Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy–TPM

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” they write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.

The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month’s ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.

“Ordinary citizens,” they write, “might often be observed to ‘win’ (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

Via TPM: Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy.

Putin Has No Designs On 49th State: ‘What Would You Need Alaska For?’ TPM

 

The Russian president was asked Thursday if he had any plans to “acquire Alaska” during an annual televised call-in show.

“What would you need Alaska for?” Putin responded, perhaps out of jest, and reminded viewers that the territory was sold to the U.S. in the 19th century. “We live in a northern country, 70 percent of our territory is in the north. Alaska’s also the north. So let’s not get excited.”

Besides, the autocrat is currently busy acquiring the much warmer region of Ukraine.

Via TPM: Putin Has No Designs On 49th State: ‘What Would You Need Alaska For?’.

The Republican Position on Obamacare Makes No Sense Anymore | New Republic

For years now, undeterred by an imposing level of conservative schadenfreude, a handful of us have argued that the introduction of Affordable Care Act benefits in January would flip the politics of Obamacare, and the GOP’s repeal platform would collapse.

It’s April now and that worm is turning before our eyes, both on on Capitol Hill and in states across the country. Republicans have replaced an unabashed “full repeal!” mantra with a deluge of weasel words meant to conceal the fact that “repeal” is still the beginning and end of their health-care reform agenda. It’s still the goal—they’re just a little ashamed of it now. And that places an onus on Dems (and reporters and anyone else who believes politicians should own the consequences of their policies) to be extremely explicit about the benefits Obamacare is conferring, and what an unvarnished rendering of GOP health policy would really look like.

As Greg Sargent has been documenting over at The Washington Post, the ACA’s optional Medicaid expansion is wrong-footing Republican Senate candidates in expansion states like Arkansas, Michigan, and New Hampshire, because their position (repeal) now entails kicking tens or hundreds of thousands of people in their states off of Medicaid.

Continue reading: The Republican Position on Obamacare Makes No Sense Anymore | New Republic.

Tea Party Challenger Says Boehner Suffers ‘Electile Dysfunction’ TPM (VIDEO)

“If you have a Boehner lasting more than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention,” the ad’s narrator warns.

The ad, titled “When the Moment Is Right,” parodies a Cialis commercial to tout challenger J.D. Winteregg’s conservative ideals while linking Boehner to President Barack Obama.

“Sometimes when a politician has been in D.C. too long, it goes to his head and he just can’t seem to get the job done,” the spot’s narrator says over a clip of Boehner and Obama shaking hands.

“Used on a daily basis, Winteregg in Congress will help you every time the moment is right — to have your voice heard at the federal level,” the narrator adds. “When using Winteregg, it’s important to note that the borders will be secured, Second Amendment rights protected, Obamacare and Planned Parenthood will be defunded, and common sense will be used in solving the nation’s problems.”

The spot goes on to show Boehner golfing with Obama and giving a thumbs-up to the President during this year’s State of the Union address.

“If you have a Boehner lasting more than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention,” the ad’s narrator warns.

Winteregg is a high school French teacher taking on Boehner in May’s Republican primary with support from the Tea Party Leadership Fund, according to ABC News. He’s in a field that includes two other tea party challengers, but as ABC News noted, no sitting House speaker has ever been defeated in a primary election.

Via TPM: Tea Party Challenger Says Boehner Suffers ‘Electile Dysfunction’ (VIDEO).

Jim DeMInt: Big government didn’t free the slaves« The Dish

This was in response to Jim DeMint’s surreal attempt to force American history into his rigid ideology. Somehow, in DeMint’s imagination, the civil war was won without “big government.” But the federal government is never “bigger” than in wartime, its powers never so expansive. When that federal government is sending troops to conquer half the country, how much “bigger” can it get? You can totally see why Chait pounces thus:

Everybody knows the slaves were freed by Ronald Reagan, and he did it by cutting taxes.

Continue reading: Yglesias Award Nominee « The Dish.

Vance McAllister video is first caught-on-tape political sex scandal | New Republic

Until this week, Louisiana Congressman Vance McAllister’s greatest claim to fame was the fact that he invited a “Duck Dynasty” star to be his guest at the State of the Union. But what reality TV giveth, cinéma vérité taketh away. And when The Ouachita Citizen, McAllister’s hometown newspaper, obtained a security video that caught the Congressman “kissing for almost half a minute” with a woman who’s not his wife inside his district office, McAllister achieved a whole new level of infamy.

The story of the “Kissing Congressman” has made headlines for all the usual reasons. There’s the hypocrisy angle: A married father of five, McAllister ran for Congress last year as a devout Christian and “family man.” There’s also the administrative one: McAllister’s mistress, Melissa Ann Peacock, was one of his staffers, and was promptly fired from her job after the video was made public. And then there’s the soap-operatic storyline: Peacock is also married and McAllister had worked with Peacock’s husband, Heath, for 16 years; what’s more, both Peacocks had each contributed $5,200 to McAllister’s campaign.

Continue reading: Vance McAllister video is first caught-on-tape political sex scandal | New Republic.

The Annexation of Eastern Ukraine, Ctd

Originally posted on The Dish:

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Adam Taylor uses these maps to explain why Donetsk won’t be such an easy grab for Russia as Crimea was:

That first map is one good reason to doubt the popular support of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” but the other shows you something else: why Ukraine would care so much about it. The oblast, and in particular its namesake city, are renowned as the economic backbone of Ukraine for their coal mines and steel production (even if the truth about Donetsk’s economic strength may not be so rosy).

Combined, these two maps paint a good picture of why the Ukrainian government seems willing to take a stricter line on Donetsk than it did with Crimea. But they also paint a picture of why Russia’s tactic could be different, too: Less a simple act of annexation, and more an act of provocation.

Ambinder credits Moscow for stirring up resistance in Ukraine’s…

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