Weak economist and weaker legislator

Congressman Brat’s June 21 Star-Exponent article shows that he is not a very good academic, nor an economist.

From a single compromised source, Brat asserts that “illegal migration has exploded 57 percent in less than two years.”  On the contrary, the Pew Research Center and the Department of Homeland Security both report that the total population of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has stabilized in recent years and fallen from its 2007 high.

Since the founding of the Republic, anti-immigration voices like Brat’s, argue that immigration, unauthorized or otherwise, take jobs away.  Sometimes this false theory is tested, such as when Alabama passed H.B. 56 in 2011.

This is one of the broadest and most draconian anti-immigrant bills any state has passed.  The economic damage was immediate.  Farmers found that Americans are not willing to work under harsh working conditions for low pay.  A zealous application of H.B. 56 has only embarrassed the state.

On November 18, 2011, a German Mercedes-Benz executive was arrested at a check point for not having proper documentation while driving to his factory.  H.B. 56 has been successfully challenged in the courts, criticized in business and public safety circles and is in tatters.

As an economics professor, Brat should know the role of supply and demand.  The object of business is to get the cheapest labor available.  Immigration, unauthorized or not, is the supply side that responds to business’ demand.

Illegal immigrants are obviously a vulnerable group and can be paid a pittance; as Irish, Italian, Greek, Eastern European or Chinese immigrants found in their time.

If economist Brat wants to talk about the supply of immigrants he also has to address the demand side of the equation.  Unauthorized immigrants wouldn’t come if business didn’t see them as cheap, vulnerable labor willing to do labor others reject.  Or maybe professor Brat is encouraging his children to set their sights on landing a job in mid-West slaughter houses.

Brat claims to share all of our concerns about stagnant wages and a languishing economy, but he doesn’t connect those effects with the do-nothing, obstructionist policies he promotes in Congress:  Do not repair the infrastructure, which would mean good, local jobs; do not fix the outdated air traffic control system, nor promote new technologies, deny science and repeatedly reject health care for the most vulnerable among us.

The last two sessions of Congress have not passed a single budget — creating great uncertainty in the business world. This continuing Congressional inaction caused the downgrading of U.S. bonds.  Uncertain business leaders, like worried workers, will not make a productive contribution to the economy if the Congress refuses to make its own forthright and positive contribution. Meanwhile, we will all be eating Oreo’s from Mexico while Brat and Trump make up new unsubstantiated assertions about the economy.

Harold A. Boyd, chairman

Culpeper County Democratic Committee

Note: reprinted with author’s permission and originally appearing here.

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Editors comment:  

While it’s a given that Brat is at best a 2nd rate economist, and a even worse Congressman, Mr. Boyd was being extremely charitable in pointing out how Brat doesn’t understand something as basic as supply and demand.

And it Brat’s case, it’s even worse, he is deliberately misleading people with extreme and alarmist claims, like the country is facing ~ $127 trillion in liabilities. A figure which exceeds the nation’s annual economic output by a factor of 7, and is nearly double the worlds annual economic output.

So clearly something doesn’t add up, and like his abuse of supply and demand, Brat is deliberately looking at only one side of the equation, all the while expecting us to believe his alarmist claims, and that the other side doesn’t’ exist.

The only way his claims could be remotely “true,” would be if you added up all the projected costs of Government programs over the next few decades, the liabilities, while simultaneously ignoring the asset side of the equation that exceeds the so called “unfunded liabilities” by a factor of 2 to 3.

Jon Taylor

Fear is the path to the dark side

President Franklin D. Roosevelt inspired America with his first Inaugural Address – “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Today, terrorism poses the greatest challenge to life and stability, because acts of terror are designed to instill fear.  The events in Paris, Brussels, Beirut and Baghdad in recent months were unspeakable atrocities.  People are paralyzed by fear.  Terrorists hope we will be so afraid that America will abandon the core beliefs and cherished traditions that have created a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.

As Gen. David Petraeus wrote in the Washington Post on May 15, anti-Islamic rhetoric is totally counterproductive. Those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims are playing directly into the hands of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Such speech undermines our ability to defeat Islamist extremists by alienating and undermining the allies whose help we most need: namely Muslims.  Petraeus points out that any success we have achieved in the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and today in Iraq is because we have Muslim allies who are willing to work and die with us.  Demonizing a religious faith and its adherents not only runs counter to our most cherished and fundamental values; it is also corrosive to our vital national security interests.

Unfortunately, the terrorists already have enablers in this country, parroting these echoes of fear.  Donald Trump says America should not allow any Muslim to enter the United States — not even the mayor of London, not a student from Indonesia, not an orphan from Syria.  This is exactly the reaction the terrorists want.

No government has ever been overthrown by terrorists.  In modern times, no society has been left in the dust bin of history because of the act of a terrorist. Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680 others — the United States government did not fall.  Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine African-Americans in a church in South Carolina, did not start a race war.  Car bombs in Baghdad have killed thousands, yet the government still stands and its troops are now entering Fallujah and squeezing the terrorist heartland.

Some say the invasion of Iraq was a perfect example of the errors that terrorism can make politicians, policy makers and leaders commit if they don’t keep their wits about them.  Candidate Trump, who, heaven forbid, could shortly have his finger on the nuclear button, has spoken happily of bombing the terrorists into oblivion.

But terrorist groups such as ISIS are intermixed with the civilian population, effectively precluding such an option.  Bombing the lot of them would be genocide.  What better way to allow ISIS a propaganda victory than the slaughter of whole populations — terrorism wins when we lose our heads.

In the wake of the Paris slaughter and the Beirut bombing, many — not all — people are taking a jaundiced look at the refugees fleeing the Middle East.  There are voices in America, particularly from Republican governors, saying “no Syrian refugees here.”  Their fear is so great that they want to slap away the two year vetting process and accompanying long delays in achieving refugee status.   These voices are fulfilling the deepest desires of the ISIS leadership whose propaganda line is that there is no escape from the Islamic State.

In their fear, these governors don’t differentiate among the refugees.  The refugees fleeing ISIS and heading for Europe are not just Syrians, or Iraqis or Afghans.  They come because their tribal or religious affiliations make them vulnerable.  They are Christians, or Copts or Baha’is.  They are Yazidis, Hazara, Uzbeks or other minority ethnic groups and tribes.  They are not one undifferentiated Muslim mass, but clumps of people who have no hope as these various conflicts go on year after year in their neighborhoods, without an end in sight.

Trump at the national level and governors at the state level are not the only enablers of ISIS propaganda.  In Culpeper, people cheered at the board of supervisors meeting when it voted against approving indoor plumping for a mosque.  The cheers were not in opposition to good sanitation; the crowd was cheering because the board denied other community members the church of their choice.  They cheered because they are religious and ethnic bigots.  Vicious on-line comments in the aftermath made the same points.

So, even here in our shining city on the hill, we have haters working hard to fulfill the propaganda line of terrorists.

Nevertheless, America was not built on fear and America’s international reputation is not that of a feared or fearing nation.  On tomorrow’s 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, where so many sacrificed so much to free the world from tyranny, we should rededicate ourselves to deliberate, rational statesmanship and the responsible application of military force to vanquish the terrorist curse.

We will not succeed by succumbing to the terrorists’ message of fear.  As Yoda famously said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  America must lead in the opposite direction.

Mike McClary

Note: reprinted with author’s permission and originally appearing here.

Cutthroats and Useful Idiots

If your reading of local commentary extends beyond papers like the Central Virginian, you might appreciate an older 2014 letter from the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star written by A. Beecher Sutherland, now a former member of the Orange County Republican Committee.

Where he states that “The Republican Party or, more specifically, the tea party Republicans, have just slit their throats in the 7th District of Virginia,” and when you “… mix enthusiasm with stupidityyou soon havewhat Vladimir Lenin once referred to as “useful idiots.”

