stephanopoulos Sunday that she left the Republican Party in the mid-90s because it was tilting the playing field in favor of Wall Street.
Warren has quickly become a populist hero to liberals. Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s The Week, noted something in her background that “might surprise” her supporters: the fact that she has voted Republican in the past, and was a registered Republican in Pennsylvania from 1991 to 1996. Warren said she left the party after that because she felt it was siding more and more with Wall Street:
I was an independent. I was with the GOP for a while because I really thought that it was a party that was principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets. And I feel like the GOP party just left that. They moved to a party that said, “No, it’s not about a level playing field. It’s now about a field that’s gotten tilted.”And they really stood up for the big financial institutions when the big financial institutions are just hammering middle class American families. I just feel like that’s a party that moved way, way away.
Warren’s instincts on the GOP’s sympathy for the big financial institutions proved prescient. Former Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) spent the 1990s spearheading legislation that made the 2008 financial crisis possible: the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which broke down the firewall between commercial banks and the far riskier investment banks, as well as the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which deregulated the over-the-counter derivatives that played a key role in the 2008 financial collapse. Both bills passed with majority Republican support, though they were also supported by a good deal of Democrats and the Clinton White House.
“Starting in the 80s, the cops were taken off the beat in financial services,” Warren explained. “These guys [the big financial institutions] were allowed to just paint a bullseye on the backs of american families. They loaded up on risk, the crashed the economy, they got bailed out. And what bothers me now is they still strut around Washington, they block regulations that they don’t want, they roll over agencies whenever they can, and they break the law. And they still don’t end up being held accountable for it and going to jail.”
Warren also dinged the Obama White House, saying, “I make no secret of my differences with the administration in how they’ve treated the large financial institutions.” But she noted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) — which was largely Warren’s brainchild — would not exist without Obama’s support. The agency has already begun cracking down on payday lenders and debt collectors, while cataloging and reporting on mortgage service abuses.
Warren credited the agency with already forcing the largest financial institutions to return more than $3 billion they’ve cheated from customer, and she herself has gone after Republicans for filibustering the CFPB’s nominated director unless the agency is restructured to weaken its political independence.
Since 2008, the Democrats and the Obama Administration have made some efforts — albeit limited — to repair some of the damage, particularly by passing the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and the CFPB. But prominent Republican senators like David Vitter (LA) former Sen. Jim DeMint have tried to roll back the Dodd-Frank financial regulation laws, or repeal them wholesale. And as Mike Konczal has detailed, both establishment and Tea Party republicans have spent the time since the crisis opposing nearly every new regulation to rein in Wall Street’s risk-taking and every attempt to reinstate the rules lost during the 1990s.
“What’s happening is we’ve got a Washington for those he can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers. Their voices get heard in Washington and rules get tilted in their favor,” Warren said.
“Working families, not so much.”
“Today” personality Kathie Lee Gifford was recently admonished by NBC higher-ups for promoting her line of wines, the punnily named Gifft, on-air. The idea, in part, is that “Today” is to some degree a news program, one that ought to be held to a higher standard than a regular chatfest.
Fortunately Gifford has a podcast, where she has for months been endorsing personal causes, from her wine to right-wing politics. It turns out that Gifford is something of a Trojan horse for conservatism, presenting for an hour a day the banal niceties that get viewers through the morning–then putting out a weekly podcast that’s one long dog whistle with occasional wine plugs.
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course — Gifford’s entitled to her opinions. But the success of her TV persona has rested upon the perception of Gifford as a freewheeling truth-teller who will say anything on camera. As it so happens, this whole time she’s been holding back more than a few opinions.
On a recent podcast episode, for instance, Gifford interviewed Cal Thomas, a Fox News commentator who has said that no new mosques should be allowed to be built in the U.S. and has been outspoken against acceptance of homosexuality. Oddly, Gifford consistently represented Thomas as a nonpartisan figure striving only to find solutions to unnamed crises. “There’s no hidden agenda with you, is there? You just love this country and want it to be great.” The pair went on to discuss the necessity of Congressional term limits (because, in Gifford’s telling, the human heart is twisted and dark) and the so-called “Age of Entitlement.” Gifford told a stem-winder about how she once confronted Hillary Clinton and asked her when rich people “became the enemy.” (The social safety net, in Gifford’s telling, “destroys lives” because dreams of growing rich are what make life worth living.)
Gifford and Thomas agree on just about everything — for much of the interview, neither will mention President Obama at all, but they shame the listeners for not voting, or for not paying attention to the consequences of how they voted. (The idea that those who vote for Democrats were somehow tricked into it and not thinking is an old conservative canard that Obama’s popularity at election time has brought roaring back.) When Obama finally came up explicitly, it was in Gifford’s allegation that his administration is not telling the truth over Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers: “I don’t know that there’s a person on the planet who believes those numbers are true.” Thomas said those who did were “drinking the Kool-Aid.”
