Rush Limbaugh, McCommie

Fast food burger
As you most likely know, fast food workers in several cities staged a strike yesterday. The main demand: a rate of pay of $15 an hour -- a little more than double the federal minimum of $7.25. "When they work hard every day for all day long and they don't get paid enough wages to put food on the table and to support their families, then we as a community suffer," explained  Fran Quigley, a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, who joined workers on the picket line.

But why should Quigley care? After all, you have to assume he makes a bit more than the average fast food worker. If we rule out the fact that he's just a good person and assume he's motivated only by self-interest, he still has a compelling reason to support higher wages for these workers, as USA Today reports:

Taxpayers subsidize workers who earn too little, he said, by paying for food stamps and other entitlement programs in which many low-wage workers participate. Profitable corporations employing such workers often make enough money to increase those workers' wages, Quigley said.

This is the conservative case for raising the minimum wage. And it's a case that conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh doesn't seem to understand.

In response to the story about fast food worker strikes, Limbaugh had this to say:

If you want a “living wage,” if you don’t like what fast food restaurants pay, then do something else. It’s just that simple. Go to a trade school. Go to another business. Start your own business. Maybe the work that you are capable of isn’t yet worth $15 an hour at a fast-food restaurant. Maybe the consumer doesn’t want to pay $10 for a Big Mac so that people working at McDonald’s make $15 an hour. It’s not just a one-way strata.

But if the taxpayer is subsidizing the industry's labor costs, we're paying extra for a Big Mac already. In fact, we're paying for Big Macs we never eat. If the workers were paid a living wage, we'd be able to decide whether we wanted to pay for that burger or not -- and we'd only be paying for burgers at places where we eat. That Burger Bucket joint you avoid because all the workers are rude and the bathrooms are a nightmare? Yeah, you're still paying for that and, by subsidizing that franchisee's workforce, you're helping to keep that place open -- whether you want to or not.

Somehow, I don't think this is highly representative of the "free market" that conservatives claim to love so much. Without the taxpayer subsidies, no one would work at fast food, because no one could afford to work at fast food. The industry would have to offer higher wages in order to function. After all, supply and demand works for labor as much as it does for goods.

And as long as we're talking about supply and demand, that $10 burger is BS. No one would pay ten bucks for a fast food burger. In order to remain competitive, businesses would have to find ways to keep prices down or lose out to other stores. The price of goods isn't set entirely by the cost of labor. To a much higher degree, it's truer to say it's set by what the market will bear. Supply and demand. If it means eating into profits, then a little haircut is better than no profits at all. For the record, "profit" means "making money." If you make less of a profit, you're still coming out ahead.

The status quo that Limbaugh is defending is socialism on a scale that he would normally decry. It's socialized wages to subsidize an industry that's not even remotely essential to the functioning of this nation. In fact, when you figure in the health costs stemming from people who eat too much McFood, you'd probably find the industry does more harm than good. And for the most part, people who eat too much McFood do so because they get paid McWage and it's all they can afford. Wheels within wheels.

In an actual free market, the wages paid to fast food workers would be -- by necessity -- much higher. And it's here that the conservative mask fails to disguise any longer -- they aren't about free markets, they're about higher profits for business. And if that means that businesses get to reach into your pocket to subsidize their worker's livings, then they'll cry like stuck pigs when anyone suggests that businesses sink or swim on their own.

Rush Limbaugh -- like the rest of the phonies on the right -- isn't a free market capitalist. He's the mouthpiece for McSocialism.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


No, MLK Didn't Want a 'Colorblind' Society

King Memorial in Washington
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech is considered one of the greatest speeches in American political rhetoric, yet conservatives tend to abridge it down to that one sentence. Charlie Pierce explains why:

There it is. That's the great loophole. It is an otherwise unremarkable sentiment given the context of the entire address, but, for the people who almost certainly would have lined up on the other side of the movement in 1963, it subsequently has been used as an opening through which all manner of historically backsliding mischief has come a'wandering in, from "reverse discrimination" to Allan Bakke, to what is going on today with the franchise in too many places, to the reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Modern conservatives have used that line to conscript Dr. King into their ideology, now that he's dead and unable to speak for himself. It's the only line in the speech that they remember.

