Tag Archives: republicans

The GOP’s Favorite Weapon to Hijack Our Elections Voter suppression doesn’t always work, as Democrats learned in Alabama, but Republicans will be back—and they have some new tricks up their sleeves.

The historic African American turnout that propelled Democrat Doug Jones to victory in Alabama’s Senate special election overcame decades of voter suppression in that state and around the country.

But GOP-authored voter restrictions continue to pile up, and increasingly Republicans are branching beyond such familiar tools as voter ID rules to an even more aggressive suppression tactic: Voter purges that wipe voters from the rolls altogether. Done in the name of combating fraud, such purges have stripped hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and elsewhere, prompting a rash of lawsuits by voting rights advocates who say eligible voters are being disenfranchised.

In January, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges Ohio’s practice of initiating the voter purge process for voters who have simply failed to show up to vote over a single election cycle. The case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, hinges on whether Ohio’s law violates the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which bars the removal of a voter from the rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.”

“I am deeply concerned that if the Supreme Court sides with Ohio in this case, we will see states taking a copy-cat approach, and taking steps to gut the NVRA and gut the voter rolls across the country,” says Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In October, a lawsuit initiated by the Lawyers’ Committee forced the New York City Board of Elections to admit that it had broken state and federal laws by removing more than 200,000 voters from the city rolls before last year’s presidential primary.

Voter purges are nothing new, but the practice is drawing fresh notice for several reasons. The Ohio case asks the Supreme Court for the first time to closely scrutinize the voter removal language in the NVRA, which election lawyers say is not crystal clear. Kicking voters off the rolls in the name of combating fraud is also emerging as a key Trump Administration priority.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the de facto head of the president’s election “integrity” commission, sought to require proof of citizenship for voter registration in his home state, and may be trying to replicate that effort across the nation. The commission has demanded exhaustive voter data from the states, triggering several lawsuits, and possibly signaling a national effort to match state lists with federal databases.

On the same day as the commission’s June data request, the Justice Department demanded details from 44 states on how they are complying with the NVRA, prompting speculation that the administration plans to fish for an opening to sue states with messy voter rolls. The Justice Department has also reversed course in the Ohio case before the Supreme Court. Under President Obama, Justice sided with civil rights advocates challenging the Ohio law. Trump’s Justice Department is now backing Ohio, arguing that the state’s voter law is needed to keep the rolls accurate and promote the integrity of elections.

This reversal is highly unusual, says Justin Levitt, a  Loyola Law School professor who served in the department’s Civil Rights Division, which at the time opposed the Ohio law. The NVRA permits states to initiate removing voters from the rolls if election officials have evidence that the voter has moved, says Levitt. But the Ohio law allows the state to initiate action on the basis of non-voting alone, raising the “significant concern,” he argues, “that states will be free to toss people off the rolls without any evidence that they have become ineligible.”

The nation’s voter lists are notoriously error-riddled, and Levitt acknowledges that maintaining accurate rolls is in everyone’s interests. But cleanup efforts must be careful and precise, says Levitt, who likened the process to surgery. The multi-state “Crosscheck” program championed by Kobach, for example, matches up state voter lists without adequate controls, and misidentifies large numbers of voters as registered in more than one state. A more reputable data sharing project known as the Electronic Registration Information Center allows states to check their records against numerous government databases, resulting in fewer errors.

“It’s the difference between surgery in an operating room with a best-of-class surgeon, and surgery by your neighbor with a chain saw,” says Levitt of the difference between ERIC and Crosscheck. Indiana, one of 30 states to participate in Crosscheck, enacted a law that clears election officials to remove from the rolls anyone flagged by Crosscheck as registered in more than one state, prompting Common Cause Indiana and the ACLU to sue.

Civil rights advocates have also pushed back hard against an intimidation campaign by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative group headed by anti-fraud activist J. Christian Adams, who serves on the Kobach commission. His group has sent threatening letters to state election officials, demanding the right to inspect voter rolls that it claims are inaccurate. A coalition of civil rights groups last month set out to counter what it called “an alarming voter purge campaign,” urging election officials to reject the group’s efforts and offering guidance.

This month, Adams told members of American Legislative Exchange Council, which has helped states write voter restriction laws: “Voter ID is an important thing, but it’s yesterday’s fight.” The bigger threat today, Adams told ALEC conferees, is “aliens who are getting on the rolls and aliens who are voting.” Registration, required in every state except North Dakota, is “the gateway” to voting, notes Levitt. Republicans appear bent on closing that gate.

By Eliza Newlin Carney/Alternet

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Trump Is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How.

