Border Boondoggle

The GOP’s “just build a wall” simpletons don’t know what they’re talking about.

Jim HightowerGood fences, wrote Robert Frost, make good neighbors.

But an 18-foot high, 2,000-mile wall? That’s another story. It just antagonizes your neighbor — and shows your own fear and weakness.

Yet this is what self-described conservatives running for president propose to build to stop migrants from coming across our country’s southern border. Simple, right? Just fence ’em out!

Haven’t we already tried this?

In 2006, Congress mandated the construction of a wall along the 1,954 miles of our border with Mexico. A decade later, guess how many miles have been completed? About 650. It turns out that erecting a monstrous wall isn’t so simple after all.

U.S.-US-Mexico-border-crossing-fence-wall

Tony Webster / Flickr

First, it’s ridiculously expensive — about $10 billion just for the materials to build from the tip of Texas to the Pacific, not counting labor costs and maintenance.

Second, there’s the prickly problem of land acquisition: To erect the first 650 miles of fence, the federal government had to sue hundreds of property owners to take their land. Odd, isn’t it, that right-wing politicos who loudly rail against government overreach now favor using government muscle to grab private property?

Third, it’s impossible to fence the whole border. Hundreds of miles of it lie along the Rio Grande’s flood plain, and more miles cross the steep mountainous terrain of southern Arizona.

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the other “just build a wall” simpletons either don’t know what they’re talking about or are deliberately trying to dupe voters.

Before you buy a 2,000-mile wall from them, take a peek at the small part already built. Because of the poor terrain and legal prohibitions, it’s not one long fence, but a fragment here and another there, with miles of gaps. Anyone wanting to cross into the United States can just go to one of the gaps and walk through.

But when they’re just trying to stir up fear of foreigners, what’s honesty have to do with it?


OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower LowdownOtherWords.org

This Week’s Democratic Campaigns and GOP Agitprop

Joe Biden will Not Run for President

Swipe Right for Hillary

Bernie Sanders Explains Social Security

O’Malley on the Need for New Leadership


Clinton vs. Sanders vs. O’Malley On Fixing Banking
How do we fix Wall Street, a.k.a. “the banks”? How do the candidates compare? … The first place to look, of course, is CAF’s Candidate Scorecard … Clinton’s 63 percent rating is primarily based on not having a position on a financial transaction tax … as well as opposing reinstating some form of a Glass-Steagall Act and a lack of specific proposals related to the categories “Break Up Big Banks” and “Affordable Banking.” Meanwhile, Sanders rates 100 percent … O’Malley is stressing his positions on and independence from Wall Street [and] also has a 100 percent…

Blue States Make Voting Easier as Red States Add Restrictions
“In Illinois, a new provision allows voters to register electronically when they visit various state agencies. And in Delaware, some residents with criminal records will regain the right to vote … In Republican-controlled states, the story is different. North Carolina has instituted a new voter ID requirement. North Dakota has narrowed the forms of identification voters can present … Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature has instituted … shorter early voting hours.” Meanwhile, here at home in Nevada, folks who wish to participate in the Democratic County Caucuses will enjoy the ability to “same-day” register to participate, while Republican caucus goers will need to have registered at least 10 days prior to the caucus date AND will be required to present a government issued photo ID card … no indication as to which will be allowed and which will not (e.g., will VA photo IDs be accepted?).

Ex-Gov turned Democrat Charlie Crist announced a run for U.S. House
On Tuesday, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he would run for the St. Petersburg FL-13 seat. Crist said all the way back in July that he’d run for this seat if he lived in it after redistricting, so this announcement was no surprise. However, Republican Rep. David Jolly, who is leaving this district behind to run for the Senate, unexpectedly crashed what would have otherwise been a routine campaign kickoff. Jolly told reporters that he cares too much about the seat “to lay down and let this huckster walk into office.” Republicans utterly hate Crist, who left the party in 2010, so this kind of stunt certainly won’t hurt Jolly’s chances in the GOP primary.  If Crist wins, he’ll be one of only a few ex-governors to be elected to the House. The University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog finds that in the last half-century, only four other ex-governors have done this, and none of them had run a state anywhere near as large as Florida.

Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is vowing not to play nice —all this at a crucial time when some pretty critical votes will need to be taken:

  • A vote to raise the debt limit to avoid a default on our nation’s debt. House RW budget hawks are looking again at hijacking any efforts to raise the debt limit to pay for expenses they already authorized.  Expect new attacks on medicaid, medicare, social security and planned parenthood. And then there’s Teddy Cruz, urging GOP members to take an absolute hard line against any efforts to pass a “clean” bill to raise the limit to pay for the spending they already authorized.
  • A vote will be needed to pass a fiscal budget, not yet another let’s kick the can down the road continuing resolution to extend the current (previous) budget that was passed,  and
  • A vote will be needed regarding the Iran Deal, which the US and other foreign nations have already begun to implement regardless of any approval/disapproval from our disfunctional Congress.

November should prove quite interesting. But, if all of that that is not enough agitprop for your tastes, Speaker Boehner is proposing that it’s possible that they could actually “repeal Obamacare” by the end of the year. What is he smoking, drinking or otherwise ingesting?  Apparently he thinks President Obama is just gonna roll over and sign onto their repeal efforts taking away any and all opportunities for millions of Americans to be able to purchase health care insurance.  Somebody needs to throw some ice water in his face and yell “Wake Up Bozo!”

  • Rep. Paul Ryan announces speaker bid, with conditions. NYT: “…Ryan called for … an end to the antics of ‘bomb throwers and hand wringers,’ according to members in the room … He suggested that he wanted an answer by Friday. Mr. Ryan made it clear that he would not accede to preconditions set by ‘one group,’ a clear reference to the members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus…”
  • Freedom Caucus resists. Politico: “They were dismissive of his Ryan’s request that they relinquish a procedural tactic they used to threaten to strip outgoing Speaker John Boehner of his title – one of the most potent weapons in the group’s arsenal.”
  • Paul Ryan’s Conditions for House Speaker Bid Meet Early Resistance, Bloomberg: “How does giving Paul Ryan more power solve the problem of John Boehner having had too much power?” Rep. Tim Huelskamp tells Bloomberg.

 

Hair Force of One

The Mis-Education Of The Republican Party
— by CAP Action War Room

The GOP presidential field needs an education, but for the moment their only teacher is Donald TDebaterump. With President Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One casting a shadow over them, eleven GOP candidates spent three hours debating largely about Donald Trump and failing to address the many key issues facing working families. On education, raising wages, and health care, the GOP candidates said close to nothing, instead doubling down on attacks on immigrants, women’s health, working families, and the Iran nuclear deal. Over three grueling hours of television, the Republican candidates mentioned “middle class” just three times, “health care” twice, and “students” just once.

What the GOP Candidates Failed to Mention:

Ensuring Access to an Affordable, Quality Education. Families are finding it harder and harder to access an affordable, quality education. Between 2000 and 2011, the cost of higher education grew three times faster than overall inflation and students are being saddled with debt. However, the Republican candidates were silent on whether they would support measures such as allowing Americans to refinance their student loans and restoring public investment in education. Not only did Republicans ignore the plight of students seeking a higher education, they also ignored the needs of our youngest learners. High-quality public preschool programs range from $6,500 to $11,000 across the country—putting them out of reach for many families. But on solutions like providing universal pre-school, the Republicans were mum.
Raising Wages for Working Families. Higher wages are what working families need most. Instead of seeing their incomes improve, middle class households saw their incomes fall 2 percent between 2000 and 2011. However, the Republican presidential contenders overwhelmingly failed to offer, or support, real solutions that would improve incomes for families, such as raising the minimum wage or reforming overtime rules.

A Plan to Improve Access to Health Care. On a day when new data became available showing that the number of Americans lacking health insurance dropped by more than eight million people in 2014, Republicans once again attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but offered no alternatives. Before the implementation of the ACA, health care costs were skyrocketing. From 2002 to 2012, health care costs paid by a family of four with an average employer-sponsored PPO plan rose by 85 percent. The ACA, however, has helped control rising health care costs. At the same time, the ACA has improved access to health care. Overall, 15.8 million people have gained coverage since the ACA’s marketplaces opened. Republicans, however, have offered no ideas on how to keep improving upon the successes of the ACA, instead continuing to call for repealing the ACA.

What the GOP Candidates Did Say:

Follow Trump’s Lead on Immigration. Trump’s extreme rhetoric on immigration is often credited with putting immigration right at the center of the GOP presidential primary. But at the debate on Wednesday night, several Republican candidates went out of their way to show that they stand with Trump on his extreme positions.

  • Trump doubled down on his claim that birthright citizenship isn’t settled in the Constitution, saying, “Well, first of all, the — the 14th Amendment says very, very clearly to a lot of great legal scholars — not television scholars, but legal scholars — that it is wrong.” Trump wasn’t alone–Rand Paul, the author of a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, restated his support for ending it.
  • Trump again raised his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to deter illegal immigration, even though the border is more secure than ever. The other GOP candidates, however, raced to outdo Trump: Chris Christie jumped at the opportunity to say that he would push to establish “more than just a wall,” pledging “electronics” and “drones,” while Ben Carson said he would turn off the “spigot that dispenses all the goodies so we don’t have people coming in here.”

