Republicans look to decimate poor to fund tax cuts for rich; sun rises.

Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise

“And then he died penniless on the street!”

I recently read Janesville: An American Story, by Amy Goldstein. It’s all about the GM plant closing down, and an old union town being torn apart by the way life was suddenly rent wide open, by the cruelty of decisions made far away, and the impact that sudden poverty had on a stable middle-class town. There are wealthy people who are fine, and there are people who retired with pensions who are doing ok. There are people who lost jobs because they started a month too late. Really, the book is about, if not fate, then luck, and the breaks that can befall even the best-planned life.

Told through the stories of people in the town, it isn’t directly political, though politics plays a role. And it is extremely political in the broad, general sense of our politics being an outcome of the decisions we make and the leaders we elect. And throughout the book, there is Paul Ryan, the local kid who made the big ticket, and is now the Speaker of the House. He’s all downhome modesty, talking about his Janesville values, and how everything he learned he learned in town. He talks in length about his concern for the town, trying to save jobs, pleading with GM not to close down the plant. A regular Jimmy Stewart.

The act would almost be convincing if one didn’t know Paul Ryan. If one did, though, headlines like this Politico one from over the weekend are not surprising.

Republicans plan massive cuts to programs for the poor. 

That’s sort of…well, that could be a permanent headline, really. In order to pay for Trump’s tax cuts, but also honor his promise not to touch Medicare or Social Security (the promise not to touch Medicaid, of course, was altered by $800 billion or so), the Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan is looking to slash “food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans benefits.

If enacted, such a plan to curb safety-net programs — all while juicing the Pentagon’s budget and slicing corporate tax rates — would amount to the biggest shift in federal spending priorities in decades.”

This might be a shift for the government, but it isn’t a priority shift for the Republicans. Because this has been a Republican priority for decades; indeed, it has been the essence of their platform. Because even when Paul Ryan was rubbermasking his mopey concern face about the plant closing, he was fighting to cut unemployment benefits. He was fighting to cut food stamps. He was fighting to privatize Social Security and destroy Medicaid. He was fighting to cut the legs out from under the people who were the direction to which he focused his smuggest sanctimony.

These are their priorities. Most human life, as Ryan’s good buddy Scott Walker so often reminds us, is about becoming sources of capital for the wealthy. It isn’t about getting anything back except whatever salary they want to give you; these are two of the biggest opponents of collective bargaining in America (which a wildly anti-Janesville stance). If you aren’t working, or are poor, or just so happened to hit a spell of bad luck, you’re screwed. You don’t deserve anything. Hurt on the job? Someone else will take your place, desperate and starved, for whatever peanuts they want to throw them. And then you’re on the street, with no safety net.

It is really galling how much they preen and purr about small town values, but do whatever they can to indenture and immiserate any humans, to break the ties of solidarity that come with mutual dignity, and to pit people against each other. There is no comity.  There’s no decency.

Every small town has some kind of legend, a weird swamp monster or a strange dog or that one night everyone heard a strange, almost melodic hum coming from some undefined place, maybe the woods at the edge, or maybe just the air itself. But if small towns really had the values the GOP promotes, if union-proud Janesville was actually a reflection of Paul Ryan, there wouldn’t be any need for these legends. They’d be full of snarling many-mouthed beasts attacking the vulnerable, green drool mixing with blood on the streets, while the very few lived in gated compounds, armed guards keeping at bay both the fiends and their victims.

That’s Paul Ryan’s America. The only value is the dollar, and if you don’t have any, don’t ask. Come talk to us when you’re rich, chump.

 

Sociopaths Celebrate Human Immiseration: The Healthcare Repeal in Three Images

We did it, boys! 

What I can’t get over is how happy they are with themselves. With their cheering and backslapping, the popping open of Bud Lights, and the sense of a job well done. These are people who are thrilled with today’s work of rushing through a terrible bill that will take healthcare away from tens of millions of people, leading to more sickness, bankruptcy, and death. They honestly could not be more pleased.