Conservatives have in recent years taken to trying to coopt King as one of their own and that one sentence is pretty much the whole of the evidence for their case. Conservatives see him through the lens of what Cornell West calls "the Santa Clausification" of Dr. King -- i.e., King was a magical figure who came one day and ended racism, then was tragically taken from us by someone who didn't understand. Never mind that King advocated for a minimum guaranteed income for all Americans. Never mind that he died supporting the collective bargaining rights of striking sanitation workers. Never mind that he opposed the Vietnam War and supported the Voting Rights Act. Ignore all that and concentrate only one that one short sentence from one speech and, if you squint and cock your head just right, you can almost believe King was as conservative as your average teabagging frootloop.
Except that conservatives misunderstand what even that one sentence means -- whether deliberately or because they've gotten so used to ignoring the sentence's context is irrelevant. Republicans look at that sentence and read all sorts of BS into it; that King would oppose Affirmative Action and "reverse racism." That he wanted the concept of race to just disappear.

If you want an example of this, check out the National Review's Jonah Goldberg's weekly syndicated column from the LA Times. In it, he won't shut up about how King wanted a colorblind society. But King never advocated for a colorblind society, with good reason. A colorblind society would not keep records comparing white unemployment numbers to those of African-Americans. The racial breakdown of prison populations would not be tracked. Life expectancy, poverty rates, number of uninsured, number of police stops, redlining, disparities in education, etc. would all be complete mysteries in a colorblind society.

In short, the sort of society Goldberg -- and the rest of the right -- pretends King advocated is a society that would protect institutional racism with enforced ignorance and would maintain a status quo that benefits the powerful over the downtrodden. You need to see race to see racism, so those who benefit from racism would very much rather you didn't see race.

It also explains just how deeply conservatives misunderstand the legacy of race and racism. People like Goldberg pretend that racism is the problem and the only problem. If you declare racism over with, then that solves everything. But it doesn't. The legacy of racism lingers on in the damage it has done to generations of Americans.

If you could literally end racism right now -- kill it off completely in people's hearts -- people would still suffer because of racism. Income inequality wouldn't automatically disappear. Disparities in opportunity wouldn't just fall away. Institutional racism has pushed an unforgivable number of people to the bottom of the economic and social ladder and the Republican misunderstanding of King's message tells them that we should just leave them there, because correcting these injustices with things like Affirmative Action would be wrong. Obviously this is something Dr. King would never have agreed with in a million years, even if ending racism were the entirety of his message and his vision.

When conservatives say they want a colorblind society, keep all this in mind. A colorblind society is blind to racism and would do nothing to correct it. In fact, a colorblind society would consider acknowledgement of racial disparity to be, in itself, racist. Republicans misunderstand Dr. King not because they're so interested in fighting racism, but because they're so interested in ignoring it and maintaining the status quo.

If that weren't the case, they'd be making a different argument.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Marking 50 Years of Conservative Near Non-Progress on Race

This weekend "tens of thousands" of people gathered in the nation's capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement's 1963 March on Washington. The occasion of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech," the march is a touchstone in the civil rights movement.

For those on the right, the anniversary creates a bit of a PR problem, with conservatives currently indulging in a racial freak out over "young black thugs" in hoodies. After George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, the stage was set. Republicans overwhelmingly came out in favor of racial profiling and the sort of street "justice" made legal by "stand you ground" laws.

Then a court knocked the legs out from under NYC's stop-and-frisk policy, ruling that the racial profiling involved was unconstitutional. The right reacted as if rape, murder, and various and sundry species of mayhem had all been declared legal, when all the court really did was rule that skin color didn't constitute probable cause.

Finally, they've managed to work themselves up into hysteria over the random murder of white Australian Chris Lane by three "black" teenagers (one of which happens not to be black). The right moves in fads, going from eye-clawing outrage to eye-clawing outrage until they get tired of being in a blind panic over things no one else really cares about. Right now, the flavor of the month is "scary black people."

Not that the right has ever been especially friendly toward African-Americans. After all, taking down ACORN and passing voter suppression laws are largely about keeping certain people from voting. They seem to believe that voting Democrat is part of minorities' DNA, rather than the result of decades of rightwing dickery toward them. Republicans have given up on minority voters and African-American voters especially.

Part of the problem is that they seem completely unable to empathize with people who have different experiences than their own. When an American flag that incorporated the face of Barack Obama showed up at the March on Washington, many on the right had a mini-meltdown, never once realizing that the celebration of America's first black president on the anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech was the most natural thing in the world.

