On Republican bloodlust and Obama’s Job Act

If Obama really wanted people to get behind him and this new jobs initiative of his, he would have announced this evening that he was planning to top Rick Perry by taking the lives of 250 American citizens. (Just think of all the executioners and grave diggers we could put to work if he said he’d kill just 100 in every state by Christmas!)

Apparently that’s the kind of thing that gets enthusiastic support these days, or at least that’s the sense I got from last night’s Republican debate.

Here’s the video, for those of you who haven’t seen it.

Listen to the excited, blood-thirsty howls from the audience when moderator Brian Williams brings up the fact that Perry oversaw the executions of 234 as Governor of Texas.

Perry, as you heard there, says he never loses sleep over the possibility that he may have killed an innocent man. “I’ve never struggled with that at all,” Perry said.

This seems incredibly naive at best, as there have been 41 DNA exonerations in Texas over the last 9 years. That’s 41 instances in which we now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the wrong man or woman was sent to prison for a crime that they did not commit. We know, for a fact, that innocent men and women are sent to prison. It just stands to reason that, of the 234 executions that he’s allowed to happen, at least one has been of an innocent man. The following comes from Think Progress:

…Leading the country in wrongful convictions probably should give Perry a moment’s pause about the reliability of a criminal justice process he described last night as “thoughtful.” Perry has allowed the execution of juveniles, the mentally disabled, and people who have had such inadequate counsel that their court-appointed lawyers literally slept through their trials. Additionally, Perry has overseen the executions of seven foreign nationals and two men who were accomplices but did not actually commit murder…

Given the whoops of support the Governor received when it was announced that he allowed 234 people to be put to death, I don’t know that it will impact the campaign at all, but I’d encourage people to read up on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was put to death in 2004 for killing his three daughters by burning down their home. Willingham maintained his innocence to the end, even turning down a deal that would have spared his life in exchange for a confession. In spite of the fact that several experts questioned the evidence in the case, Perry went ahead with the execution. Not only that, but it looks as though he personally “squashed” official probes into the matter.

But, like I said, if the reaction of the crowd at the Reagan Library last night is any indication, American voters don’t give a shit about the details – they just want to know that the Christian they elect to lead them is one that isn’t afraid to kill some sons-of-bitches. Not only that, but they want someone who isn’t going to lose a moment’s sleep over the fact that a few of them, statistically speaking, were probably innocent.

As much as I’m bothered by Perry’s history relative to the death penalty, I’m more concerned by last night’s audience response. I suppose there’s always been a bit of bloodlust in the shared American psyche, but it seems to me as though it’s really coming to the surface now. Maybe that’s what happens, though, when societies teeter on the brink of collapse. Maybe people find some conform in the fact that they’re not among those being killed.

And, as long as we’re talking about Perry, I don’t know if it was mentioned last night, but I hope someone took the opportunity to point out that it’s kind of hypocritical of him to criticize FEMA one day, and then demand FEMA assistance the next. Being a hypocrite, though, doesn’t preclude someone from serving as President, as Obama reminds us every day.

As for the President’s speech tonight, I didn’t watch it yet, but I’m reading over the outline of his proposed $447 billion job bill right now, and trying to make sense of it. Here, as I don’t have anything intelligent to say about it at the moment, is a clip from Sam Stein:

…Titled the American Jobs Act, the proposal includes more than $250 billion in tax incentives for small businesses and employers, according to administration estimates. The rest of the money would be devoted to infrastructure spending, state aid, unemployment insurance, and neighborhood rehabilitation. The president will pay for the proposal by asking the congressional super committee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction to offset the cost of the package in their proposal…

At the heart of the president’s plan is an extension of the payroll tax cut passed last year, through 2012. The proposal, which would affect an estimated 160 million workers by providing a $1,500 tax cut for the average family, comes in at a cost of $175 billion.

The tax components of the president’s plan don’t end there. The White House also wants a payroll tax holiday for businesses that add new workers or increase the wages of current employees; a fifty percent reduction of the tax rates businesses pay on the first $5 million in payroll; and a $4,000 tax credit for employers who hire long-term unemployed workers.

