Long Read: “Wall Street’s Straight Man in Washington”

I appreciate a story that tells me something I didn’t already know. The capitalists on Wall Street have traditionally been tolerant about their captive politicians’ religious quirks, as long as those quirks didn’t get in the way of Wall Street’s religion — aka, The Almighty Dollar. Here’s a great tale by Joshua Green at Bloomberg Politics about another government Talibangelical whose existence had not previously crossed my awareness, Rep. Scott Garrett (R – NJ), “chairman of the powerful Subcommittee on Capital Markets & Government Sponsored Enterprises”:

Garrett’s committee is vital to Wall Street. “The rules of the road for handling money and anything with the SEC go through this committee,” says Marcus Stanley, policy director of the nonprofit Americans for Financial Reform. “There’s a ton of money at stake.” In Washington, the committee is known as the ATM, because banks and hedge funds shower the chairman with contributions. After the Dodd-Frank financial law forced hedge funds to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Garrett, already the recipient of more Wall Street money than almost any other member of the House, got millions more. The banks pay to have a voice, ensure they’re at the table when new rules are discussed, and insinuate themselves into the chairman’s good graces.

Much of the money Garrett collects from Wall Street is supposed to be passed along in the form of party dues to the GOP’s campaign arm, where it’s used to help other candidates get elected. So the committee is also important to Republicans because it binds the party with the business community in a mutually profitable arrangement. But back in July, Garrett threw a wrench into this smoothly humming machine.

At a private caucus meeting, he got into a heated dispute with his colleagues by declaring that he’d withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in National Republican Congressional Committee dues to protest the party’s support for gay candidates. His outburst immediately caused a rift in the caucus…

Some of Garrett’s colleagues were simply upset that he was stiffing the NRCC. But others understood that he was jeopardizing the party’s electoral and financial fortunes: As the GOP struggles to widen its appeal, Garrett’s comments, which quickly became public, reaffirmed the impression of Republicans as stridently intolerant… Read more

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Second Time, Even Bigger Farce

Maybe it’s just that I have a miserable cold, but it really does feel like the entire Republican party is trying to re-litigate Iran-contra — not to mention Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” and all the rest of the Reaganauts’ creepy, eliminationist policies at home and abroad. I’m too old to fight all these battles a second time, dammit!

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Post-Debate Open Thread: Noo Yark Citeee Values!

Those Statue-of-Liberty values (give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… )? The notorious claw-your-way-out-of-poverty-and-obscurity, anything-to-make-a-dollar, I-could-care-less-which-church-you-attend, first capital city of America values?

As reported during the Guardian liveblog:

Bartiromo asks Cruz about Cruz’s dig at Trump for having “New York values”. What did he mean by that?

“I think most people know exactly what New York values are,” Cruz says. And then to Bartiromo:

You’re from New York, so you might not. …Everyone understands that the values of New York City are socially liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, centered on money.

Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just sayin.’

Trump replies: “Conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F Buckley and others… New York is a great place, it’s got great people, it’s got loving people,” Trump says.

Then he plays the 9/11 card:

When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely.

Even the smell of death, it was with us for months. And we rebuilt. … That was a very insulting statement that Ted made.

I was born in NYC, I got the hell out as soon as I could (age 17-3/4), and I’d still defend it against Ted Cruz to the death. His death.

“Former presidential campaign spox & senior Congressional aide” (& Rubio supporter):

So’s the San Francisco media, of course —


Open Thread: Jeb Bush, Looking to Reduce the Surplus Population

Catherine Rampell, in the Washington Post: “Jeb Bush’s welfare reform plan would only make life worse for America’s poor”

Jeb Bush claims that, unlike that charlatan Donald Trump, he’s a proven political leader.

How has he chosen to illustrate such brave leadership? By joining the storied tradition of ducking responsibility for tough decisions.

Last Friday, Bush unveiled his grand welfare reform plan. He promises it will reduce waste, fraud and abuse while simultaneously empowering millions of poor people to stop being poor.

His magic formula: completely destroy established anti-poverty programs such as food stamps, cash welfare payments, rent subsidies and public housing. He’d then replace them all with “Right to Rise” grants (yes, named after his super PAC). These would be lump sums of federal money that states could apply for, assuming states would even be willing to create entirely new social safety nets out of whole cloth…

Here’s the usual sell: These are bloated, wasteful, one-size-fits-all programs that hook Americans on the government teat. If only we handed the money directly to the states, poverty could be eradicated on the cheap. It’s win-win, for both makers and takers!

In reality, block-granting is just a way federal politicians can strip poor people of much-needed services without actually taking the blame for the resulting suffering…

The real issue is that rooting out waste, fraud and abuse (actually pretty rare in programs such as food stamps) is really, really hard — especially if you want to avoid accidentally cutting off deserving children and families from food security, affordable health care and stable housing in the process. Federal politicians don’t want to make the kinds of tough choices required for this cost-cutting, given the inevitable sob stories that will result.

So instead they just freeze spending and dump the responsibility for figuring out how to make do with less onto states. Not that states are any better equipped to make these decisions. But federal politicians nonetheless (quite literally) pass the buck anyway.

If history is any guide, block grants also make it easier for the feds to cut spending on the needy, regardless of whether the needy actually have reduced needs…

Or, as Jeb and his fellow Repubs see it: Win-Win!

Monday Evening Open Thread

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…

Anything on the agenda that isn’t depressing and/or infuriating?