Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thoughts on recent events, or, why we're all screwed

I'm still without a job. But I've been busy recently interning (kind of). So I haven't been completely up to date with my reading. Along with that, it just seems like a weird time in politics. Congress rarely seems to be in session. And when it is, they are dealing with such dumb stuff that I can barely muster the energy to comment on how dumb it is. But my nephew has the tv and I don't want to watch whatever the hell it is he's watching. So let's ratchet up the dumb.

Chuck Hagel was confirmed. Either some Republicans were convinced Hagel wouldn't single-handedly destroy the nation or it was all for show. The Violence Against Women Act was finally passed, but with just about every male Republican voting against it. That, along with the constant barrage of anti-abortion laws states are trying to pass, just makes the Republican disdain for women's rights all the more apparent. Obama's State Department just released a memo saying the Keystone pipeline won't be bad for the environment. Sadly, no Republicans (or probably many Democrats for that matter) will feign outrage about this. So the environment, and therefore us, will get screwed yet again.

As if those things didn't convince you that we're all fucked, the sequester (which I'm shocked, SHOCKED, to learn was a language choice of Democrats) has been enacted. As I said in my last post, it's ridiculous that we are cutting spending right now. Our wages have either fallen or stayed flat, we've racked up more debt, our retirement savings have been put in jeopardy, and the people who need help the most keep getting screwed. I don't think it's much hyperbole when Erik Loomis says we are returning to The Gilded Aged:

National parks are shut down. Small airports basically stop functioning because of air traffic control reductions. Scientific research grants are reduced. Furloughed federal employees stop buying things, creating negative investment that leads to layoffs through the economy. Health programs are slashed. Adios to environmental protections. These things have a negative effect on people’s lives, but we don’t experience them immediately or every day. Just when we need them. Poor person needs an HIV test? Sorry. And they are gone, unlikely to ever come back.

There’s just no reason for Republicans to cave on this. Obama agreeing to the sequester idea because of his faith that some kind of grand bargain could be struck and his belief that Republicans would never allow this to happen was a gigantic miscalculation.

Obama's ridiculous deficit obsession is just making Republican insanity worse. Yeah, this probably wouldn't have happened without Republicans holding the debt ceiling hostage. And Boehner seems to have a reasonable streak in him, which probably leads Obama to think a deal could be made. But he once again seems to have underestimated just how crazy Eric Cantor and his base are. Obama should just propose dropping the tax increases in exchange for a repeal of the sequestration and tell them to fuck off if they don't like it. The reality is that Democrats will probably lose seats in the midterms anyway. This strategy might at least mobilize some liberals who should be beyond fed up with Republicans.

Speaking of elections, the big story this past week was the Supreme Court holding hearings regarding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 forces certain states (mostly the formerly Confederate ones with a long history of voter suppression) to get approval from the Justice Department before enacting any changes to election law. Some poor state thinks its sovereignty (this is where your bullshit alarm should go off) is being unduly infringed and thus thinks Section 5 should be repealed. Or in other words, racism is no longer a problem. States aren't enacting stricter election laws because they want to keep minorities from voting. They just want to clamp down on non-existant fraud. In fact, racism is such a non-problem that Justice Scalia is concerned that Section 5 is just another federal overreach in a long line of them that "perpetuates racial entitlement". Because you know, the right to vote is just another entitlement.

Actually, it is. That's the whole fucking point. Merely by the fact that you had been born and have lived to be 18 years old, you are entitled to vote. This is the foundation of democracy. But a fucking Supreme Court justice is talking about it like it's the equivalent of the welfare queen fallacy. Obviously I think people are also entitled to have enough money to be able to afford basic things to live on. Scalia and conservatives don't completely agree with me. But they are making a somewhat coherent argument when disagreeing. I have no fucking clue what Scalia's argument is regarding not thinking it's important to continue to make sure minorities have full access to voting. And that he thinks we are "perpetuating racial entitlements" suggests he thinks we are actually hurting minorities by ensuring that they can vote. That's just nuts. Scott Lemieux has more on Scalia. Here he is in 09:

Expressing skepticism about the significance of the 98-0 vote by which the Senate reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, Justice Scalia said, “The Israeli supreme court, the Sanhedrin, used to have a rule that if the death penalty was pronounced unanimously, it was invalid, because there must be something wrong there.”

Check the link for Scott's breakdown of why that's crazy. Here's Scott on how this relates to Section 5:

But, of course, the 15th Amendment was ratified and included a provision giving Congress the “power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation” precisely because it believed the right of the franchise was more important than the “rights” of states. And we also don’t need to ignore the fact that we tried nearly a century of trusting the states to enforce the 15th Amendment, with results that could scarcely have been more disastrous. To try to turn the 15th Amendment into a states’ rights manfiesto in which the “federalism interest” trumps the Congress’s ability to protect the right to vote is as perverse as asserting that a jury system would function better if it ruled out unanimous guilty verdicts.

This is another "federalism" case that makes me tend to agree with Andrew Sullivan that we are fighting a cold Civil War. Republicans keep trying to fight battles that were decided decades and over a century ago. And as Erik Loomis said, it's basically all in an effort to maintain and expand power for rich, white men. If you don't belong that entitled among all entitled class, you're screwed, unless we can mobilize enough opposition toward it.

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