Saturday, April 28, 2012

SECRET AGENDAS, STEALTH CANDIDATES--ALL REPUBLICAN

The elections of 2010 established that “GOP” stands for “Group Of Phonies,” with secret agendas and stealth candidates. In that election, the GOP took control of 21 state governments, with Republicans dominating both the executive and legislative branches. So, if you want to know how Republicans run and how they rule, you have only to look at the issues of their campaigns before, and the issues of their concern after, November 2010.

The first thing to say, of course, is that the election of 2010 followed the election of 2008, when the country elected its first black president (per racist miscegenation theory, to which most Americans tacitly subscribe, half black, half white equals black). From the start, Republicans made Obama’s defeat four years later the GOP’s first priority. Within hours of the Inauguration, long before he took any action in office or advanced any Democratic, when not bi-partisan, proposals, a large group of Republicans gathered to organize themselves to defeat Obama. Within a year, Senate Minority Leader McConnell stated that the GOP’s top priority was the 2012 defeat of Obama, not legislation to better the country. When Republicans deny the president the “honeymoon” period previously given a new president, the question why has only possible answer: racism.

Of course, racists deny the charge, and few have said that they hate Obama because he is black (even racists can be politically correct). Their code language, more politically acceptable, covering their basic racism is their lexicon of other terms to establish his differences from white Americans. Thus, he is variously labeled as Muslim, anti-Christian, secular, Indonesian, Kenyan, socialist, fascist, and communist. Thus, the charges about his citizenship (alien birth) and education (elitism of his Harvard degree). The Republican refrain is that Obama does not understand Americans because, so they imply, he is not one of them, but one of Them.

For over three years, Republicans have been using this Obama-as-“other” mantra to transfer their race-motivated smears of Obama to other Democrats—Nancy Pelosi and Henry Reid, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, respectively—and their agenda. Republicans brand traditional Democratic politicians and policies as secular, socialist, and un-American—in a word, alien. Many, like local wise man Dr. Michael Swickard, distinguish between “socialists”—Obama, those in his administration, and those who elected him—and “Americans.” If Obama and Democrats save the automobile industry, he and they promote state fascism. If he and they advocate health care for all, he and they promote “socialized medicine.” If he and they address issues of economic fairness, he and they are conducting Marxist “class warfare.” So say the Republicans. Some, and ironically those who profess Christian values, like former Fox TV commentator Glenn Beck, even scorn the idea of “social justice” because its secularity distracts us from seeking salvation by faith alone.

Republicans started with race-based demonizing of Obama, continued by demonizing other Democrats, and finish by demonizing Democratic legislative proposals, even those built on originally Republican ideas. When race prompted Republicans to pivot from anything associated with Obama, they pivoted from and abandoned their past, even the past as recent as the latest Bush administration. Thus, Republicans offer no coherent philosophy or platform and take no position consistent with formerly first principles or former policy positions or legislative proposals.

Case in point: Keynesian economics. Until Obama’s election, Republicans and Democrats were Keynesians. They believed in government deficit spending to fight recessions or depressions, and debt retirement upon economic recovery. In the late 70s and early 80s, even Republicans knew, though they kept silent, that the supply-side Laffer Curve was a laugher; David Stockton, Reagan’s OMB Director, admitted as much. Why did Republicans as well as Democrats accept Keynesian economics? Because it works. Since World War II, deficit spending during recessions has alleviated or abridged them. Shamelessly, Republicans accuse Democrats of being big spenders; ironically, only Democratic administrations have had balanced budgets in the post-war period.

But to defeat Obama and defeat Democrats, Republicans have reversed course, have urged the repetition of Republican policies which created the Great Depression, and have made deficit reduction in the midst of a recession more important than recovery. They know that these steps will be damaging to the economy, the country, and the people, but their race-based Obama-hatred, now metastasized into Democrat-hatred, transcends political responsibility. Like their Confederate predecessors, they prefer to damage the country than to permit blacks and other minorities of the newly emerging demographic majority a role in an otherwise democratic country.