In the weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, lawyers joining his administration gathered at a law firm near the Capitol, where Donald F. McGahn II, the soon-to-be White House counsel, filled a white board with a secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.

Mr. McGahn, instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy, according to two people familiar with the effort: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Mr. Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial.

Nearly a year later, that plan is coming to fruition. Mr. Trump has already appointed eight appellate judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard M. Nixon, and on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a ninth appellate nominee — Mr. Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Gregory Katsas — to the floor.

Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure. Democrats — who in late 2013 abolished the ability of 41 lawmakers to block such nominees with a filibuster, then quickly lost control of the Senate — have scant power to stop them.

More from The New York Times

Posted by Libergirl, who says who cares about his tweeting…this is what is going on that will effect all of us.


With Few Watching, Republicans Have Put in Place New Poll Tax to Disenfranchise Voters

Preventing people from voting because they owe legal fees or court fines muzzle low-income Americans at a time in our nation’s history when the rich have more political power than ever.

More from Robert Reich at Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl


The old Democratic and Republican parties are exploding. When you take a closer look, America actually has six political parties right now:

1. Establishment Republicans, consisting of large corporations, Wall Street, and major GOP funders. Their goal is to have their taxes cut.

2. Anti-establishment Republicans, consisting of Tea Partiers, the Freedom Caucus, and libertarians. Their goal is to have a smaller government with shrinking deficits and debts. Many of them also want to get Big Money out of politics and end crony capitalism.

More from Robert Reich

Posted by Libergirl

Why the Republicans’ Tax Proposal Will Disproportionately Harm Black Families

Following the Democrats’ unexpectedly thorough victory this past election day, where the party won almost every competitive race, the congressional Republicans found themselves in an unexpected position, of losing part of their base. Desperate to pass their first major piece of legislation before the 2018 midterm election season begins, the congressional Republicans are eyeing an aggressive tax reform package as their key to validating the Right’s faith in them.

The competing versions of the tax proposal — the Senate version was released on November 9, with the House version being released a week prior — will both reduce taxes on average for all income groups, per analysis by the Tax Policy Center. However, with the top two quintiles by income receiving 78.7 percent of all total federal tax and those in the bottom two quintiles seeing less than a 1 percent change in their average after-tax income, the House proposal is specifically designed to appease wealthy and corporate campaign donors. The House tax proposal will yield $6.2 trillion in tax savings over the next decade, with 47 percent of this going to the top 1 percent.

In contrast, the tax proposal proposed by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would have raised taxes $1.4 trillion over a decade, with the wealthiest 1 percent — those with cash income in excess of $699,000 — paying for 92 percent of this. The lowest two quintiles would have received the greatest benefits under this plan.

African-Americans — particularly, poor African-Americans — are likely to be hit hard by these tax proposals. While the impact will be less than that of the proposals Donald Trump originally called for in 2016, the effect of these possible changes stand to exacerbate poverty rates, increase the wealth disparity gap, and stop Black post-Great Recession recovery dead in its tracks.

The House and Senate plans both call for deep cuts to the corporate tax rate. Republicans have for years made the claim that the corporate tax rate is too high and that it is strangling the nation’s competitiveness in world markets. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development argues that it is true that the United States does have the highest corporate tax rate, but only if you are looking at the statutory rate.

As the United States uses a deductions-based tax system, the statutory rate represents only the most one can pay, without fine or other penalties. In reality, the average effective corporate tax rate, per OECD, is only 18 percent — below Argentina, Japan, and the United Kingdom and two percent lower than the twenty percent rate proposed by the Republican proposals.

A key philosophy in Republican tax bill writing is “broaden the base, lower the rate,” which can be translated into a push to lower the statutory rates while limiting or closing loopholes that affect the effective rate. In other words, the strategy behind the Republican proposals is to have those that would pay the 20 percent statutory rate actually pay 20 percent corporate income tax — which would be a tax increase for most businesses.

This push to bring the statutory and effective rates in line extend to income taxes, as well. The Republican proposals opt to eliminate most deductions, including elimination of the state and local tax deduction, a reduction of the mortgage interest deduction (the House limits it to the first $500,000 of a property’s cost, the Senate to the first $1 million), and an elimination of the dependent deduction (this will be met with an increase in the child tax credit and the standard deduction). Also to be affected is the estate tax (the House wants it fully eliminated, the Senate wants to double the threshold for the tax). Since the bill was introduced, the House bill has undone the elimination of the adoption tax credit.