And so it is with Gifford — without a TV production team holding her back, she’s considerably more loose-lipped than she is on “Today.” Her interviews (all available here) had, for a long time, been focused on either generic show business gab or Gifford’s brand of evangelical Christianity (viz. interviews with the cast of the film “Son of God” or with, say, Glenn Beck). The political turn has been a more recent development, with Candace Cameron Bure using the show as a platform to defend her claims that wives should be “submissive” to their husbands, or with Donald Trump stopping by after CPAC. Gifford joked that Trump “didn’t need a TelePrompTer” — a random reference to year-2008 critiques of Obama — and said that those who believe the Tea Party has any position on social issues are confused. “It’s not the social issues — they keep combining the social issues. The Tea Party, as I understand it, was low taxation, small government, and fiscal responsibility. By that definition, that’s me!”
And why not? Gifford has, through her career, been outspoken not about politics but about religious belief, from her advocacy work for children to her Broadway musical about Charismatic Christian Aimee Semple McPherson. But it’s not shocking that she, a wealthy woman of faith, would hold conservative beliefs. It is a little shocking, though, that she expresses them so freely as someone in the employ of a network news program — would she be as easily able to allege, on “Today,” that the president were lying about Obamacare enrollment? Or to put out nebulous language about the war on the wealthy? We have no idea what Gifford’s “Today” cohort believes politically — if Matt Lauer voted at all, no one’s heard about it. But “Today” is ostensibly, at least in part, a news show, if a softball one. And Gifford’s insistence that people need to wake up and see it her way is the nastiest side of conservatism: the belief that the baseline human should see this worldview as the common-sense solution, and that other outcomes are the result of weird subterfuge. That’s how Cal Thomas becomes a figure who, very simply, just wants America to be great.
Gifford’s podcast is compulsively listenable for the new insight it offers into the brain of a person whose life has been up for public consumption since the early nineties. That said individual is really, really interested in conservative talking points is not troubling in and of itself. At least, if one presumes that a deep-seated belief that a massive swath of the country has been tricked into hating the rich has as little bearing over one’s ability to cover the news objectively as does a new line of novelty wines–and that both can be easily put aside.
KLG being a righty doesn’t surprise me in the least bit.
The GOP wants to install a theocracy in our nation. So vote Democratic to save the soul of our nation’s democracy.
BREAKING: RTWFL bill #HB1770 has passed 78-68-2, but fails due to bill being short of 82 votes threshold. #MOLeg
Great news for Missouri!!! It will NOT be a Right To Work For Less state!!!
— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem)April 9, 2014
— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem)April 9, 2014
— The Missouri Times (@MissouriTimes)April 9, 2014
BREAKING: “Right to work” bill fails to advance from House to Senate. Huge bipartisan opposition. #moleg— Working Missouri (@WorkingMissouri)April 9, 2014
Missouri Lt. Gov Peter Kinder (R)’s lying like usual:
— Peter Kinder (@PeterKinder)April 9, 2014
Would you believe me if I told you that the Koch brothers actively participate in, and benefit from, a healthcare system in which the government subsidizes private insurance; carriers are prohibited from discriminating against the sick; the young cross-subsidize the old; and qualified beneficiaries who opt out suffer a big financial hit?
Well, they do. Not Obamacare, of course — they want to repeal that. But as employers, they can and do compensate their employees with tax-exempt health insurance benefits, their employees are all part of one risk pool, and everyone contributes the same amount for equal coverage.
I know this because in Koch Industries’ weird, official screed against Obamacare, issued on the day Healthcare.gov first launched, its human resources director Dale Gibbens boasted, “For years, Koch Industries has worked to provide reasonably priced health care benefits.”
This is not something the Koch brothers consider a threat to the Republic, apparently. Perhaps deep down, or in the abstract, they think the government should not be subsidizing this healthcare and are simply following the rules of the road as set by others. That was the line they took when explaining why they participated in a temporary Obamacare program for early retirees. “Once laws or programs are enacted we will not place ourselves or our employees at a disadvantage by turning our back on incentives offered to our competitors.”
Yet despite the fact that employer-sponsored health insurance resembles Obamacare in many ways, the Koch network is not actively trying to repeal ERISA — the law that regulates employer-sponsored health plans — or to repeal the tax expenditure that allows them to advantageously provide the benefits they claim they’re working so hard to maintain.
That is an effort they reserve especially for Obamacare. To the Koch brothers, there’s apparently a big difference between government subsidizing and regulating health insurance for their employees and government subsidizing and regulating insurance for the self-employed, individuals whose employers don’t provide health benefits, and the unemployed.
I know this, because in a Thursday Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Charles Koch had absolutely nothing to say about the system the government has put in place to make it cheaper for Charles Koch to compensate his employees, but said the following about the other system:
The more government tries to control, the greater the disaster, as shown by the current health-care debacle. Collectivists (those who stand for government control of the means of production and how people live their lives) promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.
This might seem strangely contradictory, unless you stop and consider what the existence of a universal right to health insurance coverage means for employers and the people who work for them. When the Congressional Budget Office updated its analysis of the Affordable Care Act’s labor market effects, it concluded that the existence of a coverage guarantee for all, and subsidies for many, would reduce employment by more than 2 million people over the coming decade. Opponents of the law pounced on this as proof that Obamacare would be a job killer, but for the most part what CBO actually meant was that Obamacare would shift the center of power between workers and employers a bit closer to the workers.