Republicans talk less about states rights because of its Southern pedigree and more about the Tenth Amendment, which they claim substitutes state interposition for federal authority. In the 2010 election, Republicans pretended to run on the major issues of the day—jobs, a sluggish economy, and budget deficits, and then passed legislation having nothing to do with those issues. They said little or nothing about much of what they have attempted or have done, especially at the state level—secret agendas by stealth candidates, indeed. Their strategy: campaign on issues attractive to a majority, smear the opposition, win, claim a mandate for change, then advance legislation on other, usually partisan, pro-business, or social, issues. Republicans will repeat this strategy, supplemented by massive PAC smear campaigns, on a larger scale in the 2012 election. (Given this strategy, the accelerating influence of unregulated money, restrictions on the franchise allowed by a conservative-corporatist Supreme Court, and the election of Republican candidates beholden to, if not bought by, Republican individual and corporate donors, I worry that the 2012 election may be the last election approximately democratic.)

At the state level, Republican-dominated governments have voted not only for items traditionally Republican—smaller government, fewer regulations, lower corporate taxes—but also for laws specifically beneficial to favored corporations, especially those pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): corporate tax breaks, subsidies, and other benefits. The results: reduced government services and fewer government workers—police, firefighters, teachers, disproportionately large numbers of women government employees—to do them, attacks on unions, job losses, weakened economies, and bigger deficits. Case study: Wisconsin under its governor Scott Walker.

Republicans have also pushed items on the ALEC agenda to restrict “the consent of the governed” by pushing voter ID laws purporting to prevent virtually non-existent voting fraud but intending to disenfranchise inclined to vote Democratic—black and Hispanic minorities, women, senior citizens, and students—with burdensome registration and election laws having nothing to do with voting fraud. Case study: Florida governor Rick Scott (but don’t forget New Mexico governor Susana Martinez and her police-state—oops! State Police—investigation into her claim of 64,000 possible cases of voter fraud, which turned up exactly nothing).

I give the Gates Foundation and companies like Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Intuit, McDonalds, and Wendy’s—all with large numbers of minority customers—less credit than others do for withdrawing their support of ALEC. They did their dirty work; then, under attack, departed with their dirty work intact; and have done nothing to repudiate or remediate the damage which they did. (Subway provides better food without a political agenda harmful to its customers.)

It is noteworthy that Marco Rubio, the Cuban Hispanic Senator from Florida, proposes a “Dream Act” for the children of illegal immigrants. It would allow them to live, study, work, pay taxes, and serve in the military, but not become citizens. I know no Hispanic equivalent of “Uncle Tom,” but Rubio would be the exemplar. Some commentators have noted that the denial of citizenship serves Republican political interests by retarding the growth in numbers of likely Democratic voters and creates a group of Hispanic second-class residents. No one has pointed out that Rubio defies the idea which prompted the Boston Tea Party of 1773: no taxation without representation.

Despite their silence during the campaigns, federal and state Republicans have sought legislation making abortions virtually impossible, requiring women to undergo invasive and medically unwarranted procedures at their expense, eliminating coverage for contraception, and reducing assistance to the unfortunate: unemployment assistance, job training funds, food stamps, health care and children services, and more. Notice that Republicans and Tea Partiers did not campaign on any of these positions. Notice that they are quick to favor government intrusion into the lives, even the bodies, of citizens when they want it to do so.

Some people quip that you can tell when Republicans are lying: they are moving their lips. Perhaps. But Republican may also be lying when they are not moving them. So, if you vote for Republicans, you may be voting for what you want for yourselves, but you will get what they want for you—which ain’t much or much to your liking.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

SUPPLEMENT TO BLOG ON DISMAL SCIENCE

One of my favorite readers called to suggest that the principle of lowering wages to increase employment might be applied at higher salary levels. We all know that academe is producing more PhDs than the academic market can afford to hire. But it can afford to hire more if it were to reduce the salaries of faculty members by the same percentage as Ashby proposes to reduce the salaries of minimum-wage workers.

Ashby has suggested a cut of 3.33 % for a salary based on the minimum wage (100 x $0.25/$7.50. On average, a UTEP assistant professor makes about $66,000 per year. A 3.33% reduction in salary would amount to about $2200. Is Ashby ready to take that cut to increase faculty employment in his department?