Part of it, of course, is because their ideology makes them want to hurt everyone who isn’t rich so the wealthy can become even more so, even if it is, for them, just a rounding error. Putting a cool couple of million in the pockets of billionaires is worth destroying the lives of poor, regardless of race.

But of course, the main reason they are so happy, is because they think this sticks it to Obama, their literal bete noire. They want to tear him down, destroy his legacy, and trample the progress that he represented (not to mention, for ideological reasons, the progress he actually achieved). He was an aberration to their sense of what the country should be (run by, and to the benefit of, white men). They want to make him a distasteful footnote.

Image result for rose garden trump ryan ahca

We did it, Paul. Me and you. Linked together forever. 

And that’s why Trump is so important. He’s a useful idiot, to be sure, one whose mental sickness is perfectly aligned with the GOP. He hates Obama, because Obama is the opposite of Trump in every single way. Obama is the living example of merit, of intelligence, of class and dignity. He is the best of us, and Trump is the worst. He’s a man who earned nothing his coddled life. The GOP might find him obnoxious, but more than being someone who will help them save the rich, he’s a living rebuke to Obama.

That’s why this quote is so telling.

“I don’t know if you remember what [then-Vice President Joe] Biden whispered in the President’s ear back when he was signing [the Affordable Care Act],” Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) asked reporters, referring to Biden’s “this is a big f-cking deal” hot mic moment.

“This is a bigger deal than that,” Flores said before Thursday’s vote.

Now, obviously, in a real sense there is no way today’s vote is a bigger deal. Already, their bill is mooted. The Senate is going to write their own, and then they are going to parlay and compromise and the House lunatics will cry traitor and Ted Cruz will grandstand and Lindsay Graham will say some thing, and maybe there will be a bill that can pass both houses, but mabe not. In a real sense, for the GOP, this isn’t something to celebrate. They’ve barely started, despite what our idiot President claims when he says “It’s dead. It’s essentially dead.”

But look at that closer. Joe Biden said something was a big fucking deal when we came closer to having full coverage than ever before, when we expanded health care. Biden said it was a big fucking deal because we came closer to the day when people could live without fear that a bit of bad luck, a sickness, or an accident at work, an open pothole, someone’s foot slipping off their brake and ramming into you because you happened to be at that intersection at that one second instead of any of the other seconds of your life, could ruin that life. Could send someone spiraling into bankruptcy and a lifetime of pain. Biden, bless him, was excited to help people get away from that. He was excited because the richest country in the world was trying to use that wealth to help each other, to unite in a common bond.

Flores thinks it is a much bigger fucking deal to get rid of that. That’s what gets him excited.

Image result for rose garden trump ryan ahca

God damn them

Look at this picture. Look at these monsters. Trump is excited because he has a “win”, regardless of what that means, and in his tiny self-obsessed mind thinks he stuck it to Obama. He thinks this means history will remember him above Obama, as a real victor. He doesn’t comprehend what he is doing to people, because people don’t exist.  This gloating, preening, self-satisfied manchild gave the sea of mayonnaise he’s facing exactly what they want. A chance to destroy the common good and the bonds that unite us as a self-governing nation.

Paul Ryan is so smugly happy about this. He’s oozing joy, with his insincere sincerity about being able to do this with Donald Trump. Louis Gohmert can barely believe his good fortune to be here at this moment. The rest of them just as excited. They’re craning their neck to hoot and holler in unison, hoping that Trump sees just how happy they are to be there with them. How happy they are to please him.

They are so eager to give him a win. To celebrate unearned wealth and undeserved fortune, and the luck they have to be born who they are in this country, to have a chance to rise up and serve the rich, and to trample on the bones of the unlucky. This image is the perfect symbol of why our country–vast and unruly and diverse, a nation that pins its hopes on luck and fears that the chasm is opening up underneath us–is doomed. The pettiest can pass something almost nobody wants. Complacency about progress is foolhardy. It can be smashed underfoot by the trampling hatred of the minority.

Obamacare might not be dead, but GOP decency had its final burial today. They made clear that they are content being the fetchservant of plutocracy, and are eager to make the rest of us suffer and die. Anyone who thinks differently isn’t looking at the same pictures.

