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January, 2012:

Gingrich Panders to the Affluent White

Peter S. Goodman has written a wonderful essay on the disconnect between the campaign rhetoric about the unemployed versus the reality on the ground.

Quoted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/18/south-carolina-candidates-citizens_n_1214275.html:

In South Carolina, Candidates And Citizens Occupy Separate Realms by Peter S. Goodman

The former House speaker long ago mastered the art of tapping into revulsion for what he and fellow conservatives portray as the American welfare state. At this candidate forum sponsored by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon, he goes right to the well, assailing people who have been collecting unemployment benefits for many months. In a Gingrich administration, he promises, they would be forced to enroll in job training or forfeit their checks.

“We never again pay anybody for 99 weeks of doing nothing,” Gingrich says, provoking cheers. “It is profoundly wrong to pay people for doing nothing.”

Blaming the victim. It’s like saying that people who get their house blown away by a hurricane shouldn’t live so close to the coast. Beside that, what Newt Gingrich just said is a lie.

First of all most states require that you must have worked a certain amount of hours during the months preceding the claim for benefits, called your “base year”. In my state it is 680 hours minimum. That is certainly not “doing nothing”. Also, I don’t know how it works in South Carolina, but in my state you have to be physically able to work and actively seeking employment as a requirement of eligibility. That is certainly not “doing nothing”.

Newt says that in his administration the unemployed would be forced to enroll in job training or forfiet their checks. So he’s saying, for example, that an unemployed 55 year old heavy equipment mechanic who has 30 years experience and who can’t find work in his or a similar field would have to go to job training to learn something new. Like what? He could learn auto body work but no one is hiring body work. He could learn the principles of accounting, but who’s going to hire a 55 year old grease monkey who took a 4 week course in payroll accounting? Besides, no one is hiring entry level bookkeepers.

If you think about it for a second, that rule would wind up costing the taxpayers much more than just unemployment. States would have to pay unemployment benefits plus the cost of retraining.

Newt says this kind of nonsense to groups like the Chamber of Commerce who go into poor-labor-union-hating nirvana. He is pandering to them, they know he is pandering to them, and both parties are ecstatic about it. Goodman says it best:

In the runup to Saturday’s state Republican presidential primary, a vast disconnect separates the narrative of the stump from the struggles consuming millions of households. Two conversations seem to occupy two discrete spaces, a divide that is emblematic of many cleavages in American life, from the income inequality capturing headlines to the gap between black and white unemployment.

Goodman interviews Diane Paytner:

Paynter works for a nonprofit that runs programs for at-risk middle school students in one of the poorest ZIP codes in the state. She pours her heart into her work, she says, yet she is cognizant that she is straining against forces larger than any one program can ever address — a long-term crisis of unemployment and its attendant problems, from substance abuse to violence. It is a difficult place for young people to grapple with adolescence.

(snip) From Paynter’s perspective, the candidates are pandering to interest groups that revel in depicting poverty as moral failure. But they are also reflecting their remove from the sorts of people she encounters daily.

“I don’t know that there’s any incentive for the candidates to connect with the real world,” she says. “I doubt they even know anybody who has been unemployed or the scariness of knowing your check’s going to run out and not knowing what you’re going to do.”

Enough said.

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Gingrich’s Plan to Cure Poverty and Grab Votes

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Newt Gingrich’s statements lately, such as “food stamp President” and “paychecks”, have nothing to do with solving problems but everything to do with striking the right cord with white bigoted southern voters. It is so obvious you can smell it.

He doesn’t give two hoots about poor children, (he says poor children, but means black children; it is just another dog-whistle.) but what he does care for is getting more votes.

In the article quoted here Lia Shapiro argues that Newt’s assertions are not based on any facts or research.

Are they ever? One way to keep the journalists off your back is to say things that they cannot easily refute.

Quoted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/18/newt-gingrich-janitor-job-schools-children_n_1211762.html?ref=politics&ir=Politics:

Newt Gingrich Janitor Idea Won’t Solve Jobs Crisis 

During Monday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continued to promote his controversial strategy to child poverty and the jobs crisis: New York City janitors who make “an absurd amount of money” should be fired and replaced by poor schoolchildren, he said.