Ashby's department has nearly 60 faculty members, many of whom are not assistant professors and make, on average, more than they do. At a minimum, a 3.33% across-the-board cut in departmental faculty salaries would make it possible to hire at least two entry-level assistant professors and perhaps as many as four. There might even be change left over for a new coffeemaker in the faculty lounge.

This possibility has one other advantage. A 3.33% reduction in annual salary would not threaten any faculty member with falling below the poverty line as it would threaten a minimum-wage earner.

Perhaps Ashby's suggestion should start at the top of the salary structure and be applied down the salary scale across the nation until unemployment is reduced to about the economically desirable 4%.

Let us reason together on this possibility.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

DISMAL PERFORMANCES BY LOCAL PRACTITIONERS OF THE "DISMAL SCIENCE"

Yesterday, a century and a half ago, the “dismal science” was called “political economics”; today, “economics.” The reason for this simplification was the effort to make an evolving discipline (appear) scientific by presumably separating the subjective from the objective. From our heated debates about interwoven political and economic issues, we know that the effort failed. Given the different perspectives and stances of America’s political parties, we know which label better represents the truth of the matter.

As befits the greater El Paso area, including Las Cruces, many conservative writers and speakers address political and economic issues. The last week in March, two of them offered conservative commentaries on economic freedom and gasoline prices. Monday, Dr. Nathan Ashby, an assistant professor in the Economics and Finance Department, College of Business Administration, UTEP, had a guest column, “New Mexico needs more economic freedom,” in the Las Cruces Sun-News. Wednesday, he gave a public lecture sponsored by the Rio Grande Foundation, on the larger subject of “economic freedom.” Friday, Dr. Michael Swickard’s column “Those darned Econ 101 deniers” appeared in the Las Cruces Bulletin. The flaws in these commentaries suggest that both imagined a choir to appreciate their preaching, not the unconverted, much less the potentially critical.

Local Practitioner #1: Michael Swickard

Let me discuss Swickard’s column first, to expose not only his mistaken explanation of recently high gas prices, but also his ad hoc belief in the government as the root of all evil in the energy market.

Swickard refers to his previous column on oil prices which received responses critical of his views. Typically, he replies by slurring critics, misrepresenting their criticisms, and shifting his positions. Here, he states that his critics do not know the basics of economics because they assert that a world oil market means that oil has “exactly the same price” everywhere. They asserted no such thing, and plainly their criticisms routed him, for he admits that the “total available oil supply” has the greatest effect on prices.

So Swickard slips past oil wells and settles on refineries and pipelines; his subtitle claims that “the more pipelines and refineries, the lower the price of gas.” However, his explanation that correcting local difficulties in production or distribution would lead to a significant national lowering of the pump price of gasoline is nonsense. He attributes the recent spike in prices to government policies limiting the number of refineries and promoting distribution by tanker trucks. But he is wrong that the government has such policies and absurd to think that they would suddenly cause price spikes. He is wrong that refineries do not adjust to meet demand for different grades of product from oil and that tanker trucks are used instead of pipelines for bulk distribution. Building on his errors, Swickard opines that, if the government would get out of the way, all would be well; more refineries would be built, pipelines would be extended to gas stations—he leaves the companies and their cost-benefit analyses out of his account—and pump prices of gas would decline. My explanation of this error-filled, anti-government column is that Swickard is an agenda-driven amateur in energy policy and energy economics.

Local Practitioner #2: Nathan Ashby

Ashby is quite different; he has the academic credentials and institutional position to suggest scholarly expertise in economic policy. Indeed, he is an assistant professor who holds the Western Hemispheric Trade Research Professorship, a two-year research award funded by the Hunt Family Foundation. His column and lecture derive from his work as the lead author of a Fraser Institute report “Economic Freedom in North America 2011.” This report will likely count as a publication of applied scholarship and support his application for tenure, but it is a work of partisan polemic, not independent scholarship.

