The Plum Line

The Scott Walker Show (Quality of Life)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), in January, 2015. Detail of photo by J. Scott Applewhite.

The Cowardly Badger wants another do-over, but this time for one of his policy achievements, lowering a worker’s quality of life. Paul Waldman explains Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s dubious presidential ambition:

Scott Walker wants to take his fight against organized labor national. Today he released a plan for a new war not just on union representation, but on worker rights in general.

It’s quite a document, one we might call Scott Walker’s Race to the Bottom.

I have no doubt that Walker is sincere in his desire to see every labor union crushed and every vestige of workers’ power banished — or, in his lingo, “flexibility.” I’d also be surprised if any of the other candidates objected to any part of it. So the plan is worth understanding if you want to grasp what today’s GOP is offering today’s workers.

While he doesn’t say so explicitly, what Walker seems to hope for is really a world without any labor unions at all, or at the very least a world where unions are so weakened that they are unable to advocate for anyone.

This is a fun one: You know how from time to time we hear from Republicans about public sector employees having opulent benefits? Hang on to that for a moment. Okay. So, you know how from time to time we hear reminders that real wages are stagnant, and have remained so for decades?

Right. Two and two. Put them together. The outcome really is that obvious.

There are those who will need your help to understand; thus, put as simply as possible: Those aren’t opulent contracts; other workers could have had them, too, if they had unions guarding their standard of living.

And then, before they get too confused, remind them: This is what voters wanted when Republicans pitched the better life of tomorrow without unions. Yes, this lesser quality of life.

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Waldman, Paul. “Scott Walker’s race to the bottom”. The Washington Post. 14 September 2015.

Some Guy Who Thinks He Can Be President

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Satire is tough when some politicians become caricatures of themselves.”

Steve Benen

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has potsherds. Some of the finest-grained potsherds in existence.

Again we reiterate the importance of narrative; the tale sounds silly enough in the straightforward reporting, but the commentary can lend appreciable dimensions:

When reports surfaced last week that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) may face criminal charges as part of a federal corruption probe, it seemed like a possible opportunity for Republicans. Because so many of the recent political scandals have involved GOP officials, I thought Republicans might connect Menendez and Oregon’s John Kitzhaber to make the case there’s something rotten in the Democratic ranks.

But Kasie Hunt reported from Iowa over the weekend that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has a very different attack in mind.

Cruz also suggested pending federal charges against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez were politically motivated – tied to Menendez’s support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition to a U.S. deal with Iran over their nuclear program.

“The timing is curious,” Cruz said .... “It raises a suggestion to other Democrats that if you dare part from the Obama White House, that criminal prosecutions will be used potentially as a political weapon as well,” Cruz said. “That’s a serious concern.”

The Texas Republican added, “This investigation has been going on for over a year and yet the very week they announce a pending indictment comes within hours after Sen. Menendez showing courage to speak out against President Obama’s dangerous foreign policy that is risking the national security of this country.”

Greg Sargent noted the other day that he was planning to joke about the right concocting a conspiracy theory involving Menendez, the White House, and Iran, but the mockery was already too late. “They’re already saying [it],” Greg said.

(more…)

The Growing Scandal of King v. Burwell

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2008, file photo, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., is seen in Providence, R.I.  Turned away at the Supreme Court, congressional Republicans sketch a filibuster-proof strategy to repeal the nation's health care law in 2013.  But it hinges on two uncertainties ― Mitt Romney capturing the White House and the party seizing even narrow control of the Senate (AP Photo/Stephan Saviola, File)

Sometimes the lede buries itseslf; the point will hide in plain sight. It is an easy thing to do, hiding in plain sight, when nobody is looking for you:

The Supreme Court has developed elaborate tests to determine if plaintiffs have standing to sue. But their essence, Justice Antonin Scalia once observed, is a four-word question: “What’s it to you?”

