Thursday, February 20, 2020
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Bob McDonnell’s “Rampant” Illogic on Anti-Discrimination Laws

So, Bob McDonnell believes that "Virginia does not need to write protections for gays and lesbians into state statute because he has not seen evidence of discrimination in the state workforce." McDonnell adds that "If you're going to have a law, it needs to actually address a real problem."

To illustrate the rampant illogic here, let's apply Bob McDonnell's standard to other areas where the problem isn't "rampant" either.

*Anti-black racism in state government is probably not "rampant," but does that mean we shouldn't have anti-discrimination laws for African Americans?

*Anti-female discrimination in state government is probably not "rampant" either, but again, does that mean we shouldn't outlaw it?

*Arson isn't "rampant," in fact it's very rare, so do we not need laws against it? How about murder? Poaching of bald eagles? Dumping of radioactive materials in the water?

Obviously, all of this is absurd, since nobody would ever seriously argue that we shouldn't have laws against racist discrimination or murder or eagle poaching or whatever. But, it does illustrate the laughable illogic of McDonnell's "rampant" standard.

As to McDonnell's "address a real problem" standard, how is it not a "real problem" if even a few dozen people - or one person, for that matter - are discriminated against in state hiring every year?  It's certainly a "real problem" for the people who were discriminated against, and it's also a "real problem" for Virginia's attractiveness as a place for people to live and work, as well as for businesses to locate.  

Sorry, but the only things "rampant" here are Bob McDonnell's lack of sensitivity and his lack of willingness to move beyond the rigid he was taught by Pat Robertson's professors back in the "thesis" days.

Cenk Uygur, Paul Krugman on Eric Cantor, Right-Wing Victimhood, etc.

The following "Young Turks" video and excerpt from today's Paul Krugman column pretty much sum up my feelings toward Eric Cantor's "bullet through my office window" story. Enjoy.

Now, here's Paul Krugman.

What has been really striking has been the eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P., coming not from some radical fringe but from the party's leaders. John Boehner, the House minority leader, declared that the passage of health reform was "Armageddon." The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the committee's chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on "the firing line." And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.

All of this goes far beyond politics as usual. Democrats had a lot of harsh things to say about former President George W. Bush - but you'll search in vain for anything comparably menacing, anything that even hinted at an appeal to violence, from members of Congress, let alone senior party officials.

Of course, the facts would interfere with right wingers' desperate attempts at false equivalency and victimhood, not to mention the cowardly corporate media's eager embrace of this meme.  So, carry on, cowardly corporate media, you're doing a heckuva job as always!

UPDATE: Cantor's story continues to crumble.

It Can’t Be Unconstitutional If It’s Not A Mandate

As I'm sure you heard, our fine Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, is working hard to defend us against the evils of having to buy health insurance. In fact, Cooch claims, this is not just a bad policy but actually unconstitutional, and he's on a mission to prove it. Now, there are any number of obstacles to this suit making any headway, including the fact that its utterly devoid of any merit.  But minor quibbles aside (heh), let's start at the beginning, with Cooch claiming a "mandate" is unconstitutional. There's only one problem, as Ezra Klein explains: this isn't really a "mandate" at all.
Most people will never notice the mandate, as they get insurance through their employer and that's good enough for the government. But of those who aren't exempt and aren't insured, the choice will be this: Purchase insurance or pay a small fine. In 2016, the first year the fine is fully in place, it will be $695 a year or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is higher. That makes the mandate progressive.

And what happens if you don't buy insurance and you don't pay the penalty? Well, not much. The law specifically says that no criminal action or liens can be imposed on people who don't pay the fine. If this actually leads to a world in which large numbers of people don't buy insurance and tell the IRS to stuff it, you could see that change. But for now, the penalties are low and the enforcement is non-existent.

That's right, you have the option of buying health insurance or not buying health insurance. And if you don't buy health insurance, what happens to you? Not much, or at worst a "fine" - essentially a fee for being a "free rider" on the system - that you  have essentially chosen to pay in order to not carry health insurance coverage.  That's some onerous "mandate," huh?  No, didn't think so. In fact, it's far more accurate to call this a combination incentive and disincentive to purchase health insurance. But you don't HAVE to. So where's the "mandate" exactly?