On the spending side, the president is calling for $50 billion in infrastructure repairs; $10 billion for an infrastructure bank to help leverage private capital; $30 billion for school modernization and repairs; and $35 billion in aid to states and municipalities for the purposes of rehiring and retaining teachers and first responders. The proposal would also re-authorize federal unemployment benefits for another year, with additional incentives for employers to retain their workers and train new ones without any cost. A national wireless internet initiative and changes to federal refinancing programs are also part of the American Jobs Act.

The most innovative addition may be the $15 billion that the president is proposing for “Project Rebuild” a program that would leverage private capital to finance the refurbishing of vacant or foreclosed homes. According to a senior administration official, the program would focus on “emerging residential and commercial foreclosure problems” in an effort to raise plummeting property values in those areas and avoid “community blight.”

The president’s suggested spending totals are a drop in the bucket in terms of the economy’s actual needs. Obama’s top advisers have, in the past, estimated that the country faces a $2 trillion infrastructure deficit. There is an estimated $270 billion to $500 billion in backlogged school maintenance costs. More than 200,000 government jobs have been slashed in the past year, many of them teachers and emergency first responders.

But the outlines were cheered by Democrats as an important start, as well as a much-needed shift in a political conversation that has been dominated by budget cuts….

I think it’s also worth pointing out that Obama said tonight that we can’t use this crisis as an excuse to pursue an orgy of deregulation. “We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom,” said Obama, “where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.” Of course, just a few days ago, he also said that his administration would abandon the EPA’s most recent smog standards…. Remember what I was saying above about hypocrisy?

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  1. dragon
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    From Matt Osborne at osborneink(dot)com

    One way to lower the amount of smog in American cities comes with through thick binders of all-powerful EPA regulations. Another way involves transportation spending priorities and vehicle emissions standards — policies — that also form a thick set of binders. Either way involves policy in binders. Either way reduces pollution.

    Friday’s progressive freakout over nixed EPA smog rules is not really about fighting smog, but the myopia of issue focus in the blogosphere and the inflated currency of online outrage. Transportation is a wonky subject that often flies below the radar. It is not sexy or cute. Much of its advocacy is local. But federal transportation policy is also crucial in reducing smog levels as well as achieving other progressive ends.
    The ingredients of smog come from tailpipes. The way to reduce the impact of modern civilization on the environment is to make those tailpipes better and cleaner. To accomplish that, the president has leveraged his opportunity to force change on the auto industry.
    Big Auto has successfully fought higher mileage standards tooth-and-nail for decades. But industry lobbyists recently caved in to the administration — for the second time. Automakers must raise their fleets to a genuine average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That is not nothing. What was that about bad negotiating and selling out?

    Roland Hwang at the National Resources Defense Council calls this “the single biggest step the president can take” to lower American carbon emissions. It will also reduce the tailpipe pollutants that form smog because less fuel will be burning to keep Americans on the roads and rails and pavement we can build.

    Meanwhile, the number of zero-emission electrified vehicles on American roads will go up 4,500 percent in the next six years. That’s nearly one million cars that won’t create any smog at all, thanks again to administration policy. It’s a start on the greener America we need.

    Follow up

    What I wrote yesterday drew an outraged response from climate hawks, who sensed that I was being dismissive of their concerns. I’m not. They are great people and I take their criticisms in good spirit. But their grief reaction at Friday’s announcement was hijacked in a matter of seconds by a segment of the online left that is invested in bashing the president. This is a really bad time to let them run the conversation.

    Smog is lethal; so are poor roads and bridges and unwalkable streets. To put things in perspective, 12,000 smog deaths are a tad more than one-third of US highway traffic fatalities. Roads can be improved for safety, minimizing crashes and injuries while creating jobs. Sidewalks and bike lanes save lives too: nearly 48,000 American pedestrians were killed in the last decade. Sidewalks and bike lanes create jobs.

