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Chamber of Horrors October 21, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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The Chamber of Commerce is your local real estate agent, your insurance agent, the owner of a local restaurant, etc. in every town in the United States. A repository of civic virtue. At least that used to be the case.

Tom Donahue has turned the Chamber into an aggressive special interest, essentially a fund-raising arm of the GOP, that gets a substantial portion of its money from foreign sources.

Last week, ThinkProgress published an exclusive story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign fundraising operation. We noted the Chamber raises money from foreign-owned businesses for its 501(c)(6) entity, the same account that finances its unprecedented $75 million dollar partisan attack ad campaign. While the Chamber is notoriously secretive, the thrust of our story involved the disclosure of fundraising documents U.S. Chamber staffers had been distributing to solicit foreign (even state-owned) companies to donate directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).

And most of that money goes straight into GOP attack ads.

The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates like Jack Conway, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). As of Sept. 15th, the Chamber had aired more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone, according to a study from the Wesleyan Media Project. The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.

But this foreign influence on our elections is not public knowledge.

Of course, because the Chamber successfully lobbied to kill campaign finance reforms aimed at establishing transparency, the Chamber does not have to reveal any of the funding for its ad campaigns.

Here is Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Bruce Josten, explaining why they keep the names of their donors secret:

Corporations, as I said, have employees, vendors, suppliers, and shareholders of all political stripes. They’re not trying to alienate anybody. They’re looking for representative organizations, such as mine and thousands of others, to be an express organization to advocate for them on their behalf.

As Kevin Drum argues:

Whatever else you can say about the flap over the Chamber’s funding sources, this is a notably unpersuasive argument. Josten is essentially saying that rich corporations want the ability to hound and attack anyone in the political sphere they don’t like, but want to be protected from being hounded and attacked by others. That’s nice work if you can get it, but I don’t think most Americans will be sympathetic. If you want to be in the arena, then you need to be in the arena. Being a corporation doesn’t — and shouldn’t — endow you with a special exemption from being attacked if you take controversial political views.

UPDATE: Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, as usual, puts things more bluntly: “I want to give them all the deniability they need,” he says. And he does.

Those patriotic Americans in the GOP aren’t much concerned about foreign influence when it comes to cash.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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Silver Linings July 20, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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The Republican strategy in the upcoming mid-term elections is curious. As political analyst Ed Kilgore writes:

It’s been obvious for quite some time–dating back at least to the fall of 2008–that the Republican Party is undergoing an ideological transformation that really is historically unusual. Normally political parties that go through two consecutive really bad electoral cycles downplay ideology and conspicuously seek “the center.” Not today’s GOP, in which there are virtually no self-identified “moderates,” and all the internal pressure on politicians–and all is no exaggeration–is from the right.

This move to the right is bad for the country. The emergence of ideas that are bizarre, offensive, and delusional does not help our political process; it only poisons the discourse. But there is a good chance that this strategy may backfire. In addition to pushing into the limelight candidates like Sharon Angle and Rand Paul that are too far out of the mainstream to win elections, there may be long-term prospects that Democrats can exploit.

If, as is almost universally expected, Republicans have a very good midterm election year after a highly-self-conscious lurch to the right, will there be any force on earth limiting the tactical radicalism of conservatives going forward? I mean, really, there’s been almost no empirical evidence supporting the “move right and win” hypothesis up until now, and we see how fiercely it’s embraced by Republicans. Will 2010 serve as the eternal validator of the belief that America’s not just a “center-right country” but a country prepared to repudiate every progressive development of the last century or so?

That could well be the conviction some conservatives carry away from this election cycle, and if so, what would normally pass for the political “center” will be wide open for Democrats to occupy for the foreseeable future.

It is difficult to hope for the continuation of the lunatic ravings of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. The embarrassment of them being nominally American outweighs whatever comic possibilities they create. But if they continue to push the rightwing off the political map, the embarrassment might be assuaged by their increasing irrelevance.