The Fraser Institute describes itself in this way: “The Fraser Institute provides a useful public service. We report objective information about the economic and social effects of current public policies, and we offer evidence-based research and education about policy options that can improve the quality of life” (report, p. 87). This self-testimonial merits some skepticism, for the Institute achieved its early notoriety with reports attacking the science establishing the risks of cancer posed by second-hand cigarette smoke. More, reporting “objective information” is not necessarily telling the whole truth (or even any truth which matters) and may mislead the unwary or the uninformed who rely on academic credentials and position to assure themselves of integrity and professionalism.

The Hunt Family Foundation, the Fraser Institute, and Ashby himself have every right to pro-business, libertarian positions. But I have doubts about the relationship between his advocacy of positions like those of his sponsors and supporters, and his academic research and teaching at UTEP. The question is not, of course, about money-laundering, but of the appearance, if not the reality, of bias. I credit Ashby’s faculty profile and a college news release for disclosing the links between these organizations and his work on this report, but I blame his public presentations for not disclosing these links. The reason is simple: they put his positions in a context relevant to understanding them, especially by the public. His failure to do so suggests a partisan, not professorial, approach to public issues, with his university position possibly misleadingly suggesting academic disinterest. Conservatives often claim that liberals dominate academe and indoctrinate students and the public; Ashby may be a partial correction of that canard.

Ashby begins his column with a distortion of history to serve the politics of his economics. He claims that the recent exodus from California reflects its high cost of living and “restrictive regulation and taxation.” However, as these presumed liabilities have not hindered the state’s growth as the most populous state in the country and as the fifth largest economy in the world, so they did not precipitate an abrupt exodus of some high-tech personnel or companies. It began a decade ago, with the bust of the “dot-com” boom, and has continued during the recession. Suddenly unemployed people and unprofitable firms suffering its effects have sought less expensive locales to re-start careers or companies. They moved to states with big cities and good schools. New Mexico, not unfriendly to such exiles, lacks these attractions.

Ashby follows this distorted history with undisclosed politics and dubious economics. For my response, I consider his lecture, with his allusions to, or presentation of materials from, his Fraser Institute report. Toward the end of the open discussion afterwards, I asked Ashby several questions and received unresponsive or inadequate answers.

The most important issue, one which a responsible academic would carefully address, is the definition or meaning of the central concept “economic freedom.” Instead, Ashby quotes from an earlier Fraser Institute report, not identified as such, and accepts it without qualification or reservation:

Individuals have economic freedom when (a) property they acquire with- out the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and (b) they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others. Thus, an index of economic freedom should measure the extent to which rightly acquired property is protected and individuals are engaged in voluntary transactions. (Gwartney, Lawson, and Block, 1996: 12)
I asked Ashby about three major problems with this definition. My first question: Why does this, his, definition of “economic freedom” limit itself to “individuals”? As I said, most discussions of the subject concern the economic freedom of businesses and markets. Ashby gave no answer. I think his failure reflects a rhetoric intended to persuade his readership or audience to think only of their economic transactions without requiring them to think of the issues involved at the business or market level. For his report gives little attention to individuals and most attention to those levels in terms of “economic freedom.” If he thinks that corporations are people, he did not say so!

My second question: What are the limits on “economic freedom.” I gave an analogy to the Constitutional right of free speech, which is not an absolute, but a limited, right. Free speech does not protect libel, slander, incitement, or perjury, among others. Ashby did not give an answer, as if there were no factors which might justify its curtailment.

My third question assumed aspects of my first two questions: Are individuals “free to use” property not violating the “identical [i.e., property] rights of others” entitled to deny service to others? Ashby recognized that the thrust of my question pointed at Civil Rights legislation and answered as libertarians invariably do. First, he denied that he is racist and affirmed that racism is repugnant to him. Second, he stated that such racist practices are economically self-defeating. Third, and oddly, he held the government—as I understood him to imply, the federal government—responsible for such practices.

