This Disgusting Week, vol. 8

Rick “Dick” Santorum doesn’t believe in math either.  This was written before the latest round of primaries.  At this point, it seems that old “”Dick” does get the math, but, like the Honey Badger, he don’t give a shit.

Madonna grasps at relevancy by dropping drug references.  It must be tough trying to stay relevant when you are a middle aged woman in a young persons game.  Madonna is proving yet again that she would rather grasp at any straw of hipness rather than to age gracefully.

Scooped by Paul Krugman!  I’d long been meaning to write about the insidious organization ALEC that provides model ultra conservative legislation to legislators around the nation.  Good old Dr. Paul K., Nobel laureate, beat me to it.  I concede this round, Dr. Paul.

Notes and thoughts on the healthcare issue.  None too insightful, just some things I was/am thinking as the health care case sits in front of the Supreme Court.  One final thought on the issue, courtesy Jeffrey Toobin in the Apr. 9 issue of the New Yorker: “No one expects the Justices to be making health-care policy any more than we expect them to be picking Presidents, which, it may be remembered, is not exactly their strength, either.”

Judge Marsha Bergan rules in favor of Coralville in Iowa River Landing hearing.  Coralville wins round one in the court case seeking to block their generous giveaway to Von Maur.

Rick “Dick” Santorum to WI youth: “You’re not going to use the pink ball”  The real problem with Santorum staying in the race is that it gives far too many Americans the opportunity to signal their approval of his particular brand of small minded bigotry.  Can you believe how much support this schmuck has garnered despite his off the charts idiocy and hatred?

Pink slime, what’s the crime?  Unless you’re willing to give up all mass produced meat, you can’t justifiably be pissed off about pink slime.  Our meat production from the feed lot to the slaughterhouse is pretty fracked up.

Judge Marsha Bergan declines to dismiss Iowa River Landing suit.  Having won round one, with Judge Bergan declining to issue an injunction on the land deal, Coralville went for a knockout punch asking for the whole case to be thrown out.  Judge Bergan declined that request, so we will get to see this thing played out in court.  I’m sure that Coralville will prevail, but I do hope that their slimy machinations come more fully into the light.

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A roundup of rational responses to Ryan’s ridiculously ruinous budget

Fortunately for all of us, the Ryan budget is really just a show-piece that will never actually become law.  It was created to show that ridiculous republicans are serious about the deficit–in fact it shows no such thing (personally I’m not worried about the deficit, but that’s another topic for another time).  What the Ryan budget does show is where Rep. Ryan and his fellow republicans stand with regards the vital work that the government does.  And where they stand is that they don’t give a rat’s ass about the poor, the old, or the sick.

President Barack Obama in his remarks at the Associated Press luncheon on Apr. 3, 2012

Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down, and proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal. (Laughter.) In fact, that renowned liberal, Newt Gingrich, first called the original version of the budget “radical” and said it would contribute to “right-wing social engineering.” This is coming from Newt Gingrich.

[…]

This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether.  It is a Trojan Horse.  Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.  It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.  It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it; a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.  And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last  — education and training, research and development, our infrastructure — it is a prescription for decline.   (Emphasis added.)

I must insert here that I am very thankful to the Occupy movement for moving the public’s attention away from a false deficit crisis and to the real-deal issue of the effect of widening social and financial inequality in our society.

Paul Krugman in his column Pink Slime Economics in the New York Times Apr. 1, 2012

…on Thursday Republicans in the House of Representatives passed what was surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.

And when I say fraudulent, I mean just that. The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn’t just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit — but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.

[…]

So what are we to make of this proposal? Mr. Gleckman calls it a “mystery meat budget,” but he’s being unfair to mystery meat. The truth is that the filler modern food manufacturers add to their products may be disgusting — think pink slime — but it nonetheless has nutritional value. Mr. Ryan’s empty promises don’t. You should think of those promises, instead, as a kind of throwback to the 19th century, when unregulated corporations bulked out their bread with plaster of paris and flavored their beer with sulfuric acid.

Come to think of it, that’s precisely the policy era Mr. Ryan and his colleagues are trying to bring back. (Emphasis added.)

Again, the point is the same as the President’s, this budget uses the false pretense of deficit reduction in order to push draconian cuts on the social programs that support so many of our people.  The hope on the part of the republicans seems to be that after their constituency is mollified by hearing the terms “deficit reduction” and “tax cuts,” they won’t pay too much attention to the details.

