CPAC 2014 is well under way. The symbolism of Mitch McConnell on stage with a rifle was nothing short of comical. And predictably speakers demonstrated to their base that they are the party of fear and hate, commandeered by the radical right Tea Party. They are essentially a resurgence of the John Birch Society of the ’60′s. Only in the ’60′s there was a true conservative thinker, William F. Buckley Jr. that told Republicans there was no place in the party for those nut-jobs. Back then, they listened to Buckley. There is no one like Buckley in the party now and it’s not clear if there was they would listen to him.
The Tea Party has turned five years old. Not that it’s a real party nor that it’s a really defined movement. But they have been a recent powerhouse in the Republican party. Mostly they’ve been a movement against government. They seem to be a revival of the 1960′s John Birch Society. The difference between then and now is that the conservative intellectual and powerhouse, William F. Buckley Jr. said that there was no place for radicals like the John Birch Society in the Republican party. Today there are no intellectuals in the Republican party, or at least intellectuals with the cojones of Buckley to denounce the Tea Party.
The latest gripe about President Obama’s “lawless” presidency is his executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors. The argument on the right against raising the minimum wage is that it will kill jobs and that the only people earning the minimum wage are teens entering the work force. The argument on the left is that if you don’t pay adults a living wage they will require government services, e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized housing, etc.
The “killing jobs” argument has no verifiable evidence. It’s pretty simple to figure out why. If you pay the minimum wage and your competition pays the minimum wage, you’re all in the same boat. The notion that teens entering the work force make the minimum wage has two flaws. First, are teens second class citizens? This is why we have child labor laws. Second, these days a lot of minimum wage earners are adults trying to make a living.
If the right’s hatred of government “entitlement” programs is to be believed, why would they support wages that require people to depend on these programs to survive? We are essentially giving businesses that pay the minimum wage a subsidy.
And the bottom line in this emotional debate is that so few actually pay the minimum wage it would have essentially no impact on the economy.
Singer, songwriter, musician and political activist Pete Seeger has died at the age of 94. He was a big believer in using song for social change.
His songs have been soft spoken but powerful. ”Where Have All the Flowers Gone” on the Vietnam war. ”Turn, Turn, Turn” popularized by the Byrds. And possibly the most powerful was the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”
You may recall he sang “This Land is Your Land” written by his buddy Woody Guthrie at President Obama’s first inaugural.
My favorite Pete Seeger tune wasn’t political. It was an instrumental:
In the early 1970′s it was popularized by Leo Kottke’s version on his landmark album “6 and 12 String Guitar.” After many failed attempts to learn it, and seeing that my folk hero wrote it, I wrote to Seeger asking for some help. He wrote back. A lovely letter thanking me for appreciating the tune and detailing how I to play it.
Everybody has a favorite Pete Seeger song. What’s yours?
The State of the Union is?
Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has been indicted by a federal grand jury. This, following the accusations of New Jersey Governor Christie. It seems that just a couple of months ago the right were touting the successes of the Republican governors and their ability to revive the party as the Republicans in Congress aren’t too popular. Haven’t heard that meme much lately…
Congress has decided not to extend unemployment benefits. The argument from the right is that people are loafers who don’t want to work and that this will lead to more dependence on big government. They ignore the fact that to receive benefits you must be actively be searching for a job. They ignore the fact that benefits are much less that full wages. They ignore the fact that those on unemployment spend all of those benefits on necessities and as a consequence help improve the economy in hard times. Ok, maybe they don’t ignore that, as the want the economy to tank so they can regain power.
The reality is that in any recovery period, there is high unemployment, underemployment and low wages, simple because business can get away with it until demand puts the ball in employees court. The reality is that people on unemployment want to get back to work, and soon. They are not Reagan’s “welfare queens.”
This is more than a morality issue. It’s an fundamental economic issue.