I hope that readers will excuse me for opining that this young white professor who has never lived in the South, much less during the Civil Rights movement, doth protest too much. Indeed, methinks his reflexive response is a dead give-away to the contrary. Even his economic argument fails the test of history; Jim Crow was economically viable in the South and showed no signs of failing. His effort at blame-shifting also fails the test of history; white racist communities elected white racist politicians and appointed white racist officials, and, at local and state levels, White Citizen Councils, state legislatures, and governors, implemented and enforced racist practices, and resisted their eradication by federal law.

One of Ashby’s Dismal Proposals for New Mexico

My fourth and final question exposed the lack of empirical support and economic sense for one of his pro-business recommendations for New Mexico. Ashby recommends that the state lower its minimum wage to the federal level to increase competitiveness and create jobs. He did not produce any evidence that doing so would have either effect or any estimation of either effect. I did not challenge him on competitiveness. But I doubt that a small difference in minimum wage makes a big difference in corporate decisions to relocate, and I worry about states starting a race to the bottom, with its dire consequences. New Mexico is just about there already.

I did challenge Ashby on jobs. I asked him, if his claim were true, why unemployed people were not demanding a reduction in the minimum wage. He said that he did not want to appear arrogant in saying that the unemployed often do not understand the effects of higher versus lower minimum wages on the availability of jobs. I replied that people do not need an introductory course in college economics to understand the point and that many people seeking work would have heard someone refuse them or others employment on the basis of a high minimum wage. Ashby began to reply with a story about a family relative, to which I responded rudely by cutting him off with the remark that, as an economist, he should know better than to argue on the basis of an anecdote and that, given up to 15 million unemployed people over the past 3 years, such demands should be well-known and should have been recorded as data for economic analysis. He had no response. I finished by remarking that it seemed that the initiative for lowering the minimum wage comes as usual from business interests which hope to cut costs and raise profits, in the name of, but with little likelihood of, increasing employment. Again, He had no response.

Nevertheless, despite its absurdity, Ashby’s recommendation for New Mexico to reduce its minimum hourly wage to the federal level initially seems to some a sensible one. They might begin as I later did, with the numbers and their implications. I began with the state minimum wage of $7.50 per hour, or, for a 2000-hour work-year, $15,000 per year; and the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 per hour, or $14,500 per year.

First point: If the state reduced its minimum wage by $0.25 an hour, or $500 a year, an employer would have to reduce the wages of twenty-nine minimum-wage employees to pay for one additional minimum-wage employee. Since the number of employers in New Mexico with at least twenty-nine such employees is very small, the number of minimum-wage jobs thus created would also be very small. The far larger number of employers with smaller numbers of minimum-wage employees would pocket $500 a year per employee. Ashby knows, or should know, the effects of this recommendation: greater company profits and very few additional jobs.

A related detail: Ashby does not show what kinds of businesses his recommendation would affect in terms of competitiveness or jobs. It is not obvious that even companies meeting this number of minimum-wage employees could benefit. For instance, a fast food chain would not open a new facility in New Mexico instead of Texas because of now-comparable minimum wages. It might have the requisite numbers of minimum-wage employees but not have them at any one facility or need an additional employee at any one facility. As a rule, employers hire additional employees, not on the basis of the minimum wage, but on the need to meet increased demand for goods or services.

Second point: The minimum wage of one worker supports up to two people at 100% of the poverty level of $15,130. If Ashby had his way, that $500 a year reduction in the minimum wage would push a childless couple below the poverty level. A couple with one child suddenly would fall below the poverty level by over $4000. Ashby knows, or should know, the effect of this recommendation on the very poor who work, if they can, at minimum-wage jobs, but he appears not to care about its effects on them.

Concluding Reflections on a Cloudy Subject

Economics has been called the “dismal science.” It need not be dismal, but it becomes so when economists or others propound or manipulate economic policy to support political ideology, or disregard the human consequences and societal costs of their recommendations. It also becomes so when economists or others (like governors, legislators, or department or agency heads) regard it as the sole determinate of public policy or, the same thing, disregard the larger context in which policy decisions are made—“political economics,” indeed.

