Archives for category: Democrats

Thom Hartmann looks back to the Ronald Reagan presidency to explain how Republicans seized the strategy of tax cuts and spending to counter the Democrats’ winning formula of social welfare spending. Now Republicans are threatening to force the federal government to default on the national debt, which would plunge the global economy into chaos, unless Democrats make deep cuts in social programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Hartmann writes:

The media refers to it as a debate around the debt ceiling, but it’s actually far simpler than that. And entirely political.

Back in November, a few weeks after House Republicans won the election and seized control of that body, I wrote to you warning that the House Republicans would try the same scam that Ronald Reagan first rolled out in the 1980s. I wrapped the article up with the “hope that Democratic politicians and our media will, finally, call the GOP out on Wanniski’s and Reagan’s Two Santa Clauses scam.”

So far, no soap. I haven’t heard a single mention of Two Santas in the mainstream media, and I’ll bet you haven’t, either. That’s the bad news.

The good news — perhaps — is that the scam has lost its sting after working so well for them for 42 years. President Biden and House Democrats are standing firm, saying they have no intention of negotiating around the debt ceiling with terrorists threatening to destroy our economy.

But even if it’s the last gasp of this scam, it appears House Republicans plan to go out with a bang. So let’s quickly review how Two Santas works.

Back in 1976 the Republican Party was a smoking ruin. Nixon had resigned after being busted for lying about his “secret plan to end the Vietnam War,” his involvement in the Watergate burglary, and his taking bribes from Jimmy Hoffa and the Milk Lobby. He only avoided prosecution because Gerald Ford pardoned him. 

His first Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had also resigned to avoid prosecution for taking bribes.

Newspaper and television editorialists were openly speculating the GOP might implode. The Party hadn’t held the House of Representatives for more than two consecutive years since 1930(and wouldn’t until 1994), Jerry Ford had ended the War the year before in a national humiliation, the unemployment rate was over 7 percent, as was inflation after hovering around 11 percent the year before.

The Republican Party had little to offer the American people beyond anti-communism, their mainstay since the 1950s.

Americans knew it was Democrats who’d brought them Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, subsidized college, the right to unionize, antipoverty programs, and sent men to the moon. And they knew Republicans had opposed the “big government spending” associated with every single one of them.

But one man — a Republican strategist and editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal named Jude Wanniski — thought he saw a way out. It was, he argued, a strategy that could eventually bring about a permanent Republican governing majority.

In a WSJ op-ed that year, Wanniski pointed outthat Americans thought of Democrats as the “Party of Santa” and Republicans as, essentially, Scrooge. Republicans, he noted, hadn’t even proposed a tax cut in 22 years!

The solution, Wanniski proposed, was for Republicans to start pushing tax cuts whenever the GOP held the White House. This would establish their Santa bona fides, particularly if Democrats objected. It would flip the script so Democrats would fill the role of Scrooge.

To make it even easier for Republicans to cut taxes, Wanniski invented and publicized a new economic theory called Supply-Side Economics. When taxes went down, he said, government revenue would magically go up!

Four years later, when Reagan came into the White House with the election of 1980, he picked up Wanniski’s strategy and doubled down on it. (In the primary of 1980, he’d even run on it: his primary opponent, George Herbert Walker Bush, derided it as “Voodoo Economics.”)

Reagan not only cut taxes on the rich: he also radically increased government spending, goosing the economy into a sugar high while throwing the nation deeply into debt.

Citing Supply-Side Economics, in eight short years Reagan ran up greater deficits than every president from George Washington to Jerry Ford combined, taking our national debt from around $800 billion all the way up to around $2.6 trillion when he left office.

By 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency, Reagan and Bush’s debt had climbed to over $4.2 trillion, giving Republicans a chance to double down on Two Santas. Bill Clinton would be their test case.

House Republicans loudly demanded that Clinton “do something!” about the national debt, waving the debt ceiling like a cudgel. Over the next eight years they repeatedly wielded the debt ceiling, shutting down the government twice. The battles lifted Newt Gingrich to the speakership. 

Clinton caved, making massive cuts to the social safety net to get a balanced budget, a gut-shot to the Democratic Santa programs.

By the end of the Clinton presidency the formula was set. When Republicans held the White House, they’d spend like drunken Santas and cut taxes to the bone to drive up the national debt.

When Democrats come into the presidency, Republicans would use the debt ceiling to force them to cut their own social programs and shoot the Democratic Santa. 

As I noted last November, when Clinton shot Santa Claus the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as GOP politicians campaigned on a “Republican Santa” platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.

Democrats had controlled the House of Representatives in almost every single year since the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s, but with Newt Gingrich rigorously enforcing Wanniski’s Two Santa Claus strategy, they used the debt ceiling as a weapon.

State after state turned red and the Republican Party rose to take over, in less than a decade, every single lever of power in the federal government from the Supreme Court to the White House.

Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton in 1999Wanniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part:

“We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve… But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the ‘Two Santa Claus Theory’ in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts…”

Ed Crane, then-president of the Koch-funded Libertarian CATO Institute, noted in a memo that year:

“When Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Vin Weber, Connie Mack and the rest discovered Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of the debate over the proper role of government. … That’s why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments.”

Two Santa Clauses had fully seized the GOP mainstream.

Never again would Republicans worry about the debt or deficit when they were in office, and they knew well how to scream hysterically about it and hook in the economically naïve media as soon as Democrats again took power….

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Jess Piper lives in rural Missouri. She and her husband are farmers with five children. She taught American literature in the local public school. She describes herself as a “woke” progressive. When she added the history of slavery and African American literature to her classes, she said, none of her students (all white) felt embarrassed or uncomfortable. They identified with the abolitionists, not the slaveholders.

She ran for office when she realized that there were no Democrats, and she lost. But she wasn’t discouraged.

I am not a podcast person but I listened to Jess with close attention. On Twitter, she is @piper4Missouri.

You will enjoy listening to her podcast. She has a great voice and a great message.

In a remarkable bipartisan move, Congress passed a budget bill to finance the federal government until September 2023. Heather Cox Richardson describes the political maneuvering behind its passage. Republicans in the House wanted to wait until the new Congress is seated. They hold a slim majority. With Kevin McCarthy courting the MAGA caucus, who knows if the House would ever agree on a budget.

Jim Jordan—the Trump lackey from Ohio who seldom wears a jacket— keeps tweeting snide comments about the budget. But he never mentions that half the budget—$850 billion—is defense spending. I enjoy tweeting that fact to him.

Heather Cox Richardson wrote yesterday:

Today, by a vote of 225 to 201, the House passed the 4,155-page omnibus spending bill necessary to fund the government through September 30, 2023. The Senate passed it yesterday by a bipartisan vote of 68–29, and President Joe Biden has said he will sign it as soon as it gets to his desk.

The measure establishes nondefense discretionary spending at about $773 billion, an increase of about $68 billion, or 6%. It increases defense spending to $858 billion, an increase of about 10%. Defense funding is about $45 billion more than Biden had requested, reflecting the depletion of military stores in Ukraine, where the largest European war since World War II is raging, and the recognition of a military buildup with growing tensions between the U.S. and China.

Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) hammered out the bill over months of negotiations. Leahy and Shelby are the two most senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and both are retiring at the end of this session. Shelby told the Senate: “We know it’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot of good stuff in it.”

House Republicans refused to participate in the negotiations, tipping their hand to just how disorganized they are right now. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) insisted that the measure should wait until the Republicans take control of the House in 11 days. This reflects the determination of far-right extremists in the party to hold government funding hostage in order to get concessions from the Democrats.

But their positions are so extreme that most Republicans wanted to get the deal done before they could gum it up. Indeed, right now they are refusing to back Republican minority leader McCarthy for speaker, forcing him to more and more extreme positions to woo them. Earlier this week, McCarthy publicly claimed that if he becomes House speaker, he will reject any bill proposed by a senator who voted yes on the omnibus bill. After the measure passed the House, McCarthy spoke forcefully against it, prompting Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) to say: “After listening to that, it’s clear he doesn’t have the votes yet.”

The measure invests in education, childcare, and healthcare, giving boosts to the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and investing in mental health programs. It addresses the opioid crisis and invests in food security programs and in housing and heating assistance programs. It invests in the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service and makes a historic investment in the National Science Foundation. It raises the pay for members of the armed forces, and it invests in state and local law enforcement. It will also provide supplemental funding of about $45 billion for Ukraine aid and $41 billion for disaster relief. It reforms the Electoral Count Act to prevent a plan like that hatched by former president Donald Trump and his cronies to overturn an election, and it funds prosecutions stemming from the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“A lot of hard work, a lot of compromise,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) said. “But we funded the government with an aggressive investment in American families, American workers, American national defense.” Schumer called the bill “one of the most significant appropriations packages we’ve done in a really long time.”

And so, members of Congress are on their way home, in the nation’s severe winter storm, for the winter holiday.

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Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina offered a resolution to overturn the Biden administration’s new regulations on federal funding of charter schools. The vote was 49-49, strictly on party lines. Even charter school supporters like Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado voted to sustain the new rules.

Every Republican voted to reject the rules. The charter lobby was not at all pleased.

The Network for Public Education has worked very hard to persuade the Department of Education and Congress to regulate the federal Charter Schools Program. When Betsy DeVos was Secretary of Education, there was no chance that the Department would try to regulate the $440 million handed out to new charter schools every year. The federal government was the single biggest contributor to new charter schools.

NPE published reports about the large number of charter schools that closed or never opened. It wrote about for-profit charters that were enjoying federal largesse. It drew attention to charter school scandals, including white flight academies subsidized by federal funds.

Not until the Biden administration took office did anyone in the Department take seriously its responsibility to oversee federal funding of charters.

