Bowing to Material Reality, Jim DeMint Will Not Run For President

In a rare acknowledgement of the world as it is, Jim DeMint stated he would not run for President of the United States.

Various news outlets are reporting this.  Here’s a Washington Post blog. The Fix:

He’s said all along that he isn’t running for President and his role in the primary is to encourage the candidates to embrace conservative principles,” said Matt Hoskins, spokesman for the Senate Conservatives Fund, DeMint’s political action committee.

Interesting and telling that the statement came from DeMint’s PAC…further evidence that he doesn’t make any distinction between fundraising and politics.

So who will he back? Perhaps anticipating DeMint’s misogyny, The Fix sticks with boy candidates:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will almost certainly make a strong push in the Palmetto State and has signed on Jim Dyke, who lives in South Carolina, as an adviser to his political action committee. Minnesota Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is from Georgia, is also a natural fit for the South Carolina Republican primary electorate. And, if former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee runs — an increasingly unlikely prospect — he would rightly be considered the South Carolina frontrunner.

Less discriminatingly, but more entertainingly, another blog calls Ohio Rep.  Michelle Bachmann “the default Tea Party candidate”.    Some Iowa GOP Senator likes her:

She’s a dynamo. Our members were very enthused with her enthusiasm, her grasp of issues. She was very knowledgeable about foreign issues, particularly with regard to the Libyan incursion.

DeMint will share a stage with this woman, and use her to raise money.  But he will not endorse her because 1) he’s a savvy enough marketer to smell her sell-by date and 2) unlike the apostles, she does not have a penis.

DeMint’s “New Low” In Political Stunts

After threatening to derail the New START treaty last month DeMint is advocating that Congress NOT pass bills to meet current spending obligations. He advocates simply not worrying about the consequences, since the need was created by policies he never agreed with in the first place.


Source: http://www.therightscoop.com/demint-to-freshmen-dont-raise-debt-ceiling-because-you-didnt-create-the-problem

Inaction has always been part of DeMint’s arsenal, but he’s recently become notorious for it. So much so that Fox News apparently ran a report last month entitled “DeMint’s ‘New Low’ in ‘Political Stunts’”.

A failure to raise the debt ceiling would in effect shut down the federal government (possibly by the end of March, according to Treasury Secretary Geitner). The threat to government services is general, but is being discussed in the context of long term GOP goals for restructuring or eliminating Social Security and health care services.

DeMint’s tactics are not universally popular within his own party.

Republicans have been preaching the death of Social Security since the days of Jack Kemp and David Stockman (from the beginning of the program as well). The day of crisis has never arrived, as SS has its own dedicated funding. Government deficit projections that theoretically use SS taxes as general revenue have no bearing on the funding of the actual program, so long as it remains in place.

Jim DeMint appears to be impatiently attempting to bring about the day of reckoning on his own. And he is being attacked from the Right for his trouble.

It is quite extraordinary, really. Senator DeMint is essentially urging Republicans to cast a vote that would lead to a federal default. This would have catastrophic economic consequences, since the United States depends on other nations buying our debt. Now, I understand that if you’re in the minority party in Congress, you can vote against raising the debt ceiling, as that vote won’t influence the eventually outcome. But Republicans now control one branch of Congress by a wide margin, so GOP votes are necessary to raise the debt ceiling. Symbolic votes are not an option. What Senator DeMint is counseling, then, is terribly unwise. And if the GOP were to be perceived as causing a default by the federal government, it would be extremely politically injurious.

What are DeMint’s goals?   Speaking as an economic conservative, Wehner finds them incoherent:

As for Senator DeMint wanting to show that Republicans have a “strong commitment to cut spending and debt”: as I pointed out several months ago, it was DeMint who went on NBC’s Meet the Press to declare, “Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting — I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big ObamaCare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.”

The junior senator from South Carolina has things exactly backward. He wants Republicans to oppose raising the debt ceiling even though that doesn’t involve new spending (it needs to be raised simply to meet our existing obligations). But when it comes to entitlement programs, which is the locus of our fiscal crisis, he is assuring the public that no cuts in benefits are necessary.

