Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. So when you see something like the current scramble by Republicans to declare their deep concern for America’s poor, it’s a good sign, indicating a positive change in social norms. Goodbye, sneering at the 47 percent; hello, fake compassion.Robert Schlesinger on Rep. Paul Ryan's CPAC speech:
And the big new poverty report from the House Budget Committee, led by Representative Paul Ryan, offers additional reasons for optimism. Mr. Ryan used to rely on “scholarship” from places like the Heritage Foundation. Remember when Heritage declared that the Ryan budget would reduce unemployment to a ludicrous 2.8 percent, then tried to cover its tracks? This time, however, Mr. Ryan is citing a lot of actual social science research.
Unfortunately, the research he cites doesn’t actually support his assertions. Even more important, his whole premise about why poverty persists is demonstrably wrong.
Ryan told the story of a school kid who told an aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that he didn’t want a free school lunch, but rather a lunch of his own in a brown paper bag. “A kid with a brown paper bag has someone who cares for them,” Ryan relayed the child saying. The congressman went on: “People don’t want a life of comfort” but rather they want the satisfaction of earning something themselves – of work and ownership. “This is what the left doesn’t understand,” he told the approving crowd.For more on the day's top stories, head below the fold:
No, this is what Paul Ryan doesn’t understand. This is the same Paul Ryan who frets that the social safety net is going to become a hammock – that it’s going to turn the country into a nation of freeloading loafers, content to live empty lives devoid of accomplishment and meaning.
Well which is it? Do people want a life of comfort or do they want the dignity of work? Surely Americans aren’t so easily seduced from fundamental values like perseverance and accomplishment by subsistence-level government support like extended unemployment benefits? Surely Americans don't hold their dignity so cheap? But this is the perverse assumption underlying Ryan’s Ayn Rand-ian view: that huge swaths of the public fundamentally don’t want to work and so need to be prodded into it lest government hand-outs let them indulge in their natural desire to loaf.
David Firestone at The New York Times looks at Rep. Issa's bad behavior:
House Republicans were in the minority for many decades, and those who remember that long period know what it was like to be regularly steamrollered by Democratic leaders. For the most part, they’ve agreed to a basic understanding in the House that members of the minority have a right to speak up in disagreement. They can be ignored, and they usually are, but if they’re muzzled, it makes the majority look like a bunch of insecure authoritarians. And it could come back to haunt them if the majority shifts again.On the topic of Russia and Ukraine, Jules Whitcover calls out Republicans for their attacks on President Obama's strategy:
That’s why Darrell Issa’s actions on Wednesday were so shocking to House decorum. Mr. Issa, a California Republican who is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, refused to let the panel’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ask any questions at a hearing about the Internal Revenue Service’s investigation of non-profit groups. Mr. Issa had been castigating a former I.R.S. official, Lois Lerner, for taking the Fifth Amendment, and when Mr. Cummings tried to take his normal turn to ask a question, Mr. Issa adjourned the meeting and cut off Mr. Cumming’s microphone.
This kind of behavior is typical of Mr. Issa, who runs his committee like a permanently angry Marine drill sergeant. Democrats held news conferences and complained on television and introduced a resolution of disapproval, which of course will go nowhere. But as Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, pointed out, this was bigger than mere rudeness.
Mr. Obama, in calling on Mr. Putin to return his military forces to their established bases in Crimea, is following his own established foreign-policy reliance on collective action within the Western community. It includes employing NATO and UN economic entities to pressure the Russian boss to back off. Instead of repeating his careless talk toward Iran and Syria of setting red lines not to be crossed, the president so far remains committed to the diplomatic course, as he should.Sally Kohn also takes issue with the GOP's stance on the situation in Ukraine:
It is clearly within the interest of the United States to work for a resolution of the current crisis as a concerned party, not as a breast-beating adventurer, as was the case in Iraq in 2002-03. We're still paying the price of that misguided run-up to the American invasion based on flawed assumptions and intelligence.
Perhaps President Obama can be faulted for again substituting talk rather than immediately imposing tough sanctions against the Russian economy for the Crimean caper. But there is no stomach at home, either, for any U.S. military involvement in what obviously is Russia's area of influence.
While hosting CNN's Crossfire this week, I said: "Republicans are practically cheering for Vladimir Putin today. He's given them a new excuse to bash President Obama."On the topic of slavery, Eugene Robinson reflects on America's past:
I pointed out that Republicans have been slamming Obama for his handling of the Ukraine crisis even though I have not heard a single, specific way in which they would handle the situation differently. No new ideas, just new insults.
The howls came quickly, and my assertion has been repeatedly attacked and mischaracterized. But the evidence to support it is, troublingly, everywhere.
I'm not saying Republicans are pro-Putin or that they want him to invade Ukraine. But they certainly have — conveniently, even gleefully -- found a good way to put Putin's actions to political use at home. Just listen to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Monday: "Putin decides what he wants to do and he does it in half a day... he makes a decision and he executes it. Quickly. Then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader."
We tell ourselves that we know all about slavery, that it’s ancient history. But we’ve never fully investigated its horrors, which means we’ve never come to terms with them, which means we’ve never been able to get beyond them. Where slavery is concerned, we are imprisoned by William Faulkner’s famous epigram: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”Finally, turning to environmental issues, The Miami Herald writes in opposition to expanded offshore drilling:
The success of “12 Years a Slave” may be a significant step toward our collective liberation.
The U.S. Interior Department is about to open up a portion of the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration after shutting that door in the 1980s.
While there is a ban on actual drilling in the Atlantic until 2017, Interior’s move is clearly a prelude to new drilling, which is troubling in light of the Obama administration’s admirable efforts to reduce fossil-fuel consumption to combat climate change.
Florida fought hard for that drilling moratorium, and it should fight Interior’s new survey plan, too. The Eastern Seaboard area to be opened to seismic surveys for oil and gas ranges from Delaware to Cape Canaveral. Environmental groups are opposed, saying the testing, which involves underwater explosions, will harm sea life, particularly whales and dolphins. The intense noise of the explosions could kill them, the opponents say. Compressed air guns creating repeated bursts of sound as loud as a howitzer are used beneath the sea, often for long periods of time.