Sunday, November 26, 2017

Last Call For Shutdown Countdown, Con't.

The latest Republican can-kicking on the federal budget expires in less than two weeks on December 8, and while another continuing resolution is almost certain, it's not a sure thing.  Nothing in the Senate is certain at all, and there's still a pretty good chance Paul Ryan will lose control of the House GOP and shut the government down.

A short-term funding patch delaying the current Dec. 8 deadline at least a couple of weeks is inevitable, since top Hill leaders haven’t even agreed on spending numbers for federal agencies. The appropriations committees would need at least three to four weeks to write funding legislation.

Because it involves a must-pass bill, the spending fight gives House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) maximum leverage to demand a top priority for Democrats by year’s end: codifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals into law.

While not explicitly threatening to withhold votes without a DACA measure, both Pelosi and Schumer have vowed to save the Obama-era immigration program legislatively before lawmakers leave Washington for the year. Moderate Republicans have also urged their leadership to find a fix.

But doing so could prompt a rebellion among conservatives who don’t want to be steamrolled by Democrats on such a contentious issue. The White House is also insisting on funding for President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico.

In addition to a huge omnibus spending package, Congress has another pricey funding measure to deal with — aid for hurricane-wrecked states and territories — that many on Capitol Hill say doesn’t go far enough. 
The White House has suggested a $44 billion emergency measure distributed to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for ongoing hurricane relief, as well as money for combating wildfires in the West. Democrats and some powerful Republicans — including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 GOP leader — have said the package is far too small, though they will have to contend with fiscal conservatives who are getting weary of continued spending on aid, particularly if it’s not paid for with other cuts.

Other prime government programs could be temporarily shuttered if Congress fails to act.

One is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which empowers the NSA to monitor communications without a warrant. That authority expires at the end of the year, and there is bipartisan opposition to a “clean” renewal of the spying powers. There are varying proposals that would extend the programs, but with key reforms.

The National Flood Insurance Program, which has become financially strapped after the spate of powerful hurricanes this year, also needs to be reauthorized by Dec. 8. The House and Senate have dueling proposals to renew the program.

On the health care front, the expiration of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program is already causing problems as more states have turned to temporary cash infusions from the federal government to keep the programs running.

House Republicans passed a largely partisan CHIP funding measure earlier this month. Still, CHIP could be a relatively simple fix: One option would be to let funding ride along with a short-term continuing resolution that will need to clear Congress by Dec. 8.

Lawmakers will also face pressure to act on legislation that would stabilize the Obamacare markets after Trump’s decision last month to stop paying so-called cost-sharing reduction subsidies to insurers.

Basically any of these could blow up and the House GOP could vote to shut the place down for a while, and even if things pass, there's no guarantee that the increasingly unstable Trump would sign anything into law.

It's a dice roll at this point, and millions of people could be affected.  And it doesn't look like the GOP cares one whit about it.

Sunday Long Read: Lessons We Failed To Learn

Anyone who had gone over Klansman David Duke's near-win in 1990 for Louisiana's Senate race could have seen Donald Trump coming a mile away, but as Adam Serwer documents in The Atlantic, Republicans, the media, and voters refused to call Duke out for his racism or to take responsibility for nearly electing him to the Senate based solely on appealing to white supremacy and were allowed to chalk it up to "economic anxiety" of the Poppy Bush years.

Thirty years ago, nearly half of Louisiana voted for a Klansman, and the media struggled to explain why.

It was 1990 and David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, astonished political observers when he came within striking distance of defeating incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, earning 43 percent of the vote. If Johnston’s Republican rival hadn’t dropped out of the race and endorsed him at the last minute, the outcome might have been different.

Was it economic anxiety? The Washington Post reported that the state had “a large working class that has suffered through a long recession.” Was it a blow against the state’s hated political establishment? An editorial from United Press International explained, “Louisianans showed the nation by voting for Duke that they were mad as hell and not going to take it any more.” Was it anti-Washington rage? A Loyola University pollster argued, “There were the voters who liked Duke, those who hated J. Bennett Johnston, and those who just wanted to send a message to Washington.”