What do the new regulations require? What did every single Republican Senator try to block? We’re they upset about the limits on for-profit operators? Or did they object to transparency and accountability for federally funded charters?

NPE executive director Carol Burris explained in this article published at Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog:

For those who have long advocated for overhauling the CSP program, here are the significant gains.

Schools managed by for-profits will have a difficult time securing CSP grants and, in some cases, will be excluded from funding.

If an applicant has or will have a contract with a for-profit management company (or a “nonprofit management organization operated by or on behalf of a for-profit entity”), they must provide extensive information, including a copy or description of the contract, comprehensive leadership personnel reporting and the identification of possible related party transactions. Real estate contracts must be reported, and “evergreen contracts” in which there is automatic contract renewal are prohibited.

The school cannot share legal, accounting or auditing services with the for-profit. The state entity that awards the grant must publish the for-profit management contract between the awardee and the school.
The final regulations also include the reporting and exposure of the for-profit’s related entities. The Network for Public Education recommended the addition of “related entities” in its comments to the department. Our report, “Chartered for Profit,” explains how for-profit owners create separate corporations with different names to mask the complete control of the for-profit over operations of the school.

Finally, the applicant must assure that “the [for-profit] management company does not exercise full or substantial control over the charter school,” thereby barring any charter school operated by a for-profit with a “sweeps contract” from obtaining CSP funds.

There will be greater transparency and accountability for charter schools, State Entities, and CMOs that apply for grants.

This is probably the most underreported win for those who support charter school reform.

Transparency gains include:

• An assurance that the grantee holds a public hearing on the proposed or expanded charter school. These hearings must be well advertised and include information on how the school will increase diversity and not promote segregation. Schools are obligated to reach out to the community to encourage attendance and then provide a summary of the hearing as part of the application. These public hearings are required of direct grantees and subgrantees — both SE and CMO.
• The publication of for-profit management contracts.
• The publication of the names of awardee schools and their peer-reviewed applications by states and CMOs.
• A requirement that the school publish information for prospective parents, including fees, uniform requirements, disciplinary practices, transportation plans, and whether the school participates in the national free or reduced-price lunch program.

Accountability gains include:

• More substantial supervision by state entities of the schools that are awarded grants, including in-depth descriptions of how they will review applications, the peer review process they will use, and how they will select grantees for in-depth monitoring.
• Restrictions regarding the spending of grants by unauthorized schools. Charter schools not yet approved by an authorizer will be eligible to use planning grant funds; however, they cannot dip into any implementation funds until they are approved and have secured a facility. This new regulation will limit, though not prevent, all funding that goes to charter schools that never open.

Regulations to stop White-flight charters from receiving CSP funding and ensure the charter is needed in the community.

The final regulations are good, but not as strong as initially proposed.
One of the more controversial aspects of the new regulations was the need for the school to conduct a community impact analysis. The charter lobby focused on one example by which a school could show need (district over-enrollment) and used it as a rallying cry to garner opposition to the regulations. In the new regulations, the department clarifies that there are other ways to demonstrate need, including wait lists and offering a unique program. It also eliminated the need for the applicant to provide a district enrollment projection.

The community impact analysis is now called a needs analysis. That analysis must include evidence of community desire for the school; documentation of the school’s enrollment projection and how it was derived; a comparison of the demographics of the school with the area where the students are likely to be drawn; the projected impact of the school on racial and socio-economic district diversity; and an assurance that the school would not “hamper, delay or negatively affect” district desegregation efforts. Applicants would also have to submit their plan to ensure that the charter school does not increase racial segregation and isolation in the school district from which the charter would draw its students.

The department went to great pains to reassure applicants that schools in racially isolated districts would not need to show diversity (this straw man argument had been used by the charter lobby and even some editorial boards to fight the regulations, although the original rules had made that clear). Those schools that are unlikely to be diverse due to the school’s special mission would also have to submit an explanation.
Still, there are some concerns about unintended consequences of the regulations.

With the additional caveat regarding “special mission,” the department is trying to preserve grants to schools that are themed to promote, for example, Native American culture in an area where Native American students are a minority population in the district. That is understandable.
However, White-flight charter schools could skirt the regulation by arguing that their mission is to provide a Eurocentric, classical curriculum.

For example, charter schools opened by Hillsdale College — a small Christian college in Michigan that promotes a “classical” curriculum — are disproportionately White. These schools could claim that their mission appeals to students with European backgrounds and that the strong “anti-CRT” message in their “1776 curriculum” does not appeal to Black families. Although Hillsdale College does not take federal funds, Hillsdale charter schools do. We have identified nearly $7 million awarded to Hillsdale member charter schools up to April 2021. Newer schools have likely secured CSP grants as well.

Priority 2 — which encouraged charter/public school cooperation — was retained but categorized as “invitational” for the 2022 cycle.
The second straw man argument the National Alliance for Public Charters used to fuel their #backoff campaign on the regulations was the claim that charter/public school district cooperative projects were required. They were not. They were a priority, and priorities can be mandated, competitive (assigned a few points), or invitational (looked up favorably but no point value).

