As to the problem: Yes, there’s divided government. But political scientists have found that divided government isn’t necessarily an impediment to legislative productivity.We already know that immigration reform faces an uphill battle in the House, where the Republican Party is boiled down to its pure obstructionist base. Ezra Klein explains, via Janet Hook's WSJ analysis, why so many House Republicans are so set in their unreasonable ways:
No, the problem is actually pretty simple. It’s not, overall, a dysfunctional Congress; it’s a dysfunctional House. Sure, the Senate has plenty of inefficiencies, but it’s the House now which really just can’t do much of anything. It’s pretty simple: most Republicans are either hostile to the entire idea of finding compromises with Democrats or are terrified of other conservatives who hate compromise; and, at the same time Republicans aren’t unified enough to be able to pass very much in the House on their own. There’s a lot more to say about it, but that’s really the bottom line: They aren’t going to compromise and they can’t get anything done without compromising.
First, “only 38 of the House’s 234 Republicans, or 16%, represent districts in which Latinos account for 20% or more of the population.” Second, “only 28 Republican-held districts are considered even remotely at risk of being contested by a Democratic challenger, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.”More analysis on the Republican Party's intransigence from Jamelle Bouie:
So for about 200 of the House’s Republicans, a primary challenge by conservatives angry over “amnesty” is probably a more realistic threat than defeat at the hands of angry Hispanic voters, or even angry Democrats.
If the foundation of the GOP’s majority—and the cause of its extremism—is gerrymandering, then you can fix the problem with bipartisan (or nonpartisan) redistricting. But if the problem isn’t connected to the process, you have a different challenge.More analysis on the day's top stories below the fold...
The evidence, I think, points to the culture of the Republican Party as the problem, and not the circumstances of its particular lawmakers. For starters, you have similar attitudes among Republican members of the Senate, i.e., politicians who represent entire states, and not just districts (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for example). What’s more, even if you could explain GOP extremism through gerrymandering, there’s nothing about a highly ideological approach to politics that requires intransigence. You can have a strong attachment to your beliefs and show a willingness to compromise for the sake of advancing them.
What’s missing in the Republican Party is that willingness to compromise for anything, even if it benefits the particular interests of individual lawmakers or the interests of the party writ large. And this seems to stem from an attitude that emerged during the 1994 elections and has only grown since—the idea that conservatives aren’t just opposed to liberals but that they’re at war with liberalism.
Switching over the Supreme Court, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky examines how the Court screwed over workers and helped big business profit:
THE Supreme Court’s momentous decisions last week on affirmative action, voting rights and same-sex marriage overshadowed a disturbing trend: in the final two weeks of its term, the court ruled in favor of big business and closed the courthouse doors to employees, consumers and small businesses seeking remedy for serious injuries.Meanwhile, The Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien examines another crisis -- the country's economic crisis -- and dismantles the Republican claim that unemployment benefits dissuade the unemployed from seeking jobs:
A majority of the justices seem to believe that it is too easy to sue corporations, so they narrowly construed federal laws to limit such suits. These decisions lack the emotional resonance of the cases involving race and sexuality, but they could have a devastating effect on people who have been wronged by companies.
Long-term unemployment and long-term unemployment benefits both hit record lengths during this Lesser Depression. The average length of unemployment hit a postwar high of 40 weeks, and unemployment insurance did too, getting extended to 99 weeks (though it's fallen significantly the past two years). But there's no evidence that long-term unemployment benefits have discouraged the long-term unemployed from taking jobs -- because they can't get jobs to begin with.Gerald Friedman at Roll Call urges a renewed investment in America's labor force and calls out Republicans for obstructing President Obama's NLRB nominees:
They can't even get interviews. As Ghayad showed before in a field experiment, employers largely ignore the resumes of people who have been out of work for six months or longer. Firms assume there must be something wrong with people who have unemployed that long, and don't want to spend time finding out what it is, not when they have a stack full of resumes to get through. But the long-term unemployed have kept looking, at least in part because of benefits.
The Senate is currently considering five nominees for the National Labor Relations Board. All five are experienced, highly qualified candidates, and last month the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved their nominations. But Senate Republicans are refusing to allow a floor vote on the nominees. By blocking the confirmation of new board members, Republicans have rendered the NLRB dysfunctional. It now lacks the quorum necessary to issue decisions.The Detroit Free Press sounds the alarm on climate change in blunt and truthful terms:
This is an unprecedented attack on the NLRB, which has long been an area of bipartisan agreement. As Senate Republicans block these nominees, it is worth considering the history of the NLRB and the crucial role in our country it has played over the past three-quarters of a century.
Climate change is surely the looming disaster of our time.Over at MSNBC, Chloe Angyal highlights another episode of Republicans behaving badly against women:
Scientists say it’s inevitable that sea levels will rise 2 1/2-6 1/2 feet — sufficient to endanger or wipe out many cities. One scientist believes that in the long-term, 69 feet of sea level rise is inescapable.
And the source of the swelling oceans — rising temperatures — will stress the nation’s food system, while the increasing number of devastating storms will place an economic burden on a nation reeling from disaster to disaster, patching its wounds without effecting meaningful change.
It’s tempting to dismiss these projections as hysterical. That life as we know it could change so dramatically, so quickly, seems impossible. But on this topic, the scientific community (if not the political one) speaks with one voice.
What does it look like when seven men ignore seventeen thousand of their constituents?And since we're on the topic of Republicans behaving badly, Pat Garofalo examines why the GOP is so intent on stopping promotion of the new health insurance law:
It looks like this: Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich, flanked by six other men, signing the state’s new budget into law and, by doing so, catapulting the Buckeye State to the number one spot on the Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Laws list.
The budget strips funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare, and gives that money to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the pseudo-clinics that lure pregnant women with the promise of free ultrasounds and can then misinform them about abortions. That’s just the beginning.
A Kaiser poll found that just one in five Americans are aware of the health insurance exchanges. And, in a larger sense, the new system falls apart if too few healthy Americans (like, young, football-watching men, for instance) are brought in to offset the increased cost of covering all of those who have pre-existing conditions.Finally, on the issue of Edward Snowden, Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post reacts to the latest revelation that Snowden may be seeking asylum in Russia:
And that, in fact, seems to be the point of what the GOP is doing. The more dysfunctional the health care law is, the more Republicans can claim to have been right about it all along. It's the same strategy that is at work in GOP efforts to underfund the financial reform law or a host of federal agencies: render government ineffective by not giving it adequate resources to do its job, then argue for more cuts on the grounds that government is ineffective.
Last month, I pleaded for an end to the breathless comparisons between Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg. News that the present-day intelligence leaker has asked the Russians for asylum should put it to rest. Sure, Snowden made the same request of other nations. But flirting with Moscow is a credibility killer.
I’m all for whistleblowers revealing what government is doing, especially if it stretches the bounds of legality or if it’s flat-out illegal. What we know of what Snowden has released of interest to the American public has been known for a while. But what has stuck in my craw from the outset was Snowden fleeing the country.