By the way, what's so hilarious about the sudden Republican hysteria on the individual (non-)mandate is that they're the ones who came up with this idea in the first place! That's right, back in 1993, Republicans supported the individual mandate "as a competition to the employer mandate focus of the Democrats at the time." Even in 2006, Republican Mitt Romney wrote the following in the Wall Street Journal:

Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate...But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.
Today, suddenly, Romney and other Republicans are against THEIR OWN IDEA of an "individual mandate," because that's the politically expedient thing for them to do. But that doesn't mean there's any merit to their argument that it's "unconstitutional."  And that's before we even address the question of whether being given the OPTION of purchasing insurance or paying a fee/fine/whatever is truly a "mandate" at all. I'd argue it isn't, since you don't have to do it (which is what "mandate" means, right?).  

Regardless, there's almost certainly nothing unconstitutional about government requiring people to pay a fee/fine/tax/whatever, unless the courts decide to overturn centuries of legal precedent. Which means that Ken Cuccinelli is simply wasting everyone's time and money on a wild goose chase that will lead nowhere, instead of doing his job - cracking down on predatory lenders, internet predators, gangs, etc., etc.  Gee, aren't you glad you hired the "tough-on-crime" Republican as Attorney General?  

Webb, Warner Vote For Reconciliation Package

Thank you to Jim Webb and Mark Warner, who both voted for the House "reconciliation" bill this afternoon, sending it back to the House of Representatives for final approval. Hopefully, the House will vote early this evening and send the "fixes" package to President Obama for his signature.  With that, the year-long odyssey of health care reform will be finished, and we can move on to other, pressing business - the economy, immigration reform, clean energy/climate legislation, financial reform, etc.

Example #Infinity: When Democrats Vote For Right-Wing Bills, It Kills Their Message

There are so many examples of this phenomenon, it's hard to know where to start. I'm talking about Democrats voting for a right-wing bill, then hoping that nobody remembers (or something) so they can use that same bill as a campaign issue against Republicans.  Recent Virginia examples that leap to mind include: Democrats voting for - and Tim Kaine signing into law - the 2007 "transportation monstrosity" (including "abuser fees" and "regional taxation authorities"), which took that issue off the table for Democrats in the General Assembly elections that fall; Democrats voting for Bob McDonnell's crappy budget this year, then hoping to run against McDonnell's policies next year; Democrats voting for Bob Marshall's crazy anti-"mandate" bill, then attempting to criticize Ken Cuccinelli's constitutional challenge to mandates.

On that latter issue, a classic example came yesterday, as Democrats held a press conference in Richmond to denounced Cuccinelli's anti-"mandate" lawsuit. The two featured speakers were Sen. Donald McEachin and Del. Jennifer McClellan (also a member of the DNC, a "superdelegate," and vice chair of the DPVA). In McEachin's case, that's fine, as he voted against this horrible bill. The problem is with Jennifer McClellan, who - believe it or not - actually voted for the so-called "Health Care Freedom Act," which declares "that a resident of the Commonwealth shall not be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage."  In short, Del. McClellan spoke at the press conference yesterday denouncing HB 10, even though she voted for HB10. I'm confused.

By the way, Jennifer McClellan was not the only Democrat who voted for this horrible piece of legislation. The only reason I'm singling her out is that she was chosen to represent Democrats at a high-profile press conference denouncing that very same legislation. Does that make any sense to anyone? If so, I'd love to hear the explanation.

P.S. I forgot to mention earlier, the VA GOP Caucus posted about this first thing this morning, pointing to the difference on this issue between Jennifer McClellan and her husband, DPVA Executive Director Dave Mills. You see how this undercuts our messaging?

UPDATE: It's worth noting that Del. McClellan voted "no" on this bill multiple times prior to voting "yes" on the Senate substitute.

NRCC Spokesman Condones Threats Against Perriello

In the past 24 hours, several Republicans - Ken Cuccinelli, Bob McDonnell, Lawrence Verga, Feda Morton, etc. - have condemned acts of violence or threats of violence against Tom Perriello.  For instance, Verga says, "If you disagree with him then don't vote for him in November, but promoting and/or committing any act of violence toward him or his family should not and will not be tolerated."  Cuccinelli called the posting of Perriello's brother's address, "appalling," adding, "I think that is way over the line. I don't think it's even close." And Bob McDonnell chimed in as well: "I certainly condemn anybody using any acts of vandalism or violence to express their opinion...That's not the way we do business in Virginia."