What message would those voters have been trying to send by putting a Klansman into office?

“There’s definitely a message bigger than Louisiana here,” Susan Howell, then the director of the Survey Research Center at the University of New Orleans, told the Los Angeles Times. “There is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration among working-class whites, particularly where there is an economic downturn. These people feel left out; they feel government is not responsive to them.”

Duke’s strong showing, however, wasn’t powered merely by poor or working-class whites—and the poorest demographic in the state, black voters, backed Johnston. Duke “clobbered Johnston in white working-class districts, ran even with him in predominantly white middle-class suburbs, and lost only because black Louisianans, representing one-quarter of the electorate, voted against him in overwhelming numbers,” The Washington Post reported in 1990. Duke picked up nearly 60 percent of the white vote. Faced with Duke’s popularity among whites of all income levels, the press framed his strong showing largely as the result of the economic suffering of the white working classes. Louisiana had “one of the least-educated electorates in the nation; and a large working class that has suffered through a long recession,” The Post stated.

By accepting the economic theory of Duke’s success, the media were buying into the candidate’s own vision of himself as a savior of the working class. He had appealed to voters in economic terms: He tore into welfare and foreign aid, affirmative action and outsourcing, and attacked political-action committees for subverting the interests of the common man. He even tried to appeal to black voters, buying a 30-minute ad in which he declared, “I’m not your enemy.”

Duke’s candidacy had initially seemed like a joke. He was a former Klan leader who had showed up to public events in a Nazi uniform and lied about having served in the Vietnam War, a cartoonishly vain supervillain whose belief in his own status as a genetic √úbermensch was belied by his plastic surgeries. The joke soon soured, as many white Louisiana voters made clear that Duke’s past didn’t bother them.

Many of Duke’s voters steadfastly denied that the former Klan leader was a racist. The St. Petersburg Times reported in 1990 that Duke supporters “are likely to blame the media for making him look like a racist.” The paper quoted G. D. Miller, a “59-year-old oil-and-gas lease buyer,” who said, “The way I understood the Klan, it’s not anti-this or anti-that.”

Duke’s rejoinder to the ads framing him as a racist resonated with his supporters. “Remember,” he told them at rallies, “when they smear me, they are really smearing you.”

The economic explanation carried the day: Duke was a freak creature of the bayou who had managed to tap into the frustrations of a struggling sector of the Louisiana electorate with an abnormally high tolerance for racist messaging.

While the rest of the country gawked at Louisiana and the Duke fiasco, Walker Percy, a Louisiana author, gave a prophetic warning to The New York Times.

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking David Duke is a unique phenomenon confined to Louisiana rednecks and yahoos. He’s not,” Percy said. “He’s not just appealing to the old Klan constituency, he’s appealing to the white middle class. And don’t think that he or somebody like him won’t appeal to the white middle class of Chicago or Queens.”

A few days after Duke’s strong showing, the Queens-born businessman Donald Trump appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“It’s anger. I mean, that’s an anger vote. People are angry about what’s happened. People are angry about the jobs. If you look at Louisiana, they’re really in deep trouble,” Trump told King.

Trump later predicted that Duke, if he ran for president, would siphon most of his votes away from the incumbent, George H. W. Bush—in the process revealing his own understanding of the effectiveness of white-nationalist appeals to the GOP base.

“Whether that be good or bad, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Pat Buchanan—who really has many of the same theories, except it's in a better package—Pat Buchanan is going to take a lot of votes away from George Bush,” Trump said. “So if you have these two guys running, or even one of them running, I think George Bush could be in big trouble.” Little more than a year later, Buchanan embarrassed Bush by drawing 37 percent of the vote in New Hampshire’s Republican primary.

