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ancianita's Journal
ancianita's Journal
September 25, 2023

Middle Age Riot

September 25, 2023

The States Project -- a BFD

Ever heard of it? I hadn't until today. Thank you, NYT.

When the stakes of 2024 are the highest, we might finally be catching up with the Koch billionaire network through our own billionaires' investing in liberal representation across states.

Mr. Squadron and Mr. Pritzker are quick to point out differences between the States Project and its conservative counterparts. For one, their group doesn’t lobby lawmakers to pass specific bills or have lobbyists on the payroll. And its efforts in state capitols have a much smaller budget: roughly $5 million per year, with about 20 full-time staff members working in 15 states.

The group is funded by Future Now Action, a tax-exempt, so-called dark-money group that is not required to disclose its donors. The States Project declined to reveal its donor list.

While most organizations seeking to craft state policy share their model legislation and plans out of the public eye, The States Project posts all of its proposals on its website.

“When people get elected, there’s no real road map to being able to take the things that you campaigned on and turn them into real, tangible efforts and good governance and policymaking,” said Erika Geiss, a Democratic state senator in Michigan. She said the States Project’s online policy library had been helpful for drafting the final version of a bill she wrote on paid family leave. (The bill hasn’t advanced, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat, mentioned it as a top priority in her “What’s Next” address last month.) ...

One popular States Project program: a message-board-meets-liberal-dating-service interface that allows the group’s officials to identify state lawmakers in different places who are most likely to help one another on a project.

“A quick call to someone in the States Project saves me time,” said Sarah Anthony, a Democratic state senator from Michigan who serves as chair of the budget committee. Otherwise, she added, “My team and I try to scour the internet to try to figure out who’s tackling which problems where.”...

With Democrats likely to continue to focus on abortion rights as a key issue in 2024, the States Project is girding for another busy year in state legislatures.

“Abortion was definitely an important catalyst that brought an enormous amount of attention to the states,” Mr. Pritzker said. “I don’t think any of us expected that there would be a spotlight on states the way there is now.”




September 21, 2023

The Shutdown is the Two Santa Clauses Scam Rearing its Ugly Head Again

(bolding is mine)

As the United States barrels toward a GOP-caused fiscal disaster and government shutdown, House Republicans have laid out their vision for the future of America.

In a budget document they released yesterday, the legislators proposed dramatic $9 trillion cuts to Social Security, food stamps, aid to women and children, Medicare and Medicaid, along a new round of tax cuts for America’s billionaires. Their argument is that we need to “balance the budget now!”

This is the classic Two Santas strategy that the GOP has been running ever since 1981. In addition to showing the hypocrisy and depravity of these politicians who are happy to live on the largesse of rightwing billionaires but see no benefit in feeding hungry children, it also shows that Jude Wanniski’s grand plan, adopted by Reagan in 1981, is alive and well.

It’s no accident or coincidence that the threat of a failure to pay the nation’s bills or fund an upcoming year never once happened during the presidencies of Reagan, Bush, Bush, or Trump. Or that it did happen every single time during the presidencies of Clinton, Obama…and, now, Biden.

You could even call it a conspiracy: there’s an amazing backstory — with a unique name — here. And it all started with a guy named Jude Wanniski, who literally transformed American politics with a plan that the American mainstream media, astonishingly, continues to ignore.

Here’s how it works, laid it out in simple summary:

To set up its foundation, Wanniski’s “Two Santas” strategy dictates, when Republicans control the White House they must spend money like a drunken Santa and cut taxes on the rich, all to intentionally run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible.

They started this during the Reagan presidency and tripled down on it during the presidencies of Bush and Trump with massive tax cuts for billionaires and increases in spending across-the-board.

Those massive tax cuts and that uncontrolled spending during four Republican presidencies produced three results:

-- They stimulated the economy with a sort of sugar high, making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy;
-- They raised the national debt dramatically (it’s at $33 trillion today, almost all of which tracks back to Reagan’s, Bush Jr.’s, and Trump’s massive tax cuts and Bush’s two illegal off-the-books wars);
-- And they made people think that Republicans are the “tax-cut Santa Clauses.”

Then comes part two of the one-two punch: when a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans must scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how “our children will have to pay for it!” and “you must cut spending to solve the crisis!”

The “debt crisis,” that is, that they themselves created with their massive tax cuts and wild spending.

Do whatever it takes, the “Two Santas” strategy goes. Tie up legislation, deny a quorum, filibuster, shut down the government, whatever.

Which is why, following Wanniski’s script, Republicans are again squealing about the national debt and saying they will refuse to fund the government, possibly crashing the US economy.