Beyond the obvious that such proposals would punish those that itemize their taxes in states with heavy state tax burdens — which are typically blue states, like New York and California — and taxpayers that have more than two children (African-American families are more likely to have four or more children than white families), these deduction eliminations may have a deeper implication

Take renting, for example. African-Americans outpace all other races in regards to households that pay rent for their primary residence. As of the third quarter 2017, 42 percent of African-American households owned their home, compared to 72.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 46 percent of Hispanics, and 57.1 percent of all other races, per the U.S. Census Bureau. Aggressive home lending policies and a post-Great Recession recovery have had minimal effect on increasing the home purchasing rates for Black homeowners over the last ten years.

This is troubling when taken with the news that the average African-American household in 2016 paid 44 percent of their take-home income in rent, a four-point increase from five years earlier. A study by Zillow showed the average income for Black households over the same period of time only increased by 2.9 percent, compared to a 5.4 percent rise in white communities. In white communities, the average cost of rent is about 31 percent.

This is causing an affordability crisis. As more African-American families must pay more for housing, they can save less to actually buy their own homes. This ensures that more Black households stay renters longer. “African-American and Hispanic renters find themselves in a catch-22 situation — while owning a home is a great way to build wealth, you need to save up some cash to be able to buy. If you’re spending close to half of your income on rent, saving up that down payment is going to be incredibly difficult,” Dr. Svenja Guedell, chief economist for Zillow, said in a press release.

Per Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than 11 million American households spend more than 50 percent of their take-home income in rent.

A little-reported element of the Republicans’ tax proposal threatens to exacerbate this problem. The Senate bill seeks to protect the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit that the House bill seeks to limit. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit is singularly the nation’s chief engine for affordable housing investment. The credit gives a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for the development of affordable housing for Americans with low incomes. Roughly 90 percent of all affordable housing construction in the United States is funded in part through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

The push for a 20 percent corporate statutory tax rate will effectively dry out the low-income housing funding industry. The House bill eliminates the tax exemption on private-activity bonds — the primary way municipalities and states pay for LIHTC projects. These are tax-exempt bonds that can be offered by a governmental agency to a private developer for qualifying projects. The elimination of these could mean the elimination of 60,000 affordable houses built or rehabilitated per year.

Even though the Senate bill protects PABs, the 20 percent corporate tax rate still hinders the effectiveness of LIHTC funding. “It would be a catastrophe,” Bob Moss, principal and national director of governmental affairs at CohnReznick, told Affordable Housing Finance. “In New York alone, housing advocates project that [the state] will lose $4.5 billion in affordable housing investment, 17,000 affordable homes, and 28,000 jobs annually. The national impact of losing 50 percent of production is devastating, at a time when an estimated 25 million Americans are paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income in rent.”

This push to curry political favor before the midterms bears the potential of causing economic calamity for millions. Peter Schaeffing is the president of High Impact Financial Analysis, a top-five national community development finance consultancy. In conversation with Atlanta Black Star, Schaeffing explained that the tax proposals not only have the potential to stop new low-income housing development but slow the purchasing of existing properties for conversion to low-income housing rentals due to the mortgage interest deduction limitation.

“The tax reform bill would reduce the supply of affordable housing, and slow other development in low-income, distressed neighborhoods,” Schaeffing said. “People of color will be disproportionately affected by the elimination of the historic tax credit, the new markets tax credit, and private activity bonds (which facilitate 60 percent of affordable housing developments using the low-income housing tax credit). These changes would have a devastating impact on communities’ ability to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing, further increasing the rent burden on minority families.”

In real terms, the Republicans’ tax plans have the potential to raise the rent burden on low-income African-American households. This can create a cash crunch that would limit the ability to buy food and other essentials and to have any discretionary spending. This could crater the economy of the Black community, creating a sectored economic depression. Such a scenario would not only make the wealth disparity gap worse but would endanger the health and well-being of millions.

“Americans are especially likely to face a tax increase if they have a smaller family, have mostly wage income instead of investment income, or claim some of the many deductions that the bill repeals, like those for state and local taxes and employee business expenses,” Lily Batchelder, a professor and tax specialist at New York University Law School who worked on economic policy in the Obama administration, told the New York Times. “They are increasing taxes on many in the middle class while concentrating their tax cuts on the wealthy.”

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitting that the Senate’s tax proposal will raise taxes for some in the middle class, and with most conceding that the Senate bill is the more compassionate of the two towards non-wealthy taxpayers, one must ask who exactly do the Congressional Republicans serve?

