Author Archives: Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.

This is who shut down your government

Much of what the Republican Party has done in the past month takes me back to the day after the 2012 election. Like a lot of people, I listened to Rush Limbaugh in a sort of intellectual masturbation. I wanted someone to suffer for making me listen to Mitt Romney and his merry band of sociopathic primary opponents for six straight months.

A number of really awful events come to mind. At the Tea Party debate in Tampa, Florida, Ron Paul asked a rhetorical question: should a person without insurance be allowed to die? Paul’s answer was no, but several people in the audience enthusiastically shouted “Yes!” in response. Mark Williams, former chairman of the Tea Party group that sponsored the debate, was forced to resign from it in 2010 after displaying bigoted views of no fewer than three hot-button groups: Jews, Muslims, and African Americans.

A week later in Orlando, a gay soldier serving in Iraq asked a question about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. The service member was booed by the GOP-friendly crowd and not a single Republican candidate for President spoke out against it. Rick Santorum didn’t answer the question and frankly didn’t seem to understand it, saying that “Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military.”

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Where Republicans will hurt the most in the next few years

The two lowest favorable ratings the Republican Party had during the Bush administration were 35% in 2006, when Democrats won a majority of seats in the House and Senate, and 32% in 2008, when Democrats expanded those majorities and Barack Obama won the White House.

Now it’s closer to 24%.

There’s no good news in polls for Republicans anymore. The Tea Party is more unpopular than ever before. The more people learn about Ted Cruz, the more they dislike him. President Obama’s job approval is up and Americans want Democrats to control Congress next year by the largest margin either party has had since 2009.

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Bain to the rescue? It’d be more pleasant to hang yourself.

Someone I’ve debated economics with in the past made the frightening suggestion in the comment section of my last story that Bain Capital could be hired by the federal government to manage spending and find an arbitrary 10% ($350 billion or so) in spending to cut without the government “experiencing any effective changes in capability.”

Although he was talking about total spending, in reality that’d have to come out of non-defense discretionary spending because Bain would never act against the military industrial complex, and Social Security and Medicare would require changes by Congress to cut benefits, and there’s no support for that. That rules out $2.1 trillion of a $3.5 trillion budget.

A 10% cut in total spending then would mean a staggering 25% drop in discretionary spending, which would mean permanently closing dozens of federal agencies that would make it impossible for the government to do things like keep Wall Street from running Ponzi schemes, keeping the food supply reasonably safe, keeping drugs from killing you, and keeping planes from crashing because it’s cheaper to do safety checks once per year instead of every few days or weeks.

That wouldn’t just significantly degrade the federal government’s capabilities in public safety, it would cripple them.

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What extreme really means

This shutdown and now default fight isn’t about right vs left, liberal vs conservative, Republican vs Democrat, or pro-ACA vs anti-ACA. Democrats can bargain and compromise with Republicans, and they have in the past, but Democrats aren’t dealing with Republicans. They’re dealing with the Tea Party faction.

You can’t bargain or compromise with a faction that sees the federal government’s existence as illegitimate, and that’s what the Tea Party Congressmen in the House of Representatives believe. Shutting down the government and keeping it closed is a bigger win for the Tea Party than repealing the Affordable Care Act would have been.

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Our casual acceptance of violence and death says a lot about America

gty_capitol_shooting_LL_131003_16x9_992.jpgI’m somewhat heartened that I’m not the only one asking why Miriam Carey — the woman shot to death by DC Capitol Police yesterday afternoon — had to die, and why we all seem to be okay with it.

I’m not okay with it. If Carey had mental health issues like I’ve heard rumored, the first failure of our society was that it didn’t notice that she was sick needed help. Its second failure was that it didn’t care. Its third failure is that she had to die for it.

Nothing about this tragedy is okay.

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More than a few unasked questions about the incident in the capitol

The incident with the woman who seems to have tried to ram a security barrier in D.C. this afternoon already has significant problems. There are retractable security barriers in the roadway around the Capitol that can be raised in an emergency to stop traffic by force. One police cruiser ran through one going 40 or 50mph and was destroyed by it.

Apparently most of them weren’t raised until the woman’s car had made it all the way down to the Supreme Court, and it’s not at all clear yet if they stopped her even there, or if it was something else.

There’s one really important aspect of all of this that I doubt will be addressed for days, if at all, because people will fall into old patterns of heart-first-brain-last behavior. Our tendency to rally around others and praise them to excess ends up turning off critical thinking skills far too often.

It’s troubling that the Capitol Police fired their weapons into a car occupied by a child, more than once, until they successfully killed an unarmed driver. Before you jump to their defense by arguing that a car qualifies as a deadly weapon, I agree, but there are exceptions to that guided by common sense.

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This is why Obamacare is keeping the GOP awake at night

Once the exchanges came online, we were bound to hear stories of devout Republican voters finding that most of what they’ve heard from their party about the Affordable Care Act was wrong, or an outright lie.

It was inevitable. There are too many Americans having health insurance problems to not see widespread improvement, even from a shaky roll out of Obamacare.

Call this story from Think Progress cherry-picking if you want, we’ll see as time rolls on if this is an exception, or the rule. But it’s probably going to be the rule.

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The GOP Effect: not understanding Obamacare

Paul Krugman had a good op-ed about a month ago about the wonk gap on the right, “the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive.” Conservatism embraces an echo chamber atmosphere because it’s warm and fuzzy, and by that I mean it’s very comforting to surround yourself with sources that tell you what you want to hear.

Whenever things like this come up, I remember the excellent post that Julian Sanchez wrote on the right suffering from epistemic closure. It’s must-read and ever more relevant by the day.

It explains the GOP’s denial of election polling in 2012 and climate science generally, their lack of awareness of overwhelming support for things like universal background checks on gun purchases, their repeated problem with economics, and many other things.

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Poll shows Americans swiftly and harshly turn against GOP

(Updated below)

During the last government shutdown, polls showed that people mostly tuned it out a week before the deadline, but as many as half of all Americans were following news closely within 24 hours.

More people learning what the House of Representatives was doing was bound to change public opinion, and it has. A Quinnipiac poll from Sep 23-29 came out today and it’s terrible news for Republicans:

– Voters oppose the shutdown to delay Obamacare 72-22; oppose blocking the debit limit increase for the same reason 64-27.

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Report: GOP moderates preparing revolt on House floor

There’s basically nothing else to go on other than a Tweet from CNN’s Dana Bash, saying that moderate Republicans in the House are planning a revolt on the floor sometime tonight.

This could provide the cover that John Boehner needs to bring the Senate continuing resolution to the floor for a vote where all Democrats vote for it, and a handful of Republicans cross over, as happened with the last tax increase.

It would only take 18 Republicans to get the job done if no vote against a clean CR. Earlier today we’ve seen two Democrats do that, and two Republicans as well that canceled them out. It’d take 20 Republicans to pass a clean CR if that happened.

This really shows how absurd this charade has been. The House isn’t like the Senate, it only takes a majority to pass anything in the House and Speaker Boehner can bring legislation to the floor for a vote unilaterally — nobody can stop him. He hasn’t done that yet and we can only guess at the reasons why. I believed he would cave and let the CR pass on the backs of Democrats and moderate Republicans at the last minute, but my faith in that outcome soured today.

Now maybe this is what will allow that to happen.

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