Thursday, November 5, 2015

Last Call For Ryan's Line Drive

Over in Washington, it's good to see the House getting back to business with Speaker Paul Ryan, and by "business" I mean whining a lot and then quietly giving President Obama what he wants, just like Orange Julius.

The House passed a long-term U.S. highway funding plan Thursday, handing new Speaker Paul Ryan a legislative victory and paving the way for the first multi-year transportation law since 2012.

Lawmakers voted 363-64 for the bill that would revive the U.S. Export-Import Bank, whose charter expired June 30. Bankers also won a last-minute change that will use Federal Reserve surplus funds to pay for highway improvements, instead of reducing a payout they receive from the central bank.

“It cuts waste, it prioritizes good infrastructure, it will help create good-paying jobs. And it is the result of a more open process,” Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said at a news conference after the vote. "It’s a good start. It’s a glimpse of how we should be doing the people’s business."

The Senate has passed its own version of the legislation, and a conference committee will try to resolve the differences before current highway funding ends Nov. 20.

The House measure would provide a six-year blueprint for spending on roads, bridges and mass transit projects and provide funding for three of those years. Companies that may get a boost include Caterpillar Inc., one of the top Ex-Im beneficiaries and the world’s biggest maker of mining and construction equipment. Contractors may feel secure enough to purchase new equipment after renting in recent years.

So when all's said and done, the Highway Bill will most likely pass, the Export-Import Bank will be back, and 80% plus of the House passed what President Obama set out to do with the Highway Bill anyway, that is secure a long-term, multi year infrastructure investment.  It doesn't raise additional funding, but it doesn't cut it either.

It's the best we can hope for, that is "basic functionality that doesn't end in flames" from this Republican-led Congress.

The Carson Show, Con't

Over at TPM, Ed Kilgore argues that Ben Carson may be even more dangerous an ideologue than Donald Trump is, and unlike Herman Cain, he's not going anywhere.

Cain was not a revered figure before running in 2012, beyond those who listened when he sat in for an Atlanta-based radio host. He also was not exactly a non-politician, having run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. But the most important reason to stop identifying Carson with Cain is simple: Cain’s loss of his once-high poll ratings were not caused by a voters getting tired with a “flavor of the month” or realizing his slim qualifications; he was brought down by a series of sexual allegations that escalated from multiple claims of sexual harassment to a long-term extramarital affair. Cain never admitted any wrong-doing, but he also never convincingly rebutted the allegations, and all the smoke convinced many observers there might be fire. He left the race on his own terms, but after losing most of his altitude.

There’s zero reason to think Carson has any such skeletons in his closet. The one thing we know about his background that is politically dangerous is his testimonial work for a subsequently fined nutritional supplement company. But unless it turns out he was paid a lot more than seems to be the case, he’s only in hot water if he cannot soon keep his story straight. Being a straight shooter is extremely important to his image.

He seems to have successfully back-pedaled on his one easy-to-understand policy heresy, a proposal to replace Medicare and Medicaid with heavily subsidized health savings accounts, which he now describes as an “option” for beneficiaries (that, too, is problematic, but not as much as his original “idea”).

So there remains what should actually disqualify Carson: his extremist, paranoid “world-view” which treats regular boring old center-left liberals as conscious and systematically deceitful would-be destroyers of this country bent on imposing a Marxist tyranny via “politically correct” suppression of free speech and confiscation of guns.

There’s unquestionably a constituency for this point of view, but we may never know whether it would outnumber the Republicans baffled or horrified by it until such time as one of his rivals or the heretofore clueless media start talking about it. If they don’t pretty soon, then one theory of the 2016 GOP nominating process could come true: conservatives want to rerun the 1964 elections, and they’ve finally found their Barry Goldwater.

And that's some relatively scary stuff.  Carson may be soft-spoken and somewhat obsessed with weird stuff like grain-storing pyramids, but the man's worldview is pretty clear: liberals aren't just politically opposed to Carson and the GOP, liberals are Communist enemies of the state that must be purged from the country. As Ed points out in his piece, MoJo's David Corn has documented Carson's hero, Bircher nutbag Cleon Skousen, pretty well.