In their efforts to be objective or scientific, economists making economic analyses tend to regard non-economic considerations as “externalities,” a polite euphemism for “irrelevancies.” However, public policies virtually never rely exclusively on economic analyses—and should not. Invariably, making policy and policy decisions or drafting and debating legislation consider “externalities,” which are often decisive in formulating sound policies and laws. Paradoxically, including them rather than excluding them during deliberations usually results in better decisions with better economic effects.

Unfortunately, Ashby does not know or does not care that politically ideologically motivated economic analyses distort history, discredit economics, and debilitate informed and responsible debate—again, the work of a polemicist, not a professor—often with undesirable outcomes, including undesirable economic consequences.

Have local conservatives no better spokespersons for their political economics than these two purveyors of unperfected positions?

Friday, April 13, 2012

SUNDRY POLITICAL REFLECTIONS

Parasites and Parties

Very few people know about a rare and bizarre condition known as fetus in fetu: one twin living parasitically inside the other. Most of these parasitic twins are absorbed or die in utero, but some are born inside their sibling. The common decision, before or after birth, is to surgically remove the parasitic twin, which invariably dies. Otherwise, the continued growth of the parasitic twin can kill the host twin.

Of course, these situations raise the usual questions about abortion; after all, those who believe that life begins at conception must give as much respect as a person to the incompletely developed and grotesquely shaped parasitic twin as to the otherwise normal one. They must also wrestle with the question about both the life of the mother during pregnancy and the life of the otherwise normal twin after birth.

This fascinating subject is not my subject here. Instead, mine is the fetus in fetu situation of the Republican Party. It contains a deformed parasite within its corporate membership. The difference is that the Tea Party can, in theory, be eliminated from its host and have a life of its own as an ultra-conservative party on the Right. I speculate that, if Mitt Romney becomes the Republican Party candidate in this year’s election, as seems likely, and loses, as seems likely, but less so, the Tea Party may say not only “I told you so,” but also “we cannot survive inside you, so we shall try to thrive outside you.”

I would encourage such a development. First, I believe—perhaps I merely hope—that most Americans across most of the political spectrum would reject an independent Tea Party. Second, I believe that its detachment from the Republican Party would allow the GOP to purify and improve its positions in ways which would permit two things: one, real competition in ideas to develop constructive legislation, and, two, real compromise in developing that legislation. The Tea Party would likely be vociferous in objection, but it would be outnumbered and thereby rendered ineffectual and thus likely to slowly die from ineffectuality.


Electrons and Elections

I cannot be the first to note the parallel tracks or trajectories of the emergence and deployment of electronic means to capture and communicate and, at a later day, recover news anywhere in the world, and the precipitous decline in respect for authority, especially elected officials and police or security personnel. Yesterday, what they said and what they did could be controlled, at least in large part; today, some of what is said and done can still be controlled, but less often and less effectively.

How much this copious supply of information matters is unclear. First, bad behavior by so many of the powerful, the rich, and the famous is so commonplace that standards of deportment—wonderful old-fashioned word (like the English and English-leaning Eastern-seaboard “marvelous”)—are plumbing the depths of coarseness. A Republican with customary respect for the office of the President and its occupant is an antique, older even than John McCain. Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly engaged in bad-faith dealings and weasel-worded insinuations that they are Obama’s fault. So this man, third in line to the presidency, has shown himself to be without courage because he has no convictions and no commitment to anything but his position. The man discredits leadership. Moreover, his fellow Republicans have made a ritual of disrespecting the President, from calling him a liar during a State of the Union address, shaking a finger in his face on an airport runway, refusing to accept the facts of his birth and religion, and insinuating that he therefore has an un-American, Islamicist, socialist agenda for the United States—and pretend that such behavior and statements are not smokescreens for racism.

Second, bad behavior by those who occupy positions once trusted as models of good morals and good manners, even when exceptions existed (but only to prove the rule), have further lowered standards of morality. For example, any number of TV preachers—Jimmy Swaggart, and Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, among them—involve themselves in improprieties, often financial, invariably sexual. Billy Graham, Jr., drawing down on respect earned by his father, shows, in his snide insinuations about the President along the same lines advanced by Republicans, just what it means to be a Christian hypocrite. But the stars of hypocrisy are the Catholic priests who molested children and the bishops and archbishops who concealed their misconduct and continue to try to prevent civil accountability under the law. Worse, in the unabashedly hypocritical mode for which the Catholic Church is becoming famous, it continues to dictate, not only to its followers, but also to all others, its teachings on abortion, contraception, and marriage.


