Republicans abandon all pretense of public service

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President Trump appears with two powerful members of his administration, both Goldman Sachs alumni. Gary Cohn is on the left and Steve Mnuchin is in the middle.

If there’s one thing the Republican Party can be counted on to do, it’s lower the tax burden of wealthy Americans. They’re in the midst of an effort to do so right now, and one bill recently passed in the House of Representatives. But the bill is massively unpopular, with only 25 percent of Americans approving of it. Republicans have a remarkably candid response when pressed as to why they are pushing such unpopular and destructive legislation: it’s to please their donors.

Senator Chris Collins said of tax reform, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’” Senator Lindsey Graham worried the “financial contributions will stop” without tax reform. Several Republican donors threatened the party, “We’re closing the checkbook until you get some things done.”

The ruse that the Republican tax plan will help ordinary, median-income families is easier than ever to see through, as even many Republicans have stopped defending it. In a recent interview, Trump advisor Gary Cohn said, “The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.” Cohn was in attendance at a recent Wall Street Journal event where CEOs were asked whether they planned to increase investment with their tax cut, and very few said they would.

Major CEOs admit they won’t reinvest their tax savings into workers or facilities. Republicans have begun to admit that the rich will receive a tax cut. Worse still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently admitted that many middle class families will actually see their tax burden increase. Deductions that help working people and graduate students are being cut to make room for an enormous tax windfall for the wealthiest Americans.

The Republican Party’s primary function as servants of the oligarchy is so solidified that their billionaire donors publicly threaten to cut them off if they don’t get their tax cut. And it isn’t just on taxes that the GOP has abandoned all pretense of serving the public good. A remarkable array of assaults on ordinary Americans and basic human decency have issued forth from the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress.

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At a press conference Tuesday, Trump defended alleged child molester Roy Moore, implying he doesn’t believe Moore’s nine female accusers.

At the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos has rescinded protections both for sexual assault victims and disabled students. Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai announced he will seek a total repeal of net neutrality rules, which will give corporate internet providers unprecedented latitude to control what Americans can access online. The Environmental Protection Agency has become an arm of Big Oil; at a recent UN climate conference, the United States actually promoted coal. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department is actively rolling back civil rights reforms.

Trump himself is, as always, the most vulgar offender. After apparently negotiating the release of three Americans arrested in China, Trump, angry that the families weren’t properly grateful to him, tweeted, “I should have left them in jail!” He moved to lift a ban on ivory imports and elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, a decision he later – after outcry from his own party – begrudgingly reversed. In a disaster relief package Trump gave the liberal state of California, which has been devastated by wildfires, nothing.

Currently, the main source of Republican friction is Roy Moore, the disgraced Alabama judge and current Senate candidate accused of preying on at least nine teenage girls while in his 30s. But the Trump Administration and far-right media like Breitbart remain committed to Moore. Kellyanne Conway went from, “No Senate seat is worth more than a child,” to, a few days later, “We want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.” Trump, who personally stands to benefit enormously from the GOP tax plan, agreed with Conway, saying, “You have to do what you have to do.” For the greater good of upper-class tax cuts, that means making your bed with child molesters.

Some members of the GOP have embraced their near-comic book levels of villainy. When internet users remarked on how diabolical Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife looked while holding a sheet of money, Mnuchin said it’s “a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie.” Breitbart chief executive and former Trump senior advisor Steve Bannon told an interviewer last year, “Darkness is good… Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

Those might be jokes from Mnuchin and Bannon, but they capture the very real essence of the modern GOP. The party openly supports legislation that worsens the suffering at the bottom and increases prosperity at the top. It feels no shame enacting policies that harm disabled people, trans people, assault victims, immigrants, and all of society’s most vulnerable. And its evil has been reinforced by a feedback loop between the party, its propaganda channels, and an ever-more rabid base.

Most Republicans probably don’t see their party as evil, but plenty of them like it precisely because of the evil it does – targeting minorities, elevating Christian fascists like Roy Moore, taking revenge on liberals, and serving the rich at the expense of vulnerable populations, peace, and the planet. Even before Trump took over the GOP, it was regarded by some as the most dangerous organization in history. If current trends are any indication, by the next election cycle Republicans will be touting that label as a badge of honor.

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Why Roy Moore is the biggest political story of the moment

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Breitbart executive Steve Bannon, left, shakes the hand of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Arguably the most important political story happening right now is the ongoing scandal involving Roy Moore. Once the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore was removed for his lawlessness. Despite this, voters in Alabama – following a relentless campaign by the far-right website Breitbart – made Moore the Republican nominee to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate. Moore’s virulently homophobic, theocratic ideology already made him controversial to his own party, but last week’s allegations that he preyed on teenage girls made Moore look truly vulnerable. Continue reading

Roy Moore and the stunning cognitive dissonance of Breitbart

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Christian fascist Roy Moore defended himself by telling family values conservative Sean Hannity he did “not generally” date 16- and 17-year-old girls when he was in his 30s.

Anyone who logged into Breitbart over the last couple days saw the site’s usual sensationalist, large-font headlines, but they may have sounded disjointed if read all together. On one side, a vocal defense of Republican senate candidate Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice who has been accused by four girls of pursuing inappropriate, underage relationships with them. On the other side, a string of enthusiastic articles about the takedown of liberal Hollywood by sexual harassment and assault allegations.