“If the tax proposals go through, it will lead to stagnation in low-income housing construction, among other things,” Schaeffing added. “As the demand forlow-incomee housing has not been met, this can lead to increases in poverty and homelessness, with the most at-risk populations being the first to lose.”

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

We’re Blindly Picking Between Political Poisons Our political system is dominated by two major political parties with serious identity crises.

“The state of the Republicans is particularly parlous,” The Economist noted last year, before our country’s political fissures further deepened and widened, “But the contradictions among Democrats, though less obvious, also run deep.”

How much deeper and wider those fissures now run was demonstrated last week with Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) announcement that he won’t seek reelection. It was the latest evidence that American electoral politics are fracturing in ways that offer less and less to people who reject tribal contests and think live-and-let-live is an attractive philosophy. Actually, it’s a big problem for anybody who just wants clear choices.

With his poll numbers tanking after his outspoken attacks on President Trump’s protectionism, saber-rattling, and xenophobia, the junior senator from Arizona publically conceded that “a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party.” It was time for him to try his luck at something else.

In another country, that might mean switching to another political label. But America’s political system has never been good at fulfilling one of the premises of a democracy: that when you pick your poison at the ballot box, you at least have some idea of the flavor of the toxin you’ve chosen. Our two institutionalized political parties long muddied those choices, with a mushy center-right party facing a mushy center-left party, whatever the characteristics of individual candidates. These days, the Republican and Democratic Parties remain dominant—by design–even as Americans become more starkly divergent in their political positions. But while Flake and his friends obviously no longer feel welcome in the GOP, it’s less apparent than ever what that party does embrace—and it’s only slightly clearer what the opposition Democrats represent.

“Nearly a year after Donald Trump was elected president, the Republican coalition is deeply divided on such major issues as immigration, America’s role in the world and the fundamental fairness of the U.S. economic system,” the Pew Research Center announced the same day that Jeff Flake said he’d had enough. How deeply divided? Of the four parts into which Pew divides the Republican coalition, one (Market Skeptic Republicans) doesn’t really believe in the free market and supports higher taxes—although they’re not as dubious about free trade as Country First Conservatives. Core Conservatives and New Era Enterprisers, on the other hand, favor the market, but the second group is also better-disposed than the other factions toward larger, interventionist government.

The groups vary widely on social issues, with Country First Conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage, while the other three factions are generally comfortable with the practice. Market Skeptics are the only majority pro-choice faction when it comes to abortion, although New Era Enterprisers aren’t too far behind. New Era type are the only one of the Republican factions within which a majority believe that immigrants “strengthen U.S. with hard work and talents”—zero percent of Country Firsters support that position.

The sheer incoherence of the Republican coalition raises questions about whether the GOP is a political party in any meaningful sense of the term. What does it stand for? It’s clear that Republicans do in fact have strong beliefs, but they have enough of them that are incompatible to make for two or three competing organizations. Given that candidates generally work with their colleagues to achieve their party’s general agenda, to what particular poison is any given GOP voter committing when filling in a ballot?

But let’s not let the dog’s breakfast that is the Republican Party conceal the messiness across the aisle. Democrats are for the moment in better shape than their official rivals, but they also have to reconcile Opportunity Democrats who overwhelmingly believe people can get ahead through hard work with Solid Liberals who overwhelmingly believe nothing of the sort. If Solid Liberals have little faith in the work ethic, they do believe that government does a better job than it is given credit for—a conceit that Disaffected Dems find laughable. That’s probably why Disaffected Dems along with the Devout and Diverse don’t share the positive opinion of government economic regulation held by the other factions in the Democratic coalition.

The Devout and Diverse are the most religious of Democratic groups and the most split of the coalition on the abortion issue, with just a slight plurality favoring pro-choice views. They’re equally divided about the contributions of immigrants. Where the Democratic factions generally agree—the issues arguably holding them together—are those involving race and the welfare state. Overwhelmingly, they say the government should do more. (Interestingly, the traditional backbones of both parties—Core Conservatives and Solid Liberals—are the two groups least likely to agree to sacrifice privacy for promises of safety from terrorism.)

So a voter picking a Democratic candidate is most likely marking the ballot for more government services. But otherwise, that voter buys a mystery package just as if they’d marked a Republican ballot—especially when it comes to the sort of economy that’s going to pay for the goodies.

