GOP Minority Outreach – part 379

Republican presidential candidate (and current U.S. senator from Kentucky) Rand Paul was one of the first GOP politicians to engage in minority outreach after the 2012 Presidential Election. He spoke at Howard University, tried to push the idea for “Economic Freedom Zones” in Black neighborhoods and even took up a bill with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker making life easier for juveniles who were arrested for non-violent drug offenses. However, this latest move might not be the smartest thing to do if you’re attempting to reach out to Black voters (courtesy of POLTICO):

“The Nevada rancher said that he had expected only to have an opportunity to shake hands with Paul and make small-talk. He was surprised when campaign aides found a private room and allowed Bundy, his wife and son to speak with the candidate for the better part of an hour.

According to Bundy, the two mainly discussed federal land oversight and states’ rights, in addition to education policy — a theme Paul brought up in his speech…

Bundy said that in their private meeting, Paul brought up the work of the American Lands Council, which raises money from groups like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity to wrestle land from the federal government and return it to the states via negotiations, legislation and litigation.” (H/T Adam B. Lerner)

Now, if you’re not a political news junkie and do not remember who Cliven Bundy is, this YouTube video might help jog your memory:

Choice quote: “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro… And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom.”

So, is Cliven Bundy trying to rebrand himself alongside the GOP? Will the duo engage in minority outreach together? All kidding aside, this was the opposite of a smart move. In fact, this may have been a very dumb move. Even for Senator Paul.

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Racism doesn’t exist anymore – part 11,673

Katie Pavlich, a conservative blogger and editor at townhall.com , had a column posted on The Hill yesterday, and it was all about how America is no longer a racist country. While Katie, like most conservatives, concedes that racists still do exist in America, the country does not apply institutional racism any longer. In response to the shooting in Charleston, SC, we have seen various Republicans and conservative pundits deny that racism was a factor in the shootings at all. We have seen the motive of Roof associated with a lack of “understanding where salvation comes from“, “the left wing” and anti-Christian motives. While these assertions were widely mocked in the media, it is important to instruct people like Pavlich to understand where racism in America today exists. Because the truth is racism is still very pervasive in America today, and it is surely institutionalized in our great nation.

To be sure, I agree with Pavlich when she says that Roof’s “feelings about race are the exception, not the rule, in this country.” And yes, slavery was practiced by many countries (and still is to this day).However, racism no longer takes the form of calling someone the n-word and practicing Jim Crow laws. Racism can be found in the following sectors of everyday life:

Vox today refers us to a recent study from the Harvard Business Review that goes into great detail about discrimination against women in the fields of Science, Technology, Education and Math (aka STEM). The study showed that forty-eight percent of black women and 47 percent of Latina women responded that they had been mistaken for administrative or custodial staff while on the job. Now, is mistaking a Black biology teacher for a janitor the equivalent of calling someone a racial epithet? No. However, it does demonstrate people’s perceptions of others because of the color of their skin. Furthermore, the notion that people would be skeptical of a Black or Latino woman would be employed in a STEM career is a product of institutional racism. Many of us in the White community are too accustomed to the idea that STEM careers are a club exclusively for White people. We need to realize that Black and Latino Americans can (and do) hold high positions in competitive career fields.

over at US News recently published an impressive column about residential segregation, and how it exists even for Black families who have managed to elevate their socio-economic status. Nesbit states that “…having more money doesn’t necessarily help black families move up the socio-economic ladder. When white and black families have the same income, the white family is likely to be in the more affluent neighborhood…” However, the most troubling results from the article, as Nesbit argues, are “what’s occurring among the poorest families. The disparities are even more pronounced here, creating disadvantages for children trying to cope with fewer social supports, weaker school systems and more institutional obstacles.” So not only are Black and Latino families having difficulty moving into neighborhoods that are not ensconced in poverty, they are still forced to deal with the inadequate services of those neighborhoods, even if they have a higher income. It is a result of institutional racism that people widely believe that black families are inherently poor and thus have societal restrictions on where they can live in many American neighborhoods. Residential segregation continues to be one of the most subversive forms of racism that exists today.

So the point is, while it’s true that we have a Black president and several members of society who hold prominent positions that are Black, that does not make up for America’s role in disenfranchising Black and Latino families. In fact, despite her wealth and worldwide fame, Oprah still faced discrimination in Switzerland. So no, Katie, America is not absolved of its racist past, as it continues to haunt many innocent minorities to this day.