Republicans and Race

It is a long way from the Republican Party 150 years ago to the Republican Party of the present. The party which opposed slavery and elected a president who ended it has become the party which exploits racism to win elections.

Of course, Republicans deny the GOP’s racism. Its virtually all-white membership—just the failure of blacks to understand that it stands for freedom and thus represents their interests. Its Southern Strategy since 1968 (at least)—that was then: history has no lessons from the past for the present or the future. Resistance to discussions of race—counter-accusations that those who discuss race are racist. Denial of racism—end of the problem; it does not exist.

Of course, the problem metastasizes into problems with most Hispanics, especially Mexican as opposed to Caribbean Hispanics. Thus, the illegality of Hispanic immigrants becomes a cover for racism; the transparency of this cover is the Republican refusal to promote a path to citizenship for about 12 million Hispanics who have entered the country illegally for decades and have lived as law-abiding, family-raising, hard-working, tax-paying, country-serving people. No other group of immigrants, legal or not, has been regarded and treated so abusively—and by Republicans.

If I were to go beyond race, to gender and sexual orientation, I would note that Republicans lead the way in withholding, or seeking to withhold, the full benefits of this society from those who are not white, heterosexual males. In short, the Republican Party is the home of the bigot. It is no surprise that the GOP opposes discussion of bigotry or, in a massive effort of projection, accuses others of its sin.


War on This, That, and T’other—especially Women

America’s political metaphors reveal it to be possibly the most military-minded country on earth. Everything is a “war,” a “campaign,” an “attack,” on or for something or other. We make “war” on poverty, drugs, pornography, child abuse, and, lately (or forever, depending on your point of view), women.

As long as parties, candidates, and commentators are mixing it up, let’s go with it: a “war” on women. So far, the best the Republicans have been able to come up with is Hilary Rosen’s words that Ann Romney “had not worked a day in her life.” Wow! What a slap in the face, what a staggering blow, to women. Count the poor dears down and out. How weak they are after all, so Republican would have us think. I have to think that Republicans will, at the end of the day, have hoist themselves on their petard.

Yet Barack Obama agrees. In his professorial manner, he disavowed Rosen’s words, which amount to 32 spaces in a tweet, fewer than one-fourth the maximum. Talk about snippets! Even the highest ranking (former) academic in the country, a legal scholar no less, could not put those words in the obvious context of Rosen’s following sentences: work as employment in a job or career for wages, and the challenges of making ends meet and balancing home and work. Talk about short attention spans! This kind of mindlessness deserves all of the criticism, however unjustified, which it has provoked. Rosen’s words were not ill chosen and, frankly, she stood have stood her ground (I hope that you do not mind my choice of words); Obama’s were, and all of the words of his administrative flunkies were, ill chosen. The proper response would have been to decry the Republican’s brain-dead effort to ignore context to create a big lie and a meaningless flap. But feints and diversions are parts of war, yes? Battle advantage to the GOP.

The real (that is the metaphoric) war on women is the Republican record of recent efforts—failed, proposed, enacted—to restrict women’s rights and benefits in many areas: abortion, contraception, medical assistance, insurance coverage, food stamps, equal pay—and more. Any woman who values this frivolous business about who more loves and respects working moms equally with the GOP’s record of deprivation of rights and benefits is, as they used to say about some members of minority groups, a disgrace to her sex. But, if some such women must value them equally, then the rest of us should expect them to demand that Republicans support pay for their work as mothers at home, as is the practice in other countries with advanced economies and enlightened politics. Betcha how far they get with GOP fulfillment of that demand; I can feel its great love and respect already. It might be worth a try if that is what it takes to make Republicans show themselves to be the chauvinist hypocrites who they are, have been, and will be. Why some women are traitors to the cause is baffling, but they have the right to their choices, too. They should be judged for their poor choices, not their betrayal of the good cause.