Defund Planned Parenthood. During the debate, the GOP candidates spent much of their air time attacking women’s health. In rushing to declare that they support defunding Planned Parenthood, they ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services for millions of women.

  • Jeb Bush believes “that Planned Parenthood should[n’t] get a penny from the federal government.” This is not a surprising statement from a man who previously said he was “not sure we need a half billion for women’s health issues.” However, Planned Parenthood helps millions of women—in 2013 alone it served more than 2.7 million patients and provided 10.6 million services, including the treatment of chronic diseases and authorization for hospital care.
  • Ted Cruz called Planned Parenthood a “criminal enterprise” and says he’s “proud to stand for life.” But 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity is preventive care. Defunding Planned Parenthood would limit women’s access to lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and more.

Give Tax Breaks to the Wealthy Few. Several GOP candidates talked about their tax plans and records on taxes at the debate, but their rhetoric was the same rehash of tired Republican talking points: cut taxes on the wealthy to boost the economy. That didn’t work before, and it won’t work again.

  • Bush promoted the $19 billion in tax cuts he pushed as Governor of Florida, but analysis of his time in Florida show that he catered his tax cuts to the wealthy. What’s more, Bush’s tax plan, just released last week, would be a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, would blow a hole in the deficit, and give Bush a personal tax savings of $774,000.
  • Walker claimed that under his watch, Wisconsin passed $4.7 billion in tax cuts “to help working families, family farmers, small business owners and senior citizens,” but the richest 20 percent reaped a full half of the benefits of his income tax package — all while Wisconsin ranked 44th in the country in middle class income growth under Walker.
  • John Kasich boasted about having the “largest amount tax cuts of any sitting governor,” but he neglected to mention that his so-called “tax cuts” benefited wealthy Ohioans. Under Kasich’s tax proposals, the average tax bill went up for the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers, while the top one percent of taxpayers saw an average tax cut of nearly $12k.

Tear Up the Iran Deal. Last night, many of the GOP candidates offered much of the same, similar-sounding bluster we have heard on the campaign trail: tear up the Iran deal on “day one.” Their empty rhetoric presented no real leadership, just more partisan attacks on a tough-minded deal.

  • Cruz claimed that the Iran deal “will only accelerate Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.” He continued to say that if elected, he would “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” Far from being a bad deal, the agreement cuts off all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon and is verifiable through rigorous international inspections of Iran’s nuclear supply chain and facilities. This accord proves that American diplomacy — and not war — can bring meaningful change to make our homeland and the world safer and more secure.
  • Walker casually remarked, “I’d love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran.” That is simply not true. The Iran deal is the result of years of tough-minded American diplomacy and a comprehensive strategy. The deal is backed by our partners and allies across the world, but conservative GOP candidates are putting politics over patriotism.

BOTTOM LINE: The eleven GOP candidates had an opportunity last night to offer real solutions to the key issues they face. But on education, working families, and health care, the GOP candidates came up empty. Instead, they spent their stage time fighting with each other and catering to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party. What we need are real leaders ready to tackle the problems facing working families, not panderers who are alienating entire communities of Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.


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First GOP Debate Offers A Preview Of The Same Throwback Policies

Press Release: Hillary for America

Hillary4NVDuring the first debate last night, we heard the second-tier GOP candidates lay out an agenda both out of date and out of touch with the needs of everyday Americans. Here are some of the examples of what Republicans running for President view as their most important job:

  • Break up families and put them at risk of deportation
  • Allow discrimination against LGBT Americans
  • Limit access to women’s health care
  • Let Wall Street write its own rules again

Unfortunately, the lower-tier candidates are not the exception; they are the rule.  Here’s where the Republicans in the main event stand on those very same issues:


Immigration

Trump: Do we really need to get into this? Okay, here’s one you might not have heard: “We got to move ’em out, we’re going to move ’em back in if they’re really good people.”

Jeb Bush: Opposes a path to citizenship and would repeal President Obama’s executive orders on DAPA and DACA.

Scott Walker: Opposes a path to citizenship.

Mike Huckabee: Said he would repeal President Obama’s executive action on immigration and opposes a path to citizenship.

Ben Carson: Proposes giving undocumented immigrants a path to 2nd class status, denying them access to all but the least wanted jobs.

