Republicans Are The Lannisters Of American Politics
It's your very 'Game Of Thrones' Sunday show rundown.
The HBO series "Game Of Thrones" dominated television until it ended with mixed feelings in 2019. Despite the sword and sorcery elements, the series managed to engage a wide audience through its political intrigue as the ruling houses schemed to win everything.
One of those houses, the Lannisters, was rich, incestuous and ruthless — similar to the Republican Party except Republicans have few if any of the Lannisters' positive traits.
The Lannisters, Unlike The Republicans, "Always Pay Their Debts"
The Lannisters' unofficial motto of "A Lannister always pay his debts" is a fine financial position but also a warning to enemies that they will always settle the score. While Republicans certainly settle their political scores, keeping a promise for repayment is more tenuous, which Republican Rep. Byron Donalds from Florida demonstrated on NBC's "Meet The Press."
Donalds decried the Biden Administration and the Democratic Party for not just blankly giving in to the Republicans' every demand as they hold the world's financial stability hostage. But all the talking points collapsed after Chuck Todd played a clip of then-President Trump discussing the debt ceiling.
Donalds comes from the same political cesspool as Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis, so he gave the game away with zero shame.
DONALDS: Well, first of all, he also said the other day on a rival network that he said that when he was president, and when they asked why he wasn't saying it now, he said because he's not president. Listen, Donald Trump is always negotiating —
TODD: Do you realize how absurd that sounds?
DONALDS: That is not absurd. He's always negotiating, Chuck.
TODD: How is that not absurd? It's absurd.
DONALDS: Chuck, he's always negotiating. That's what he does. And it's actually one of the reasons why so many deals for our country worked out to our benefit, as compared to his predecessors, both Republican and Democrat, because he's always negotiating.
TODD: But do you realize how partisan that sounds?
DONALDS: That is not a partisan statement.
TODD: "What is – what is good for me is not for thee." He's basically saying, "When I'm president, –
You know how stupid and nakedly partisan you have to be for anyone in mainstream political media to call it out, much less Chuck "Both Sides" Todd?!
Donalds then tried a little whataboutism that was so provenly false that Chuck Fucking Todd corrected him (again).
TODD: – there's no negotiating on this. But, hey, when somebody else is president, screw them."
DONALDS: Well, no, here's the thing. Let's be – let’s be realistic now. When Donald Trump was negotiating debt ceiling with Nancy Pelosi, mind you, they negotiated that.
TODD: No, they didn't.
DONALDS: When they were –
TODD: They raised it without any restrictions.
Losing an argument to Chuck Todd should be an everlasting political wound, like Jamie Lannister's right hand.
The Republicans' Lannister-Like Cruelty And Greed
Republicans, like the fictional Lannisters, think they can somehow "shit gold" by just doing cuts that hurt everyone but the rich. Republicans said as much when a reporter asked about raising revenue to "solve" their manufactured debt crisis last week.
\u201cRepublicans groan when a reporter asks McCarthy if he's open to considering a tax increase on the wealthy\u201d— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1684338839
When Republicans claim small businesses and family finances are like the federal government's budget (they aren't), they conveniently ignore that real world small businesses and families would have to also bring in more revenue to get out of debt. You either raise prices (businesses) or get a raise/second job (families).
The House Budget Committee Chair, Rep Jodey Arrington of Texas, was happy to show his unseriousness on ABC's "This Week."
RADDATZ: Well, the President said he’s willing to cut spending by more than a trillion dollars. [...] But he also wants Republicans to consider raising revenue. That has been a non-starter for Republicans. But will you reconsider?
ARRINGTON: No, because you couldn’t get tax policies and tax revenues in the Senate bill. We certainly weren’t going to put it in the House bill. So [...] it’s not on the table for discussion.
Then there's full-time podcaster/part-time Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on "Fox News Sunday" spitting out all kinds of bullshit, unchallenged by host Shannon Bream.