And, once again, the media is preparing to cover it as a “Debt Crisis!” rather than what it really is: a cynical political and media strategy devised by Republicans in the 1970s, fine-tuned in the 1980s, and since then rolled out every time a Democrat is in the White House.

Politically, it’s a brilliant strategy that was hatched by a fellow most people have never heard of: Jude Wanniski...

Republican strategist Wanniski first proposed his Two Santa Clauses strategy in The Wall Street Journal in 1974...

Wanniski argued back then that Republicans weren’t losing so many elections just because of Nixon’s corruption, but mostly because the Democrats had been viewed since the New Deal of the 1930s as the “Santa Claus party.”

On the other hand, the GOP, he said, was widely seen as the “party of Scrooge” because ever since the 1930s they’d publicly opposed everything from Social Security and Medicare to unemployment insurance and food stamps.

The Democrats, he noted, had gotten to play Santa Claus for decades when they passed out Social Security and unemployment checks — both programs of FDR’s Democratic New Deal — as well as their “big government” projects like roads, bridges, schools, and highways that gave a healthy union paycheck to workers and made our country shine.

Even worse, Democrats kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for all that “free stuff” — and Democrats’ 91% top tax rates on the morbidly rich didn’t have any negative effect at all on working people...

It all added, Wanniski theorized, to the public perception that the Democrats were the true party of Santa Claus, using taxes on the morbidly rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class.

Americans loved the Democrats back then. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.

Therefore, Wanniski concluded, the GOP had to become a Santa Claus party, too...

But because Republicans hated the idea of helping working people, they had to come up with a new way to convince average voters that the GOP, too, had the Santa spirit. But what?

“Tax cuts!” said Wanniski.

To make this work, the Republicans would first have to turn the classical world of economics — which had operated on a simple demand-driven equation for seven thousand years — on its head...

At a glance, this 1981 move by the Reagan Republicans to cut taxes while increasing spending seems irrational, cynical, and counterproductive. It certainly defies classic understandings of economics. But when you consider Jude Wanniski’s playbook, it makes complete sense.

To help, Arthur Laffer took that equation a step further with the famous “Laffer Curve” napkin scribble he shared with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld over lunch. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would magically go up!

Neither concept made any sense — and time and our $33 trillion national debt have proven both to be colossal idiocies — but if Americans would buy into it all, they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.

Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to fully embrace the Two Santa Clauses strategy.

He told the American people straight-out that if he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, those “job creators” (then a newly-invented Republican phrase) would use their extra money to “build new factories” so all that new stuff “supplying” the economy would produce faster economic growth.

George HW Bush — like most Republicans in 1980 who hadn’t read Wanniski’s piece in The Wall Street Journal — was initially horrified. Ronald Reagan was proposing “Voodoo Economics,” said Bush in the primary campaign, and Wanniski's supply-side and Laffer’s tax-cut theories would throw the nation into debt while producing nothing to benefit average Americans.

But Wanniski had done his homework, selling “Voodoo” supply-side economics to the wealthy elders and influencers of the Republican Party.

Democrats, Wanniski told the GOP, had been “Santa Clauses” since 1933 by giving people things. From union jobs to food stamps, new schools to Social Security, the American people loved the “toys” and “free stuff” the Democratic Santas brought every year, as well as the growing economy the increasing union wages and social programs produced in middle class hands.

But Republicans could stimulate the economy by throwing trillions at defense contractors, oil companies, and other fat-cat donor industries, Jude’s theory went: spending could actually increase without negative repercussions because that money would “trickle down” to workers from the billionaires and corporate CEOs buying new yachts and building new mansions.

Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people’s taxes!

For working people, the tax cuts would only be a small token — a few hundred dollars a year at the most — but Republicans would heavily market them to the media and in political advertising. And the tax cuts for the rich, which weren’t to be discussed in public, would amount to trillions of dollars, part of which they knew would be recycled back to the GOP as campaign contributions from the morbidly rich beneficiaries of those tax cuts.

There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again.

Every time a Democrat was in the White House, they’d be forced into the role of Santa-killers if they acted responsibly by raising taxes; or, even better, they’d be machine-gunning Santa by cutting spending on their own social programs.

Either one would lose them elections, and if Republicans executed the strategy right, they could force Democrats to do both!

Reagan took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars when he was elected in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today.

Republicans embraced Wanniski’s theory with such gusto that Presidents Reagan and George HW Bush ran up more debt in twelve years than every president in history up until that time — from George Washington to Jimmy Carter — combined.

Surely this would both “starve the beast” of the American government and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks.