As I explained here, it is rare for a priority to be mandated. For example, of the six priorities for the 2022 State Entities grants, only one is required, which is that authorizers use best practices. The department now makes it clear that it is unlikely that charter/district cooperative activity will ever be a mandated priority while leaving the door open to it becoming a competitive priority after the 2022 award cycle.

All regulations, priorities and assurances go into effect for this 2022 grant cycle with one exception: Developer grant applicants, a small program in which individual schools apply, do not have to submit a needs analysis in 2022 only. That is because applications are due shortly.

Summary

Since 2019 when the Network for Public Education issued its reports on the federal Charter School Program, the program has come under increased congressional scrutiny. We have followed up by submitting letters to the department, often co-signed by other groups, demanding reform and exposing abuses of the program.

These new regulations are an essential first step in making sure that fewer tax dollars go to schools that never open, schools that quickly close, and for-profit operators. Unscrupulous individuals who used the program for their enrichment will find it more difficult to do so. State Entities that have pushed money out the door will now be forced to provide more oversight and supervision. And so they should. State Entities get 10 percent of every grant, representing millions of federal dollars, to use for such supervision.

We do not doubt that some applicants will still provide false information, as we found time and time again, but now as all peer-reviewed applications go online, groups such as ours will serve as watchdogs and report falsehoods and misrepresentations to the Office of the Inspector General.

And for all of the charter schools that are fronts for for-profit organizations, the Education Department just put a big sign on the door that says “you need not apply.”

One of the best programs created by the Biden administration was the Child Tax Credit. It cut child poverty in half. But Republicans, with the crucial vote of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, killed the program at the first opportunity.

The New York Times reviews the effects of the program and predicts that Democrats will seek to revive it. It’s hard to imagine a future for the Child Tax Credit so long as Republicans control the House of Representatives. The House controls appropriations. I’m afraid I don’t understand a political party whose ideology is to oppose any program other than tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals. Why fight a program that gives millions of children a better life? I don’t get it.

Jason DeParle wrote:

A pandemic-era program that sent monthly checks of up to $300 per child to most families drove down poverty rates. Amid new research about its merits, some Democrats are vowing to bring it back.

WASHINGTON — When the history of American hardship is written in some distant decade, two recent events may capture the whipsaw forces of the age.

Child poverty fell to a record low. And the program that did the most to reduce it vanished.

The story of that temporary program — technically, a tax-credit expansion but more plainly a series of monthly checks to most families with children — was extraordinary in every way. A guaranteed income in a country long resistant to one, the expanded child tax credit emerged from obscurity to win support from most of the Democratic Party, aided millions of low- and middle-income families during the pandemic and helped cut child poverty nearly in half.

Then it died, as President Biden’s efforts to preserve it drew unified Republican opposition and the defection of a crucial Senate Democrat. Critics called the monthly payments of up to $300 per child an expensive welfare scheme that would deter parents from working by providing cash aid regardless of whether they had jobs.

The checks have ended, but the battle has not. Supporters say new evidence shows the payments lowered hardship and nurtured children without reducing parental employment. Some Democrats hope to revive payments to small groups of parents as part of a year-end tax deal, and despite Republicans taking control of the House in January, restoring the full program remains a long-term Democratic goal.

“It was soul crushing not to get it, but the commitment to the tax credit remains — absolutely,” said Maria Cancian, a former Obama administration official who is dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. “We’ve shown that we can get money in the hands of parents and really make a difference.”

Skeptics argue the payments’ six-month run was too brief to test whether the guaranteed cash weakened incentives to work, and they find the short-term benefits less impressive than supporters say.

“There was a meaningful reduction in material hardship, but the reduction has been exaggerated,” said Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute. “It’s much smaller than you would expect when hearing the phrase, ‘Cut child poverty in half.’”

Each side might find support in the experience of Thomas Horton and his wife, Pamela Mudge, who are raising three children in Pitcairn, Pa., outside Pittsburgh.

Mr. Horton, 38, and a teenage son receive disability benefits, which became the family’s main support after Ms. Mudge lost work at the start of the pandemic. Tax credit payments of $750 a month raised their cash income by nearly 50 percent and lifted them above the poverty line.

While most of the aid went to bills, Mr. Horton cited two breaks from frugal norms that lent the children a boost. One was a trip to Walmart, to quiet their classmates’ taunts over their thrift-shop clothes. Another was the family’s first vacation — a single night in a state park, where they pitched a borrowed tent and made s’mores. “I saw a happiness in my wife and kids I hadn’t seen in a long time,” he said. “I felt like father of the year.”

At the same time, Mr. Horton acknowledged the payments’ end hastened his wife’s return to work — a point the program’s detractors would emphasize — and that her earnings roughly replaced the lost aid. (She works part-time so she can assist with his care for a bone disease that has required several back operations.) Mr. Horton said she would have returned to work anyway and, had the payments continued as supporters hoped, the children would be better off.

“We’re back to the everyday struggle,” he said.

Many countries offer cash aid to subsidize child-rearing costs. But historically the idea gained little traction in the United States, where faith in upward mobility held greater sway and racial divisions slowed the growth of the welfare state. As recently as the 1990s, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, eliminated guarantees of cash aid to poor families.

In part the growing interest in family aid is rooted in concerns about inequality. It also reflects science that showed the importance of the formative years and research (summarized in an influential 2019 report) that found government aid helps children advance.

An unlikely force accelerated the drive: a Republican tax cut. A 2017 law elevated the child tax credit by doubling its value and extending it to high-income families while keeping earnings requirements that denied the poorest third of children the full benefit.

Republicans argued that tax credits logically favor taxpayers, but Democrats saw inequity in a children’s policy that excluded children who most needed help. They sought to subsidize all poor and middle-class families, regardless of parental employment, and increase the benefit.

The pandemic offered the chance. The aid Mr. Biden won last year included six monthly payments (of $250 a child or $300 for those under 6) and a lump-sum payment for an additional six months that was paid this spring. Supporters had hoped that the program, kept temporary to limit costs, would prove too popular to lapse.

The one-year expansion of the credit, which cost about $100 billion, cut child poverty by 36 percent, according to census data. The overall decline in child poverty reached 46 percent, a one-year drop without precedent.

Food insecurity among households with children also reached a record low, the Agriculture Department reported. Surveys have consistently found that the children’s payments reduced food hardship, variously defined, in some cases by 25 percent or more.

“That’s a very big impact — very big,” said Elaine Waxman, a researcher at the Urban Institute. “People clearly used the money to buy food or we wouldn’t be seeing those kinds of numbers.”

The J.P. Morgan Chase Institute found the payments increased bank balances, creating a cushion for emergencies. Researchers at Columbia University found the level of hardship among New Yorkers was the lowest in the five years for which there is data.

“To put it bluntly. the child tax credit was a really good thing,” said Megan A. Curran, an analyst at Columbia’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy who published a review of recent studies. “These are some of the most impressive results we’ve ever seen from a single policy.”

But some hardships seemed largely unaffected. Multiple studies found little or no impact on parents’ ability to pay rent, perhaps because housing payments are large. While supporters hoped the credit would boost educational or enrichment spending, a study that posed the question directly found it had not. And there was little impact on parental depression or stress, perhaps because payments expired too soon to address entrenched problems

The payments’ effect on parents’ decisions to work has drawn extensive interest. One study found the aid coincided with an employment decline of two percentage points, though only among the least-educated parents. But at least six studies found no change in parental employment, though a decline would likely take longer than six months to fully appear…

Scott Winship of the American Enterprise Institute argues that last year’s program has little predictive value because the conditions were so unusual, with short-lived payments, other forms of temporary aid, and a job market skewed by the virus. “Studying a six-month program in the midst of a pandemic just doesn’t give you much information,” he said.

But others say a real-world test that involved more than 60 million children is more rigorous than the small experiments that often shape policies. “It’s worlds ahead of the kind of evidence we usually have,” said H. Luke Shaefer, a researcher at the University of Michigan who found that hardships fell as soon as the payments started and rose as soon as they stopped.

Last year, Mr. Biden’s lengthy attempt to continue the payments failed to persuade Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who criticized the program’s costs and said aid should be limited to parents who work.

Despite bets on its popularity, the program expired with little political backlash, and Democrats, accused of inflationary spending, said little about it in congressional campaigns. The credit reverted to its previous state: a $2,000 annual benefit that includes high-income families but fails to fully reach those in the bottom third

Robert Greenstein of the Brookings Institution, a longtime advocate for safety net programs, urged Congress to reinstate payments to some parents in exchange for preserving a corporate tax break that expires this year. “Its benefits are proven, while the idea that the there might be some small adverse effect down the road is merely speculation,” he said…

Supporters of the credit often lament that the United States has higher child poverty rates than many advanced countries (with poverty defined as half of each nation’s median income). Zachary Parolin, a researcher affiliated with Columbia University, found that the expanded credit raised the American rankto 21st of 53 nations, from 40th — to a place beside Germany, rather than Bulgaria.

He was stunned when the payments ceased. “I had this theory that once the policy is there there’s no way to get rid of it,” he said. “I was wrong — it’s gone.”

Ohio is a state dominated by Republicans. When progressive candidates won seats on the state board in the recent election, Republicans moved swiftly to strip the state board of its powers and transfer them to a new state agency.

The state board has 19 seats. Eleven are elected. Eight are appointed by the Governor, Republican Mike DeWine.

News5 reported on the GOP plan to strip the state board of its powers.

For the first time in years, progressive candidates will control the elected seats on the executive agency, regulating if a resolution is able to pass or not. Candidates are voted on as nonpartisan candidates, however, each leans conservative or progressive and will be endorsed by a party. School board candidates tend to share their beliefs publically.

Three of the five seats up for grabs were taken by liberal candidates. Tom Jackson, of Solon, beat out incumbent Tim Miller by about 50,000 votes. Teresa Fedor, a now-former state senator from Toledo, beat opponent Sarah McGervey by more than 30,000 votes. Katie Hofmann, of Cincinnati, beat out incumbent Jenny Kilgore by around 30,000 votes.

“We’re just looking forward to getting back to Columbus and doing the people’s work,” Jackson told News 5.

Now, seven of the 11 elected seats are held by Democrats. The elected seats ensure that the total board can’t pass all resolutions it wants, since it needs a 2/3 majority. Of the 19 total seats, eight were appointed by Gov. DeWine. Now, with 12 GOP seats, a Democrat would need to switch over for policy to pass. This could change depending on attendance.

Even though Republicans hold a majority, they don’t have a 2/3 majority, and they won’t be able to pass resolutions without at least one Democrat.

Republican Governor Mike DeWine endorsed the plan to neuter the state board.

Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday he supports an Ohio Senate bill that would overhaul the Ohio Department of Education, gut powers from the Ohio State Board of Education and give his office more oversight of education.

“I think virtually every governor for 40 or 50 years has wanted to have more control in regard to the Department of Education,” DeWine, a Republican, told reporters. “So this governor is not going to be different. You know, I support the bill.”

Senate Bill 178 would put the Ohio Department of Education under a cabinet-level official in the governor’s office and rename the agency the Department of Education and Workforce, which would be called by the acronym DEW. The cabinet official would oversee the department, a task currently held by the state school board. The department would have two divisions: one for primary and secondary education and one for workforce training.

The 19-member state school board, made up of 11 elected members and eight members appointed by the governor, would continue to exist, but it would be stripped of most of its duties. It would oversee educator licensing and select the superintendent of public instruction, who would be a secretary to the board and an advisor to the DEW leader in the governor’s office.

“Candidly, the bill was not our idea, but I support the bill,” DeWine said. “I think what the public expects is accountability. And it’s hard to have accountability under our current system. You know, having the Department of Education with kind of a joint control between the governor’s office and the governor on certain areas, and other areas be the state elected Board of Education, I think is a very significant improvement.”

We have seen the same anti-democratic move in other states, like Indiana and North Carolina, where the legislature removed powers from the Governor or state superintendent so as to keep control of education in Republican hands, disregarding the voters’ wishes.

Robert Hubbell is a favorite blogger of mine because he makes so much sense of events. His views are informative and often reflect what I think but have not yet written. He posted this right before Thanksgiving.

He writes:

          Although there were many significant political developments on Tuesday, I want to start by focusing on gratitude for what we achieved during the midterms. Because we were able to defy “conventional wisdom” about midterm losses by the party in power, we have fundamentally altered the political dynamic for the better going into 2024.

The threat to democracy remains, but Republicans are chastened rather than emboldened, and Democrats are emboldened rather than discouraged. It could have been otherwise—and would have been but for the incredible devotion of tens of millions of Americans who made incredible sacrifices to defend democracy.

          Everyone who contributed to the victory should be proud in equal measure, no matter how large or small your contribution. Indeed, the simple act of voting in a system designed to suppress some voters can be a noteworthy accomplishment. So, I hope you will take a moment over the next few days to recognize the accomplishment achieved by Democrats in the 2022 midterms.

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post published a superb essay on gratitude. I recommend that you read the entire essay in WaPo. See Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Opinion | Democracy defenders have many reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving.

          I recommend that you read Rubin’s essay in full, but in case you don’t, here is a fair sampling:

I’m grateful not to wake up every morning with a sense of impending doom that a cast of election deniers will control key roles in administrating elections in 2024.

I’m grateful many in the media helped identify election deniers for Americans and educated them about the danger of granting them power to discard the will of voters.

I’m grateful to voters, who for the third consecutive election, showed there is a majority — even if a frightfully narrow one — that rejects authoritarianism, crude appeals to racism and xenophobia, and downright nutty and mean candidates.

I’m grateful younger voters are developing a habit of voting in midterms.

I’m grateful to the thousands of election officials, workers and volunteers who pulled off another exceptionally efficient and peaceful exercise in democracy.

I’m grateful to the lawyers who litigated in defense of voting access and impartial election administration.

I’m grateful voters did not ignore their concerns for democracy and women’s rights just because inflation is high.

I’m grateful that nearly all broadcast networks refused to break from regular programming to cover Donald Trump’s presidential campaign announcement.

I’m grateful voters are becoming accustomed to early voting and voting by mail.

I’m grateful President Biden disregarded cynical pundits and reporters to focus on the threat from MAGA extremism.

Jennifer Rubin’s list continues, but you get the point. I hope that you can see your contribution in the list above. We have much to be thankful for. Let’s find the time in the next few days to discern the reasons for gratitude in our lives. Those reasons are abundant—but we need to look for them amid the din and distractions of modern life.