But not National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) spokesman Andy Sere.  Instead, he's in pure "blame the victim" mode. Check this out.

While his organization doesn't condone such behavior, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere said Perriello is not the victim.

"Central and Southside Virginians are the ones who are going to have the bear the burden of increased taxes," he said. "What you're seeing is a frustration among his constituents who believe he's not listening to them."

That's right, according to the NRCC spokesman, threats of violence (and worse) against his family are actually Tom Perriello's fault because he had the audacity to vote for health care reform.  In other words, the NRCC spokesman is arguing, in America if you disagree with a policy of your government or a vote by your duly elected representative, the recourse is not the "ballot box" but the metaphorical "bullet box."  So, Republicans, which is it going to be: are you going to unequivocally condemn violence and incitement to violence, or are you going to condone it and end up with blood on your hands? It's your choice.

P.S. Just to be clear, I absolutely and strongly condemn ANY violence or threats of violence against ANYONE in politics (or otherwise), whether they are people on the left making threats against George W. Bush (or other Republican candidates or elected officials) or people on the right making threats against Barack Obama (or other Democratic candidates or elected officials). Having said that, can anyone recall an equivalent back in the Reagan or Bush days to what's going on now, with high-ranking Democratic officials condoning or even advocating violence against Reagan or Bush?  I can't.

UPDATE: NotAndySere writes about Sen. Robert Hurt's shameful, cowardly, inexcusable silence.

A day after all of the Charlottesville area candidates managed to come out against threats of violence, where is Robert Hurt? Is Hurt too busy fundraising at the end of the financial quarter to make a statement? Is he too worried about coming out in opposition to the antics of the Danville Tea Party, which have been condemned by the local paper? Is this just how they do things down in Southside? Or maybe Hurt's going to let a spokesman explain everything for us because he's too afraid to do anything on his own?

UPDATE #2: Tom Perriello talks on CNN about these threats.

UPDATE #3: Andy Sere is completely wrong on the substance of his charge that "Central and Southside Virginians are the ones who are going to have the bear the burden of increased taxes." In fact, according to the Census Bureau, only 6.1% of Virginia households make more than $200,000 per year, and obviously an even smaller share make $250,000 per year, which is the threshold for paying higher taxes under this legislation. In addition, median income in the 5th CD is significantly lower than in Virginia as whole. The bottom line is that we're talking about maybe 2% or 3% of 5th CD households facing tax increases, while 97%-98% of 5th CD households receive subsidies, tax cuts, and the many other benefits (on pre-existing conditions, closing the "donut hole," etc.) this legislation offers.  Also see this fact sheet, which notes, "There are 183,000 households in the district that could qualify for these credits if they purchase health insurance through the exchange or, in the case of households with incomes below 133% of poverty, receive coverage through Medicaid."

UPDATE 3a: It's also worth pointing out that over 50% of those households are in Albemarle and Charlottesville, so the tax effect on Southside and other (comparatively) economically-distressed areas of the 5th is even LESS significant...than the 1%-2% of the district as a whole. Probably down to 0.5% or so of households outside of Albemarle and C-ville.

UPDATE #4: Actually, it turns out that only 2.3% of 5th CD households earn over $200,000 per year.  I don't see the statistics, but obviously, an even lower percentage earns more than $250,000 per year, the threshold for paying higher taxes under the new health care reform law. So, we're talking about 1%-2% of (the wealthiest) 5th CD residents facing higher taxes, 98%-99% seeing the same or lower taxes (plus all the other benefits of health care reform). Sere is simply wrong.

UPDATE #5: Virgil Goode also condones the threats and illegality against Tom Perriello, saying "that's just part of being a public official."

UPDATE #6: The DCCC has issued a statement in response to Sere.

House Republicans and Right Wing extremists are completely out of control and are now justifying and validating dangerous new levels of violence. This is exactly the type of extremist and despicable behavior that turns off independents and just about everyone else. Given the current threats against House Democrats and their families, House Minority Leader John Boehner and NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions must apologize immediately for this disgraceful comment from their own ranks.