\u201cDemocrats want an army of IRS agents to harass the American people. \n\nI've yet to find someone in Texas who wants 87,000 new IRS agents!\u201d— Ted Cruz (@Ted Cruz) 1684711380
It's not a surprise that this lie was long debunked. But Cruz continued trying to scaremonger to protect the wealthy with some stats on revenue and spending.
CRUZ: In 2017, total government spending was about $4 trillion dollars, tax revenues were about $3.3 trillion dollars. So, we had about a $700 billion dollar deficit. Fast forward to today, total government spending has gone from $4 trillion dollars all the way up to nearly $7 trillion dollars. We nearly doubled government spending since 2017. What has tax revenue done? They've gone from $3.3 trillion dollars to right about $5 trillion dollars.
Lyin' Ted Cruz "conveniently" skipped the $4.9 trillion Trump added, $1.9 of it being tax cuts for the rich by fast-forwarding from 2017 to today, as if the Trump administration never existed.
Cruz's hate for IRS agents is also to shield his rich sugar daddies, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made clear on "Meet The Press."
YELLEN: We have an enormous gap between the taxes we're collecting and what we should be collecting, if everyone paid the taxes that they really owe. And that's really a reflection of tax fraud. It amounts to an estimated $7 trillion over the next decade. [...] equipping the IRS with the funding they need to audit high-income individuals and corporations, that's something that doesn't cost money. It nets money substantially [...]
For Republicans, protecting tax fraud by the rich and corporations is better when you can also be cruel to poor people and marginalized groups.
And there's no sign that a single Tyrion Lannister resides within the Republican Party.
Have a week.
Rural America Gonna Get Woke Clean Energy Dollars. Thanks A Lot, Joe Biden!
Rural utilities won't even have to teach CRT, so it's quite the deal.
The Biden administration is rolling out another part of its effort to speed up America's transition to renewable energy, announcing Tuesday that $11 billion in grants and loans are now available to rural areas to ditch old inefficient fossil fuel plants and replace them with affordable clean energy.
The aid comes in the form of two Department of Agriculture programs: The "Empowering Rural America" or “New ERA” program will provide $9.7 billion in grants for rural electric cooperatives to "deploy renewable energy systems, zero-emission and carbon capture systems," and the "Powering Affordable Clean Energy" (PACE) loan program that will provide another billion dollars in partly forgivable loans to a range of rural and tribal energy entities to "help finance large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower projects and energy storage in support of renewable energy systems."
The administration has been very diligent in pointing out that this is the biggest federal investment in rural energy infrastructure since Franklin D. Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Act in 1936, although the announcements have also been fairly careful not to put the words "green" and "New Deal" anywhere near each other.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release,
The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to cleaner energy provides rural communities with an affordable and reliable power grid, while supporting thousands of new jobs and helping lower energy costs in the future. These investments will also combat climate change and significantly reduce air and water pollution that put children’s health at risk.
The funding for the two programs comes from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and is just one of a series of interconnected strategies to finally get the USA off the fossil fuel teat and transition to a clean energy economy. The two programs start accepting letters of interest in June and July, and once the grants start going out to help build clean energy projects, count on a whole bunch of press releases from Republican members of Congress who'll brag about how they're helping their communities, even though they voted against the infrastructure bill.
The New ERA program for rural electric cooperatives, Vilsack told reporters on a press call,
will help rural electric cooperatives reach parity with private utility companies who have already begun significant investment in clean energy. [...]
"We have a climate crisis that requires all of America to participate in reducing emissions to get to the net-zero future," Vilsack said.
Rural electric co-ops, which currently serve about 42 million Americans, get about 22 percent of their power from renewable sources, so the new funding should help boost that. At a White House event announcing the new programs, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), who chairs the Senate Ag Committee, said the clean energy funding is
"an important piece of how we commit to rural America."
"This is really about saying to people in rural America, we want you to stay there, we want your kids to come home there, and to have a quality of life there," she said.
In the Ag Department news release, the administration notes that the PACE loan program is in keeping with Biden's "Justice40" initiative, which is aimed at making sure 40 percent of the help from climate spending goes to "disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution."