Doing the right thing

Out of all the readings about this morning’s SCOTUS rulings, I chose to quote Simon Maloy’s column to start this blog off: “[w]ell, looks like the Moops didn’t invade Spain after all.”

This Seinfeld joke goes back to about one year ago when the Supreme Court decided it would take up the ridiculous case of King v. Burwell. The case proclaimed that because the text of the law read that insurance subsidies for Obamacare could only be applied in exchanges “established by the State”, customers from states that didn’t set up their own exchanges (mostly due to recalcitrant Republican Governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures trying to stop the law from being implemented) and relied on the Federal Exchange could not get the subsidies they needed. In the Seinfeld episode, George Constanza gets into a fight with “Bubble Boy” while playing Trivial Pursuit, because while the card said “Moops” (the question was “Who invaded Spain in the 8th century?”), the answer was clearly “Moors” and the card had a misprint (video provided below).

While Salon’s Maloy was the first columnist to point out this uncanny similarity on Wednesday, July 23rd of last year, Jonathan Chait also noticed the ridiculous “Moops”-like argument a week later. While it is nice to be able to joke and laugh about this now, this ruling could have been very ugly. There were over 6 million Obamacare users who rely on the Federal Exchange for their subsidies, and their plans could have easily been in jeopardy. This chart, provided by Huff-Post, approximates how many people in each state that did not set up their own exchanges would have lost their subsidies and thus their coverage. And it’s not like Republicans and conservative pundits and columnists alike knew that people could die as a result of this ruling. Michael Strain, who works for the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post back in January with the headline “End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay.”

Getting back to the title of this blog, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy clearly did the right thing here. They knew the case was a desperate Hail Mary play by opponents of the law. In fact, Jordan Weissmann of Slate’s Money Box selected two very appropriate paragraphs from the Majority ruling indicating that Chief Justice Roberts knew he was doing the right thing:

“In a democracy, the power to make the law rests with those chosen by the people. Our role is more confined– ‘to say what the law is.’ Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803). That is easier in some cases than in others. But in every case we must respect the role of the Legislature, and take care not to undo what it has done. A fair reading of this legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan.
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress’s plan, and that is the reading we adopt.”

One could argue that in addition to the 6 million Obamacare users who would have inevitably lost their coverage, the biggest winners are Congressional Republicans. If the subsidies stopped, they would have actually had to do something about it. And we know how this Congress feels about being productive (still waiting on that “fix” from last year’s ruling undoing Section V of the Voter Right’s Act). So where do we go from here? Will Republicans finally admit defeat and give up trying to undo the ACA? Of course not. Congressional Republicans are already planning on using the Reconciliation process to repeal the ACA (ironically, the very same process that got the ACA passed in the first place). Fortunately, for fans of the ACA like myself, the chances of this law being repealed as long as Obama is still President are zero. However, should a Republican win the presidential race in 2016, we could be looking at a very different outcome in the year 2017.

You can view the “moops” clip from Seinfeld here:

Most Important Article of the Day – 06/24/15

Today’s most important article come from Ta-Nehesi Coates of The Atlantic, and it is about the history of (as well as the fallout from) the Confederate flag issue. As a result of last week’s murders in South Carolina, people are a little more down on the Confederate flag than usual.

Coates’s article comes amid the surprising response from various Republican Governors who have agreed to begin the process of removing the Confederate flag from their state’s capitol buildings and license plates and the not-so-surprising response from various conservative pundits condemning liberals for telling Southerners how to live their lives.

All in all, this is a great step forward for our country and a great bipartisan response to a tragedy that shocked the country. And while the removal of the Confederate flag from these venues will not rid the country of racism, nor will it force the country into implementing any forms in gun control, it does show how we can grow as a country by recognizing when it comes time to let go of certain pieces of our history and put them where they belong: in a museum.