Yet when you ask any of them why they worked so hard to get rid of Eric Cantor, they are hard pressed to give any coherent answers. And since most of these folks were the same ones responding enthusiastically to Cantor’s dog whistles for these past seven elections, one has to ask, what changed their minds?

Was it really because those dog whistles were starting sounding shriller and shriller, and less “real” as the years went by? Or was it because they needed something else to focus on, something that could give all their fears and prejudices a new relevancy?

And since much of conservative’s cultural identity is based on being opposed to everything liberal, despising anything associated with it, including empiricism and reason, and “where being a “conservative” increasingly means taking a contemptuous view of reality. And so the proudly ignorant grow more belligerent, day after day.”

Brats Supporters

And while these enthusiastic tea party supporters certainly did their part in ridding the 7th district of Eric Cantor,  they were joined by many Democrats who remain convinced it was their vote that put Brat over the top.  Now there would finally be a “weak” Republican in office who could be defeated over the course of the next few election cycles.

What neither Democrats or Republicans realized is that Brat wasn’t just another pretty boy party stooge, he is just one of many Manchurian candidates  supported by a cadre of right wing supporters from around the country, and he’s been involved in implementing their agenda for over a decade.

Even before formally entering into politics,  Dave Brat was  a proud participant in the BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program funded by John Allison, head of the  Cato Institute, one of the many organizations sponsored by the Koch brothers.

According to Allison, this is just one of 68 programs around the country “at most of the major universities in our operating area.” Boasting that “many [students] indicate the program is the first time they have heard capitalism defended from an ethical perspective.”

As a college professor, Dave Brat was  a bought-and-paid-for shill who was part of a well coordinated effort to steer the next generation of young people into their brand of libertarian economics.

But the connections between Brat and his libertarian supporters doesn’t stop there. And even though many on the left felt that his historic primary win seemed to have the Koch brothers fingerprints all over it, in fact both the Koch Industries’ PAC and David Koch personally donated to Cantor’s campaign.

What Democrats and Cantor both missed was that during the 2014 primary campaign, right-wing radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin were pushing Brat non-stop on their radio shows. And according to a recent  Politico report, their shows were part of a fast growing and influential network of conservative radio talk shows that were driving and keeping the countries conservative movement alive.

Filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that conservative groups (including the Koch Brothers sponsored group Americans for Prosperity) spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for sponsorship’s with a handful of influential talkers… Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented.”

Levin alone apparently took about $757,000 from Americans for Prosperity over the 2012 election cycle, and according to Politico, he’s still taking money from them. And while we don’t know specifics about just how much money Ingraham took from conservative groups, we do know that she is or at least was taking money from them, which could go a long way towards explaining her enthusiasm for David Brat.

Nor does Brat’s plutocratic sponsorship stop there, since taking office he has been a regular contributor to the Washington Times  (aka Moonie Times) and the Washington Examiner, along with being given seemingly limitless op-ed space in the BH Media Group chain of regional papers, which includes the conservative Richmond Times Disgrace, the Charlottesville Daily Progress, and the Fredericksburg Fer-De-Lance Star.

It should be noted that the Examiner, along with The Weekly Standard, one of the nation’s most influential conservative magazines , AND now daily web site is owned by Phil Anshutz, an ultra conservative billionaire. And like the Standard’s original owner, Rupert Murdoch, Anshutz’s instructions to his employees were explicit, “…nothing but conservative columns and conservative op-ed writers.”

So make no mistake, “David Brat isn’t just some college professor, he’s a foot soldier of the libertarian billionaire class and its army of talk radio hosts. This is the brave new world of dark money politics, a raving-loon industrial complex … financed by a vast lagoon of plutocratic payola.

And just days after his primary win Brat received the maximum $5,000 donation from Sarah Palin’s leadership PAC, the National Association for Gun Rights PAC, the National Automobile Dealers Association’s PAC and Rep. Louie Gohmert‘s (R-Texas) leadership PAC.

And despite campaigning against corporate sponsorship, Brat has managed to capture many of Cantor’s former supporters as his own, receiving contributions from several corporate PACs that had been Cantor donors, including those of tobacco giant Altria, professional services firm Deloitte and AKSM, a medical company.

