Saturday Report 4/29/23 - This ocean warming study is so distressing, scientists don't want to talk about it
The Best of the Rest of the News
— a Bizarre confluence of events could be setting America up for a real crisis in a year and a half. First, it appears that Republicans are giving up their hopes of a candidate other than Donald Trump to run for president. Ron DeSantis is increasingly looking like a socially incompetent bobble-head weirdo, and no other Republican wannabe registers above 2% or 3% in any opinion poll nationwide. Even Trump’s being convicted or possibly in prison probably wouldn’t prevent him from running, and possibly even winning. Keep in mind, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is under indictment on multiple accounts of corruption and bribery yet was elected and is currently serving as Prime Minister; such a thing is not all that uncommon around the world, particularly in countries that are autocratic or moving in that direction. (It’s even happened here: when John Adams threw Matthew Lyons into jail for criticizing him, Lyons ran for reelection to the House of Representatives in the election of 1800 from a jail cell in Vermont and won.)
Second, it looks like lifelong Republican and Trump appointee Jerome Powell’s efforts at the Fed to produce an economic crisis just in time for the 2024 election are succeeding. The economy is officially “cooling off” and Powell is even bragging about how he might cause a recession. On top of that, Kevin McCarthy and his Sedition Caucus in the House claim they won’t raise the debt ceiling unless President Biden agrees to massive cuts in programs for veterans, seniors, pregnant women and newborn children, public schools, student debt relief, green energy, and making Trump’s multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts for billionaires permanent. Even if they don’t fully default on America’s debt, the last time House Republicans tried this stunt — in 2011, heading into the 2012 election — walking the possibility of default right up to the last minute caused rating agencies to lower America’s credit score, resulting in over $2 trillion in damage to America’s working people because of the spike in unemployment and higher interest rates they caused.
Most concerning, though, will be the political damage of a recession or depression. Republicans know well the lesson they learned with both the George HW Bush administration, the Jerry Ford administration, and Trump’s first term: when a president runs for reelection during a recession, he always loses. This axiom of politics has held, almost without exception, all the way back to the John Adams administration.
This is particularly problematic for the future of American democracy because Trump has already proclaimed that he wants to invalidate the Constitution and push through multiple laws that allow him to punish and even imprison or execute his political enemies. He is literally running on a platform of unapologetic fascism.
Meanwhile, the billionaire-funded Heritage Foundation is pulling together fully 20,000 hard-core rightwingers to staff a new Trump administration starting on day one. This time here will be none of the bumbling characterized by Trump’s first three years. We could go from democracy to authoritarianism in a matter of months, much like happened in Germany in 1933, as Trump also fulfills his promises to realign America with Russia and Saudi Arabia and abandon our democratic allies around the world.
If things play out according to this worst-case economic scenario, our last best chance to save this country will be to overwhelmingly defeat Republicans at the polls in 2024, up and down the ticket and in state after state. That means every single one of us needs to become politically active: the vision of American patriots from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt — the essential democratic nature of our country and those around the world that emulate us — is at stake.
— A new study explains why Republicans are working so hard to make it more difficult for students and young adults to vote. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University discovered that people under 29 are voting Democratic by an almost 2 to 1 ratio, a generational partisan swing not seen since the 1960s. Had young people not shown up in the 2018 election in the numbers they did, Donald Trump may well have been reelected. Thus, Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell recently addressed a conference of GOP mega-donors, telling them it was insane for the Party to tolerate polling places on college campuses and that they need to re-double their efforts to suppress the youth vote if they don’t want to get wiped out in 2024. Republicans across the country are responding, outlawing state-issued student IDs for voting, tightening registration and residency requirements, and moving polling places off-campus so students without cars will find it more difficult to reach them.
In this effort — and the purge of tens of millions of voters over the past few years by Republican governors and secretaries of state — the GOP is supported by the five Republicans on the Supreme Court who, in 2018, fully legalized states throwing people off voting rolls with only the flimsiest of justification. Florida, Texas, and a dozen other states have also criminalized voter registration efforts so severely that the League of Women Voters has abandoned their traditional efforts in state after state. The headline in a Kansas newspaper says it all: “Kansas groups halt voter registration drives to avoid being jailed under new law.” The semi-official new GOP motto is, “If you can’t win, rig the game and cheat.”
— Earlier this week I wrote about a woman from Oklahoma who had to go to Kansas to get an abortion to save her own life. Soon, even Kansas may be shut down as a place of refuge for women in crisis. While the voters of Kansas have kept abortion legal through a statewide ballot measure, Republican gerrymandered supermajorities in the Kansas legislature overrode that state’s Democratic governor’s veto of a bill that would make it extremely difficult for abortion clinics to get liability insurance. In today’s litigious environment, this may well be the death knell to safe, legal abortion in Kansas.
Also this week, a woman who nearly died as a result of Texas’ draconian anti-abortion law went to the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about how her state’s GOP put her life in danger. When she entered the room to give her testimony, both of Texas’ senators — John Cornyn and Ted Cruz — got up and walked out. Cornyn later brushed off her near-death experience by joking that she should sue the hospital that refused her treatment out of fear of prosecution under Texas’ new law.
— Bed, Bath & Beyond is a poster child for the damage Reagan’s deregulation of capitalism has caused America. Stock buybacks are a scam corporate CEOs and senior executives use to manipulate the price of a company’s shares. They contributed to the crash of 1929, which is why one of the first things Joe Kennedy did when he became the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1935 was to outlaw stock buybacks. Reagan reversed that rule in 1983, and since then company after company has engaged in this practice to transfer massive amounts of wealth out of the companies and into the pockets of its senior executives and largest stockholders.
In the years leading up to Bed, Bath and Beyond’s recent bankruptcy filing, its senior executives executed over $11 billion worth of stock buybacks — money that could have kept the company afloat and kept people employed in stores across the nation — had it not ended up in the pockets of these corporate predators. As I lay out in my book The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted America, we have a lot of work ahead of us to undo the damage caused by Reagan’s policies that are still with us today.
— Senator Dick Durban says a SCOTUS ethics overhaul is coming. After the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee politely asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to come testify about the ethics challenges being revealed on the Court, Roberts essentially told him to go screw himself. He was so arrogant and dismissive of Congress that he didn’t even bother to address Durban’s questions in his response.
There have now been multiple credible allegations laid out against Roberts himself, his wife (and her $10 million in commissions), Clarence Thomas, his wife (and her role in January 6th), Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Bret “Beerbong” Kavanaugh. While it’s extremely unlikely Congress will do anything about this as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives, if somebody could give a courage transplant to Merrick Garland the FBI and the Justice Department should — at the very least — look into Clarence Thomas’s and his wife’s allegedly criminal behavior attempting to overthrow the legitimate government of the United States.
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