And the right is no doubt terrified that a major theme of the day was voting rights and Republican voter suppression schemes. Conservatives see this as evidence of the partisanship of African-American voters. And it kind of is. But it's a partisanship that's been forced upon them by onerous voting laws and the current "Trayvon got what he deserved/all black males should be automatically suspect" mentality of almost the entire right wing. The black community is partisan because one party in a two party system has pretty clearly rejected them and shut them out. It's merely the process of elimination.

You can't spend decades beating up a group of people for political gain (and it has been decades), then complain that they're siding with your political opponents.

And conservatives aren't letting up. In response to the march, Louisiana Gov. Bobbie Jindal argued that racial inequality exists because non-whites place "undue emphasis" on their heritage and that this somehow holds them back. It's weird how that argument fails when we consider the intense pride Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Norwegian-Americans, etc. feel for their heritage and how it holds them back not at all. Apparently, pride in ethnic heritage is something only white people can afford.

And somehow this argument is supposed to be something other than racist.

Also in the "racism is all minorities' fault" corner is conservative pundit George Will -- he of the unearned reputation for being serious and smart -- who would very much like America to know that minorities suffer inequality because of single mothers.

The Republican response to racism in America is intense denial. If you have a problem, it's your fault -- you created it. And anyone who says otherwise is a "race hustler." Racism is over in their minds. It's been solved. And anyone who still talks about it is just making stuff up or blaming others for situations they themselves created.

Given the racist state of today's Republican Party, it's easy to understand why they'd argue that way. I don't know that I've ever seen it worse -- or at least, as blatant. The irony here is that the people who introduced partisanship into race were conservatives themselves and now that it's coming back to bite them in the backside, it's all someone else's fault.


[photo via ResourcesForHistoryTeachers]


Dancing to Republicans' Tune on Security

Surveillance cameras
Is it legal for a journalist to disclose classified information to the public? That's something of an open question, although legal opinion seems to lean heavily toward "no." After all, if you could prosecute reporters for detailing classified info, all the executive branch would need to do to censor any news story would be to direct the appropriate agency to smack that info with the "TOP SECRET" stamp. So the notion that journalists could be jailed for publishing leaked information is a very dangerous one and one that courts have not treated well.

From a historical standpoint,  publishing classified info as journalism is completely legal and any finding that said otherwise would upset years of legal opinion.

Which brings us to this:

The Guardian: The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.

David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.

The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.

Miranda was eventually released, but not before pretty much every electronic gadget he had with him -- including "DVDs and games consoles" was confiscated.

The UK is not the US and they don't enjoy the protections of the First Amendment, obviously. But the US was given a "heads up" from Britain about the planned detention and White House spokesperson "wouldn't say whether the U.S. tried to dissuade British officials from stopping Miranda." The White House denies any involvement in the detention, but the spokesperson also won't say "whether U.S. authorities have had access to information collected from Miranda on Sunday" nor "whether President Barack Obama thought it was wrong."

If the US had "tried to dissuade British officials from stopping Miranda," it might never have happened. And yes, the UK will share any pertinent data with the US. That seems so obvious that I feel a little silly even bothering to type it out.

During the Bush administration, the US shipped terror suspects to other countries to be tortured. The reasoning was that if we sent them where we knew they would be tortured, the neocons could have their cake and eat it to -- terror suspects would be torture for info, they'd get that info, and they could pretend their hands were clean because they never actually committed the acts of torture. By outsourcing their war crimes, they created a legal pretense that they committed no war crimes at all.

This situation is somewhat similar. We knew the UK was about to do something that would've been illegal if we had done it, but since any info the UK got we'd get -- and maybe because the White House had had it up to here with Glenn Greenwald -- we let them know we were cool with it. Steve Benen points out that regardless of how you feel about Greenwald and his work with Edward Snowden, you should at least agree that this Heathrow incident is a terrible abuse of police power:

Put it this way: if we remove the names from the story, would Greenwald's critics endorse what's transpired? A journalist doggedly covers an important story and publishes classified information (which is legal), prompting a worthwhile national debate. Soon after, prominent federal U.S. lawmakers speak openly about arresting the journalist, while British officials subject his partner to harassment without cause.

Why would anyone defend this?

