"My basic problem with Paul is this: His conception of freedom is fairly simply expressed as the equation less government = more freedom. For someone like me, that equation is woefully inadequate, because the power of the federal government is sometimes necessary to ensure that people’s individual freedom isn’t being infringed upon by other sources."
In 1999, as he was preparing his run for the White House, George W. Bush made an important purchase. The son of a president and grandson of a senator, born in Connecticut and schooled at Andover, Yale, and Harvard, bought himself a ranch. Over the next ten years, he would repeatedly bring photographers out to document him clearing brush, always with Stetson atop his head and gigantic belt buckle firmly in place.
Bush may not have been much for book learnin’, but he appreciated the power of political iconography. The cowboy, he knew, is perhaps the most potent American archetype, the hero whose story speaks to everything many Americans want to believe about themselves and their country. And today, the newest star of the Republican party has more cowboy in his little finger than Bush had in his whole being - for better and for worse. As a candidate, Texas governor Rick Perry will be enacting a particular performance of masculinity, one that will resonate powerfully with some people - especially white men - even as it alienates others.
“News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes,” writes the Associated Press this morning in a story that explains how Congress will allow the payroll tax break to expire come January 1. Currently, workers pay 6.2 percent of their wages in taxes that go toward Social Security; employers pay an equal amount. Last December, Congress approved Obama’s request that workers only pay 4.2 percent for the following year while keeping employers’ rates the same. The president is asking Congress to extend the policy to help take pressure off the millions of workers who pay more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that payroll tax reductions give the economy a short-term boost.
Republicans are arguing that this tax cut will push the deficit higher, and they’re not wrong: A 12-month reduction will cost the government $120 billion this year. But they refuse to let the Bush tax cuts expire, arguing that doing so would amount to a tax increase — and Republicans are anti-tax, no matter what. Don’t worry, House Republicans have a good explanation for this dissonance: “Not all tax relief is created equal.”
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How has the decline of strikes affected American culture and politics?
When unions were able to operate on a broader scale, they could impact the politics and economy of the entire nation. In 1946, you saw a great strike wave where workers at thousands of employers struck at the same time for basically the same set of demands and fueled a broad class-consciousness in society. We saw a real taste of that this year in Madison where what began as a narrow dispute became a battle about the nature of democracy and what’s happening to working people. When the labor movement’s at our best, that’s what you see.
When Rick Perry opened his presidential campaign with a dazzling display of what GOP consultant Alex Castellanos called “mad cowboy disease”—threatening Ben Bernanke with ugly treatment if he ever ventured into Texas, questioning President Obama’s patriotism, denying the global-warming “hoax”—one of the Texas governor’s greatest vulnerabilities as a candidate became immediately obvious: He enjoys nothing more than raising eyebrows (and hackles) with incendiary talk….
Whereas George W. Bush adopted a swaggering, plain-speaking populist persona, Perry—the poor ol’ farm boy from Paint Creek—is the genuine article. Unless his savvy campaign guru, Dave Carney, can glue Perry’s tongue to the roof of his mouth while he sleeps, the campaign is practically guaranteed to dish up an endless stream of heavily accented, overheated rhetoric.
But as I learned from covering him for nearly three years in Texas, Perry has serious liabilities as a candidate, and they don’t begin and end with the tendency to shoot off his mouth (or his beloved Ruger LCP, with which he claims to have killed a coyote with while he was out jogging last winter). His ten-year record as Texas governor, along with his ideological and political eccentricities, will offer ample fodder for attacks from Bachmann on the right, Romney in the center and, perhaps eventually, Obama on the left. (And nobody can possibly predict what he’ll say about foreign policy.) Here’s a short list of Perry’s major pitfalls as the campaign begins.