James Surowiecki in Call that a Budget? on the Financial Page in the New Yorker, Apr. 9, 2012

Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman, said that Congress had a “moral obligation” to get the country’s finances under control, and that the vote was a necessary response to a looming “debt-driven crisis.” What he didn’t mention was that it was also a vote to gut the federal government.

Because Ryan presents himself as a reasonable technocrat who’s just making the tough choices that other politicians shirk, that may sound like an exaggeration. But the simple truth is that his plan is not an evenhanded attempt to solve America’s long-term budget problems. It’s a profoundly radical document, its proposals skewed by ideological biases.

[…]

Ryan doesn’t exactly hide his hostility to government, but he’s adept at downplaying the impact that his proposed cuts would have on people’s lives. Thus the part of the plan titled “Repairing the Social Safety Net” in fact calls for huge cuts in spending on Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, and so on—all of which will unquestionably damage the social safety net and make life harder for millions of Americans. This is about as disingenuous as calling a company’s downsizing initiative “Boosting Our Labor Force.” Reforming the welfare state is a reasonable goal. But when Ryan explains that he’s doing things like cutting Medicaid in order to help “the less fortunate get back on their feet” one hears echoes of Judge Smails, in “Caddyshack,” explaining that he sentenced young criminals to death because “I felt I owed it to them.”

[…]

The U.S. does need to get its finances in order. It just doesn’t need to repeal the twentieth century to do so. (Emphasis added.)

On the issue of Ryan’s subterfuge in presenting himself as just a reasonable (and handsome!) man making tough choices, check out this video teaser that he put out to build excitement before presenting his budget:

The great thing about this budget is that it is on its face cruel and ridiculous–and still 228 House republicans voted for it, signalling that they don’t care about fiscal sanity or real people.  Special kudos to the ten republicans that had the good sense to vote no and not align themselves with such a miserable piece of legislation.


Scooped by Paul Krugman!

Well, I guess that’s why he has a Nobel and all I have is a bitter memory of coming in second in the 4th grade spelling bee.

Krugman had an excellent piece in yesterday’s New York Times on the insidious and nefarious threat to our various states that is the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Lobbyists, Guns and Money by Paul Krugman in the New York Times Mar. 25, 2012

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism. (Emphasis added.)

I’ve been thinking about writing about ALEC for a while now–sparked by an email from my father just over a month ago with a link to the following article:

Campus Connection: UW profs shed light on ALEC’s threat to public education by Todd Finkelmeyer from the Capital Times, Feb. 20, 2012

University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Julie Underwood and Julie Mead are expressing concern over the growing corporate influence on public education in an article published Monday.

In particular, they are highly critical of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects conservative state legislators with like-minded think tanks, corporations and foundations to develop “model legislation” that can be enacted at the state level.

[…]

Citing past research and articles, Underwood and Mead write that model legislation from ALEC seeks to “influence teacher certification, teacher evaluation, collective bargaining, curriculum, funding, special education, student assessment, and numerous other education and education-related issues. Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by democratically elected school boards while increasing access to all facets of education by private entities and corporations.”

I am a public school teacher who believes that government on the whole is a good thing so, not surprisingly, I am wholly opposed to efforts to privatize any aspects of our public school system.  (Read my piece on the push to allow online-only schools that are only nominally administered through Iowa school districts while 97% of the state education dollars for the students enrolled are funneled to out of state corporations.)  (Come to think of it, I need to look into if Iowa’s online-only schools are something that ALEC has advocated for.)  Fortunately work by Professors Underwood and Mead and others has helped to bring the pro-business, ultra (severely?) conservative out-sized influence that ALEC has wielded to light in Wisconsin.

This was not the first time I’d heard of ALEC, however.  I was first alerted to this group that seeks to bring power to the powerful by a letter in my home town paper from David Johnson, a candidate for 73rd district seat in the Iowa House.

Letter: Kaufmann should pull ALEC membership by David Johnson in the West Branch Times, Aug. 3, 2011.

In 1973, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was formed. ALEC brings together state legislators and big business for the purpose of creating template legislation.

[…]

Per information obtained from Charles Smithson, chief clerk of the Iowa House, every member of the Republican delegation is a member of ALEC by virtue of not opting out of such membership. Membership dues are paid by the state; that is, by taxpayer money.