UPDATE #7: And Sere (incredibly) holds his ground.
Deplorable as it is, we're not going to allow Tom Perriello to use one isolated incident as a cynical ploy to distract Virginians from the higher taxes and Medicare cuts he just imposed on them. Thousands of Rep. Perriello's constituents have legitimately expressed their frustration with him via letters, rallies and town hall meetings, and we will always support their right to do so.
Amazing. As if anyone is against peoples' rights to peaceful protest against policies they disagree with. What we ARE against is violence and threats of violence.  What about that doesn't Andy Sere understand? Or, does he understand it perfectly well and simply agree with it?

UPDATE #8: Eric Cantor somehow manages to blame Tim Kaine and Chris Van Hollen "for 'dangerously fanning the flames' by using threats against Dem lwmkrs as a 'political weapon.'"

UPDATE #9: Robert Hurt tweets, "I condemn the vandalism that occurred at Rep. Perriello's brother's home and any other attacks that have taken place across the country."

Kaine: Republicans Must “condemn these acts decisively”

Tim Kaine has issued a strong statement calling on Republicans "to tone down their over the top rhetoric and tactics and to condemn the deplorable behavior of their supporters which has included the vandalizing of Congressional offices and threats on Democratic Members of Congress who voted in favor of health insurance reform." Kaine concludes:
The Republican National Committee has followed up its infamous fundraising presentation with a new fundraising appeal that shows the Speaker of the House aflame online. The RNC's Chairman has said that the Speaker should be put before a firing squad and vehemently defended Rep. Boehner's characterization of the passage of health insurance reform as 'Armageddon.'

It is no coincidence that we now have reports that Democratic Congressional offices have been vandalized, Democratic Members of Congress have received threats and been subject to racial epithets and homophobic slurs, and a gas line was cut at what was thought to be the home of a Democratic Member of Congress after the address was posted online and tea partiers were encouraged to intimidate the Congressman.

These now cannot be brushed off as isolated incidents.

It is no longer enough for Republicans to characterize threats and incidents of vandalism as isolated. It is no longer enough for Republicans to blame these events on outsiders.

Republican leaders must disassociate themselves from this deplorable behavior, they must condemn these acts decisively and, most importantly, they must tone down their own tactics and rhetoric to set a better example for their supporters and the country. I call on them to do so.

The point is, Republicans are stoking this anger, fanning the flames, and implicitly (or even explicitly) encouraging their supporters to resort to violence. Unfortunately, as Timothy Egan writes in this morning's New York Times, the Republican Party has become "the party of the hissy fit," the home for "rage-filled partisans with spittle on their lips...tying their fate to a fringe, one that includes a small faction of overt racists and unstable people." On one level, that's fine, if Republicans want to write themselves off as a serious political party in America. Make our day! On another level, though, what the Republicans are doing here is completely unacceptable, bordering on illegal (incitement to violence?); "playing with fire," as Egan writes.  

Sadly, this once-great political party has deteriorated from the sensible, serious centrism of Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and many others (e.g., Bob Dole in his pre-presidential-nominee days, George HW Bush in his "voodoo economics" days). Just as sadly, this once-great political party has declined from the serious intellectual foundations laid down by people like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater to the blow-dried idiocy of Eric Cantor, the "get-off-my-lawn!!!" rage of John Boehner, and the know-nothingism of Sarah Palin. Last but not least, this once-great political party has morphed from the "sunny optimism, and at times bipartisan bonhomie" of Ronald Reagan to the "red-faced, frothing" (as Egan puts it), pessimistic, fear-and-loathing driven "Party of No" we see today.

The consequences of this Republican implosion, which not coincidentally has taken place in the aftermath of our country electing its first African American president, are almost certainly not going to be positive.  Here in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli is one manifestation; as E.J. Dionne writes, Cuccinelli and his allies "want to resurrect states' rights doctrines discredited by President Andrew Jackson during the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s and buried by the Civil War." Perhaps they even want to fight another Civil War. Who knows? But the bottom line is that, as Anne Applebaum writes in this morning's Washington Post, if all Republicans are going to do is "scream 'communist' and 'fascist' at our democratically elected president-- thereby achieving nothing at all -- then I want nothing to do with them." Nor should any of us.

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