One headline, “Judge Roy Moore on Hannity Radio: ‘Allegations Completely False,’” appeared next to the headline, “#OscarSoRapey: Harassers, Enablers Prepare to Celebrate Themselves for Five-Month Awards Season.” Another headline quoted Steve Bannon: “‘Same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post’ Dropped Trump Tape, Roy Moore Hit Pieces… ‘Purely Part of the Apparatus of the Democratic Party’.” next to that article was one about a man who was allegedly beaten by immigrants in Germany after aiding an underage girl – precisely the type of girl Moore is accused of preying on. Continue reading

A tale of two responses: Trump on attacks in Vegas, Texas and New York

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The president adopts a voice of calm after white terror attacks, and a voice of venomous outrage after Muslim ones.

Three high-profile atrocities have occurred on American soil in the span of five weeks. On October 1, a man opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel window and shot more than 600 people, killing 58 of them. On October 31, a man drove a truck into a crowd in New York City and killed eight people. And on November 5, a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

At least since 9/11, the protocol for atrocity in America is militarism and nationalism if the perpetrator is a dark-skinned Muslim, thoughts and prayers for the victims if the perpetrator is white. In these recent events, President Trump’s tweets gave us a healthy sample of each. Continue reading

How high taxes and a mixed economy made America great

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Much like our own era, the turn of the 19th Century was dominated by wealthy interests and corruption. The progressive political movements that responded to it brought America into its greatest era of general prosperity.

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” triggered an important conversation in American politics. On one hand, it was vague enough that Americans could write whatever fantasy they wished onto it. On the other hand, it forced us to ask: when was America great? Depending on your position in the social-economic-racial strata, the answer might be never. But there’s one era for which most Americans share a nostalgic sense of glory: the first few decades after World War II.

We were riding high then. The Greatest Generation had just won the planet’s deadliest and most far-reaching conflict to date. In the following decades of the 1950s and 60s, the American middle class boomed and prosperity was widely shared among the population. People of color made meaningful civil rights gains as the evils of white supremacy began to be more forcefully confronted. And all while the American dream was being realized, the country was the highest-taxed it has ever been. Continue reading

With Trump criticism, Limbaugh reveals the core of Republicanism

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Rush Limbaugh in a customary pose.

On his radio show last week, far-right commentator Rush Limbaugh used the word “dictatorial” to describe President Donald Trump’s demands that NFL team owners force players to stand for the National Anthem. Said Limbaugh, “There’s a part of this story that’s starting to make me nervous, and it’s this. I am very uncomfortable with the president of the United States being able to dictate the behavior and power of anybody. That’s not where this should be coming from.”

Limbaugh’s comments were covered giddily by much of left-wing media. Headlines and commentary suggested he had broken with Trump. But even if the remarks did represent a break from Trump – Limbaugh stressed repeatedly that they did not – there’s still no cause for celebration. Because Limbaugh’s real point isn’t that President Trump was out of line, but that if anybody is going to restrict First Amendment rights for the players, it should be the team owners.

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America needs a shrink

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A new book by mental health experts examines the deteriorated psyche of the American president.

Last week a group of psychiatrists released a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. It caused a controversy not only because of its claims about the president, but also because the psychiatrists appeared to break with their profession’s ethical tradition and diagnose a public figure from a distance. They aren’t alone. Some 60,000 mental health professionals have signed a petition stating, “Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.”

Plenty of Trump observers might think that obvious, but it’s a stunning development. Never before have so many mental health professionals warned us about a public figure. And members of Trump’s own party have come to similar conclusions. Senator Bob Corker recently called the White House an “adult day care center” and charged Trump with recklessly setting the nation “on the path to World War III.” The mental instability of the man in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal is well worth taking seriously.

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Carnage in Las Vegas makes the need for stricter gun control clearer than ever

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People scramble for cover as a gunman opens fire on a crowded concert from his hotel room window.

Mass shootings are so commonplace in America that news outlets can practically recycle old stories verbatim, changing only the names of the suspects, the locations, and the number of dead. When pundits are summoned to give their opinion, those responses, too, are predictably rote. Whether it’s said once or it’s said a thousand times, though, there is only one solution to America’s epidemic of gun violence: stricter regulation of the weapons in question. Continue reading

The socialist claim to liberty

fistBy Kyle Schmidlin and Eldon Katz

Everyone has friends or family members who define themselves as “socially liberal; but fiscally conservative.” The conservative libertarian views their ideology as a mature, pragmatic, and disciplined compromise, the best way to get as many people what they want and maximize everybody’s liberty and opportunity.

But this vision of liberty is perverted and one-sided in favor of the powerful. It grants people the freedom to exploit, but not freedom from exploitation, effectively treating the liberty of the powerful as absolute but anyone else’s liberty as flexible. As Bertrand Russell put it, “The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.” Continue reading

America’s new battle with Nazism is only beginning

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Self-described “identitarian” Peter Cvjetanovic denies being a racist. His face went viral as he marched alongside torch-bearing neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the alt-right – call them what you will, this group of angry, white men had a busy weekend. Hundreds of them descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for a Unite the Right rally. Demonstrators began a torchlit march on Friday night and by Saturday had turned the city into a warzone, culminating in an act of right-wing terror that caused one death and injured 19 others. In response, President Trump couldn’t bring himself to denounce one side more than any other. Continue reading