Decisions, decisions

Obama: Let folks deep in student debt refi.
Republicans: No.
Natalie Kitroeff (@Nataliekitro): It matters.

Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats want to help college graduates drowning in student debt refinance. Republicans, naturally, are against it. Natalie Kitroeff, who has reported on the ruthlessness of the agency that enforces such debt, explores the long-term damage: apparently student debt is one reason the housing market isn’t recovering.

Really and truly: if you’re not a fanatical partisan Democrat by now, you’re simply not paying attention.

Megan McArdle points out that there are other people than indebted college graduates who are worth helping, and also that there’s an alternative to the Warren/Obama proposal for debt relief: changing the rule that makes student debt undischargeable in bankruptcy. I agree on both points. We could also cut back radically on incarceration and use the savings to restore the savage cuts to public higher-education budgets. (Fifteen years ago, California spent 9% of its budget on higher education and 3% on prisons. Those numbers have now been reversed.)

I’d merely point out that Megan can’t find any actual elected Republicans willing to vote for any of those programs, any more than they’ll vote for the Warren/Obama plan. In the real world, we don’t have a choice between Democrats and an alternative party that cares about the needs of people under financial pressure but prefers a different set of programs to help them; we have a choice between Democrats and plutocrats. That – and not the details of debt-relief policy – is what I claim Megan and her fellow libertarian-leaning but socially concerned pundits aren’t paying attention to.

 

 

 

 

Megan McArdle vs. the rest of the Red Team

McArdle says it’s wrong to use armed force to defy the law. Why is she alone on the Red Team in doing so?

A previous post asked whether any “conservative” pundit or pol had criticized the armed mob that threatened federal officials carrying out a lawful court order in the Bundy Ranch confrontation. The answer to that question is a (qualified) “Yes.” Megan McArdle points out that Bundy was defying the law in the service of a claim to use resources he doesn’t own without paying for them, and that a civilized society depends on the rule that people “not take up arms to pursue their own self-interest against the rest of us.” She goes on to point out how much less tolerance there would be for parallel activities in an urban ghetto rather than in rural Nevada.

Now, Megan is a libertarian rather than a conservative; still, she clearly inhabits the Red side of the political spectrum. But what’s striking to me is that she seems to be unique. The default position on the Red team is that pointing guns at federal officials carrying out lawful court orders is just hunky-dory. The Republican sheriff of Clark County and the Republican governor of Nevada both backed the actions of an armed mob in defiance of the law.

Is there really no elected Republican, or right-leaning thinker or writer other than Megan McArdle, prepared to defend the rule of law? So far, apparently not. [Update: Yes there are. See below.] Unless and until that changes, it’s going to be hard to take seriously calls for “civility.” I’m prepared to stop saying that Republicans are a bunch of thugs and lunatics the moment they stop acting and speaking like a bunch of thugs and lunatics.

P.s. And where the hell are the national law enforcement associations in all this? Doesn’t the Fraternal Order of Police have anything to say about pointing rifles at cops?


Update
A reader points to three more exceptions: all pundits, still no pols. Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review, Gracy Olmstead of The American Conservative (posting at The Federalist), and Glenn Beck (!)

Crucial distinction

There’s a difference between voting for a vicious law and being a vicious person.

The Republican majority in the Texas Legislature, which passed the law imposing pointless suffering on a woman whose pregnancy went wrong, isn’t actually a bunch of ignorant, sadistic morons.

They just play them on the campaign trail, and in Austin.

Seriously. Very few of them would really have been willing, in real life, to subject this utterly innocent victim to what she went through. Had they been forced to sit with her and her husband through the grotesquely unnecessary 24-hour waiting period, almost all of they would have begged to be let out. But under the influence of factional passion and Teahadi/theocon political pressure, they voted for something utterly meaningless and vicious.

Invitation to Red commenters here, and Red bloggers: come up with a justification of this law as applied this case. I defy you.

Good news and bad news

Glad to see that Cayman Islands bank accounts are worse than serial adultery in the eyes of Republican voters; less glad to see that a single billionaire can transform the race for the Presidency by writing a check to a super-PA for money he’ll never miss.