Trump Healthcare Ultimatum Is Equal Parts Stupid and Cruel; or: The Quintessence of Trumpism

 

Donald Trump sits in a truck, pretends to be big man.

Tough guy.

I’ve never read The Art of the Deal. With all due respect to his ghostwriter on the project, who turned out to be a real standup dude, there are maybe five books in the entire universe I’d enjoy reading less. The self-aggrandizing money-worship of an overfed huckster in celebration of our gaudiest decade? The vast majority of cereal boxes have more insight on the human condition, and probably more wit.

That said, from having had to pay attention to this man for decades, I know a little about how he operates, and it is from false machismo, the not-tough toughguyness of rich men in suits with lawyers. His main plank is to be willing to walk away, so that the other guy, nervous about sunk cost, gives away the store.

The other plank is that the deal is the thing, no matter how terrible it turns out to be, so long as there is short term gain. Both of these are on display with what the President is offering the Republican Party right now.

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

A couple of things. First of all, that shouldn’t, strictly, be true. There is nothing that says “one and done” with health care. It might make it more difficult to pass later on, but in theory, they could try to come up with a better bill. But this is Trump’s dumbbell toughshow on full display. You pass this bill, or else, hoping that will clarify their minds. It shows that he has no idea how government works, and thinks his shtick can pass for actual knowledge or skill (to be fair, it has his entire life, which says a lot about our culture).

And it might work! The Republicans might be terrified of this failure, and hope that they can make a widely despised piece of legislation come to life, or at least have the Senate somehow fix it. So this might come to pass (Politico still says too close to call), and if it does, might ghostwalk through the Senate, though there are a lot of institutional and electoral obstacles to doing so.

But let’s look at what we have. In the last few days, Trump and Ryan have given away the store to the far, far, far right members of the House Freedom Caucus, making their already unfathomably cruel and reckless bill even worse. It’ll cost more, and insure fewer people. The latest horror was stripping away the 10 essentials that health care should cover, on the extremely Republican idea that if you aren’t going to get pregnant, your money shouldn’t cover other people’s pregnancies.

(It could be pointed out that that’s how all insurance works, but at least they are ideologically consistent: no help for anyone, and pull the ladder up after you.)

So, basically, because Trump only wants to make deals, and has his whole phony image based on being great at negotiating and closing, is going to make life worse for nearly everyone, including the people who voted for him, so that he can get this quick little victory and show off how good he is at twisting arms. It’s stupid and cruel, which is really the essence of the man.

Please don’t take this as any sympathy for Paul Ryan or the Republicans. This is their fault, and not just because they acquiesced to Trump. They’ve spent seven years salivating over the idea of kicking people off insurance rolls, gutting Medicare, block-granting Medicaid, and most of all, shoveling money upward. They couldn’t wait! They rushed this through to maximize pain, and were suddenly stunned when it turned out that people didn’t equate dying in poverty with freedom.

So maybe this is their last shot. Maybe they recognize that the whole edifice of Republican governance is crumbling. It’s crumbling because of Trump, of course, his Russian connections, his inability to do anything that isn’t directly tied to his ego, and the fact that the sleaze with which he’s lived his life is an inescapable part of his administration.

But it is also crumbling because a party who thinks that self-government is Communism and that there is no such thing as the common good can’t govern when their plans are brought to light. For eight years, the cruelest and most Randian elements of the right wing had been percolating, able to tear at Obama, but still hidden by his shadow. Their guttersniping worked while they weren’t in charge, but now that their plans have seen the light of day, much of the country is reacting in horror. They can’t govern because they don’t believe in it, and that comes from their one core belief: you’re on your own, sucker.

So yes, they want to push through this bill while they still can. It’s cruel and insane, and it comes from their ideology, and it comes from the man who thinks that any deal is good so long as he isn’t holding the bag. It’s Trumpism, which is really just a flamboyant way of saying it’s the modern GOP.

Let’s Play A Game: It’s Called “How Is Trump Ridiculous?”

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“I think it went really well.”