Ted Cruz: Said “I think a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally is profoundly unfair…”

Marco Rubio: Voted three times to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Rand Paul: Introduced legislation that could lead to the deportation of 4 million undocumented immigrants including DREAMers.

Chris Christie: Thinks a path to citizenship is “pandering” and has said he would immediately reverse President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

John Kasich: His administration is suing to stop President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.


Marriage Equality

Donald Trump: Opposes marriage equality.

Jeb Bush: Said he does not believe in a constitutional right to marriage equality, calling traditional marriage a ‘sacrament.’

Scott Walker: Said the Supreme Court’s decision was a” grave mistake” and called for a Constitutional amendment to transfer power over marriage laws to the states.

Mike Huckabee: Called the Supreme Court an “imperial court” for ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. In 2010, he went as far as comparing same-sex marriage to incest, polygamy and drug use.

Ben Carson: Disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision and promised he would support “creative” legislation to “negate” the ruling if he were elected President.  

Ted Cruz:  Stated the Supreme Court’s decision was “among the darkest hours our nation,” called for a constitutional amendment that would subject Supreme Court justices to periodic judicial elections and said that Texas County Clerks should be able to op-out of issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Marco Rubio: Disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling and reaffirmed his belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Rand Paul: Argued after the Supreme Court decision that the time has come to get government out of recognizing marriage altogether.

Chris Christie: He disagreed with the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. In 2012, Christie vetoed legislation to legalize same sex marriage in New Jersey in 2012.

John Kasich: Said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision and reiterated his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.


Women’s Health

Donald Trump: Supports shutting down the government to defund Planned Parenthood.

Jeb Bush: Said he would sign an extreme abortion ban bill without exceptions for rape and incest.

Scott Walker: Just signed a 20-week abortion ban with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Infamously said rape victims are “most concerned” about pregnancy “in the initial months.”

Mike Huckabee: Wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade and has even compared giving women control of their own medical decisions to slavery.

Ben Carson: Compared legal abortion to the practice of ‘heathen’ human sacrifices by ancient civilizations

Ted Cruz: Opposes abortion without exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the mother and says he would shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood.

Marco Rubio: Wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Rand Paul: Has stated quite simply that he “will always vote for any and all legislation that would end abortion.” Paul introduced personhood legislation that could outlaw commonly used forms of birth control and opposes exceptions for rape and incest.

Chris Christie: Has described himself as “unapologetically” pro life.

John Kasich: Signed a 20-week abortion ban without an exception for life or health of the mother. He also mandated medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion that have led to the closing of women’s health clinics.


Wall Street Reform (Dodd-Frank)

Donald Trump: Criticized Dodd-Frank. [Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/19/13]

Jeb Bush: Said, “We should repeal” Dodd-Frank.

Scott Walker: Said “It’s time to repeal #DoddFrank.”

Mike Huckabee: called Dodd-Frank a “pot of burned beans” and a “piece of insanity.”

Ben Carson: called Dodd-Frank and the CFPB “one of the latest massive expansions” of government and said the CFPB was “the ultimate example of regulatory overreach, a nanny state mechanism asserting its control over everyday Americans.” Carson pointed to the CFPB as “exactly the sort of agency I plan to rein in.”

Ted Cruz: Said “We need to repeal Dodd-Frank.”

Marco Rubio: Said “We need to repeal Dodd-Frank.” He also cosponsored legislation to do it.

Rand Paul: cosponsored legislation to repeal Dodd-Frank.

Chris Christie: Criticized Dodd-Frank.

John Kasich: said Dodd-Frank “went overboard,” and when asked about why no bankers went to jail after the financial crisis, he said: “It’s not like the system was rigged.”


 For more on the GOP’s out of touch and out of date agenda for Americans, check the Hillary for America rapid response activity on The Briefing here.

Off the Cliff and a Whole Lot More

Yesterday, I took the time to watch both the Fox Debates, both minor and major.  It’s the first time I’ve watched FoxNews ever, I think.

The first debate was at 2PM.  I was amazed and dismayed at the overall tone presented by Fox and it’s hosts toward their party’s candidates.  Why was it necessary to stage it in such a way to maximize their ability to show they were playing to an empty arena?  Why did they continually pan in on the hosts in such a way that they could show what few audience member there were either talking amongst themselves or texting to others?  But most importantly, why prey (I use that misspelling purposefully) tell, did they ask such rude questions of “their” candidates as though they had no right to be there and they were imposing on the hosts.

