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The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

Consider these words written in 2012 by non-partisan political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Eight years on things have got demonstrably worse. Republicans continue efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act both legislatively (in 2017, which failed) or in court as GOP states led by Texas pursue a lawsuit currently pending before the Supreme Court that may see the ACA overturned next spring. The consequences to millions of Americans would be devastating.
This in the face of a virulent pandemic with more millions of Americans losing their jobs and their health care who will likely need the ACA. In the current health crisis, the Republicans’ rush to open up the economy before infection rates have decreased or we have adequate testing and contact tracing capabilities promises to cause thousands of unnecessary deaths – particularly among the elderly.

Meanwhile the GOP’s stubborn and obtuse denial of climate change threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. The depressing litany of destructive policies the GOP has embraced over the years whether its unravelling environmental protections and workplace safety regulations, beating up on the poor in America, suppressing voting rights of minorities to name but a handful, do enormous harm to the American people. The reality is of a political party and conservative movement that rejects the worth and role of government to do good and runs it incompetently to prove its point, while doing everything possible to impede the other party from governing effectively.

In this the GOP is robustly supported by its perpetually angry base, and a right-wing media machine that pushes both to the extremes. Negative partisanship is bipartisan but at least most Democrats get their news from reliable mainstream media as opposed to Republicans who are far more likely to be misinformed thanks to conservative media even on something as critical as the coronavirus. The latest conservative conspiracy theory, for example, is that the COVID-19 death rate is vastly exaggerated, a dangerous illusion that promotes a lethal complacency.

In short, Republican governance at every level is severely hazardous to our health and well being. In the present emergency, a GOP administration first weakened the federal government’s ability to combat a theoretical pandemic then thoroughly botched its response to a real one. And while a pragmatic Democratic House has tried gamely to bring some sanity to the government’s response to the economic and health calamities, it’s an uphill struggle against an ideologically driven, boneheaded GOP majority in the Senate. For example, an obvious need to support states with an infusion of federal funding as their economies tank and their revenues plummet is being blocked by a hatefully partisan GOP leadership that sees it as disproportionately (and erroneously) benefitting Democratic states.

When this catastrophe is finally over, Americans need to have a serious conversation on the future of our democracy in light of the bitter divisions that are unlikely to ameliorate even without the vile and divisive presence of either Trump or Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell. I don’t pretend to know the answer but I do know that we can never move forward as a country while this extreme polarization, without parallel in any other democratic nation, persists.

Republicans Freak Out about the 7.8% Unemployment Report

Republicans Freak Out about the 7.8% Unemployment Report

On Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 114,000 jobs in September and unemployment declined to 7.8 percent.

Those are not great numbers, but they’re not bad either.

Apparently the report was too good for Republicans and their rightwing media pals who responded by going off the rails and accusing the BLS of fixing the numbers to make President Obama look better the month before the election.

“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” Former GE CEO Jack Welch.

“I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here.” and “Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book ‘Rules for Radicals.” – Rep Allen West (Rep Fl)

“There is widespread mistrust of this report and these numbers.” and “How convenient the rate drops below 8% [for the] first time in 43 months, five weeks before the election.” Stuart Varney, FOX News

“I don’t think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect.” Conn Carroll, Washington Examiner

“I told you they’d get it under 8 percent — they did! You can let America decide how they got there!” – Rick Santelli, CNBC News

“Jobs #s from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are total pro-Obama propaganda–labor force participation rate at 30-yr low. Abysmal!” – Laura Ingraham

And this the poll was on her website today:

Like I’ve said before, when facts don’t fit the Republican narrative, Republicans make stuff up. Their narrative is that Obama’s stimulus was wrong, his auto bailout was wrong, his investments in alternative energy sources are wrong, and the government spends too much money. Well in spite of what they say, Obama’s plans were effective and created around 3 million jobs. And had he been able to get his American Jobs Act through congress, Friday’s unemployment rate would be much lower.

Republicans care less about taking steps to improve the economy than they do about making Obama a one-term president, so anything that would help the economy is bad for them. John Boehner in the Republican controlled House and Mitch McConnell in the very undemocratic, minority controlled Senate made sure that Obama’s job creation bill got nowhere.

However, in spite of their obstructionism, the economy has slowly improved but, since they tried everything they could do to make sure it did not improve, they have to make up stories about the BLS in order to reconcile the 7.8% figure with their false reality.

As the above graph from Paul Krugman’s blog shows, Obama inherited an economy from George W. Bush an that was in freefall left to him by, and after Obama’s policies kicked in, the economy started to improve. Krugman created another graph in a post that shows the 7.8% figure follows the trend, so Friday’s BLS report shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who pays attention to real data.

Is the BLS a partisan entity controlled by Obama? No.

Betsey Stevenson, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor under President Obama, said in a phone interview with TPM that the conspiracy theories were misguided in just about every way possible. For starters, the Bureau of Labor Statistics isn’t currently run by a political appointee. For most of Obama’s term, the commissioner was a holdover appointed by President Bush. The current acting commissioner John Gavin is a career BLS economist, not an Obama appointee.

 

The underlying data behind the BLS reports is also publicly released and used by analysts across the private sector and academia, meaning a conspiracy would have to survive scrutiny from trained economists of all political stripes.

Nor is there much time to cook the books at the top level if they wanted to.

None of that matters in the fantasy world of the modern Republican Party.