To get into court, it is not enough to be unhappy about something. Only people with a direct stake in a dispute have standing to sue.

Which brings us to the four plaintiffs in the latest threat to President Obama’s health care law, to be heard next week. Recent news reports have raised the question of whether any of them has a dog in the fight.

But it is not clear that the Supreme Court will address that question, which could determine the outcome of the case. The court’s recent decisions have been inconsistent and provide few clues about what it might do. The court is sometimes accused of being opportunistic in using the standing doctrine to avoid legal questions it wants to duck, but ignoring the issue when it is eager to weigh in.

(Liptak)

Two sentences; did you miss them?

No, really, this is important: “But it is not clear that the Supreme Court will address that question, which could determine the outcome of the case. The court’s recent decisions have been inconsistent and provide few clues about what it might do.”

One of the hallmarks of the Roberts Court is its disrespect for standing case law and precedent. The Chief Justice is an example of why the longstanding conservative complaint about liberal judicial activism is a swindle. John Roberts seems to apply more of an “if it feels good, do it” attitude to the judiciary, but at the same time he’s conscious of appearances, which is why conservative majorities on the Court will occasionally do that weird thing where they overturn case law but then disclaim that they’re not overturning anything, such as we’ve seen in Ricci (Civil Rights Act) and Texas (Voting Rights Act). And there is also the conservative majority’s clear tendency to throw cases for politics by carving out one-time exceptions to the law, such as we saw in Safford, in which a school was forgiven a sex offense because ignorance is bliss and, well, why would a young girl be upset by adults forcing her to strip down so they can leer and prod at her body, and Ricci, in which the New Haven Civil Service Board followed the law but was held in fault for doing so.

One of the reasons this Court is so hard to predict is, in fact, its inconsistency. And the reason it is hard to pin down that inconsistency is because it is so inconsistent. To the one, it is not a purely institutionalist streak. To the other, it is not purely traditionalist. Rather, it seems Chief Justice Roberts is happy to keep pushing the image of calling balls and strikes just as long as nobody points out that the strike zone keeps changing.

The Constitution is John Roberts’ playground, nothing more. Inconsistency will be the hallmark of his chiefdom. (more…)

“Post-Racial” America

Sometimes the narrative is simply undeniable:

Seldom in Barack Obama’s presidency has he looked quite so impotent as he did last night, pleading from a podium in the White House for calm while the cable news split screens showed clouds of tear gas enveloping the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. He repeated the same themes as every time he has spoken about this subject — people have legitimate grievances but there’s no excuse for violence, we’ve come a long way but we have a ways to go, and so on. It never rang more hollow.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press regarding the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Nov. 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)But what should he have said? Obama never actually promised to bind up the nation’s racial wounds — that was a hope others placed upon him, far too naively. Even before taking office, Obama found that no matter how hard he tried to be unthreatening, to incorporate different perspectives into his rhetoric, and to stress what Americans share, many of his opponents would never see him as anything but an agent of racial vengeance. No matter what he did, whether passing an economic stimulus or reforming health care, some would spin a story of race around it, one in which whites were under threat.

If anyone ever thought that with little more than the power of his example Obama could mitigate racial resentments, let alone fray the institutional ligaments of racism, they were quickly disabused of those ideas. His presidency has seen an extraordinary backlash against racial progress, from the Supreme Court to the statehouse, where affirmative action is dismantled, the Voting Rights Act is gutted, one Republican legislature after another passes laws to make it harder for people (mostly minorities) to vote, and conservatives are told again and again that they are the racial victims whose problems are the fault of the black president coming after them because of the color of their skin.

(Waldman)

And this is where we’re at. In America. In the twenty-first century.

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Waldman, Paul. “Barack Obama, Ferguson, and racial wounds unhealed”. The Washington Post. 25 November 2014.

Holst, Lindsay. “President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Ferguson Grand Jury’s Decision”. The White House. 24 November 2014.