So, what do you think are the most ridiculous and terrifying parts of his meeting with the House and Senate Republicans today?  What do you think speaks most clearly to his immense disqualifications? Let’s see! (All quotes are from WaPo or TPM)

Bonus points if you remember that in literally two weeks from tonight he’s going to be accepting the nomination.

A Complete Inability To Recognize That He’s Hated, And Therefore The Unwillingness To Change?

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) said that members asked about his effect on the House and Senate races. One member asked pointedly about Trump’s comments about Hispanic voters.

“He said Hispanics love him,” Dent said, noting that the polls showed no such thing. “All I can say is that I haven’t endorsed him. I believe he has a lot of persuading to do.”

A Lack Of Ability To Take Any Criticism Or Opposition, And A Childlike Need To Bully?

Trump’s most tense exchange was with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has been vocal in his concerns about the business mogul’s candidacy, especially his rhetoric and policies on immigration that the senator argues alienate many Latino voters and others in Arizona.

When Flake stood up and introduced himself, Trump told him, “You’ve been very critical of me.”

“Yes, I’m the other senator from Arizona — the one who didn’t get captured — and I want to talk to you about statements like that,” Flake responded, according to two Republican officials.

Trump said at the meeting that he has yet to attack Flake hard but threatened to begin doing so. Flake stood up to Trump by urging him to stop attacking Mexicans. Trump predicted that Flake would lose his reelection, at which point Flake informed Trump that he was not on the ballot this year, the sources said.

(Note: a corollary to this is His Ability To Make Otherwise Terrible People Seem Noble)

A Total Lack Of Concern For Any Details?

“I wasn’t particularly impressed,” Sanford said. “It was the normal stream of consciousness that’s long on hyperbole and short on facts. At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list. There is no Article XII.”

(Now, you can say that’s a flub, and that, as some people said, he was probably thinking of Amendments, but still: someone who has ever actually thought about the Constitution knows that Articles and Amendments are different things, and so wouldn’t confuse them, really. But also, do you really think Trump knows which is which, or which Amendment is what, other than maybe the 1st and 2nd? Does anyone believe that?)

How Anyone Who Defends Him Sounds Like A Fucking Moron?

“He was just listing out numbers,” Farenthold said. “I think he was confusing Articles and Amendments. Remember, this guy doesn’t speak from a TelePrompter. He speaks from the heart.”

(To be Perfectly Fair, Blake Farenthold always sounds like a fucking moron)

How He Makes People Repeat The Same Sweatily Desperate Claims They Have Time And Time Again?

Other members expressed confidence that Trump understands he needs to tone down his rhetoric.

“If you look at the trajectory of his unforced errors, he’s getting better,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Tex.). “I mean, he’s not where we want him to be, but he’s getting better.”

How Everything That Goes Wrong Is Because Someone Is Unfair To Him, Because Mr. Trump Can Never Be Wrong, Just Ask Anyone On My Payroll?

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said Trump brought up his recent comments about Saddam Hussein “in the context of how unfair the media has been to him.” Trump has praised the former Iraqi dictator for being “so good” at killing terrorists, while adding that is all he thinks was good about a “bad guy, really bad guy.”

(He didn’t address the white nationalist retweets, but I’m sure that’ll come up again.)

How He Makes Paul Ryan Look Like The World’s Biggest Jackass?

“What I thought was especially helpful today was our members just got access and got to ask their questions and talk about their issues,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). “I thought he did a great job engaging with our members, and I think our members appreciated it.”

(OK, well, that’s a point in his favor, I guess.)

So which of these wildly-disqualifying things scares you the most? If you answered “all of them!” you still aren’t close to terrified enough.

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Bonus Section In Which I Praise Trump

So, Eric Trump, the Patrick Bateman-esque son of Donald, was asked today about his sister Ivanka being Trump’s pick for Vice President (which was Bob Corker’s idea). He answered in typically-creepy Trump fashion:

“I agree, right? She’s got the beautiful looks. She’s got — she’s smart. She’s smart smart smart smart,” Trump said.