Today is Wednesday, one of my optimistic days.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

If You Want Good Government You Have to Trust Government April 22, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Regarding how we get out of the fiscal mess created by the Bush Administration, Tyler Cowen makes an important point:

Most relevant, perhaps, is Canada, which cut federal government spending by about 20 percent from 1992 to 1997. The Liberal Party, headed by Jean Chrétien as prime minister and Paul Martin as finance minister, led most of this shift. Prompted by the financial debacle in Mexico, Canadian leaders had the courage and the foresight to make those spending cuts before a fiscal crisis was upon them. In his book “In the Long Run We’re All Dead: The Canadian Turn to Fiscal Restraint,” Timothy Lewis describes Canada’s move from fiscal irresponsibility to a balanced budget — a history that helps explain why the country has managed the current global recession relatively well.

To be sure, the spending cuts meant fewer government services, most of all for health care, and big cuts in agricultural subsidies. But Canada remained a highly humane society, and American liberals continue to cite it as a beacon of progressive values.

Counterintuitively, the relatively strong Canadian trust in government may have paved the way for government spending cuts, a pattern that also appears in Scandinavia. Citizens were told by their government leadership that such cuts were necessary and, to some extent, they trusted the messenger.

It’s less obvious that the United States can head down the same path, partly because many Americans are so cynical about policy makers. In many ways, this cynicism may be justified, but it is not always helpful, as it lowers trust and impedes useful social bargains.

Forces like the Tea Party movement argue for fiscal conservatism, though it isn’t obvious that they are creating the conditions for success.

The one thing I disagree with is his claim that this is counter-intuitive. The way to a sound fiscal policy is not putting angry, anti-government know-nothings in control of the government. Since they are not interested in governing but rather in destroying government, they will not be trusted by the vast majority of Americans who think government has a positive role to play.

The problem in the U.S. is that the opposition party, while claiming to want more efficiently managed government, really wants something different—a government that performs very few governmental functions. For conservatives, cutting costs is not about doing more with less; it is about doing less period. 

Cutting budgets for conservatives is a means to destroying government, not making it more efficient. Effective management is beside the point.

Although that will not encourage trust, it will encourage the robber barons who are poised to exploit the ensuing chaos.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Who are the Tea Partiers? February 15, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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The allegedly grass roots “tea party” movement has gotten lots of attention recently. Is it something new? A populist uprising against the establishment? A political force to be reckoned with?

It may be a political force but it is nothing new. A new CBS/Times poll does an in depth study of the movement. It is for the most part made up of conservative Republicans and conservative independents whose viewpoint is well to the right of most Americans; and it is a much smaller movement than the press has led us to believe.

18% of Americans identify themselves as Tea Party supporters; 55% say they know little about the movement. Since 62% view the GOP favorably and only 9% view the Democrats favorably, it is safe to say it is overwhelmingly made up of Republicans and a few independents. 80% have an unfavorable opinion of President Obama.

They are more likely than other Americans to oppose bank regulations, and less likely to blame the Bush Administration for budget deficits. Almost 50% believe, contrary to fact, that Obama has raised taxes.

They are, for the most part, conservative Republican voters, who have always been vocal and attracted lots of attention—but they now have a catchy new name.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Out to Lunch March 1, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.
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This little gem from House Minority Leader John Boehner is another entry in the Up is Down file.

“We have a tougher job than our friends across the aisle. They’ve been offering Americans a free lunch for the last 80 years, rather successfully,” he told reporters at a lunch hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “Those of us that believe in a smaller, more accountable government, we have a tougher time making our principles relevant to the American people. But it’s our challenge, and we’ve got to do it.”

So let me see if I understand this. The Republican Party for the past 30 years has told us that we can incur enormous debt because deficits don’t matter, spend trillions on military hardware, and fight enormously costly wars without including them in the budget.

We can do all of this while cutting taxes to the bone because, according to Republicans, when government cuts taxes it takes in more revenue, a patently absurd notion that has been refuted by even conservative economists.

Moreover, we can simply ignore the environmental devastation  caused by our production and consumption patterns, pushing those costs onto future generations.

Whose promising a “free lunch”?