For some of those workers, that shift will mean the freedom to quit — hence the “job killing” canard. But for other workers — current and prospective — it will mean the freedom to ask for more money. All thanks to a program that’s financed largely by taxing people like Charles and David Koch. And I think therein lies the key to understanding why they’re devoting so much time and so many resources to destroying Obamacare.
The Koch brothers like to pretend that their ideological and political commitments stem not from their own financial interests but from high-minded, principled beliefs about how American society should be organized. I know this because in that same Op-Ed, Charles Koch wrote, “I have devoted most of my life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives. It is those principles—the principles of a free society—that have shaped my life, my family, our company and America itself.”
And yet, the vast difference of intensity with which he and his brother David oppose the employer-based healthcare system and Obamacare gives the lie to the idea that their advocacy efforts are abstracted from their personal circumstances.
I get that the employer-sponsored healthcare system is old and enormous, and Obamacare is new and relatively small. I also get that the Democrats running for reelection today helped create Obamcare, not ERISA. But both systems now benefit a bunch of people. And both make it easy for people of all incomes and health statuses to become insured in similar ways. The former, though, redounds immensely to the Koch brothers’ benefit, while the latter imposes big new taxes on them and reduces their leverage over their employees. And by sheer coincidence that’s the one stuck in their cross hairs.
The rightwing group Alec is preparing to launch a new nationwide network that will seek to replicate its current influence within state legislatures in city councils and municipalities.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, founded in 1973, has become one of the most pervasive advocacy operations in the nation. It brings elected officials together with representatives of major corporations, giving those companies a direct channel into legislation in the form of Alec “model bills”.
Critics have decried the network as a “corporate bill mill” that has spread uniformly-drafted rightwing legislation from state to state. Alec has been seminal, for instance, in the replication of Florida’s controversial “stand-your-ground” gun law in more than 20 states.
Now the council is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level. It has already quietly set up, and is making plans for the public launch of, an offshoot called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties”.
The new organisation will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals.
In its early publicity material, Alec says the new network will be “America’s only free market forum for village, town, city and county policymakers”. Jon Russell, ACCE’s director, declined to comment on the initiative.
Alec spokesman Wilhelm Meierling also declined to say how many corporate and city council members ACCE has attracted so far, or to say when the new initiative would be formally unveiled. But he confirmed that its structure would mirror that of Alec’s work in state legislatures by bringing together city, county and municipal elected officials with corporate lobbyists.
“As a group that focuses on limited government, free markets and federalism, we believe our message rings true at the municipal level just as it does in state legislatures,” he said.
In December, the Guardian revealed that Alec was facing funding problems as a result of fallout from its backing of “stand-your-ground” laws, in the wake of the shooting in Florida of the black teenager Trayvon Martin.
The Guardian also disclosed that Alec had initiated a “prodigal son project”, designed to woo back corporate donors that had broken off relations with the group amid the gun-law furore.
The extension of its techniques to city councils and municipalities across America offers Alec the chance to open up a potential source of funding that might help it solve its budgetary crisis. There are almost 500,000 local elected officials, many with considerable powers over schools and local services that could be attractive to big business.
Alec makes the appeal to corporations explicit in its funding material for the new ACCE exchange. It offers companies “founders committee” status in return for $25,000 a year and “council committee” membership for $10,000.
By joining ACCE’s council committee, corporate lobbyists can “participate in policy development and network with other entrepreneurs and municipal officials from around the country”. In committee meetings, lobbyists will be allowed to “present facts and opinions for discussion” and introduce resolutions for new policies that they want to see implemented in a city. At the end of such meetings, the elected officials present in the room will take a vote before returning to their respective council chambers armed with new legislative proposals.
Nick Surgey of the Center for Media and Democracy, which monitors Alec’s activities, said: “It just wouldn’t be possible for any corporation to effectively lobby the hundreds of thousands of local elected officials in the US, which until now has left our local mayors and school board members largely free from the grasps of coordinated lobbyists. Alec is now trying to change that.”
One of the main criticisms that have been levelled against Alec is that its influence distorts the democratic process by giving corporations a handle over lawmaking. Similar fears are now being expressed about the intentions of ACCE in American cities.
Natalia Rudiak, a Democratic city council member in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said she was “offended” by the suggestion she needed an outside body such as ACCE, which is licensed in Arlington, Virginia, to tell her what her community needed.
“Local politics in America is the purest form of democracy,” she said. “There is no buffer between me and the public. So why would I want the involvement of a third party acting on behalf of a few corporate interests?”
Rudiak added that she found ACCE’s boast that it will be “America’s only free market forum” patronising.
“If by ‘free market’ they mean weighing supply against demand in the best interests of the people of Pittsburgh,” she said, “then we are debating those issues in the council chamber every single day.”
GOP SOTU Guest Sean Hannity Talks About Meeting With Conservative Lawmakers Forming "Opposition Party" | Video | Media Matters for America
From the 01.29.2014 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show: