Friday, March 29, 2013

The "Good" Republicans: Christie & Bloomberg

"Their ain't no good Conservative except a dead Conservative." -- paraphrase of saying in the Old West.

Governors Chris Christie and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are often shown to be "Good Republicans," but reprints of two stories by show that a "Conservative is a Conservative is a Conservative."

First, the Christie piece, "5 Corrupt Things About New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.":

"Christie knows you can piss off some of the people some of the time, just as long as you don’t rock the billionaires’ boats.

"Since last October, Chris Christie has been embraced by President Obama, friended by Mark Zuckerberg, and praised by Bill Maher. In a political time of fracture he’s seemingly been the healer; in a time of discord, he’s been portrayed as leading the singers in Kumbaya -- all five verses.

"Nonsense. The only true bipartisanship the governor has managed has been the delicate balance between his glistening public persona and the ugly reality of his stewardship of an essential northeastern state. He is extraordinarily deft at it: he can annoy the rowdies who wouldn’t invite him to CPAC yet still get the Koch brothers to welcome him to their table and happily help him write his laws. Christie knows that conservatives come in two main types: the loud bullies who always back the wrong horse and always steer him straight to the glue factory, and the stealth guys in the suits who have all the money.

"Embrace the president after Superstorm Sandy and you enrage the former. Bill O’Reilly tried to blame Mitt Romney’s loss on it. One of the interchangable umbrage merchants at the Washington Times called for Christie’s excommunication. The governor even caused Laura Ingraham to bray loudly about him becoming a Democrat.

"But the political genius of Chris Christie lies in his awareness that you can piss off some of the people some of the time, just so long as you don’t rock the billionaires’ boats. More over, sacrifice the correct group of the overheated -- like the ones still clinging to a Romney victory only they and Romney believed still possible -- and you suddenly look like you’re putting the public interest over political dogma, and you stand out like a beacon to milder liberals looking for somebody on the other side who just might possibly not be stark raving mad.

"Christie tries to hone this high-wire act on a national stage and shove the Marco Rubios and Jeb Bushes off the 2016 stage, it is instructive to realize that the act is not new -- only the venue is. Stage dramatic budget cuts in front of the gullible local media and they’ll write encomiums about your courage that the hurried national media will devour amid their limited research. The national guys may find out about the $28 million Christie cut from healthcare for women and the elderly; they’ll never be told about the $260 million in his budget wasted on an Atlantic City casino that reported $35 million in losses in just its first three months of operation.

"The national media sees the hug with Obama and the daring pushback against “Corzine Democrats.” It never sees the state teetering on the verge of 10% unemployment, nor the seemingly impossible reality of Christie advocating tax cuts that would drain more than a billion dollars from the money the state is taking in, while he still managed to increase his budget by a whopping 6.8% from 2011 to 2012.

"And Christie bipartisanship -- maintaining his own image despite vast piles of facts that contradict it at every turn -- runs through not merely legislation but also ethics. This is New Jersey we're talking about: the four governors elected before Christie were: 1) the guy who went back to private business and lost $1.6 billion in customer investments in about 18 months; 2) the guy who resigned with his wife at his side at a news conference during which he announced he was gay; 3) the woman who claimed black men competed with each other to see who could produce the most children out of wedlock, and then personally frisked one of them during a police ride-along; and 4) the anti-gun liberal who desperately tried to hold onto the governor’s mansion by promising to crack down on “welfare mothers.”

"Seen against the backdrop of that pile -- at least from a distance -- Christie looks clean. This is hardly the case; in fact it’s just another example of his amazing ability to look good while acting badly. In that light, we offer the five corrupt actions by Governor Christie.

"1. Handed a No-Bid Contract to Firm With Questionable Political Ties

"In the wake of Sandy, Governor Christie gifted a no-bid contract to AshBritt, a Florida-based debris-removal firm with eyebrow-raising political affiliations. AshBritt's founder and chief executive, Randal Perkins, has personally contributed $218,500 to political candidates and committees since 2001, nearly all of which went to Republican causes including George W. Bush and the Florida GOP. The firm has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on high-profile Washington lobbyists, including the company founded by Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor whom Christie identifies as a mentor. If AshBritt's name sounds familiar, it's because it was among those criticized during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for hiring subcontractor on top of subcontractor, leading some in Congress to accuse it of inflating the cost the government had to pay in reimbursements.

"While it is not mandatory for all Jersey towns to agree to use AshBritt for debris removal, media outlets are reporting it's been implied that if they look elsewhere those communities won't get adequate FEMA funds.

"Christie has dismissed criticisms of this contract as nothing more than 'shoddy journalism.'

"2. Betting On Casinos, Not Women's Health

"Christie's economics are often remarkably arbitrary. In his first three budgets, Christie cut women's health funding claiming the state didn't have the money. Then, he somehow found the aforementioned $260 million to spend on Revel, an Atlantic City casino (which just went bankrupt). In his fourth budget, he cut women's health funding again. Once again, the governor is also a miracle worker here; you can be seen as pro-business even if the business quickly goes under and you’ve poured enormous amounts of taxpayer money down a hole.