Because we've gotten so used to the post-9/11 surveillance state that we've lost the concept of the private citizen. We've become so used to having everyone be suspected of plotting anything that this sort of overreach is almost reflexive. After the Boston bombing, I'm legitimately surprised you don't have to sign your name to a list to buy a pressure cooker, like you do to buy pseudoephedrine. These are dark days for the Fourth and Fifth amendments -- stop-and-frisk being another fine example. The neocons haven't just left their mark on America, they've given us a tattoo. And now preventing crime is seen as so important that we'll ironically allow criminal behavior from law enforcement. All citizens are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

I would hope that it's merely political cowardice that brings the Obama administration to this point. At least then there's some hope that they'll wise up and get over it. After all, who wants to be the guy who ended a certain surveillance program after a terrorist attack? There's a certain paranoia about being seen as "soft on terror" and "soft on crime" on the left and it drives many Democrats to support things that go against Democratic principles of fairness, justice, and equality. Barack Obama seems to suffer from this disability -- the fear that the moment you restore freedoms, a terrorist will strike and you'll be blamed for it.

What this paranoia does is force us to live in a Republican world. Being afraid of how the GOP will attack you allows them to set the standards for acceptable risk. And Republicans are cowards; they accept very little risk, which means they demand ever greater restrictions on freedom and privacy. You won't hear a lot of complaining about how Miranda was treated on the right.

You really wish you'd hear more from the left, though.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Newest NSA Revelation Proves Whistleblowers are Essential

Protesters wear paper Snowden masks
If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about -- except when you do.

Washington Post: The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

It turns out that we've made it so easy to spy on Americans that it happens accidentally, According to the report, "A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a 'large number' of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a 'quality assurance' review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff."

What's most disturbing here is that oversight -- or the lack thereof -- is irrelevant. What happens in the NSA stays in the NSA, apparently. If you wind up scooping up a lot of data, just sweep it under the rug and move on. There's no reason that congress needs to know. It's a criminal's view of the law -- it's only illegal when the cops know about it. They aren't even sharing this info with the ultra-secret FISA court.

The good news for the White House is that they're off the hook on this one. This is all the NSA. The president is responsible for the NSA in a "the buck stops here" sense, since it's an administrative agency under the executive wing of government. But that's pretty much theoretical here, since you can hardly be held responsible for actions that are being kept from you.

All of which points to the importance of Edward Snowden and the act of whistleblowing in itself. There were a total of 2,776 of these incidents and word of none of them would've left a trash can deep in NSA HQ. if it weren't for Snowden. Congress wouldn't know this, the FISA court wouldn't know this, the White House wouldn't know this.

"This story remains a vitally important (if complicated) one," writes legal blogger Will Bunch. "If you look at the big picture, this is a remarkably positive time for progressivism in America, as we finally see momentum to roll back things -- like the 'war on drugs,' militaristic policing and tactics like stop-and-frisk, and even the post-9/11 surveillance state -- that it seemed might never get rolled back. On the last front, this is happening because of one man, Edward Snowden. He is still what I called him on Day One, an American patriot."


[photo by ubiquit23]


The Difference Between 'Gun Grabbing' and 'Common Sense Policing'? Skin Color.

Way back when, the National Rifle Association was for gun control. Of course, that was back when the Black Panthers were "patrolling" the streets with loaded weapons. California Gov. Ronald Reagan was alarmed by the Panther's armed patrols and their increasingly bellicose rhetoric about using their Second Amendment rights to fight an oppressive government (sound familiar?) and passed the Mumford Act, which prohibited carrying loaded weapons in public -- with the NRA's help and blessing. That's right, the NRA helped make concealed carry illegal in California.

But of course, it was because of the scary black people that guns needed to be controlled. Once the anti-government armed-militia talk shifted from urban blacks to rural whites, it also went from dangerous sedition to admirable patriotism. In fact, in the years since, the NRA has used the spectre of street crime and gang violence to frighten whites into buying guns. They never really dropped the scary black people messaging, it just shifted from "they shouldn't have guns" to "they have guns, so you need them too." This idea is so ingrained in gun culture that ads and articles in gun magazines seem to assume that "legitimate" gun owners are white.

So, when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg bragged that his city's stop-and-frisk policy had "has taken some 8,000 guns off the street over the past decade," you heard crickets. Here was one of the right's favorite targets -- a man who they call "Nanny Bloomberg" and use as the epitome of "big government" overreach -- admitting that stop-and-frisk was basically a gun grab. And did the right condemn him for it?

No, they applauded.

After all, isn't this exactly what the NRA pretends to panick over every time someone mentions gun control? Your guns will become illegal and the government will send it's goons to round them all up. Well, there you go. It's happening -- or was until a judge stopped it -- and, while the NRA is silent on the issue, their allies in Washington and in the punditry aren't siding with the gun owners, they're siding with the government goons and "Nanny Bloomberg."

When gun control takes guns away from black people, it's common sense policing. When it takes guns away from white people, it's TYRANNY!!

It's not my intention to defend carrying illegal weapons, to attack those who make certain weapons illegal, or to oppose the confiscation of illegal weapons. It's my intention to point out the double standard the right has for "Second Amendment freedoms." The message I'm getting here is that guns aren't for minorities, guns are for white people to protect themselves from minorities. Dark skinned people with guns are street thugs, light skinned people with guns are Second Amendment Heroes.

The difference between a "firearm for legitimate use" and a "dangerous gun" that needs to be taken off the streets is the color of the skin wrapped around the grip.


[photo by Anas Ahmad]


Demand Drives Hiring. Period. End of Story.

Cashier checks out customer
Last week, we got one of those good news/bad news jobs reports we're so used to seeing by now. The good news is very good news: new jobless claims are at a 6-year low, suggesting that employment has stabilized and that the days of massive layoffs are behind us. The bad news, according to the Associated Press:

[W]hile most companies have stopped cutting jobs, many remain reluctant to hire. That’s bad news for the roughly 11.5 million Americans who are unemployed and a major reason the unemployment rate is still so high four years after the recession officially ended.

"We have seen a disconnect between the level of hiring and firing," said Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas.

Ask any rightwinger what's going on here and they blame Obamacare. Healthcare reform is creating the dreaded uncertainty and that uncertainty is keeping employers from hiring.

Thing is though, employers and capital investors aren't panicky types who need hand-holding and therapy before they take a risk. If they were, they'd be in a different line of work. It turns out that, historically, periods of uncertainty have been moments of opportunity, when the opportunistic investors and employers actually have hired more workers in order to take full advantage.

So what's slowing up the jobs recovery?

"Really not a mysterious question," says Gerard McLean, CEO of a web applications company, told the AP. "We’re sitting here waiting for the promise of customers. With money. Really that simple."

So demand.

Over and over and over we see the same story; Republicans argue that employers are like skittish rabbits and any sort of new regulation or  lack of a 100%, iron-clad guarantee to make profits will scare them off. That they need huge tax cuts and subsidies, because employers hire people whenever they can afford them, not just when they need them. That growth is the bottom line of every business, when the truth is that bottom line is profit.

And then you ask businesses what they need and they say demand. Not getting tucked in with a nightlight on and reassurances that the big, bad monster of uncertainty isn't hiding under their bed. They need to see rock-solid, real-world demand. And who is it who is the enemy of demand at the moment?

That'd be Republicans. It was Republicans who celebrated the sequester, which is the largest assault on demand in my lifetime. They're slashing state budgets with no concern for the economic carnage they're creating. And they demand the ability to do more damage, with insane cuts to food stamps and entitlements. Wherever consumer demand rears it's ugly head, Republicans are right there with an ax to cut it off. The party that practically worships "the job creators" is busy doing everything in their power to see to it that the conditions of job creation are undermined. On matters of economic and monetary policy, Republicans are as credible as Todd Akin talking about the ways a rape victim's body has of shutting down a pregnancy.

It's all crazy horse-crap, wishful thinking, and pseudo-psychological mumbo-jumbo straight out of some '70s self-help book. At this point, I don't care whether or not they actually believe this ridiculous nonsense, because whether they're lying or just ignorant, the result is the same: going after demand with a meat cleaver, then blaming economic problems on everyone but themselves.

If Republicans were really interested in helping the economy and their supposed "job creators," they'd do a 180 on their attacks on demand. Employers aren't job creators, consumers are. If you've ever doubted that, scroll back up and read McLean's statement again: "We’re sitting here waiting for the promise of customers. With money."

Not certainty, not tax cuts, not someone to hold their hand and whisper in velvet tones that everything's going to be OK -- just customers, with money.

Now, if only Republicans would stop trying to take that money out of customers' hands.


[photo by MIKI Yoshihito]


Reality Drives the GOP Off the Rails

Vintage train wreck photo
The House Republican caucus went fullblown clown show yesterday, as they tried -- and failed -- to fit their ideological square peg into reality's round hole. At issue was the THUD bill -- a bill to fund both the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. This resulted in utter failure and the bill was pulled. It this was a tremendous embarrassment for the House GOP.