I, for one, have no desire to have my tax dollars used as a means for big business to gain privileged access to our state representatives.

I would ask Mr. Kaufmann and other representatives to terminate their membership in ALEC and reimburse the taxpayers for the dues incurred during their time in office.

Mr. Kaufmann is Jeff Kaufmann, our moderate-talking, conservative-voting current district 79 Iowa House member.  His district was made a part of the new 73rd district, and he has subsequently opted to run for Cedar County Supervisor instead of for reelection.

So the moral of this story, friends, is don’t procrastinate writing about something important, or Paul Krugman will steal your thunder much like a certain redheaded girl did back in 1985 in Wingra’s 4th grade spelling bee!


Required reading for all Iowans: The DSM Register on state budget cuts

I decided over the weekend that the theme of the week would be “Underfunded in Iowa” here at Daily Disgust.  Critical services in our state are being shorted for no reason other than misguided allegiance on the part of our lawmakers to the Grover Norquist “drown it in a bathtub” school of thought with regards to the size of government.  I was pleased to find that Mike Owen has an excellent post today on Iowa Policy Points, the blog of the Iowa Policy Project, highlighting the Des Moines Register’s recent work on the state of the state budget.

If you never click through on a link from this blog again, please, for the love Iowa, click through and read the following editorial from the Des Moines Register.

Budget-cutting has run amok by the Register’s Editorial Board, Mar. 4, 2012

Staff shortages in Iowa’s prisons have contributed to increased gang activity and violence. More Iowans are receiving government help securing health care and food. Thousands of seniors live in nursing homes that need better oversight. Numerous streams and rivers are polluted and monuments crumbling. Federal grant money is being left unused.

It’s unlikely you will hear a politician say state government is too small. But at some point, it is.

As the 150 members of the Legislature work on crafting the state budget for next fiscal year, they should take note of this fact: Iowa’s executive branch workforce is already smaller than it has been in at least two decades.

According to the Iowa Department of Management, there were 17,968 full-time state workers in January. That is about 2,400 fewer than in 2009. The executive branch includes all state employees other than those working for universities, the Legislature and the courts.

[…]

But some lawmakers want to make government even smaller. They ignore state reports showing tax revenue is increasing. They don’t acknowledge public workers are expected to take on more responsibilities, including implementing federal health reform and redesigning Iowa’s mental health system.

[…]

There were times when making cuts in the state budget were necessary due to economic downturns. Now money is available to better protect Iowans, unclog court dockets, fund education and check on the welfare of the elderly.

It should be spent doing exactly those types of things. That is why Iowans pay taxes: to provide services that we can’t provide by ourselves.

[…]

Of course,you can’t send a computer to check on a foster child. Or inspect a nursing home. Or take a phone call from an unemployed worker. Or talk to a farmer about conservation practices. The work of government is done by people. Too few people means important work doesn’t get done.

(Emphasis added)

Failing to provide vital services when the funds to provide them are available is repugnant, immoral, and simply wrong.  To make matters worse, imposing this type of austerity at the state level is significantly hampering our country’s economic recovery, as explained in Paul Krugman’s column from Sunday.

States of Depression by Paul Krugman in the New York Times, Mar. 4, 2012

…one significant factor in our continuing economic weakness is the fact that government in America is doing exactly what both theory and history say it shouldn’t: slashing spending in the face of a depressed economy.

In fact, if it weren’t for this destructive fiscal austerity, our unemployment rate would almost certainly be lower now than it was at a comparable stage of the “Morning in America” recovery during the Reagan era.

Notice that I said “government in America,” not “the federal government.” The federal government has been pursuing what amount to contractionary policies as the last vestiges of the Obama stimulus fade out, but the big cuts have come at the state and local level. These state and local cuts have led to a sharp fall in both government employment and government spending on goods and services, exerting a powerful drag on the economy as a whole.

(Emphasis added)


Paul Krugman: What was the matter with Kansas has led to what is the matter with the Republican party

Paul Krugman wrote yesterday about what he termed the “Severe Conservative Syndrome”. In it, he explains the dearth of moderate mainstream conservatives in positions of leadership. In essence, what he says is that the Republican Party has “What’s the Matter with Kansas”ed itself to near death:

Severe Conservative Syndrome from the New York Times, Feb. 12, 2012

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.