And then there were 36…

Admittedly, the real number of Republican presidential candidates is probably not 36, but somewhere around 23. Regardless, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is officially throwing his hat into the race and declared his presidential run on Twitter (H/T Alex Griswold). Jindal, who is a graduate of Brown University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, is now serving his second term as Governor for the state of Louisiana, and is undoubtedly coming into the race as an underdog. According to the latest polls, Jindal is polling somewhere between 0 and 1 percent. Pretty much the only real national exposure Bobby Jindal has had was several years ago in 2009 when he delivered the Republican Response to the State of the Union (see below). Judging by the overwhelming negative reviews of his response, that may be a good thing for him. Like Rick Perry’s “oops moment” in one of the 2011 Republican presidential primary debates, Jindal is going to have to convince voters that he has learned from his mistakes and can still be a formidable opponent.

But is Jindal a formidable opponent? The evidence for that may be scant. First off, if you look at the candidates who are vying to compete for the Social Conservative vote, he is polling way behind Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry. But make no mistake that Social Conservatives are indeed the crowd his is aiming to appeal to. For one, he recently had an op-ed in the New York Times in which he told companies who would quarrel with his unwavering support for his state’s religious liberty bill (i.e. the bill akin to Indiana’s religious liberty bill that originally may have given businesses the right to decline to sell items that would be used in a same-sex marriage ceremony, such as cakes) to “save your breath”. Second, when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared that President Obama “…does not love America” (H/T Margaret Hartmann), Jindal sent various reporters a statement (H/T Robert Costa of WaPo) that he refused to condemn Giuliani for his statement (even though, as Jonathan Chait brilliantly pointed out, at the time nobody asked him to release one). Furthermore, Jindal relentlessly backed former Fox News contributor Steven Emerson when Emerson claimed that “there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in” (H/T Philip Elliot). Emerson was widely mocked for his statement and later issued a retraction stating that his previous remarks about the city of Birmingham “were totally in error.” Jindal knows that a sizable portion of Social Conservatives feel the country is under imminent threat from Islamic Extremism (voters in Alabama voted last November to officially ban sharia law from the state’s courts), and therefore has no problem saying things like “[t]he bigger point is that radical Islam is a threat to our way of life”.

Getting back to his record as Governor, Louisiana’s current unemployment rate is 6.6%, a full percentage point higher than the national average (5.4%). According to Stephanie Riegel of Business Report, Bobby Jindal’s latest approval rating as Govenor of Lousiana is about 32%. In accordance with the previous paragraph pointing out his staunch social conservatism, he officially allowed the theory of Creationsism to be taught in public schools in Louisiana. For more information about how Louisiana went from a surplus (thanks mostly to oil revenue) to a $1.6 billion budget deficit (mostly due to signing Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge), read Andrew Romano latest piece on Yahoo Politics about Jindal’s tenure as Governor. The following paragraph does a nice job summing up the state’s current affairs:

“Jindal’s patchwork fiscal maneuvering has had real consequences for his constituents. The state’s Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly has been depleted by $800 million. Development incentives are down $450 million. Louisiana’s rainy day fund has dropped from $730 million to $460 million. Voters don’t care about Grover Norquist, but they do care about things that personally affect their lives. They care that Louisiana now taxes the middle class at a higher rate than it taxes the wealthy. They care that the cost of the state’s six biggest tax giveaways to business has ballooned by $650 million under Jindal, who at the same time has slashed state funding for colleges and universities by almost the same amount. They care that students are now paying much higher tuition as a result. They care that funding for the state’s hospitals has been cut to the bone. And they care that 30,000 government workers — many of them teachers, university employees, and health-care providers — have lost their state jobs.” (H/T Andrew Romano)

So all in all, Jindal certainly has his work cut out for him. Me personally? I doubt he’ll even make the cut for the first debate in September (Fox News has stated that only the top 10 candidates will be allowed to participate in the debate, while the bottom tier candidates will be televised showcasing their talents through a “get to know you” forum in New Hampshire). Much like Chris Christie, current Governor of New Jersey and soon-to-be presidential candidate, what started out as a bright future presidential candidate quickly turned awry after a myriad of public embarrassments and a lackluster record as Governor.

Bobby Jindal’s 2009 Republican Response speech is below (NOTE: That is MSNBC’s Chris Matthews saying “oh my god” as Jindal walks to the podium).

The most important article of the day – 06/22/2015

For today’s most important article, I chose Roll Call’s Emma Dumain and her coverage of the inevitable expiration of the authorization of the Export-Import Bank.