Carson swears by Skousen, who died in 2006. In a July 2014 interview, Carson contended that Marxist forces had been using liberals and the mainstream media to undermine the United States. His source: Skousen. "There is a book called The Naked Communist," he said. "It was written in 1958. Cleon Skousen lays out the whole agenda, including the importance of getting people into important positions in the mainstream media so they can help drive the agenda. Well, that's what's going on now." Four months later, while being interviewed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News, Carson denounced unnamed Marxists who were presently seeking to destroy American society: "There was a guy who was a former CIA agent by the name of Cleon Skousen who wrote a book in 1958 called The Naked Communist, and it laid out the whole agenda. You would think by reading it that it was written last year—showing what they're trying to do to American families, what they're trying to do to our Judeo-Christian faith, what they're doing to morality." (Skousen had been an FBI employee—not a CIA officer—and mainly engaged in administrative and clerical duties; later he was a professor at Brigham Young University and police chief of Salt Lake City.) And the most recent edition of this Skousen book boasts Carson's endorsement on the front cover: "The Naked Communist lays out the whole progressive plan. It is unbelievable how fast it has been achieved."

Skousen's book was a hyperbolic, far-from-sophisticated Cold War denouncement of communism and the Soviet Union. Marx, Skousen claimed, had set out "to create a race of human beings conditioned to think like criminals." And in McCarthyesque fashion, Skousen contended that "agents of communism" had "penetrated every echelon of American society—including some of the highest offices of the United States Government." He insisted that many "loyal Americans" had been duped by Communists into doing the Reds' dirty work because "they are not aware that these objectives are designed to destroy us." Thus, these fellow travelers and naive citizens were part of a "campaign to soften America for the final takeover."

Skousen listed dozens of the goals of the commies and their useful idiots, including pushing free trade, promoting coexistence with the Soviet bloc, capturing "one or both of the political parties in the United States," winning control of schools ("use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda"), and infiltrating the press ("get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, and policy making positions"). He said they wanted to control "key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures," weaken American culture by degrading artistic expression (and substituting "good sculpture from parks and building" with "shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms"), and present homosexuality as "normal, natural, and healthy." What's more, he claimed, they wanted to discredit the Bible, eliminate prayer in schools, demean the American Founding Fathers as "selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the 'common man,'" and support "any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture—education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc." He said they also wanted to encourage divorce and promiscuity, incite "special-interest groups" to "rise up…to solve economic, political or social problems," and seize control of unions and big business.

If this all sounds like Glenn Beck-level "blackboard full of plans for fluoride to become the next caliphate" insanity, that's because it is. It's quite easy to laugh this garbage off as funny, but it's not.

This guy is leading the polls now among the GOP.

Welcome To Bevinstan, Con't

Joe Sonka goes through the after-action report of the Dem bloodbath and points out that next month, things will immediately get worse for Kentuckians as Matt Bevin takes control.

Even before next year’s session of the Kentucky General Assembly convenes, many of Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive orders are now at risk of being immediately rescinded by Matt Bevin once is sworn in on Dec. 8. 
Beshear’s executive orders at risk include prevailing wage on construction projects; a $10.10 per hour minimum wage for state employees and contractors; protection of state employees from discrimination in hiring based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and – most significantly – his creation of Kynect and the expansion of Medicaid to those up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate. Bevin appears likely to rescind most of these, though he at times backtracked during his campaign on a pledge to do away with Medicaid expansion “on day one.” 
The hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians who have coverage through Medicaid due to this expansion will be watching Bevin closely to see whether their eligibility will be rescinded with the stroke of a pen – assuming that is legally possible, which is up for debate – or if he will attempt to push for this through the legislative process.

When the General Assmebly does convene, the Dems left in control of the KY House are the only thing standing between Bevin and his agenda, but there's a very real possibility that it won't even last more than a few months.

While Bevin becoming governor is a major victory for Republicans and their policy agenda, the big remaining hurdle is the Democrats’ slim majority in the state House. Republicans have long called for so-called “right to work” legislation, tort reform, charter schools, abortion restrictions, fuller privatization of public pensions, and a more regressive consumption-based tax reform in the General Assembly – only to be stymied by Democrats in the House. Though Bevin will now have the bully pulpit of the governor’s mansion, his favored legislation still will face the hurdle of Democrats and House Speaker Greg Stumbo. 
Or will he? A serious threat for Democrats over the next two months will be rural conservative House Democrats flipping to the Republican Party, seeing the writing on the wall of their electoral future by having a D next to their name in a region of voters trending solidly Republican. Another threat is Bevin appointing any of these Democratic House members to a position in his administration or a judgeship, which would come along with a hefty boost in their public pension and open up the seat for a Republican to win in a special election. Gov. Beshear tried the same strategy with Republican members of the Senate in order to flip the majority of that chamber, though ultimately failing in that task. 
If this happens and the Republicans take over the House, the entire Republican policy agenda likely will pass by this spring. If not, Bevin and his party still have the opportunity to pick up enough seats in next year’s state House elections, delaying their long sought after wish list of policy goals until 2017. Until then, the House remains the Democrats’ only firewall.

And I just don't see it happening that the Dems will still be in charge of the KY House come 2017.


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