Threatening a default of the national government is just an extension of the medicine that DeMint and others have been prescribing for the states.   There have been a spate of articles on the current congress tightening federal support for state programs, which would likely send states into bankruptcy.  State bankruptcy is supposed to serve the political purpose of forcing massive layoffs in state government, reducing salaries and pension payments for state employees and crippling public sector unions.
DeMint has endorsed privatizing Social Security in the past. Privatization has been part of his platform since his first run for Congress in 1998. Wehner is only pointing out an obvious contradiction. DeMint wants to cut the deficit, but appears to be taking Social Security off the table. Then DeMint endorses a position that would leave SS and Medicare unfunded.

Virtually no one else in his own party accepts the proposal that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not need to be cut. DeMint’s SC colleague Lindsey Graham endorsed raising the retirement age the other day. But DeMint seems to understand that raising the retirement age is a cut in benefits…and to actually oppose it on that basis:

DeMint: ..The idea of raising retirement to people who need it the most are the ones that are most likely to have done manual labor their whole life and are the least likely to want to continue to work well into their old age, my hope is that we won’t look at cutting benefits again and we won’t look at raising taxes again.

http://www.votesmart.org/speech_detail.php?sc_id=181608&keyword=&phrase=&contain=
DeMint actually seems to be opposed to cutting SS, until you read on.

“…I think we have the opportunity now to make every American a saver and investor, to begin to actually save Social Security taxes for the first time…”

DeMint prefers privatizing SS to just cutting it and seems to believe that investment will somehow provide for people, where SS did not. SS, of course guarantees a certain amount of money every month. Investment guarantees nothing, and the recent performance of 401Ks suggests considerable risk.

There is absolutely no way that individual investment accounts can meet the basic needs of every senior citizen. DeMint’s is opposed to the idea of a guaranteed income for anyone. Yet he seems to have a mystical belief in the ability of the market to provide. Or perhaps the failures of the market wouldn’t be his concern.

Critics of SS like Wehner aren’t promising seniors that they will do better in a privatized system, they simply believe that there is no alternative. That’s untrue, but he isn’t pretending that every elderly investor would do fine in the market.

Wehner’s right about one thing though. It is irresponsible for DeMint to force the government to abandon its current obligations when it still has the ability to meet them.

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DeMint decries partisan nature of Senate politics, fails to blame self

When people talk about the need for bipartisanship, they typically mean the necessity of everyone agreeing with them.

It is interesting that DeMint singles out Indiana’s Birch Evans “Evan” Bayh III as the kind of Democrat he can do business with.   That’s an interesting statement, let’s go over to OpenCongress.org’s vote comparison and see how much Bayh and DeMint agree.

Open Congress finds that Bayh and DeMint agree roughly 41% of the time, which is a bit worse than the Senate average for 46% agreement between Democrats and Republicans generally.  This sounds surprisingly agreeable, until you look at specific votes.   The data for 2007, which is as recent as the site goes, shows that DeMint and Bayh actually voted against one another on almost all important legislation.   The sole exception appears to be national security or warfare legislation.

So the bipartisan feeling that DeMint shares with Bayh appears to go only so far as procedural votes and budget-busting defense appropriations.

The site notes that DeMint and Bayh don’t serve on any committees together, so they actually won’t have worked very closely anyway.

McClatchy Papers: Senators DeMint, Graham divided on Obama’s tax deal

From James Rosen of the McClatchy Newspaper group of papers (including Columbia’s The State)

U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint once against canceled each others’ votes on major legislation Wednesday as Graham backed but DeMint opposed a compromise two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Incidentally, I don’t buy the logic that Graham and DeMint canceled each other out.  Both votes were counted. It’s not like South Carolinians could ever be completely unified on any issue.  Both politicians represent aspects of the state.   Rosen’s chosen a curious kind of either/or argument for his intro.   But anyway…

Graham said the deal between President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders isn’t perfect – but that it achieves the critical need to prevent tax hikes on some Americans.

Only four other Republican senators joined DeMint in voting against the tax legislation, while Graham was among 37 GOP senators who voted for it.

Graham praised the Senate’s 81-19 vote to pass the tax bill as an early payoff from the Republican rout in the Nov. 2 elections.

“The Obama administration agreeing to extend the tax cuts for all Americans is one of the first dividends from the election of more Republicans to the House and Senate,” the Seneca Republican said

“Overall, I think the agreement is a good one for the American people,” Graham said. “No agreement is ever perfect. There are, of course, areas I would have liked to see improved. But overall it is worth supporting as it will give certainty to those concerned about what a tax increase would mean to their businesses and family budgets.”