Bill Clinton, the first Democrat they blindsided with Two Santas, had run on an FDR-like platform of a “New Covenant” with the American people that would strengthen the institutions of the New Deal, re-empower labor, and institute a national single-payer health care system.

A few weeks before his inauguration, however, Wanniski-insiders Alan Greenspan, Larry Sommers, and Goldman Sachs co-chairman Robert Rubin famously sat Clinton down and told him the facts of life: Reagan and Bush had run up such a huge deficit that he was going to have to both raise taxes and cut the size of government programs for the working class and poor.

Clinton buckled under the threat of a government shutdown
: he raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous social programs. He declared an “end to welfare as we know it” and, in his second inaugural address, an “end to the era of big government.”

Clinton shot Santa Claus, and the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as GOP politicians campaigned on a “Republican Santa” platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases...

Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski’s work. Using the “fiscal responsibility” argument — essentially Two Santas in drag — Republicans have forced two Democratic presidents, and are about to try to force a third, to gut-shoot the Democratic Santa established by FDR.

Using this strategy, Republicans held power for forty years, transferred over $50 trillion from working class families into the money bins of the top one percent, and cut organized labor's representation in the workplace from around a third of workers when Reagan came into office to around 8 percent of the non-governmental workforce today.

Think back to Ronald Reagan, who more than tripled the US debt from a mere $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in his 8 years. That spending produced a massive stimulus to the economy, and the biggest non-wartime increase in America’s national debt in all of our history until Trump.

There was nary a peep from Republicans about that 218% increase in our debt; they were just fine with it and to this day claim Reagan presided over a “great” economy.

When five rightwingers on the Supreme Court gave the White House to George W. Bush in 2000, he immediately reverted to Wanniski’s “Two Santa” strategy and again nearly doubled the national debt, adding several trillion in borrowed money to pay for his two tax cuts for billionaires, and tossing in two unfunded wars for good measure, which also added at least (long term) another $8 trillion.

There was not a whisper about that debt from any high-profile in-the-know Republicans; in fact, Dick Cheney — who knew Wanniski personally — famously said, amplifying Wanniski’s strategy:

“Reagan proved deficits don’t matter. We won the midterms. This is our due.”

Bush and Cheney’s tax cuts for the rich raised the debt by 86% to over $10 trillion (and additional trillions in war debt that wasn’t be put on the books until Obama entered office, so it looked like it was his).

Then came Democratic President Barack Obama, and suddenly the GOP was hysterical about the debt again.

So much so that they convinced a sitting Democratic president to propose a cut to Social Security (the “chained CPI”). Obama nearly shot the Democrats’ biggest Santa Claus, just like Wanniski predicted, until outrage from the Democratic base stopped him. And then we got the “sequester” out of it...

It was a successful hostage-taking exercise that is still largely in place.

Next, Donald Trump raised our national debt by over $8 trillion, and the GOP funded the government without a peep every year for the first three years of his administration, and then suspended the debt ceiling altogether for 2020 (so, if Biden won, he’d have to justify raising the debt ceiling for 2 years’ worth of deficits, making it even more politically painful).

And now Republicans are using the renewal of government funding for fiscal year 2024 to drop their Two Santas bomb right onto President Joe Biden’s head. After all, it worked against Clinton and Obama and the media never caught on.
Why wouldn’t they use it again?

This time they’re planning on adding the Newt Gingrich twist of shutting the government down and damaging the economy just as the Democratic president heads toward an election.

And if the GOP’s failure to fund the government crashes the economy, all the better. Republicans can just blame Biden: it’ll increase the chances of Republican victories in 2024!

Americans deserve to know how we’ve been manipulated, and by whom. Sadly, although I and others (it’s even detailed on Wikipedia!) have been calling out Wanniski’s scheme for decades, none of the national media have ever seriously examined this 40+ year GOP strategy...

Hopefully this time Democratic politicians and our media will, finally, call the GOP out on Wanniski’s and Reagan’s Two Santa Clauses scam and put an end to it once and for all."


Rethugs know and even use Wanniski's "two-santa" lingo.

It's time Democrats and President Biden not just invoke Amendment 14, Sec. 3, but publicly call rethugs out about their 40-year long con -- and corporate media's lazy complicity in that con.

September 21, 2023

Sheldon Whitehouse: Economic Inequality Constricts Economic Growth & Undermines Economic Stability

Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered the following opening statement at yesterday's Budget Comte. hearing entitled, “Reducing Inequality, Fueling Growth: How Public Investment Promotes Prosperity for All.”