That's been a running theme in Biden's climate policy, because disadvantaged communities have historically been hit the hardest by fossil fuel pollution, and continue to be disproportionately harmed by the effects of climate change. While we're at it, let's give props yet again to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made environmental justice a central part of his 2020 climate plan, which Biden adopted and has stuck with from the start of his administration.
Also too, this is a good place to remind you all that the Wonkette Book Club is back, and for this Friday, we're going to read the first chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future. You can read more about the book club right here. If the UN ever does establish an agency similar to the novel's imagined ministry, we'd want Jay Inslee running it, please.
[USDA / Reuters / NBC News / Photo (cropped): Jason Jacobs, Creative Commons License 2.0]
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Wise Sentient Spider Convinces Supreme Court To Uphold California Anti-Cruelty Law
SOME PIG. TERRIFIC. RADIANT. HUMBLE.
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a California law aimed at reducing cruelty in meat production, in a decision holding that California can indeed require that pork sold in the state come from pigs born from sows who have enough room to both turn around and lie down. The pork industry had fought the law, pointing out that California produces almost no pork itself, but consumes about 13 percent of all the pork eaten in this great pork-eating nation. In essence, the pork producers argued that California violated the Constitution's commerce clause by passing a law whose burden falls almost entirely on farms in other states. But because it doesn't give California or any other state an unfair competitive advantage, among other things, the majority decided California's law is kosher, even though it concerns meat that's treyf.
In a narrow 5 to 4 decision that scrambled the usual partisan lineup of justices, Neil Gorsuch, whom you'd usually expect to line up obediently with corporate interests, wrote, "While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list." Liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan agreed only partly with Gorsuch's decision, which they believed claimed too limited a role for the Court to take in such cases; Sotomayor wrote in a partial concurrence that the pork producers had at the very least failed to show "a substantial burden on interstate commerce," so they lose, neener neener. (We paraphrase slightly.)
The law at the center of the case is California's 2018 ballot initiative Proposition 12, which was aimed at limiting the abuse of animals in factory farms. It bans cruel confinement of "veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens," requiring that they be allowed to move more freely and specifying the amount of space provided for the animals. The case the Court decided on, National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, concerns only the section on pigs, which, as the AP explains, says that
pork sold in the state needs to come from pigs whose mothers were raised with at least 24 square feet of space, with the ability to lie down and turn around. That rules out confined “gestation crates,” metal enclosures that are common in the pork industry.
The pork industry said that the law was unfair because nearly all the pork sold in California comes from producers in other states, particularly the Midwest, and that factory farms simply can't afford to provide sows anything like what Prop 12 requires. Again, from the AP:
Pork producers argued that 72% of farmers use individual pens for sows that do not allow them to turn around and that even farmers who house sows in larger group pens do not provide the space California would require.
They also say that the way the pork market works, with cuts of meat from various producers being combined before sale, it is likely all pork would have to meet California standards, regardless of where it is sold. Complying with Proposition 12 could cost the industry $290 million to $350 million, they said.
This is where we googled "pork industry profits" and found a pork industry press release exclaiming that the pork biz "contributed $57 billion in value-added GDP" to the US economy in 2022, and while we recognize that's not all profit, we think maybe Big Pig might not be devastated by having to provide minimally humane conditions for sows if the industry wants to sell pork in California.
The justices wrangled over a legal principle called the “dormant Commerce Clause,” which prohibits states from enacting laws that give themselves an unfair competitive advantage, like if Idaho were to ban the sale of products from states where women have too many damn rights. Since Prop 12 is in no way protectionist — there's really no California pork industry to protect anyway — that principle remains dormant, kind of like dead Cthulhu, dreaming in R'lyeh. So even if other states' pork producers may have to incur new costs to sell pork in California, they remain on an equal footing, kind of like sows that will now be allowed to move around more freely.
