Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

Last week I talked about how Pennsylvania's GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts were found in violation of the state's constitution, and how the state's Supreme Court ordered a full redraw of the map ahead of the November elections.  The US Supreme Court denied the GOP's request to stay the order, to which the GOP then floated the idea of impeaching and removing all the state Supreme Court justices who ruled against the Republicans that control the state legislature.

They still might end up doing that, but it won't save them from the clock.  Last Friday's deadline passed and the GOP vomited out a map that was literally just as bad as the current one.  Chris Ingraham at the Washington Post shows us the numbers:

The new districts generally respect county and municipal boundaries and don't “wander seemingly arbitrarily across Pennsylvania,” as the state's Supreme Court wrote. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania voters, the new districts show just as much partisan bias as the old ones. 
You can demonstrate this using the precinct-level results of the 2016 presidential election: See which precincts are assigned to which districts under the new map, use those assignments to calculate the total presidential vote in each of the new districts and compare those figures with the vote totals under the old districts. That will give you a good sense of how the partisan makeup of the new districts compares to the old ones. 
Brian Amos, a redistricting expert at the University of Florida, has done exactly that. Amos combined the new district maps with precinct-level returns compiled by cartographers Nathaniel Kelso and Michal Migurski
The similarities are striking: In 2016, Donald Trump received more votes than Hillary Clinton in 12 out of Pennsylvania's 18 districts. Under the Republicans' new map, Trump would similarly outperform Clinton in exactly 12 districts. 
Not only that, but the vote margins in each district would be virtually identical. The chart below plots, for each district, the vote margins in 2016 vs. the margins that would result from the Republicans' new map. Across all 18 districts, the average difference in vote margins between the old and new map would be a little over four percentage points. 
From a partisan standpoint, in other words, the new map is almost exactly like the old one. Under the existing map, Democratic House candidates have routinely received roughly 50 percent of the statewide popular House vote but only five of the state's 18 House seats. The new map is unlikely to change that.

Today, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, tossed the GOP's crapass homework in the garbage can, meaning that unless something totally out of the blue happens, the state's Supreme Court will make good on their threat to draw the map themselves.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf on Tuesday rejected a new proposed map for the state’s congressional districts, saying the state’s Republican-controlled legislature submitted an unconstitutional gerrymander. 
“Partisan gerrymandering weakens citizen power, promotes gridlock and stifles meaningful reform,” Governor Wolf said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “As non-partisan analysts have already said, their map maintains a similar partisan advantage by employing many of the same unconstitutional tactics present in their 2011 map.” 
Republican leadership submitted the redrawn map to Wolf on Friday. From there, Wolf had until this Thursday to to tell the state Supreme Court whether he approved of the map; and if he did, it would be enacted. 
Citing a number of nonpartisan analysts on Tuesday, however, Wolf said: “Like the 2011 map, the map submitted to my office by Republican leaders is still a gerrymander. Their map clearly seeks to benefit one political party, which is the essence of why the court found the current map to be unconstitutional."

We'll see how the new map goes, and I expect the GOP to fight it every step of the way, but it can't be much worse than the current map, which had Democrats gain a slight majority of votes in 2016 House races in the state, but Republicans still won 13 of 18 districts.

By the way, the new map the Pennsylvania GOP proposed?

It packs all of Pittsburgh's blue voters into one blue district and Philly's into four, leaving one suburban swing blue district and three red ones on the eastern side of the state.  The Pennsyltucky area in the middle, dead red.  Nine GOP districts with double digit advantages, and six of those districts having 20-point plus advantages.  Even if voters preferred Democrats by ten points in the state, the best the Dems could ever hope to do under this map would be to break even.  The default would be a 12-6 split.

So yeah, I'm glad this is happening, and it needs to happen in more states.

Papers Please Everyone

The Trump regime takes yet another step towards authoritarianism with both ICE and Border Patrol agencies vying to move under the umbrella of US intelligence agencies as part of Homeland Security.

The Border Patrol is one of the country’s most powerful law enforcement agencies; it can stop travelers within 100 miles of the border without probable cause. 
It’s also one of President Donald Trump’s favorites. He boasted on the campaign trail about his support from agents, and frequently tweets about its work. While he regularly trashes the FBI, his praise of the Border Patrol is unstinting. 
Now, the Border Patrol could become even more potent. The Daily Beast can confirm that officials in the Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, are quietly advocating to join the country’s powerful collection of intelligence agencies. And some former CBP officials are warning that this combination of border agents and spies could present an “Orwellian problem with law enforcement becoming both investigators and intelligence collectors.”
Sources familiar with the effort tell The Daily Beast that efforts within Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to join the Intelligence Community are significantly more advanced than those within ICE (The Daily Beast reported last week that ICE officials are also looking to enlist). A former senior DHS official said this effort is especially promising under the Trump administration.