    As far as smog goes, six of the seven suggestions at this eHow article on “how to reduce smog” involve vehicles and gasoline. So how is this calculus wrong? Or as Zandar put it yesterday: is smog the hill to die on? I don’t think so. Moreover, I think the environmental movement has a basic problem to solve, and transportation shows the way forward.

    And more power to the president, who has managed to get the federal government’s largest hydrocarbon-consuming department — Defense — to stop using so much oil. He has aggressively altered the nation’s transportation priorities to use less oil. Quite simply, the way to avoid drilling the world to death, to make our carbon-intensive civilization less carbon-intensive, and to never burn that awful, carbon-intense tar sands oil is to use less oil. Obama gets this, and I’m not sure most progressives do.

  2. Edward
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    The screaming in support of execution was certainly chilling. My favorite part of the thing, however, was when both Republicans (Romney and Perry) agreed that the Democrats who had preceded them had created more jobs than they did themselves.

  3. Glen S.
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Witnessing ostensibly mainstream Republicans actually cheering Perry’s “record” on executing death-row inmates is a shocking new low, and possibly even a tipping-point in American political discourse.

    Putting aside that Texas has a notoriously poor record in administering justice (including wide racial disparities, and a record of executing innocent people and the mentally disabled), and even putting aside the fact that many Americans (especially in the South) continue to support capital punishment — can the idea of having the state execute its own citizens EVER be considered something worthy of applauding, and even cheering?

    I think that words like “fascist,” are often overused by some on the left to decry and demonize their political adversaries, but I have to wonder: When attendees at a political debate among presidential candidates for one of America’s two major political parties can openly, and enthusiastically, cheer not just a candidate’s statement about capital punishment, but rather, the very IDEA of executing hundreds of their fellow citizens — where, exactly are we headed in terms of our politics and society?

  4. Posted September 9, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I may be ignorant on this, but based on Obama basically taunting the Republicans that they best not block his jobs plan, wouldn’t it just be quicker to make it an executive order? I know that it would be a stretch (and maybe even an abuse in some ways) but if the administration REALLY believes we need it and is REALLY concerned that the Republicans will stop it, why not cut to the chase and make shit happen?

  5. TaterSalad
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Obama…….”cheapest labor”???? Another joke that the left supports with blinders!

    Barack Obama and his Union thugs, Richard Trumpka (AFL-CIO), Teamsters boss “Little” Jimmy Hoffa and Obama’s SEIU / Acorn friends are part of this!

    Here is your typical Public Sector Union employee, better known as a parasite on the taxpayers wallet:

    The battle with Public Unions is about them delivering services at a cost that the taxpayers are “willing to afford”.


  6. Mr. X
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    What our nation needs is a President who is brave enough to suggest the live, televised executions of “evil doers.”

    As for making it an executive order, I think there would be a huge political price to pay, in that the Republicans have already painted Obama to be a power-hungry, wannabe dictator. It would likely cost him the election.

    Obama would have liked if the Republicans came out against his plan, but they’ve learned. At least for the time being, they’re going to say that they’re giving it serious consideration.

    It’s not a terrible plan. The big mistake was not making the first stimulus package big enough. Our national infrastructure needs rebuilding, and our people need work.

  7. Kim
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Paul Krugman:

    I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.

    It calls for about $200 billion in new spending—much of it on things we need in any case, like school repair, transportation networks, and avoiding teacher layoffs—and $240 billion in tax cuts. That may sound like a lot, but it actually isn’t…. And it’s unclear, in particular, how effective the tax cuts would be at boosting spending.

  8. Bob
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I oppose the death penalty in all non-Tater cases.

  9. Kim
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    And Brian Williams is taking some heat for even broaching the subject.

    Fox News’ Chris Wallace accused NBC’s Brian Williams of having a liberal bias on Friday’s “Fox and Friends.”