September 21, 2023

Nicolle Wallace with Prosecutors Andrew Weissmann and Mary McCord: Prosecuting Donald Trump

In review. What Weissman and McCord knew that went on before and during the 2016 transition of power, why Obama had expelled 35 Russians, frozen their real estate assets; what Weissman and McCord saw about the new people transitioning into positions with the FBI and Dept of Justice. As is proper and professional across administrations, how McCord and Yates let the new White House (called the Magic Kingdom at that time) know what they knew about James Comey (head of the FBI) Michael Flynn (Nat'l Sec. Advisor) and Sergey Kislyak (senior ambassador to Russia) to Don McGahn (WH Counsel) and Sally Yates (Deputy AG).

Weissmann was one of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s top deputies who oversaw the team handling Trump’s corrupt former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and McCord was the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at DOJ. The two join Wallace as they break down the cases, offering a clear-eyed analysis on the scope of potential criminality, what its means for American democracy, and much more.

Over the last several months, Americans have witnessed a dizzying series of historic court cases — a former US president indicted twice — ongoing investigations suggesting more indictments are possible. How are we to make sense of the details and the scope of these cases? What happens when the Republican presidential front runner has been indicted for obstruction of justice? And how do prosecutors build a legal case when the defendant is a former president?

Panel questions going forward:
Will Jack Smith win? Yes. What will happen if there's a hung jury? Will Judge Chutkan send Trump to jail?
Who would be the new AG under Trump? Most likely, Mike Flynn, Jeff Clark, and all who get pardoned would run a second Trump administration, including Proud Boys, with the absolute institution of Executive Privilege and Unitary Executive Power.

MSNBC’s "Prosecuting Donald Trump" is a weekly podcast that dissects the cases against former President Donald Trump with in-depth analysis, special guests and listener questions.
September 20, 2023

Badass Eric Swalwell: Mr Attorney General, you are serious, they are not,

you are decent, they are not, you are fair, they are not. So I welcome you to the law firm, Insurrection, LLP, where they work every single day on behalf of one client, Donald Trump. And they do that at the expense of millions of Americans who are in need for the government to stay open, their kids safe in their schools, and would like to see Ukraine stay in the fight so we don't help Russia... It's the difference between the one side that believes in governing, and one side that believes in ruling...."

September 20, 2023

Garland to testify before Congress, with his record in the spotlight

Source: Washington Post

On Wednesday, Garland, 70, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee for the first time since the Trump and Hunter Biden indictments. Republicans who have spent 2½ years questioning those investigations, as well as Garland’s efforts to fight crime and address threats to school board members and elections officials, are expected to again eviscerate his leadership — portraying him as an attorney general who is misusing the Justice Department to attack the president’s political rival and accusing him of going too easy on Biden’s son.

“At the heart of all this is the disparate treatment, the unequal standard of the law, the double standard,” the committee’s chair, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said on Fox News on Tuesday, comparing the 44 federal charges against Trump with the three-count indictment of Hunter Biden.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), a Democrat on the committee, said Garland is doing what he should be doing, consistent with the rule of law. “Republicans are never going to be satisfied because they are not looking at the facts,” Schiff said in an interview. “They are looking to try to get a political advantage.”

“The attorney general looks at these cases as a nonpolitical, rule-of-law situation. And he can be criticized for that and praised for that, both at the same time,” said former senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who was also in the running to be Biden’s attorney general and thinks Garland is effectively leading the department. “He is exactly the person who they should have thought they would be getting. He is doing exactly what those who know Merrick Garland well had expected.”

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/09/19/merrick-garland-justice-trump-biden/

Hoping CSPAN covers the meeting, so that Americans can see how rule of law speaks to the Jordan gang who can't shoot straight.
September 20, 2023

Senate MVP Sheldon Whitehouse Explains Corporate Gaming of Bankruptcy Law -- The Texas Two-Step

Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights, delivered opening remarks in a hearing of the full Judiciary Committee entitled, “Evading Accountability: Corporate Manipulation of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.”

The hearing examined the growing trend of corporations on firm financial footing using a maneuver known as the “Texas Two-Step” to bog down consumers in bankruptcy proceedings and delay justice.

Because corporations have always known they can evade justice by outliving humans, who continue to suffer unequal protection under the law, and die as the collateral damage of corporate policy and practices.

September 20, 2023

Brookings: What is a government shutdown? And why are we likely to have another one?

Congress appears to be on track to trigger a government shutdown on October 1, 2023, because it is not expected to pass the 12 appropriations bills that fund government operations before the start of the new fiscal year.

Why do government shutdowns happen?