In the second debate, that of their “major” candidates at 6 PM, the verbal assaults continued.  Though different hosts for both debate sessions, the tone each team used in asking their questions was one of denigration of the participants on the stage.  Why did they position the camera to ensure it showed Sen. Lindsey Graham standing on a box so he appeared taller? Why did the pan to Gov. Scott Walker everytime he did his boobble-head routine as Dr. Ben Carson was speaking?  Grant you, I don’t believe that any of the Republican candidates are worthy of holding the office they’re seeking, but still, a modicum of civility should have been maintained.

Additionally, I thought most interesting was that no instructions were given to the audience to display no emotion, no yelling, no clapping and candidates were left trying to talk over the audience to make their points during the one minute allowed for their responses.

The 2nd debate started with a question immediately aimed at their number one candidate.  Would he pledge to support whoever won the Republican nomination and not wage an independent run for the Presidency?  Mr. Trump would not make that pledge.  Other stabs at Mr. Trump included jabs about his four bankruptcies, his transition from pro-choice to pro-life, and his donations to the Clinton Foundation.  The answer to the donation issues absolutely made the case for needing to do something about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and getting the money out of politics.

What I learned is that there are relatively NO policy differences between the 17 Republican candidates.  It was like watching “group think” in practice.  Each and every one of them want to “repeal and replace” anything and everything that has been enacted to pull our nation out of the ditch their Republican predecessors  so abruptly put us in by the end of 2008.  They want to repeal and replace the Dodd/Frank financial regulation, but not one indicated ‘what’ they intended to replace it with.  They want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but again, not one indicated ‘what’ they intended to replace it with.  Then, they all resoundingly declared they would roll back any and all environmental regulations aimed at mitigating ‘climate change’ and though no one used the phrase, it was clear their means to assure ‘energy independence’ really meant more ‘drill baby, drill’ anywhere and everywhere around the globe.

Every one of the debaters except former CEO Carly Fiorina loudly declared they’d quelch the Iran Deal and re-impose sanctions.  Fiorina instead declared she would make two calls on day one, one to Israel’s Prime Minister BiBi Netanhayu and the second to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to let them know exactly where we stood as a nation.  The rest were pretty much in favor of literally ripping it the agreement in front of TV cameras in the oval office on Day One. Not one of those ripper-uppers could explain how they’d get China, Russia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and any other foreign governments that it would be prudent to scrap all joint diplomatic efforts made over the last two years negotiating with Iran only to go back.  Additionally, none of them offered an any explanation as to how that might make the global community at large any safer from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Gov. Christy declared that we should raise the retirement age.  Senator Lindsey Grahamsomehow managed to work into any question he was asked, that we should increase the number of troops in the ground in darn near every country in the middle east. So if you think America should dominate the world militarily, he’s definitely your guy.  Former Senator Rick Santorum wants to send pink slips to >100,000 employees at the IRS and impose a flat 20% tax.  He didn’t expand on that to indicate whether that would be assessed on those families who earn wages and whether it would also apply to those who merely earn dividends/interest from stock and other financial instruments. Former Gov. Huckabee also wanted a flat tax and declared he would go after prostitutes, pimps and drug pushers to make sure they paid their fair share (but interestingly, for a preacher, didn’t say he would prosecute them for such crimes).

As expected, and whenever possible, when stretched for an answer to the question, there was clearly some Hillary Clinton bashing.  One of them went so far as to declare “at leastBernie Sanders has the decency to call himself a socialist.”

But the most disturbing declarations of the night were the number of candidates who not only want to totally defund planned parenthood, but who espouse ‘personhood’ … that once conceived, the rights of the fetus are paramount to those of the woman who’s carrying that fetus. Sen. Ted Cruz declared solemnly that on Day One, he would dispatch DOJ, IRS and any other governmental dept/agency he could to investigate and “persecute” (his word) Planned Parenthood.  Sen. Marco Rubio went so far as to proudly declare that he would even outlaw abortion not just for incest, but when the life of the mother was in peril as well. That certainly puts women in their place across the nation doesn’t it.  Apparently, we’ve been demoted to mere incubators for men’s seed.  I hope women across this nation paid close attention during this debate and will pay even closer attention as further debates ensue.  In the interim, here’s some information about where the candidates from both sides stand on women’s issues.  Make sure you share it with your Republican lady friends:


The Democrats:

257
256
251
244
248


Now the other side—The Major Candidates Republicans:

238
239
243
245
255
259
254
253
258
242


The Minor Candidate Republicans:

249
247
241
240
250

A work-up for former Jim Gilmore is not yet available as he just recently joined the race, because, well you know, it looked like a good opportunity?