More on GOP’s LGBTQ attacks.

          Three days after the mass killing at Club Q, GOP candidate Herschel Walker released an ad that criticizes Raphael Warnock for supporting the rights of an LGBTQ athlete. See CNN, ‘This ad is hate’: CNN guest shreds Herschel Walker for anti-transgender ad hours after Club Q shooting. Of all of the issues that confront the American people, Herschel Walker chose to continue the culture war on LGBTQ. The insensitivity and cruelty of the timing speaks volumes about who Walker is . . . or at least, who the people are who are telling Walker what to say.

          The ad features a female swimmer who complains about having to compete against a “biological male,” but she fails to mention that both she and the “biological male” were beaten by four female swimmers. That is what counts as a tragedy in the GOP culture war. But the point is not whether it is “fair” for transgender athletes to compete in college sports; it is that the GOP has chosen this moment and this issue for political advantage—before the victims of the Club Q mass murder have been buried.

Legal developments in the effort to hold Trump accountable.

In rapid succession, Trump suffered a series of setbacks in his efforts to evade accountability for his crimes. And in most instances, Trump didn’t merely lose—he lost “bigly.”

          The Supreme Court rejected (9-0) Trump’s last-ditch efforts to prevent the House Ways & Means Committee from obtaining the last five years of his tax returns. See CNN, Trump tax returns: Supreme Court clears way for House to get former president’s taxes. As a result, the Treasury Department must turn over the returns. The question is, “When?” Republicans will take over control of the Committee on January 3, 2023—and will likely rescind the request for the returns. Let’s hope that the Treasury Department moves with dispatch. But even so, the returns must remain confidential within the Committee; the public will not likely see the returns anytime soon. Still, the disclosure to a congressional committee is progress.

          A panel of the 11th Circuit eviscerated Trump’s arguments in defense of the special master appointment in the Mar-a-Lago search. Every observer agrees that the 11th Circuit will overrule Judge Cannon’s order appointing the special master—and may dismiss the case entirely. Trump’s lawyer, Jim Trusty, could not answer basic questions about why Judge Cannon should have exercised jurisdiction over Trump’s lawsuit. As a result, the DOJ (through special counsel Jack Smith) will be able to continue the Mar-a-Lago investigation without interference by Judge Cannon or oversight by special master Judge Dearie.

          Trump’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully (for the third time) to dismiss the New York Attorney General’s civil suit against the Trump organization. New York state judge Arthur Engoron shut down Trump’s attorney time and again. Rather than accept defeat, Trump’s attorney blamed the judge. Alina Habba said,

          This is why we shouldn’t be before you. You have a clear bias against our client. You have for a year and a half. Every time we come to court, you’re prepared to rule against us.

          Of course, one explanation not considered by Ms. Habba is that Trump’s arguments are losers.

          In the above lawsuit against the Trump Organization, Judge Engoron rejected a request by Ivanka Trump that her finances be excluded from oversight by a court-appointed monitor. The monitor, retired federal judge Barbara S. Jones has been charged with compiling a “full and accurate description of the corporate structure” of the Trump Organization. The Trumps, including Ivanka, must also inform the monitor 30 days in advance of shifting any assets. See The Daily Beast, Ivanka Trump Tried to Dodge Her Court-Appointed Financial Monitor.

          There’s more, but you get the point. Trump is fighting multiple losing battles. One of them is bound to stick.

Kevin McCarthy’s performative drama.

         Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene must have Kevin McCarthy in a “double chickenwing camel clutch” wrestling hold. To satisfy the two of them (and other extremists in the party), McCarthy is twisting himself into ridiculous positions to win their votes. On Tuesday, he demanded that DHS Secretary Mayorkas “resign or be prepared to be impeached.” See The Hill, McCarthy calls on DHS Secretary Mayorkas to resign, threatens impeachment inquiry.

          McCarthy’s demand is simultaneously pathetic and outrageous. It is doubtful that the House would impeach Mayorkas, but the Senate would never convict. So, what’s the point? McCarthy would be pursuing the same grievance-fueled messaging that resulted in a disastrous midterm for Republicans. McCarthy must be desperate. Indeed, it appears that McCarthy has dwindling prospects for being elected speaker. See Charlie Sykes, The Bulwark / Morning Shots, Kevin McCarthy’s “Crossover” Problem.

          I know many readers are worried about the supposed onslaught of investigations in the GOP House during the next session of Congress. But there is reason to believe that those investigations will be a flop. See David Frum in The Atlantic, Another Flop From GOP Productions. The GOP broke its pick on ten Benghazi investigations for years and came up with nothing. As Frum notes, the most likely result of an investigation of Hunter Biden’s laptop will be the revelation that Joe Biden is a loving father who was desperately trying to help a son in trouble.

          How do Republicans expect Americans to react to that disclosure? If congressional Republicans had empathy and decency, they would understand that Americans would find those disclosures endearing. So, let’s relax and see whether Republicans can do anything in their investigations and impeachments besides embarrassing themselves.