DeMint, whose amendment to make the tax cuts permanent was rejected before the vote on the broader bill, said the package will increase the deficit too much as it trades more federal spending for extended tax cuts.

“I’m concerned the bill currently under consideration does not permanently extend tax rates – and thus will have a marginal, if any, benefit to our economy,” DeMint said on the Senate floor. “Temporary rates make for a temporary uncertain economy.”

The legislation extends all Bush-era tax rates, including those on the very wealthy, for two years; they are due to expire Dec. 31.

[…]

We’re not in favor of reducing revenue, especially when demands on unemployment and healthcare assistance are growing.   Regardless of what you think of the President’s deal to extend the tax cuts, it does seem like he’s found common ground with the GOP, at least for the moment.  DeMint and the three other senators who voted against the tax cuts are speaking from a position of eliminating taxes first, then worrying about government services.  That is a position that the other more political GOP senators probably would endorse in a stump speech, even if they would bow to the reality of funding the government.

But let’s examine the logic behind DeMint’s statement that only “permanently extend[ed]” would benefit the economy due to the certainty of the benefit.   A look at the history of the current economic depression refutes DeMint.   The Bush tax cuts were introduced in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 then deepened and extended in the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.

The tax cuts were in no way intended to be permanent, since the 2010 expiration date was part of Bush’s compromise to peel off right-wing Democratic approval.

DeMint’s contention that the impermanency of the nine year old tax cut led to the downturn in the economy is ridiculous. After all, the tax cuts precede the economic meltdown by five to seven years.   DeMint wants us to believe that the a “permanent” reduction in the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans would have so benefited the economy that we would have avoided the the explosive housing bubble and Wall Street’s frenzy of speculation on securitized mortgages.

There is evidence to suggest that by reducing the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans, that the Bush (now Bush-Obama) tax cuts fed the housing and securities bubble by freeing cash for speculative investment.  Mark Thoma notes, as part of a longer article on the negative impact of the cuts:

Even the part of the tax cuts used for investment purposes may not result in enhanced long-run growth. Suppose, for example, that the money is invested in housing to take advantage of rising prices, but people are unaware that the price increases are being driven by a housing bubble. This will look at the time as though growth is robust — and this helps to explain the little bit of growth that did come about in the period before the housing bust — but the growth disappears as soon as the bubble pops. In fact, this type of investment leads to reduced growth relative to what could have been achieved with other investments. Thus, to the extent that tax cuts helped to fuel the housing bubble, they actually harmed rather than helped long-run growth.

A nuanced argument like Thoma’s is of no interest to DeMint, Cornyn and the rest, who begin with the idea of reducing the role and size of government in all areas but national security.  The ultimate extension of which is to put a vise on any socially responsible role for government.

Looking at a typical DeMint stump speech (like this one for example) you’ll find a lot of talk about freedom, with very little specifics about actual policies.  Maybe this is typical of a politician.  Given that DeMint is unquestionably radical (frequently holding up legislation on his own and being on the losing end of lopsided votes), the voters and media of SC deserve answers to tough question about DeMint’s real priorities.

DeMint and the rest hope to exclude human welfare from the political debate, throwing questions of health, education, quality of life and so on into the market while maintaining U.S. military interests abroad, where in both cases might makes right.

Read the rest of Rosen’s article, which concerns the reactions of other Senators, here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/12/16/105383/sc-sens-graham-demint-divided.html#ixzz18TjodXYr

Clements Thanks Voters: End of the campaign means beginning of new efforts

The 2010 elections are over, but the fight against corporate big-government politics goes on. Jim DeMint handily won his reelection with a little over 60% of the vote without bothering to campaign in South Carolina. Two bright spots are evident in the results from this election. Most of the candidates backed by DeMint failed in the general election, so the millions he raised to delude the public were dollars down the drain. And 121,000 South Carolinians made a conscious choice to vote for credible progressive candidate Tom Clements over DeMint and the irrelevant Democrat.

The Clements Campaign took out an ad in the November 24 Columbia Free Times to thank its supporters and, maybe more importantly, to announce that the struggle against DeMint’s politics will continue.