What happened was simple: House GOP applied their fiscal flateartherism to a bill that would genuinely affect their own constituencies. It's fine when the cuts are to abstract groups in other people's districts -- welfare queens and lazy jobless folks and those leeches living the sweet life on food stamps -- but when the big sequester-level cuts have to be applied in terms of anything other than empty rhetoric, they look all too real and all too suicidal. Brian Beutler explains:

...In normal times, the House and Senate would each pass a budget, the differences between those budgets would be resolved, and appropriators in both chambers would have binding limits both on how much money to spend, and on which large executive agencies to spend it.

But these aren’t normal times. Republicans have refused to negotiate away their budget differences with Democrats, and have instead instructed their appropriators to use the House GOP budget as a blueprint for funding the government beyond September.

Like all recent GOP budgets, this year’s proposes lots of spending on defense and security, at the expense of all other programs. Specifically, it sets the total pool of discretionary dollars at sequestration levels, then funnels money from thinly stretched domestic departments (like Transportation and HUD) to the Pentagon and a few other agencies. But that’s all the budget says. It doesn’t say how to allocate the dollars, nor does it grapple in any way with the possibility that cutting domestic spending so profoundly might be unworkable. It’s an abstraction.

So basically, Republicans tried to get Paul Ryan's budget numbers to survive in the wild and they died immediately. The idea that the federal spending can be slashed so deeply is complete fantasy. Beutler writes that realists "have long suspected that [GOP] votes for Ryan’s budgets were a form of cheap talk. That Republicans would chicken out if it ever came time to fill in the blanks. Particularly the calls for deep but unspecified domestic discretionary spending cuts."

And that's exactly what happened. They pretended the Ryan Budget was a real thing, they colored within its lines, and they couldn't get it to work. It's all BS. "It turns out that when you draft bills enumerating all the specific cuts required to comply with the budget’s parameters, they don’t come anywhere close to having enough political support to pass," Beutler reports. "Even in the GOP House. Slash community development block grants by 50 percent, and you don’t just lose the Democrats, you lose a lot of Republicans who care about their districts. Combine that with nihilist defectors who won’t vote for any appropriations unless they force the President to sign an Obamacare repeal bill at a bonfire ceremony on the House floor, and suddenly you’re nowhere near 218."

Credit at least one Republican leader with accepting reality after it kicked his ass. "With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago," appropriations chair Hal Rogers said. "Thus I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration -- and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts -- must be brought to an end." The Ryan plan simply can't dig up enough money to fund government. Period.

And this means that the long predicted coming budget fight may already be over. "If House Republicans can’t establish a position of their own," we're told, "then the Senate will drive the whole process (its Transportation/HUD bill will probably pass on a bipartisan basis this week) and appropriations will be extended past September one way or another on the strength of Democratic votes."

About the Senate; Republicans are defecting from Mitch McConnell's extremist wing. While he's trying to whip No votes for the Senate version of THUD, he appears to be failing. Mitch still wants some sort of budget based on Ryan's imaginary numbers, so he's trying to filibuster the Senate's THUD. The problem is, what could possibly pass that would satisfy Ryan deadenders?

It can't work, so nothing. When it comes time to put up or shut up, shut up wins by default, because put up doesn't exist. If they pass a bill that sticks to the Ryan rules, they wind up with cuts they can't live with. If they don't pass any bill at all, it's the same result. It's a game that can't be won, no matter how long you play it.

McConnell's desperation is based in one simple fact: if they pass THUD, they admit that the GOP agenda is unworkable and that the Republican Party can't govern. Meanwhile, abandoning Ryan's pretend budget means alienating the base, who don't care about reality. They've been told over and over -- by many of these same Republicans, as well as talk radio and Fox News -- that if we just slap the lobster claws and caviar out of poor people's mouths, we'll have plenty of money to fund whatever we want to fund. They're not going to like finding out that this argument is ridiculous horsecrap and there's real danger of primary battles between Tea Party anger-junkies and veterans of reality, where even if the incumbent comes out on top, the Tea Party voters stay home in November.

That's not how you take over the Senate and that's not how you set up a credible White House bid for 2016. But McConnell and Boehner and the 'baggers are up against a powerful enemy.



[photo via Wikimedia Commons]