Brat’s campaign received more than $550,000 from  individual donors, and most of that — $468,000 — came in contributions of greater than $200, with nearly a third of those  donations coming from groups or individuals outside Virginia.

Several high-profile House members, as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee, have kicked in to help the giant-slayer as well. And the man responsible for a seismic shakeup in the House Republican leadership has since received campaign contributions from its top members — Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Boehner and McCarthy joined fellow Republican Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Randy Forbes (R-Va.) in donating to Brat’s campaign through their leadership PACs, giving in amounts that ranged from $1,000 to $5,000.. with Scalise giving $2,000 directly from his campaign account.

Other donors to Brat’s campaign include the Senate Conservatives Fund, Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie and of course the Koch Industries‘ corporate PAC.

Whenever Brat speaks in public, you can count on the entire affair being tightly controlled, scripted and little more than dog and pony shows for the faithful.

From his  informal meet & greets at brewery’s to more Town Hall’s he goes out of his way to give his supporters the impression that he’s taking from the heart.  Although to call these Town Halls meetings informative, is to give credence to his pretense of “listening” to what the audience has to say.

With one commentator over at the conservative blog Bearing Drift making the following observations about Brat’s meetings, “But… But… But… Brat listens to his constituents! It doesn’t matter if he does anything in Congress, is a nativist, or is incompetent, he strokes the egos of his base and that’s what matters! It really is a cultish devotion to an Elmer Gantry like snake oil salesman.

Evidence

Frankly it’s scary to see his call and response speeches to his followers. He frames his questions in such a way as to get the answers he wants and they suspend critical thinking to provide those answers. And then feel like he is “listening“.

Anyone  who attended his Town Hall in Louisa this past February, would have found this observation to be an accurate take on what happened.  The purpose of that Town Hall wasn’t to inform the people about his actions in Congress, it was a tent revival gathering of the faithful.

And just like the 2014 Town Hall hosted by State Republican Delegate Farrell, and Senators Reeves and Garrett, Brat told the audience  exactly what they wanted to hear.

With such a cast of characters supporting him, perhaps that’s why Mr. Sutherland decided to leave the Republican party. Let’s hope more come to their senses after his first do-nothing term in office and follow suite, because it’s obvious that Brat’s all about exploiting existing nativistic and racist sentiments in order to cover how faithfully he implements his master’s agenda.

Jon Taylor

America’s National Embarrassment

Donald Trump has become a total embarrassment, not only to the traditions of the Grand Old Party, but to the entire nation, despite what his supporters may say about his “ideal” qualifications for the highest office in the land.

The rest of the world has gone from laughter at this caricature of America to downright horror at the thought that this demagogue could someday have his finger on the nuclear launch button and, in some irrational fit of pique at some foreign critic, could unleash total devastation on an undeserving and unsuspecting world.

Trump supporters say, “how could he be worse than all the other candidates for the presidency from both parties?”  “He will shake things up in Washington.”  “He understands my pain with national politics.”  “He will make America great again.”  Veteran journalist Bob Woodward believes Trump’s supporters just want to have “a wrecking ball in Washington.”

Now, this cheap fraud is trying to make political hay out of the atrocity in Orlando, braying about how he is somehow right and can keep America safe. What pathetic bravado from a man who knows virtually nothing about the world around him. He shrilly shouts, “it’s impossible for our country to survive.” But most people don’t want to hear this tribalistic nonsense.  Our country has survived how many wars and conflicts, including two major world wars and our own civil war, and we can’t defeat, in comparison, a few miserable terrorists?

Trump is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with this country:  racism, bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, bullying, islamophobia, science bashing, birtherism, mocking the disabled and fanning the flames of hysteria.

Is there any group of people Trump will not demean or diminish?  Last Tuesday, on the 241st birthday of the United States Army, without any facts whatsoever, he accused our soldiers of stealing millions of dollars in aid money in Iraq, and returning to this country to live like high rollers.