“You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor,” Gingrich said. “And those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket.”

The idea captures Gingrich’s spin on two popular right-wing economic claims: Union workers are overpaid and the poor simply need to work harder to improve their lives.

You can substitute “poor” for “black” anytime Newt says it.

Shapiro presents expert interviews with people who understand the plight of the poor in America.

Research does not substantiate Gingrich’s claim that these janitorial jobs would keep poor kids in school or improve their future.

“It’s really based on a misunderstanding of who poor kids are,” said Ange-Marie Hancock, an associate professor of political science at the University of Southern California and author of “The Politics of Disgust and the Public Identity of the ‘Welfare Queen.’”

“It’s the idea that poor children are inherently flawed and need to learn certain things, as opposed to thinking about the system that fails to serve them,” Hancock said.

This whole thing with Gingrich is just another twist in the never-ending saga of the right wing’s “lets blame the victim” strategy of gaining a sympathetic ear, or vote, whatever the case may be. According to him it is the poor’s fault for being poor. Newt wants the southern bigots to think that he is not racist and he really cares about the plight of the poor.

Arguing the facts, as usuall, is useless. All he really cares about is votes. This is pure pandering.

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Ron Paul Defends Himself by Sidestepping

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These Republican debates have been great theater. I don’t actually watch them, though. I get squirmy in the chair because of many things, maybe the softball-questions-followed-by-tested-sound-bite-answers are at the top of that list. But, I do read about it from the standard wire services and am much more comfortable with that.

What follows is a snippet of an article in Huffington Post today of a question posed to Ron Paul about those damning newsletters. Take note that Rep. Paul says "Democratic" Party – an obvious Freudian slip.

Quoted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/07/ron-paul-new-hampshire-debate_n_1191953.html?ref=politics:

Ron Paul: I’m The Only Candidate ‘That Understands True Racism’ (VIDEO)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Debate moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to explain his controversial newsletters written under his name in the 1990s, which included offensive statements and stereotypes about African Americans.

Paul responded by pointing to his admiration for African American civil rights leaders, saying they had libertarian tendencies.

“More importantly, you ought to ask me what my relationship is for racial relationships,” said Paul. “And one of my heroes is Marin Luther King because he practiced the libertarian principle of peaceful resistance and peaceful civil disobedience, as did Rosa Parks.”

He then discussed what he views as the “true racism” in America:

"I’m the only one up here and the only one in the Democratic Party that understands true racism in this country. It’s in the judicial system. And it has to do with enforcing the drug laws. The percentage of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites, and yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They’re prosecuted, imprisoned, way disproportionately. They get the death penalty way disproportionately. How many times have you seen a white rich person get the electric chair or get execution? But poor minorities have an injustice. And they have an injustice in war as well. Because minorities suffer more. Even with the draft, they suffered definitely more. Without a draft, they’re suffering disproportionately. If we truly want to be concerned about racism, you ought to look at a few of those issues and look at the drug laws which are being so unfairly enforced."

(One quick note. Rather than own up to the newsletters and apologize and explain how his views have evolved, Rep. Paul changes the subject and redirects the question to racism in general.)

On the surface it sounds as if Ron Paul is in tune with the institutional racism in our judicial system, but if you go a little deeper and think about the bigger picture then he missed the mark.

In order to get a better grip on racism, especially if you are a pasty old white man like me, then you have to try real hard to walk that mile in the minority’s shoes. If it is true that blacks are disproportionately arrested and convicted for drug crimes, then the underlying motivation for daring to commit the crime must be disproportionate also. Understanding that motivation places you squarely face to face with issues like, but no limited to, crushing poverty, education, a high unemployment rate, and the lure of easy money from dealing drugs. What Mr. Paul insinuates concerning both the judicial system and recruitment into the military, and where he misses the mark, is really a consequence of a larger ill that is not being discussed.

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