Under the Antideficiency Act (initially passed in 1884 and amended in 1950), federal agencies cannot spend or obligate any money without an appropriation (or other approval) from Congress. When Congress fails to enact the 12 annual appropriation bills, federal agencies must cease all non-essential functions until Congress acts. This is known as a government shutdown. If Congress enacts some but not all of the 12 appropriations bills, only agencies without appropriations have to shut down; this is known as a partial shutdown.

What happens when that occurs?

During shutdowns, many federal employees are told not to report for work, though under a 2019 law they get paid retroactively when the shutdown ends. Government employees who provide what are deemed essential services, such as air traffic control and law enforcement, continue to work, but don’t get paid until Congress takes action to end the shutdown. All this applies only to the roughly 25% of federal spending subject to annual appropriation by Congress.
Benefits such as Social Security and Medicare continue to flow because they are authorized by Congress in laws that do not need annual approval (although the services offered by Social Security benefit offices may be limited during a shutdown). In addition, the Treasury can continue to pay interest on U.S. Treasury debt on time.

Shutdowns can be disruptive, leading to delays in processing applications for passports, small business loans, or government benefits; shuttered visitor centers and bathrooms at national parks; fewer food-safety inspections; and various inconveniences. Shutdowns are sufficiently likely that the White House Office of Management & Budget posts detailed contingency plans that government agencies maintain for shutdowns, as well as a 51-page Q&A on shutdown procedures.

The plans are often quite specific. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s contingency plan, for instance, cautions: “During the shutdown, employees who have not been designated as excepted may not volunteer to work without pay. Such voluntary services are a violation of the Antideficiency Act and will not be permitted under any circumstances.” The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation says, “A staff person will be instructed to ensure that, at the end of the last day of work with appropriated funds, lights and electronic devices not needed during the shutdown are turned off.” Some agencies say operations will continue if they haven’t spent previously appropriated sums or if they have income from fees that they can tap. The National Gallery of Art, for instance, says it will remain open as long as it can tap such reserves, but will have to close if the shutdown lingers. And the Centers for Disease Control says that 46% of its employees (or 6,448 individuals) will remain on the job, including 2,518 who are “exempt” because their activities or positions are funded outside of the usual annual appropriation process, and 3,930 who are “excepted” because their activities are deemed necessary by implication, or for the safely of human life or protection of property.

What about the courts and Congress?

In a 1981 opinion, Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti said that the president could continue to exercise his constitutional responsibilities during a shutdown. With that logic, lawyers for the federal courts and Congress have said that judges and members of Congress – and those who support them in their essential duties – can stay on the job even if the appropriations bills that fund them lapse. But some judicial and congressional employees are furloughed.

In a shutdown, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, federal courts continue to operate for a while by drawing on fees they have collected (as distinguished from appropriations) and by delaying new hires, non-case related travel, etc. If the shutdown is prolonged and those funds are spent, then the courts say they can continue work that supports their constitutional powers.

As for Congress, the Congressional Research Service says, “Due to their constitutional responsibilities and a permanent appropriation for congressional pay, members of Congress are not subject to furlough.” Only those congressional staffers whose work is “required to support Congress with its constitutional responsibilities or those necessary to protect life and property” can remain on the job. But even those congressional staff don’t get paid during a shutdown, though they do get paid retroactively.

Why does a shutdown look likely in the fall of 2023?

In June 2023, with the backing of Republican leaders in the House and Senate, Congress passed and President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which lifted the ceiling on the federal debt and set limits on annual appropriated spending—one for defense, one for non-defense—for the fiscal years 2024 (which begins October 1, 2023) and 2025.

At the same, the expectations were that this settled the overall size of the appropriations bills, and Congress would pass 12 bills that added up to the agreed-upon levels. The Senate Appropriations Committee has followed that path and has passed all 12 appropriations bills with bipartisan support. But House Republicans, unhappy with the agreement Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck with the White House, want to spend less than the levels specified in the Fiscal Responsibility Act—much to the consternation of Democrats and the White House, which says President Biden would veto the appropriations bills that are pending in the House. The House bills also include provisions on abortion, contraception, regulation of tobacco, and healthcare for trans persons that aren’t likely to pass the Senate.

When the House and Senate pass different bills, the next step is a conference committee at which the two chambers are supposed to forge a compromise, which goes to a vote in each chamber before going to the president. That is likely to be very contentious this year—and there is not much time.

Catastrophe? Caused by oligarchic tools? Just stupid drama?
With the military's gutted leadership, and slowdown of much of government, the U.S. could be in a national security position of weakness.
We have a brilliant Executive team and Commander-in-Chief who I hope will take actions that make the Republicans themselves look like the shutdown, while the rest of government governs.


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