The Tom Clements For Senate Campaign thanks its supporters and announces that Jim DeMint is still on watch in the November 24 issue of the Columbia Free Times.

The Tom Clements For Senate Campaign thanks its supporters and announces that Jim DeMint is still on watch in the November 24 issue of the Columbia Free Times.

One thing that became apparent in the run up to the November 2 election: you can’t take down an entrenched incumbent like Jim DeMint without a full movement opposing his policies and proposing new ones. Consider the relative weakness of his opposition his opponents received relatively high returns:

Final returns from South Carolina's 2010 race for U.S. Senate. Source: http://www.enr-scvotes.org/SC/19077/40477/en/summary.html

About 38% of all South Carolina voters are definitely opposed to DeMint.  Given that the Clements campaign ran for about $50,000 and that Alvin Greene ran no campaign at all, there is a real depth of opposition to DeMint and his policies.

The Free Times ad points out only one of DeMint’s weaknesses: his nonstop talk about cutting the budget without offering any plans for government spending.   With the Great Recession stretching on, sitting politicians like DeMint will be required to put up or shut up about spending priorities: will DeMint work to guarantee Social Security or will he send tax dollars to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?   Will he work to control health care costs or will he propose Medicare cuts while promising tax cuts to corporations?

DeMint’s track record speaks for itself.   We can predict that he’ll be proposing harmful cuts that will hurt the elderly and sick, while protecting the profits of corporations, and spending trillions abroad on wars without end.

We think the election results show that a large number of South Carolinians are opposed to DeMint’s kind politics and want to reorient our priorities to put human needs first.

DeMint Watch can play a role in getting South Carolina Politics and the national debate back on track.  Post a comment or drop us a line at DeMintWatch@gmail.com if you’re one of the people who opposed DeMint on November 2.  We’ve got a lot of work to do.

National Women’s History Museum to be built with private funds – blocked by DeMint

The National Women’s History Museum is a privately funded effort which could be built in Washington D.C…except that Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn are blocking the sale of land for the building.

DeMint is so hung up on his anti-abortion ideology, that he will not permit the museum to be built, according to USA Today.

From shewire.com:

The project of building the women’s history museum, which currently exists in cyberspace, has been a pet project for many for 14 years. The House approved the bill last October but there continue to be two Senate hold-outs – Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who’ve held up the project based on funding –even thought it would be paid for through private donations –abortion politics and redundancy, according to Think Progress — as women already have their quilters and cowgirl museums spanning the entire history of women in the country.

Regarding the abortion politics piece of the DeMint’s and Coburn’s objections to the mueum:

“The senators’ action came two days after the Concerned Women For America [sw pac, lobby -ed.] a conservative group, wrote DeMint asking for a hold. The group’s CEO, Penny Nance, wrote in July that the museum would “focus on abortion rights without featuring any of the many contributions of the pro-life movement in America.”[…]”

Collins wrote in the Times that when she contacted Coburn’s office for a list of existing spaces that render the comprehensive museum redundant, “The office sent me a list of the entities in question. They include the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana [open April 7 – December 10, 2010, Wednesday to Saturday, 10 am to 3 pm -ed.], the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Texas and the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Washington.”

Source: Meryl Streep v. DeMint and Coburn Over National Women’s History Museum; by Tracy E. Gilchrist. 09/29/2010 8:55 PM; http://www.shewired.com/Article.cfm?ID=25829

Not to denigrate the work of quilters, cowgirls or lilac growers of any gender, but there is a broader story to be told.

Meryl Streep gave a very nice talk at recent dinner for the museum, pledging $1 Million of her own money and asking the two Senators to get out of the way.   According to USA Today:

“What they are doing is holding us to a standard that no museum associated with men has ever been held to,” museum CEO Joan Wages said. “The content of the museum is being questioned, and it hasn’t even been built. The Holocaust museum, the African-American history museum, the Native American museum — they all had very little money in the bank when Congress passed their legislation.”

The museum got a push last week from actress Meryl Streep, who headlined a $350-a-plate gala in Washington. Streep herself pledged $1 million — as did former Abbott Laboratories CEO Duane Burnham. “We will get permission, because I can’t imagine those two senators who have put a hold on our museum have the stomach for war with the women of America,” Streep said.

Here’s Streep’s speech:

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