Pew’s categories are, frankly, confusing—the organization has taken some pains to explain (not convincingly, to me) why it doesn’t use more commonly accepted terms. In particular, Pew has repeatedly written about why its categories don’t use “libertarian” even though it has found reasonably consistent supporters of freedom to make up between 5 percent and 10 percent of the population. The organization’s current set of questions for determining typologies are intensely frustrating in their phrasing and underlying premises (I gave up halfway through). That said, there’s plenty of evidence here that to the extent the major political parties offer a choice at the ballot box, it’s among surprise gifts with the contents to be revealed only after the votes are counted.

That still leaves us choice between political tribes, I guess. But to make any sort of an informed selection beyond tribal affiliation—to pick our poison from between our traditional major party selections, we can’t even begin to decide whether one or another of those partisan toxins suits us until we have a better handle on what they are.

By J.D. Tuccille/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Silence of the Democrats

A recent speech by George W. Bush made headlines for its pointed criticisms of Donald Trump, but there was something else he said that I found far more compelling. As soon as he finished his thank-yous and his little jokes, Mr. Bush dived immediately into the heart of the crisis confronting Western democracies today:

“The great democracies face new and serious threats, yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.”

I was hardly a fan of how Mr. Bush sought to renew that spirit as president. But I was impressed with these words. They show an understanding of the grave stakes that challenge the United States and other Western democracies.

The problem is not simply one of Mr. Trump’s coarseness and divisiveness and extremism. The problem, from Brexit to Mr. Trump’s election to the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, is how the liberal order responds to a crisis that threatens its erasure in favor of a reactionary, authoritarian alternative.

Those are pretty high stakes. I’m glad Mr. Bush understands them, but given that he’s retired, not much hinges on whether he grasps them.

Much hangs, however, on whether the Democrats understand them. And if they expect to recapture the White House in 2020 and take the lead in restoring and reforming the postwar democratic framework, they — or, at least, one of them — absolutely must.

I haven’t seen much evidence that the party and its crop of potential presidential candidates are up for it. I was disappointed, for example, that after the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., while Democrats duly denounced President Trump’s reaction and the rally’s white supremacism and the right’s defense of Confederate statuary (tough calls!), no one who purports to want to lead the party — and country — out of this darkness stepped forward to offer broader reflections on that grim episode.

Bah! It’s too early for that, some will say. The Democrats are an opposition party right now, and their main job is to oppose. And under the leadership of Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi, they’re doing that quite well. But I don’t think Democratic reluctance here is just a matter of timing.

The Democrats are undergoing a historic transformation, from being the party that embraced neoliberalism in the early 1990s to one that is rejecting that centrist posture and moving left. There’s plenty about this to cheer — the neoliberal Democratic Party didn’t do nearly enough to try to arrest growing income inequality, among other shortcomings.

There will be necessary internecine fights, and they boil down to loyalty tests on particular positions demanded by the vanguard. Consider the debate within the party on Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” bill, which most (though not all) 2020 contenders rushed to attach themselves to. To fail to sign on to that legislation is to open oneself to criticism, even abuse, although it’s less a piece of legislation than a goal.

Forget about who’s right and wrong in these debates. Time will sort that out. My point is that they tend to consume a party experiencing a shift. The Democratic Party, because it is an amalgam of interest groups in a way the Republican Party is not, has always had a tendency to elevate the candidate who can check the most boxes. The current internal dynamics exacerbate that. It’s also worth remembering that no one besides party activists cares.

So when the party’s leaders tussle over this or that policy, they also need to take a step back, to see the direction the country — the West itself — is heading, and take a stand on it. This isn’t just a matter of high-minded idealism; it’s what separates great politicians from merely good ones.

History tells us that the transformative politicians, the ones who can change the country’s direction and will really matter in the history books, are the ones who can do both. I think there have been four of them in the past century: Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Why Roosevelt and Reagan should be obvious. I know some would dispute my choice of Mr. Clinton, but he rescued a party that had lost three presidential elections in a row and was being read last rites by some pundits in 1991 (the extent to which he changed the country’s fundamental direction is debatable). Mr. Obama made history and redrew the electoral map. All four were able to speak both to their base and beyond it by identifying the challenge of the moment and persuading majorities that they had some answers.

The future of the Western democratic project is the fundamental issue of our era. It’s under attack from Vladimir Putin and Steve Bannon and many people in between (and to the extent that he backs Mr. Bannon’s purge of the Republican Party, from the president himself; think about that).

Democrats can’t duck this question and expect the broader electorate to see them as prepared to lead. To his credit, Mr. Sanders did talk a bit about all this in a foreign-policy speech in late September at the same Missouri college where Winston Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech, noting an “international order” that is “under great strain.”

The Democrats were the party that created this order after World War II. They must now be the party that fixes and saves it.

By Michael Tomasky/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist