Hey, Democrats! Do we get a 2014 electoral boost from steadily improving job numbers? Consider:

1. Ever since President Barack Obama's first budget kicked in, unemployment has trended steadily downward:

BLS: U.S. Unemployment 2004-2014

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, Gallup's Job Creation Index (percentage of firms hiring minus percentage of firms downsizing) has steadily increased:

Gallup Job Creation Index 2008-2014

3. Sandbagging those gains have been Republican resistance to government hiring. More public employers were firing rather than hiring during President Obama's first term:

Gallup Job Creation Index 2008-2014: Private vs. Public

President Obama has overseen steady recovery in the labor market since averting an economic depression. We'd be recovering faster if President Obama really had increased the size of government as Republicans have accused him of doing, as more teachers, police, case workers, park rangers, and researchers would provide more public services and boost GDP by buying more Cheetos, chain saws, and Jeep Cherokees.

Republican recalcitrance has kept every one of the curves above shallower than it could have been. Sending more Republicans to Washington on their vow to block or sue President Obama's every move will further brake economic recovery. Sending more Democrats to Washington will get the job done... and get more jobs.

8 comments

Let's see: can't fix the Highway Trust Fund, can't fully fund a veterans health care bill, can't provide child immigrants with basic due process... but with the five-week summer recess just hours away, our Congresswoman Kristi Noem finds time to vote for a coup.

Yesterday, Rep. Noem joined 224 of her Republican colleagues in voting to sue the President of the United States of America. Noem and friends are hoping to find some activist judge who will usurp executive power and hand it to the legislative branch. That's a coup.

The House wants a judge to rescind the President's one-year delay of the large-business insurance mandate and tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act and force the President to immediately implement and enforce those provisions. Of course, Noem and her fellow Republicans have tried to repeal that law fifty times, but she'll make a federal case of the President's exercise of his authority to implement that law more slowly than planned.

And yes, the President has that authority:

In fact, applicable judicial precedent places such timing adjustments well within the Executive Branch's lawful discretion. To be sure, the federal Administrative Procedure Act authorizes federal courts to compel agencies to initiate statutorily required actions that have been "unreasonably delayed." But courts have found delays to be unreasonable only in rare cases where, unlike this one, inaction had lasted for several years, and the recalcitrant agency could offer neither a persuasive excuse nor a credible end to its dithering. In deciding whether a given agency delay is reasonable, current law tells courts to consider whether expedited action could adversely affect "higher or competing" agency priorities, and whether other interests could be "prejudiced by the delay." Even in cases where an agency outright refuses to enforce a policy in specified types of cases -- not the case here -- the Supreme Court has declined to intervene. As held by former Chief Justice William Rehnquist in a leading case on this subject, Heckler v. Chaney, courts must respect an agency's presumptively superior grasp of "the many variables involved in the proper ordering of its priorities." Chief Justice Rehnquist suggested that courts could lose their deference to Executive Branch judgment if an "agency has consciously and expressly adopted a general policy that is so extreme as to amount to an abdication of its statutory responsibilities." The Obama Administration has not and is not about to abdicate its responsibility to implement the statute on whose success his historical legacy will most centrally depend [Simon Lazarus, "Delaying Parts of Obamacare: 'Blatantly Illegal' or Routine Adjustment?" The Atlantic, 2013.07.17].

Question #1 for Kristi at her upcoming debates with Corinna Robinson: "Tell us, Congresswoman, how does suing the President to force implementation of a law that you want repealed and that you say will increase costs for businesses practically benefit South Dakota?"

Question #2: "How much will your lawsuit cost the taxpayers?"

Question #3: "Barack Obama won two Presidential elections and is in the sixth year of his Presidency. Are you willing to acknowledge this fact and move on?"

Voters, feel free to bring these questions up at all of the constituent service events and town halls that I'm sure Rep. Noem will be filling her recess calendar with. But don't take too long to ask: along with frivolous litigation, Noem is busy organizing a pheasant hunt for her big donors September 14–16. Suggested donations: $1,500 for individuals, $2,500 for PACs. (I'd like to see what kind of shotgun a PAC packs.)

160 comments

Hey, remember how South Dakota Republicans embarrassed our great state again in June by passing a resolution calling on the U.S. House to impeach President Obama? Oh, the shame! The perversion of political discourse! I wish they'd never—

Wait a minute. Cue the silver lining:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said Tuesday that the impeachment push has “misfired” on Republicans.

“Look, I understand their strategy is intended to gin up their base, but it’s having the unintended consequence of moving our base in a midterm election and also moving persuadable voters, swing voters to us in a midterm election," Israel said.

Israel said that on Monday alone, the committee raised $1 million online over a 24-hour period... [Alexandra Jaffe, Abby Smith and Cameron Joseph, "SHOCKING: Dems Profiting from Impeachment Hyperbole," The Hill: Ballot Box, 2014.07.29].

Oh. Well-done, South Dakota Republicans! Carry on.

By the way, perhaps as a thank-you, President Obama signed a disaster declaration Monday  for 12 South Dakota counties, meaning South Dakota can get lots of nice federal government handouts to clean up storm debris, fix damaged buildings and infrastructure, and prepare for future tornadoes and floods. Thank you, Mr. President.

16 comments

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Mike Rounds is telling the press that federal stimulus dollars made South Dakota highways better. Rounds is emphasizing that South Dakota needs big government because it depends on nearly $300 million dollars every year to maintain its roads. And the Republican is saying he wants more big government help for South Dakota in the form of replenishing the Highway Trust Fund... because when he was governor, he knew darn well that depletion of the Highway Trust Fund would mean South Dakota would have to spend more of its own money, and Rounds never supported that kind of self-reliance.

Alas, Rounds says, Congress is struggling to pass that vital legislation because "nobody" trusts President Obama:

You can't give 'em more money until you know how they're going to spend it, and I think that's the biggest problem we've got in D.C. is, is nobody trusts that the Administration will spend the money the way they say that they will [Marion Michael Rounds, audio interview, "Rounds Supports Highway Funding Bill," KJAM Radio, 2014.07.24].

Hold on, Mike—I think you're projecting. You don't trust President Obama. You took stimulus dollars that President Obama and Congress intended for education and then spent those dollars on other budget items.

But hey, suppose Rounds is right. Suppose the problem with highway funding is that Senators don't trust President Obama.

Since President Obama isn't on the 2014 ballot, there's one obvious solution: elect Senators who trust President Obama. Elect Rick Weiland.

Thanks for the advice, Mike!

24 comments

A friend of the blog calls to express her annoyance and puzzlement at being pestered by the Republican National Committee at home today. My correspondent reports receiving a 35-second robocall this morning from some outfit with the words American, research, and survey in its name, although the robocall appeared to be doing neither of the latter. The call  instead maligned President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and urged my correspondent to weaken those two leaders by not sending Rick Weiland to the Senate. The call did not mention Mike Rounds's name. It concluded by saying it was paid for by the RNC.

My correspondent expressed puzzlement for three reasons:

  1. It's July. One might expect calls like this to roll out right before people go to the polls.
  2. My correspondent is a known Democrat. My correspondent reports that one other strong Democrat in her black book received the same RNC robocall. What political consultant thinks throwing Obama and Reid and Democrats is the most effective way to get them not to vote for Democrats? Is the RNC worried that Elizabeth Warren is going to inspire South Dakota Democrats to stop apologizing and work even harder for her friend Rick Weiland?
  3. It's South Dakota. Nobody in the national media has declared South Dakota's Senate race competitive. What evidence would the RNC be looking at to motivate them to spend money on the South Dakota Senate race?

I invite your interpretations of this minor RNC engagement in the Rounds–Weiland race. And if you get such a call, I welcome your transcript thereof!

20 comments

The United States kicked 17 women and 21 children out of the country on Monday. It flew these illegal Central American immigrants to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. In the first five months of this year, over 2,000 unaccompanied child immigrants fled San Pedro Sula for the United States, trying to flee the city's gang violence and the highest murder rate in the world.

On sending these women and children back to mortal danger, the Obama White House yesterday issued this discouraging statement:

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the return of the Hondurans should be a clear signal to those thinking about crossing the border illegally that "they're entitled to due process but they will not be welcome to this country with open arms" [Steve Holland and Gabriel Stargardter, "U.S. Says Deportation of Honduran Children a Warning to Illegal Migrants," Reuters, 2014.07.15].

Not welcoming women and children fleeing danger is one of the most un-American and un-Christian (and probably un-Jewish, un-Muslim... heck, how about simply inhumane?) policy positions we can formulate.

President Obama evidently needs another meeting with Pope Francis, who issued a letter from a church conference in Mexico City calling on the U.S. to welcome and protect the thousands of children fleeing the violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala:

In a Monday letter, Pope Francis urged "intervention" from the U.S. government to make sure "these children are welcomed and protected." He also called for sympathy, citing the children's desire to get to the United States "in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain." Francis also recalled the children's struggles as "they are forced to leave their families and unfortunately still subjected to racist and xenophobic attitudes."

...The pontiff also reiterated his sentiments from an August statement on the plight of immigrants and the role of immigration in the world, suggesting the need for a "change of attitude towards migrants and refugees by all." He also said more understanding toward immigrants is the "only way to build a more just world" [Ross Gianfortune, "Pope Urges Protection for Unaccompanied Minors Flooding the Border," Government Executive, 2014.07.15].

Los Angeles is listening to the Pope:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday that the city would help shelter immigrant children who have been detained after crossing the border and has begun talks with a federal agency about doing so.

"Before you get partisan, before you tell me where you are on immigration--these are children," Garcetti said Tuesday at a forum hosted downtown by Politico magazine.

"As a father, who are we as Americans if we don't step forward first and say, these kids who are isolated, alone ... let's get them someplace safe and secure," the mayor told the crowd ["L.A. Welcomes Children Crossing the Border," McClatchy via Governing, 2014.07.16].

I understand that we should follow the law. But if the child next door is being beaten by her stepdad and runs to your yard to hide, do you call the cops to arrest her for trespassing?

I understand that if you're in a lifeboat, you can only fit so many people. There comes a point where picking up one more drowning child would capsize the boat and sink everybody.

But America is a big lifeboat. The wide open spaces from North Sioux City to Peever tell me we're not out of seats. The money we spend on drones and bombers at Ellsworth and the Sanford Sportsplex tell me we're not out of rations. The United States has never declared itself full. We've never seen fit to declare a one-child policy to limit population growth. Certainly there must be some ceiling to food production, water supply, and living space, but until we hit that ceiling, it seems immoral to turn away from our borders any person, child or adult, seeking safety.

Senator John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake from Arizona want to speed deportation of the 55,000 unaccompanied minors who've immigrated illegally to the U.S. this year but also allot 5,000 more refugee visas each to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

How about we go one better... or 40,000 better? Let's revamp the EB-5 visa program. While we send frightened children who've hiked alone across Mexico back to violent Central American cities, we currently let rich foreigners buy their green cards by investing a half million to one million dollars in economic development projects, like a lot of those dairies that sprung up in the I-29 corridor over the last decade. Let's shift that EB-5 money to humanitarian assistance. Let rich foreigners keep jumping the queue with their money, but use their money to make the rest of the queue move faster. Use those millions in EB-5 money to place more visa application stations along the Mexican border, along with dedicated child advocates to handle these young, frightened refugees. use EB-5 money to provide those children and their caretakers with food and housing allowances. Let's require that EB-5 dollars go not to crony capitalist projects but to aid refugee assistance groups like the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (which agrees with the Pope that deportation of children fleeing violence is wrong).

And let's remove the cap on refugee visas and help all the kids we can.

That's what a humane country does. That's what a pro-life country does. That's what a rich country does. That's what America should do.

49 comments

In our discussion of the various Obama outhouses, one of my commenters suggested that the next time Governor Dennis Daugaard and impeach-happy South Dakota Republicans came asking for disaster assistance, the President should respond, "'And how many outhouses would you like?' He might even send them pre-loaded for our convenience."

I don't think the President would poop on all of South Dakota for a cheap, half-hearted partisan insult. But he's not sending Governor Daugaard any disaster money this week:

...the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has rejected the state’s request for Individual Assistance programs to help residents impacted by tornadoes and flooding.

The denial of Individual Assistance came in a letter from FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who said damage to homes and businesses fell short of the severity and magnitude to warrant federal assistance.

...Governor Dennis Daugaard called the denial disappointing but said South Dakotans will continue to work together to help individuals and communities recover over the coming weeks and months. He said the state is examining all its options, including a possible appeal of the federal decision [South Dakota state government, press release, 2014.07.10].

Republican Senator John Thune is also disappointed and is encouraging South Dakotans suffering from the storms to seek other federal handouts.

Note that the three counties most affected by last months tempests—Jerauld, Lincoln, and Union—all voted against the SDGOP's presidential impeachment resolution. So denying these FEMA handouts can't be direct political retaliation.

Impeachment talk is supposed to be a way for Republicans to make money. The ironic possibility that such talk is losing South Dakota money is unlikely.

But hey, if the Governor feels that the storms were bad enough that local folks can't bear the cost of cleaning up the damage themselves, and if the federal government just won't come through, why doesn't the Governor Daugaard just bite the bullet, do the right thing, and help those storm victims with some state funds?

29 comments

Golly, that July 4 parade float of President Barack Obama's someday library as an outhouse sure got some attention. Dan Peters and Todd Epp discussed it on KSOO this afternoon. The Nebraska Democratic Party says the float was among the "worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the presidency that Nebraska has ever seen."

The veteran who made the float, Dale Remmich, tells the local paper he's not racist:

The rural Norfolkan who created the float in Friday’s Fourth of July parade — which has generated considerable discussion ever since — said the point of the parade entry was to express displeasure with President Barack Obama’s oversight of the Veterans Administration and the treatment of individual veterans.

“I am not a hate-monger. I am not a racist. This float was not disrespectful of the office of the presidency. I am sorry if there was misunderstanding about that,” said Dale Remmich, a longtime Northeast Nebraska and military veteran [Kent Warneke, "Parade Float Generates Discussion," Norfolk Daily News, 2014.07.07].

Remmich says the figure on the float wasn't even the President; it was a zombiefied self-caricature expressing his own disgust with the President's VA policy:

“I’ve got my bibs on, my walker, I’m covering my ears and I’m turning a bit green — I intended it to look like a zombie who has had enough,” Remmich said Monday morning in an interview with the Daily News.

“The float was political satire and an expression of political disgust — no more, no less,” Remmich said. “There was no racism involved, no hate for anyone” [Warneke, 2014.07.07].

If you really want to see President Obama in an outhouse, you have to go down to Bridgewater, where friend of the blog Owen Reitzel finds this seasonal installation of political satire:

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Reitzel didn't catch whether the Bridgewater biffy bore any "Presidential Library" signage.

The Norfolk float was crude satire and political expression. The Bridgewater display could be seen as mere humor—President in an outhouse! Don't see that every day, ha ha! Neither rises to the level of the overt and vicious racism of the Romney backers at the Circle H Motal in Lake Andes in 2012 or the vileness of the presidential outhouse Mr. Kurtz discussed that same election year in Montana.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with political partisanship on our high holiest day of democracy. Taking partisan jabs at a Fourth of July parade feels as unseemly to me as campaigning at church. In honor of our Founders (or perhaps in an effort to be better than they were?), I'm willing to refrain from throwing blog bombs at Fourth of July parades and picnics (although if my crazy cousin Aaron brings up Ron Paul while passing the potato salad, I'll say game on!).

Still,the July 4 Declaration the struggle to which it committed us made the First Amendment possible. Plenty of patriotic pols home in on the Fourth of July crowds to hand out candy and pamphlets. If the firecracker you choose to light on July 4 is filled with heartfelt political content rather than Chinese gunpowder... well, I may not oooh! and aaah!, but I will nod respectfully at your exercise of the greatest amendment.

As for my Bridgewater neighbors, I can imagine they could be just as nice as the folks down the road (and there must be some) who promote violent misogyny with their wooden cutouts of Grampaw smacking Grammaw's bottom. The Bridgewater folks could rotate their display and give us twelve months of famous people on the looimagine the laughs they could get if they folded Cardboard Mike onto the throne! But hey, you should only put so much effort into toilet humor.

I see no need for to throw the racism flag, but I'm open to a discussion of the civility of these displays, especially of the Norfolk float. The First Amendment says we can make partisan political statements at civic events on the Fourth of July; does that mean we should make such statements, or should we all hold our fire on the Fourth, have a hot dog, and save the partisan debates for after we all shower off the smoke and mosquito spray?

77 comments

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