In a Southern Republican primary, adultery turned out to be less of a burden for a candidate than Cayman Islands bank accounts. That reflects a clearer moral sense than I would have credited Southern Republicans with.

On the other side of the ledger, a single billionaire donating $5 million to a Super-PAC completely turned the campaign around in a week. $5M is chump change compared to the stakes in the American Presidency. If unlimited amounts of untraceable cash are going to be sloshing around, there’s no way to prevent the Chinese government, or the Iranian government, or the Saudi government, from playing the game. It isn’t hard for government-sized operations to channel the relevant amounts of money to U.S.-based corporations under their effective control.

Sheldon Adelson made most of his billions in Macao, which is Chinese territory; you can believe that Adelson’s political activities are immune from Chinese pressure if you like, but you can’t reasonably doubt that if China needed a tame U.S. billionaire it could easily create one. Campaign finance reform sounds like a boring topic, but fixing it in the wake of Citizens United isn’t just a matter of asserting democratic values over plutocratic ones; it’s a matter of national sovereignty and national security.

The Economist on the Republicans

They see what we see: a party increasingly dominated by cranks and by cranky ideas.

The Economist – despite its unerring judgment about  books on crime control and drug policy – cannot be justly described a Democratic or liberal publication; it identifies itself as “pro-business, right-of-centre.” But, unlike the friends of plutocracy on this side of the Atlantic, the folks at The Economist believe in principles other than deregulation of enterprise and low taxes on the rich. Moreover, they remain largely reality-based, eschewing wingnut postmodernism.

In the contemporary Republican Party and the increasingly misnamed conservative movement, The Economist sees just about what our local branch of the reality-based community sees:

* “ideas that are cranky, extreme, and backward-looking”

* “the party has been dragged further and further to the right”

* “as the Republican base has been become ever more detached from the mainstream, its list of unconditional demands has become ever more stringent”;

* The individual mandate to purchase health care is a reasonable, and indeed conservative, idea, controversial among Republicans only because the Democrats passed it;

*  the hard-right “fatwas explain the rum list of candidates: you either have to be an unelectable extremist who genuinely believes all of this, or a dissembler prepared to tie yourself in ever more elaborate knots (the flexible Mr. Romney)”;

* “compassionless conservatism (slashing taxes on the rich and expenditure on the poor) comes with little thought as to which bits of government spending are useful. Investing in infrastructure, redesigning public education and maintaining unemployment benefits in the worst downturn since the Depression are hardly acts of communism.”

* Mitt Romney “seems several vertabrae short of a backbone.”

In wishing for a Republican candidate they could support in good conscience – a re-backboned Romney, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie – the editors engage in the wishful thinking of imagining that the candidate of a Tea Party-dominated party can avoid being a Tea Party candidate. Might as well imagine someone who drinks all day but is never drunk.

The Republican Party is what it is: plutocratic, irrationalist, nativist, theocratic, tolerant only of bigotry, eager to disenfranchise its opponents. The Whigs – such as the editors of The Economist – will have to choose their side. They can either support increased inequality at the expense of Enlightenment values, or they can say, as the leading article says, “We didn’t leave you; you left us,” and fight for Whig principles of “businesslike pragmatism” (which has been the leitmotif of the Obama Administration) efficient and limited government and personal liberty inside a Democratic Party by no means implacably hostile to those principles.

Evidently Senator McConnell hates Obama more than he loves his country

Not my words: the words of a career Republican Congressional budget staffer.

You’re free to disagree with that sentence, but the man who wrote it, Mike Lofgren, was a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill for 28 years, 16 of them working for the Republicans staffs of the House and Senate Budget Committees. He’s not an Obamabot like me, and he presumably knows what he’s talking about.

He also writes:

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

Lofgren concludes:

If Republicans have perfected a new form of politics that is successful electorally at the same time that it unleashes major policy disasters, it means twilight both for the democratic process and America’s status as the world’s leading power.

And that, of course, is the basis of my plea, and Keith’s to the progressive critics of the Administration: no matter how frustrated you are, please do nothing to further what Lofgren calls “acts of political terrorism.” Abuse of power – holding the national credit hostage, interfering with the right to vote – is natural. The only check on it is an outraged electorate. Let’s keep the outrage focused where it belongs.