    Williams drew a lot of attention at Wednesday’s GOP debate for asking Texas Gov. Rick Perry if he ever “struggled to sleep at night” wondering if he had ever executed an innocent person in his state. (Perry said he hadn’t, and the audience rewarded him with loud applause.)

    On the “O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg criticized Williams for the question, saying that an analogous query would never have been made about abortion to a Democrat. On “Fox and Friends,” Wallace said he thought Goldberg was spot on.

    “I think that Bernie Goldberg was 100% right,” he said. “And it wasn’t only that question. There were a bunch of questions I thought there was a left-wing bias.”

    Wallace said that the “interesting thing” was that Williams “wouldn’t even understand” that he had asked a biased question, because liberalism was “so built into the drinking water, if you will, in some of these liberal outlets that they don’t even understand it happens. It’s just a different set of questions that they would have asked Democratic candidates…I just think there is a bias against conservatives in the mainstream media.”

    It should be noted that Wallace spent many years at NBC, including stints as a co-host of the “Today” show and as the moderator of “Meet the Press.” Moreover, he was himself criticized for his questioning of Newt Gingrich during a recent Fox News debate.


  10. Bob
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Brian Williams suffers from a “trying too goddamn hard to be witty and cute” bias.

  11. Demetrius
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    So … questioning the governor of a state that has presided over more U.S. citizens that all other states combined — including executing some who likely were innocent, as well as some who had such profound mental deficits that they likely did not fully understand the implications of their actions — about whether he has any reservations about the result of that policy demonstrates a “liberal bias?”

  12. Demetrius
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    In a fascinating new article, “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,” long-time (now former) Republican staffer Mike Lofgren explains why he believes that:

    “It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.”

    His piece is one of the best, most astute summations of the current state of our politics I have read in a long time. I urge everyone to read it, and share it widely.


  13. Kim
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    This column by William Kunstler is a week or so old now, but I still like it:

    There’s a difference, of course, between what this country thinks it needs and what it’s going to get. The world has a way of dragging you, kicking and screaming, to where it wants to take you.

    We think we need more American oil so we can “end our dependence on foreign oil.” Despite the PR bullshit you see on CNBC, the oil is not really there in a form that will flow sufficiently to support our completely insane mode of living in cars. I get letters from crazy people every week who tell me that shale oil from the Bakken Formation in Dakota will keep this racket going. Forget about it. Marcellus shale gas? Similar story. These are phantom energy reserves. And we don’t have enough capital to throw at it.

    The world wants to take us to the place where you don’t have to use a car eleven times a day, a different arrangement of things on the landscape than what we’re currently stuck with in most of the United States. The American people are not disposed to taking this idea seriously, but we’ll get to that place eventually. The first kickings and screamings are exactly what’s coming out of the Tea Party. These are people who don’t want to change the sacrosanct American Way of Life, but they don’t want to have to pay for it either, so the contradiction produces a sound and fury.

    This week, President Obama is on the spot to deliver a Santa Claus sack of “job initiatives.” What a sad assignment. We’re leaving behind that kind of economy, with secure salaried plug-in positions provided by giant corporations and governments. We’re headed into a world not of “jobs” but of vocations, trades, crafts, situations, and a lot of casual labor, largely self-guided by those with who possess a functioning internal compass. Obama can pretend to keep the old way going, but that pretense will be along the same lines as keeping insolvent banks going. The Federal Government can pay people to work repairing highways and bridges but the road system is too big now for even an additional “jobs” crew to stay ahead on maintenance, plus why are we putting these capital and labor resources into gold-plating a car-and-truck system that is going to be functionally obsolete in a few years?

    The Rest-

  14. Maria
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Kim, I agree, Kunstler was spot on with his article…

  15. mSS
    Posted September 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Just for the record, you are aware that the Obama administration has ordered the targeted killing of an American citizen, without court order or any other resemblance of due process. You should only read this if you can handle extreme right-wing criticism of Obama. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/04/07/assassinations

  16. TaterSalad
    Posted September 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    How’s that Hope & Change” thing for all of you left wing moonbats on this website working out now?


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