This means that both ICE and Border Patrol would have full access to the nation's post-Patriot Act intelligence resources, to be used increasingly against people already in the country. 

Now to be fair, the Obama administration was already considering this, but ran into problems with civil liberties and Republicans refusing to take action on immigration reform.

Jeh Johnson, the secretary of DHS for the last three years of the Obama administration, told The Daily Beast he supported the change when he headed the Department. 
“I thought it was a pretty good idea, because what CBP has to offer and contribute to the IC is travel data,” he said.

As shaky as the Obama administration was on deportations and civil liberties at times the Trump regime on the other hand definitely doesn't care about civil liberties protections. If anything they are looking to make sure intelligence resources can be used to track down, say, undocumented immigrants or to profile everyone entering the country.

This would have been a pretty bad idea under Obama, but will be an abysmal abuse of government power under Trump.

Austerity Hysteria, Con't

Donald Trump's budget proposal for FY 2019 is less of a budget and more of an outline of how exactly to humiliate tens of millions of Americans, many of whom voted for the guy. 

The budget that President Trump proposed Monday takes a hard whack at the poorest Americans, slashing billions of dollars from food stamps, public health insurance and federal housing vouchers, while trying to tilt the programs in more conservative directions

The spending plan reaches beyond the White House’s own power over the government social safety net and presumes lawmakers will overhaul long-standing entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do.

The changes call on lawmakers to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and transform the rest of that program into a system of capped payments to states; convert food assistance into a hybrid of commodity deliveries and traditional cash benefits; and expand requirements that low-income people work to qualify for federal assistance.

“We’re very encouraged by their approach to reforming the welfare state, both to taxpayers and the people on these programs,” said Akash Chougule, director of policy for the libertarian group Americans for Prosperity. “We’re encouraged by the president’s rhetoric and recent actions.”

Congress has final say over spending — but Monday’s budget proposal is seen as an important sign of Trump’s priorities.

Ahh, that good ol' Dickensian/Calvinist punishment system.  We never really got over it, you know. Only immoral people need government help, so Trump will make government help so awful that you'll magically fix your own problem.

Specifically, the Trump budget proposal would gut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, by $17.2 billion in 2019 — equivalent to 22 percent of the program’s total cost last year — and implement a boxed food delivery program
, a system that White House budget director Mick Mulvaney compared to Blue Apron.

The proposal would bring a fundamental change to a program that for the past 40 years has allowed recipients to use SNAP benefits at grocery stores as if they were cash. SNAP provides an average of $125 per month to 42.2 million Americans.

Under the full-scale redesign, the Agriculture Department would use a portion of those benefits to buy and deliver a package of U.S.-grown commodities — officially dubbed “America’s Harvest Box” — to recipients, using the government’s buying power to lower costs.

The deliveries of government-purchased foods would account for roughly half of the benefits for the vast majority of SNAP households.

The foods in the deliveries would include shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, and canned meat, fruits and vegetables, according to USDA. The department estimates that it could supply these goods at roughly half the cost of retail, slashing the cost of SNAP while still feeding the hungry.

Advocates for the hungry said they are skeptical of the plan and unclear how it would work for people with specialized diets, or whether USDA would allot the same foods to, say, an elderly diabetic and a family with young children.

It would be a disaster, of course.  Reagan did this with cheese and milk back in the 80's in order to boost the profits of dairy farmers, and rather than just toss the stuff it ended up going to food stamp recipients whether they wanted it or needed it.  Trump now plans to do this with, well, everything.

Hey, we're already testing the program in Puerto Rico, right?  Why not take it national, eh?

It's funny that the party that wrecked health care in the US over the individual mandate raising insurance premiums on tens of millions, that still wages a near decade-long war to assure America has the God-given right to use incandescent light bulbs and screamed "tyranny!" at school lunch nutritional requirements now wants the federal government to literally choose what food millions of Americans eat and give it to them.

Some would call that socialism, you know.   Just saying.  But what do you expect from the brain trust that proposes $300 billion in cuts to infrastructure spending over ten years to turn it into $200 billion in tax incentives to "encourage" states to cough up $1.3 trillion in funds to rebuild federal highways and bridges, then has the balls to call it a "$1.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan"?

There's a lot of painful austerity in Trump's budget proposal, including the elimination of funding for PBS and NPR, huge cuts at HUD, State, the EPA, and massive cuts to Medicaid.  We fought most of those cuts off last year, and I'm betting the GOP won't try it again with midterms just months away, but if the Dems don't win back the House and/or Senate in November, it's going to be brutal austerity in 2019, I guarantee.


Related Posts with Thumbnails