He obviously starts with the looks, and then right after the second “got” realized he shouldn’t say “legs” or “breasts” or anything, and compensated with a ton of “smarts”. Which, I mean, this is normal for Trump-world, where even your own sister is judged primarily on being boneworthy. So whatever.

But really, can’t you see it? Trump picking Ivanka? I’d be behind this, because I bet Newt still thinks the VP is his to lose. Joni dropped out; so I bet he thinks it’s between him and Christie. Trump, the consummate bully, might just be stringing him along, telling him, sure Newt, it’ll be you, for sure. You’ll get to run the country as you see fit, I’ll just play golf and judge Miss America, and now it’ll be legally binding. It’s gonna be you, and you’re gonna be great, and then- bam! Dropping him like a first wife. I’d love to see ol’ Newt’s face if that happened. It would be fantastic. Hell, I might even vote for Trump just out of gratitude.

Paul Ryan and Gun Control: Profile in Courage

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“I’m in line for the Presidency!” 

Nearly two weeks after House Democrats staged a historic sit-in to demand action on gun control legislation, the Republican speaker of the House has agreed to hold a vote on a single gun-related bill: a measure to allow the attorney general to delay the sale of a gun to a suspected terrorist for three days, similar to a Senate measure backed by the National Rifle Association. (The Guardian)

At the blog, we have a saying: if the NRA supports it, there’s a decent chance it might not be the super best idea. I understand that’s not much of a saying, but the bluenoses at the bumper-sticker shop won’t let me go with “Fuck The NRA.” Also, that seems like a dangerous sticker with which to drive around. In life, I’ve found that it isn’t a good idea to piss off the irrational and heavily-armed.

Paul Ryan has learned the same lesson, and quickly, reacting to the hideous level of gun violence in America by backing the most toothless possible bill, and one that should make civil libertarians squirm, beside. Not only will this do extremely little to stop mass shootings- I’m guessing that neither Jared Laughner nor Adam Lanza not his mom were on that list- but will do nothing to stop the daily thrum of handgun-based murder, accidents, and suicide that threaten to revoke our status in the civilized world.

Ryan’s response to violence is to pretend that he was outraged by the sit-in in Congress, led by John Lewis, a man with more courage in his shoes than Ryan has accumulated in a life of cheese-filled toadying. Our previous VP nominee, who couldn’t even carry his hometown, called the action a “publicity stunt” and a “low moment” for Congress, which surprised a lot of us who are old enough to remember shutdowns over budgets, dozens of attempts to repeal the ACA, and the continuing career of Louis Gohmert.

He was right though, that it was a publicity stunt. A lot that John Lewis has done in his life has been for “publicity”, which is a cynical way of saying “getting people to pay attention to something I’d rather sweep under the rug.” It turns out that’s the way to get things done. Raise awareness, march in the streets, get people fired up, and then go out and vote. It worked in the 60s (the repudiation of Goldwaterism and Johnson’s supermajority), and it worked for the Tea Party, who turned their atavistic outrage into electoral success, at least at district levels.

That’s the only way to make a change. Democrats have to win big, and sweep out the bastards. It isn’t enough to put pressure on them. As we’ve argued here a few times, a lot of the mooks in Congress aren’t dancing to the NRA’s tune because of money; they are true believers. They buy the whole spiel about freedom. They won’t change because of politics. Yes, the NRA’s money, along with gerrymandering, keeps them safe from having to make a choice, but the bulk of them would choose guns. Guns over everything else.

That’s why they have to lose. The anger has to translate to votes. Polls showing American outrage don’t matter to them. Sweeping out enough to give the gun control side the power is the only thing that will work.

Above, I kind of joked that “In life, I’ve found that it isn’t a good idea to piss off the irrational and heavily-armed,” but that’s really the nut of it, isn’t it? The “freedom” to carry guns everywhere takes away everyone else’s freedom to feel safe. I don’t know if the person walking into the store is a mass-shooter or just a gun-nut, who could turn into a shooter if I told him that he’s making everyone else feel nervous. You just don’t know. And so, like with ISIS, we’re all on the front lines of the NRA’s war on human decency, and their generational battle against human life. Unlike with ISIS, we can do something about it.