Gorsuch wrote that the people of California are free to pass laws that reflect their flaky Birkenstock-wearing values, even if he thinks they're kind of goofy, and that's how it ought to be:
On the one hand, some out-of-state producers who choose to comply with Proposition 12 may incur new costs. On the other hand, the law serves moral and health interests of some (disputable) magnitude for in-state residents. Some might reasonably find one set of concerns more compelling. Others might fairly disagree. How should we settle that dispute? The competing goods are incommensurable. Your guess is as good as ours.
More accurately, your guess is better than ours. In a functioning democracy, policy choices like these usually belong to the people and their elected representatives.
So in this case at least, states' rights yay, as California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement following the ruling, which he said
“affirms states’ important role in regulating goods sold within their borders” and that it “means that California can continue to have in place humane and commonsense standards, instead of the extreme confinement pushed by some pork producers.”
The Court has so far not weighed in on whether a hot dog is a "sandwich" or not.
[National Pork Producers Council v. Ross / AP / NYT / Constitutional Accountability Center]
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Lowest Unemployment Since 1969? Far Out, Man!
Just don't shout 'Well turn it up man!' at the Federal Reserve.
The monthly jobs numbers from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics show the US added another 253,000 nonfarm jobs in April, continuing a jobs growth trend that's been pretty steady throughout the Biden administration. The job growth outperformed Wall Street forecasts of 180,000 new jobs, CNBC reports. The unemployment rate edged lower by a couple points, from 3.6 percent in March to 3.4 percent in April, tying January of this year for the record for the lowest unemployment rate since May 1969. Not only that, but Black unemployment is the lowest in our nation's history. To celebrate, let's play Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey on the Moon" again, even if we're a couple months early for that anniversary.
In addition, the measure of discouraged workers and folks holding part-time jobs because that's all they can find, edged lower to 6.6 percent, suggesting this isn't one of those low unemployment stats resulting from people just giving up on finding work. (Correction: I initially called that the "labor force participation rate," which it is not. Wonkette regrets the error)
But wait! Is this gonna be one of those good-employment means inflation reports? Mmmmmaybe, says CNBC:
Average hourly earnings, a key inflation barometer, rose 0.5% for the month, more than the 0.3% estimate and the biggest monthly gain in a year. On an annual basis, wages increased 4.4%, higher than the expectation for a 4.2% gain. Both numbers raise the chances that the Federal Reserve could decide to raise interest rates again in June, though markets were only pricing in a small probability following the jobs report.
Or possibly not, since the Fed raised interest rates another quarter of a percentage point Wednesday, and suggested then that might be the last increase for a while. We're with Liz Warren on this: Jacking up interest too sharply to fight inflation is too likely to cause a recession, so knock it off for a while and see how inflation does, damn your eyes.
"The Fed is a one-trick pony," Warren said, arguing that raising interest rates can't address some of the causes of inflation in the last two years, like supply change kinks and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and of course price gouging by big corporations. So that's our sermon on that.
All in all, the economy seems to be doing fine, according to the economists who seem to live for the chance to put in their two cents for these monthly reports.
“It is encouraging to see a strong jobs report amid recession concerns, instability in the banking sector and ongoing layoffs,” said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group. “We are hopeful the continued strength of the jobs market and signs of slowing inflation will ease market volatility in the coming months.”
Reuters also highlights some encouraging signs it picked out of the entrails of this and other reports:
The larger-than-expected increase in payrolls could be hinting at some spring revival in the economy after activity slowed in February and March.
Data this week showed manufacturing pulling off a three-year low and growth in the services sector picking up a bit. Motor vehicle sales also accelerated last month.
Oh, we hope they were EVs, too! Hey, EV sales have boomed for the whole first quarter of 2023, so that's neato, too. Tesla remains the top EV seller, but the compact Chevy Bolt is selling very well, too, just in time for the news that the Bolt will be discontinued near the end of 2022, to be replaced by several larger SUV/crossover style models and the introduction of Chevy's new electric pickup, the EV Silverado. Damn it, we still need small and affordable EVs you hosers, the end.
[Bureau of Labor Statistics / CNBC / Reuters / Clean Technica]
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