We failed then to see the Republican party for what it was: the last bastion of white supremacy in America.  Both Bush and his son tried to pretend the party wasn't what it clearly was, and for a while it worked.  Then Obama was elected, and the backlash finally hit home for tens of millions of white voters who decided that Trump's overt racism was no longer a dealbreaker in a White House candidate.

The signs however have been there for my entire lifetime.

We Don't Need No Education. Con't

Everywhere you turn, the Republican Party stands for the destruction of government and the services it provides to the people, moving to privatize everything from roads to schools to water to the internet and turn it into revenue streams for corporations.  Higher education is no different, it's been under attack ever since I was in college in the 90's and 20 years later, the majority of the GOP now wants American public universities all but shut down.

Frank Antenori shot the head off a rattlesnake at his back door last summer — a deadeye pistol blast from 20 feet. No college professor taught him that. The U.S. Army trained him, as a marksman and a medic, on the “two-way rifle range” of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Useful skills. Smart return on taxpayers’ investment. Not like the waste he sees at too many colleges and universities, where he says liberal professors teach “ridiculous” classes and indoctrinate students “who hang out and protest all day long and cry on our dime.”

“Why does a kid go to a major university these days?” said Antenori, 51, a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature. “A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble.”

Antenori is part of an increasingly vocal campaign to transform higher education in America. Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, he and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market.

To the alarm of many educators, nearly every state has cut funding to public colleges and universities since the 2008 financial crisis. Adjusted for inflation, states spent $5.7 billion less on public higher education last year than in 2008, even though they were educating more than 800,000 additional students, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

In Arizona, which has had a Republican governor and legislature since 2009, lawmakers have cut spending for higher education by 54 percent since 2008; the state now spends $3,500 less per year on every student, according to the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Tuition has soared, forcing students to shoulder more of the cost of their degrees.

Meanwhile, public schools in Arizona and across the nation are welcoming private donors, including the conservative Koch brothers. In nearly every state, the Charles Koch Foundation funds generally conservative-leaning scholars and programs in politics, economics, law and other subjects. John Hardin, the foundation’s director of university relations, said its giving has tripled from about $14 million in 2011 to $44 million in 2015 as the foundation aims to “diversify the conversation” on campus.

People across the ideological spectrum are worried about the cost of college, skyrocketing debt from student loans and rising inequality in access to quality degrees. Educators fear the drop in government spending is making schools harder to afford for low- and middle-income students.

State lawmakers blame the cuts on falling tax revenue during the recession; rising costs of other obligations, especially Medicaid and prisons; and the need to balance their budgets. But even as prosperity has returned to many states, there is a growing partisan divide over how much to spend on higher education. Education advocates worry that conservative disdain threatens to undermine universities.

An uneducated population is far easier to control.  Millennials are the most college-educated generation in American history, but it's come at the cost of massive student debt. Mine's been paid off, I got a scholarship and had to borrow the rest, but that was 20 years ago. Besides, for the tens of millions who can't afford college, it's easier to demonize it.

Antenori views former president Barack Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer who taught at the University of Chicago Law School, as the embodiment of the liberal establishment. Antenori said liberal elites with fancy degrees who have been running Washington for so long have forgotten those who think differently.

“If you don’t do everything that their definition of society is, you’re somehow a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal cave man,” Antenori said.

Antenori was drawn to Trump, he said, because he was the “reverse of Obama,” an “anti-politically correct guy” whose attitude toward the status quo is “change it, fix it, get rid of it, crush it, slash it.”

Even though Trump boasts of his Ivy League degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Antenori said he “had a different air about him.” Unlike Obama, Trump has not emphasized the importance of Americans going to college.

"My college education was a mistake" is what I hear from people.  "If fewer people went to college, it would be less expensive, they would have to get rid of stupid arts and humanities programs and have to concentrate on majors that produced high-paying jobs. Nobody can use an English major, everyone can use a business degree."

You know, like Trump, the smartest businessman who ever lived, or something.

We don't need no education.

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