Why did I choose this article? To show the continued destruction that the Tea Party has on our political landscape. In short, Tea Party conservatives like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana are claiming (at the behest of their supporters) that this is a government agency that delivers “foreign handouts”. In truth, the Export-Import Bank is a complex government agency that has several good arguments to both support it and oppose it (H/T Ezra Klein). However, we all know the real reason this is happening: it’s because the Tea Party has found yet another section of the federal government to demonize by oversimplifying its purpose and claim that it’s another example of “big government” run amok. And although House Speaker John Boehner has apparently implemented a “culture of punishment” during his tenure that seeks to make his fellow Republicans think twice before dissenting, he still can’t get them to relent on the Export-Import fight. (H/T  and  of Politico).

Here’s the thing: I’m willing to bet that even if the Tea Party does manage to kill the Export-Import Bank, it won’t notice a single difference after the fact. There will not be a single consequence they can point to as to how the closing of this agency has improved the lives of their constituents. Once again, this is just another way for the Tea Party to make the federal government (and congress) as dysfunctional and unproductive as possible. It’s a chance for them to humiliate “Establishment Republicans” and the President by not renewing authorization for an agency that has been around since 1945. Nevermind the fact that this type of agency is common among all developed countries around the world. Nevermind the fact that this government agency is not known for its excessive spending. Nevermind the fact that it wasn’t until the Tea Party took over that this became a prominent debate in the GOP. This is just a grandiose fight between members of the Republican Party to prove their conservatism to pundits and advocacy groups like Heritage Action and the Club For Growth. Instead of forcing the country to participate in your “civil war”, why not focus on policies that actually affect the lives of their constituents (i.e. minimum wage, infrastructure spending, tax reform, immigration reform, etc.).

Obama uses the n-word… in discussing race relations

Marc Maron is a fairly well-known comedian with a podcast called WTF with Marc Maron. President Obama decided to drop in for Maon’s weekly podcast last week and among other topics spoke of the country’s state in race relations. President Obama’s quote is as follows (H/T Alex Griswold of Mediaite):

“It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours, and that opportunities have opened up, and that attitudes have changed… What is also true is the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on… And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination,”

As usual, the President delivered a measured approach to a contentious and controversial topic. He knows what we all know; that while it’s good that we have a black president, a black U.S. Senator (from South Carolina) and several black U.S. Congressmen, the country still reels from the ripple effects of racism that are still widely pervasive to this day. Black/African-Americans have higher unemployment, are less likely to enroll in colleges and are more likely to be incarcerated for crimes that White Americans are just as guilty of (i.e. illicit drug use). While there are conservatives such as Kentucky Senator (and Republican presidential candidate) Rand Paul who acknowledge these systemic issues and have been willing to engage in solutions to ameliorate it (Paul has previously teamed up with NJ Senator Cory Booker to reduce the effects that non-violent arrests have on youth and adults), some conservatives have been resistant to acknowledge institutionalized racism.

The reaction to Obama’s use of the n-word was as expected from the characters of Fox News (H/T Evan Hurst at Wonkette). Elizabeth Hasselbeck said “I think many people wondering [sic] if it’s only there he would say it, and not perhaps in a State of the Union, or a more public address”. Her equally oblivious co-host Steve Doocy said “[t]he question is, if you feel it’s okay for the President of the United States to make this kind of comment, is it okay for him to stand in the briefing room of the White House to do it? In front of a joint session of Congress, State of the Union? Should he use that word there if he wants to talk about racism?”. Todd Starnes, who constantly feels that he is attacked for his Christian beliefs (and not for being a moron), said that President Obama had “…disgraced the office of the presidency”.

Am I surprised that certain Fox News personalities deliberately obfuscated the point President Obama was trying to make about the country’s progress in race relations? Of course not. Did I expect these certain Fox News personalities to tie President Obama’s use of the n-word with their constant (and unfounded) criticism of how unprofessional he is on the job? Of course I did. After all, Monday is a day of the week that ends in Y.

What does surprise me is that these certain Fox News personalities have the gall to be aghast of President Obama’s use of the n-word, while at the same time ignoring all the controversial comments about race their guests have made in the past.

I bring readers back to the year 2011 when country music star Hank Williams, Jr. was on Fox and Friends calling Obama and Biden “the enemy” and comparing President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner’s golf game to Hitler playing golf with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.