Helping the Georgia Alliance for Progress “get out the vote” for Senator Warnock.

          For those of you looking to donate in the final push in Georgia, please consider joining Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water, along with Senate Circle, Markers For Democracy, Team Min, Downtown Nasty Women’s Social Group, and The Wednesday Group who are hosting Christine White of the Georgia Alliance for Progress. The group is working to fund the best grassroots organizations in Georgia—specifically their canvassing programs— who are still underfunded with only weeks to go. You can give here, and please feel free to share the link with friends and family who want to give. The Zoom is on Monday, November 28 at 8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central, /6:00 PM Mountain/5:00 PM Pacific/4:00 PM Alaska.

Concluding Thoughts.

What Jennifer Rubin said.

Andrew Van Wagner argues persuasively in this article that the media tries so hard to avoid charges of left wing bias that it ends up repeating the Republican narrative. In bending over backwards, he writes, the media has an anti-Democratic bias.

This “both-sides-ism” led the media to predict a Red Wave, to anticipate how the Democrats would react to their looming election disaster. If you follow the headlines, Democrats were about to take a drubbing.

Journalists have substituted election predictions for substantive coverage of the issues. Voters end up less informed when reporting focuses on the horse race.

He writes:

It would be interesting to find out how many positive stories the NYT ran about the Democrats—or their electoral chances—in the week before the election. You can see potential anti-Democratic bias in the 5 November 2022 NYTheadline “Biden and Obama Reunite in a Last-Ditch Effort to Save Their Party”—you can also see potential anti-Democratic bias if you look at the stories on the NYT’s 7 November 2022 front page, which says “Party’s Outlook Bleak” and “Democrats Brace for Losses”.

Imagine reporting that focused on the issues rather than predicting the outcome.

As you know, it is customary for the party in power to lose a large number of seats in the midterms. As I write, at 1:33 am, John Fetterman was elected to the Senate. Maggie Hassan was re-elected to the Senate in New Hampshire. Mark Kelly was leading in Arizona. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker were in a virtual tie in Georgia. The loss of seats by Democrats in the House appeared to be minimal. Control of both houses of Congress was unresolved.

There was no red wave.

Trump’s only big winner was J.D. Vance in Ohio, who beat the far better qualified Tim Ryan. Trump does not have a winning touch, and DeSanctimonious is planning to take him down.

Lauren Boebert, the gun-toting Colorado Congresswoman, was apparently defeated. As was election denier Kari Lake in Arizona.

The fabulous Katie Porter, Congresswoman from California, was re-elected, as was Michigan Governor Whitmer and New York Governor Hochul, both defeating Trump lackeys.

I told you not to believe the polls and pundits who predicted a red wave. They were wrong. The only ballot that counts is the one you and your fellow citizens cast.

Democracy is alive. Challenges remain. The Republican Party still must resolve whether it is a party of sensible, responsible people or a party of lunatics. Maybe this election will help them break free of Trump‘s Dead Hand.

It will take days or weeks to know which party controls the Senate and the House.

But this much is clear: this election went against tradition. The red wave was a trickle.

Many of the contested seats for the House and the Senate are very close. I stopped watching the polls a week or so ago, and I no longer believe in them. They are often wrong, and they tend to depress the vote if your candidate is either far ahead or far behind. Ignore the polls and get out and vote if you haven’t done so already.

I voted last week, but I’m still biting my nails. It’s unbelievable to me that some of the Republican candidates are in the running, even though they spout the Big Lie, praise the insurrectionists who tried to overturn the peaceful transition of power, and in some cases have said they won’t concede if they lose. They don’t believe in our system of government.

Are we in a period of national madness? Call it the Trump Effect. His Attorney General told him he had lost; his White House Counsel told him he had lost. A parade of decent, responsible people who worked for him told him he had lost.

But he’s a sore loser. Even though every legal challenge his representatives filed was thrown out of court, including twice by the Supreme Court, he found flaky attorneys to stoke his huge ego.

Trump spoke to a largely Hispanic audience in Miami yesterday, where he said “The socialist, communist and Marxist direction of the radical Democratic Party is one of the biggest reasons that Hispanic Americans are joining our movement by the millions and millions and millions,” Trump said. The crowd cheered him and chanted, “We love you.”

The question before us in tomorrow’s ballot is whether we will uphold the norms of our democracy and our Constitution or whether the aggrieved Trump followers will destroy our democracy by electing people who don’t believe in it.

My advice: VOTE BLUE, NO MATTER WHO.

Vote as if our democracy hangs in the balance: It does.

Vote as though the election hinges on your ballot: It does.

The following races are crucial for maintaining Democratic control of the Senate:

Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia.

Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona.

Senator Catharine Cortez Masto of Nevada.

If you have friends or family in any of these states, call them and urge them to vote.

Remind them : EVERY VOTE COUNTS.