In a snit, Trump revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post, for reporting his insinuation that Obama was somehow connected with the Orlando shooting, or at the very least sympathizes with terrorists.  This is the kind of person we want dealing with foreign leaders?  Is this the way he might act as president?  Will he do his best to restrict freedom of the press for those he doesn’t like?

When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan accused Trump of “textbook” racism (while continuing his support of Trump’s candidacy), Trump’s campaign fired back, accusing Ryan of racism.  What?  Senator Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee said that Trump’s unhinged firebrand speech last Tuesday was not the kind of thing that one would expect from a president trying to lead the nation through difficult times.  While Republican leaders are struggling to react to Trump’s remarks, Jimmie Fallon joked, “Trump turned 70 today. Instead of blowing out the candles on his cake, he just insulted them until they put themselves out.

Who are Trump’s supporters?  The conventional wisdom is that they tend to be male, white and poor.  They generally have little or no higher education and are poorly informed.  They feel trampled by globalization and suffer from the dissolution of manufacturing employment.  They feel powerless and voicelessness and so gravitate towards authoritarianism.

Meg Whitman, major Republican donor and CEO of Hewlett Packard, likens Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, as do Anne Frank’s step-sister, former Mexican president Vicente Fox and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

As P.T. Barnum so famously is supposed to have remarked, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  How many suckers voted for Donald Trump in the primaries, thinking they were voting in their own self interests?  More than 13 million.  It’s nothing new, people haven’t been voting in their own self-interest for years.  Look at all the incumbents in office who have done absolutely nothing for voters since 2010 in terms of jobs, health care, repairing crumbling infrastructure, stimulating the economy or increasing wages.

Of course, this column will not change the minds of any of the Trump supporters. These gullible and delusional trolls and haters will continue to drink Trump’s Kool-Aid.  It may be helpful for the rest of us, however, to realize the magnitude of the disaster should Trump actually be elected.  Beware and be aware when you go to cast your vote in November.  Your country is truly at risk — from Donald Trump.

Mike McClary

 NOTE: reprinted with authors permission, and appearing here

Brat isn’t a problem solver

NOTE: This letter to the editor has been reprinted with the authors permission, and only appears in the June 2nd printed version of the Culpeper Star Exponent.

Allison Brophy Champion’s interview published May 19th was excellent and showed Congressman Dave Brat’s use of skewed data and fuzzy math.

Everyone knows Social security is not going to be empty in 2034. Instead of baby boomers dying more quickly as Brat suggest; two quick fixes would be to increase the retirement age, which Congress did in 1983 to 67 years of age (Brat still thinks it’s 65), or raise the cap on the level of wages subject to paying into Social Security.

For 2016, the cap on taxable earnings is $118,500. The salary cap was set in the beginning to capture 90 percent of all salaries earned in the American economy. As earning inequality has grown, those earning more than the cap have experience higher earnings growth than other workers.

In fact, by 2008 the Social Security wage cap only applied to 83.8 percent of the total salaries. And this year, the Social Security Administration estimates they will capture only 83.6 percent of total salaries.

Fixing Social Security by one or both of the traditional steps is easy, has been done before and has a bipartisan history.

But fixing problems is not for Brat, who has marginalized himself in the House, brags that he votes against the speaker, and is a member of a minority caucus. It is not clear how his marginal status and disinterest in legislation makes Virginia great.

Interestingly, this week, he voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over Veterans Administration maintained cemeteries. The bill failed to pass the House.

Dave Reuther

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It should also be noted that the first appearance of the article that Mr. Reuther was responding to was not in the Culpeper Star Exponent, who Ms. Champion writes for but in another paper also owned by Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group, the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star.

And so far, it remains unclear whether the BH Group is “test driving” Brat’s skewed math and fuzzy ideas to see if it has any traction amongst their readers, or if they are trying to conceal their own failure to cover key races.

One things for sure, unless many more letters like Mr. Reuther’s start appearing in these papers, they will continue to print all the news they think you can use.

Jon Taylor