"3. Lying To Kill ARC Tunnel

"Christie employed inflated cost estimates to justify canceling the ARC rail tunnel to Manhattan, which would have created thousands of both short- and long-term jobs, cleared up congestion and lessened pollution caused by commuters. The result of Christie's action was to give him credibility as a staunch fiscal conservative within the national Republican party, which was likely his ultimate objective.

"4. Moderate Talk, Tea Party Walk

"Christie may have strengthened his reputation as a moderate through his public embrace of President Obama days after the state was ravaged by the post-hurricane storm, but even if they turn it into a statue it won’t erase his history of advocating for some of Congress's most extremist conservatives. Steve King (IA-4), Paul Ryan (WI-1), Susan Brooks (IN-5), Ann Wagner (MO-2) and Tom Lathan (IA-3) all received Christie's endorsement. What's more, each of those Christie-approved representatives went on to vote against the Sandy relief bill…just as their radical, right-wing track-records indicated they would.

"5. Weakened Over 100 Essential Environmental Protections

"In 2011, not long after his secret meeting with the Koch brothers, Governor Christie proposed a Department of Environment Protection waiver rule which would allow landowners to request exemptions from the DEP if a rule is considered 'unduly burdensome.' The vagueness of that phrase sparked concerns among environmentalists -- and many regular people who are fond of clean air and water -- that Christie's rule would provide too big of an advantage to large corporations and land developers who already carry enormous influence in Trenton.

"Surely the timing of the proposal was merely a coincidence. Even though Koch Industries is a major polluter and leader in nearly every kind of unsustainable industry, and Christie had already proven his allegiance to the Koch agenda by pulling out of one of the Kochs’ biggest pet peeves, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), there couldn’t be linkage between these things, could there?

"I mean, after all, this is Chris Christie. He can embrace the President and Charles and David Koch. He can draw praise for cutting health care while not even getting smudged by the fourth-worst statewide unemployment in the nation. He can be the hero of a hurricane and the endorser of fellow Republicans who kill bills meant to repair that hurricane’s damage. This is the man whose ability to get himself judged by one set of standards while actually operating with almost none could seemingly be summarized by a twist of the old phrase: Who you gonna believe? His reputation, or your lyin’ eyes?"
And the story on Bloomberg isn't any prettier as we see in, "6 Ways the 7th Richest Man in America Has Screwed the Poor.":

"Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves behind one of the biggest wealth gaps in the country.

"The following piece is part of AlterNet's series on poverty, Hard Times, USA.

"Earlier this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg perfectly described a day in the life of your average homeless New Yorker. 'You can arrive in your private jet at Kennedy Airport, take a private limousine and go straight to the shelter system and walk in the door and we've got to give you shelter,' he said on his radio show, addressing the record rate of homelessness in the city.

"50,000 people, including 21,000 children, are currently crowded into the city's emergency shelters, a 61 percent rise from when the Mayor took office, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

"Last month, the Mayor had assured reporters that 'Nobody's sleeping on the streets,' a claim easily refuted by a look at the city's homelessness statistics and/or going outside in New York. As it turns out, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) had recently suspended a program making it easier for homeless families to get into shelters when the temperature dips below freezing. The DHS did not share this information widely; it came to light after a New York Daily News report highlighted the case of 23 year-old Junior Clarke, who told the News that he, his wife, and 4 year-old daughter were turned away from the city's intake center on a freezing day. When they refused to leave, staff threatened to call the police.

“'They tried to make us leave and we refused,' Clarke told the Daily News. 'You know some people leave, walk away and go sleep on the train with their families.'

"As the 7th richest man in America finishes his final term in office, he leaves behind one of the biggest wealth gaps in the country: income inequality in Manhattan is the second worst in the US, according to the New York Times. New York's poverty rate has risen to the highest level in a decade, the Times also noted. 1 in 3 New York kids live below the poverty line. In parts of the Bronx, two thirds of residents live in areas of extreme poverty.

"At the start of his second term, the Mayor raised the hopes of advocates for the poor by expanding the definition of poverty to account for the high cost of living in the city. But as sociologist Francis Fox Piven told the Gotham Gazette, 'If we thought a new measure would mean more generous policies, we were wrong.'

"In fact, many Mayoral actions have significantly worsened the lives of the poor. Here's a look at some of his greatest hits.

"1. Booting Homeless Families from Priority Access to Housing Aid

"At the start of his second term, the Mayor promised to reduce the rate of individual and family homelessness in the city by two-thirds in 5 years. Today, there are as many homeless New Yorkers as during the height of the Great Depression, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. The Mayor blames the recession and, strangely, the Coalition for the Homeless itself, but homelessness advocates point to a series of ill-advised policy decisions that separated homeless families from the government aid that had kept many of them housed.

"In 2005, the administration cut homeless families' priority access to Section 8 federal housing aid. In its place, DHS came up with Housing Stability Plus, a program designed to fire up homeless families' magic bootstrap powers by making aid temporary and contingent on work requirements. Families were only eligible if they were on Public Assistance but they also had to work, which counterproductively meant that if one parent got a full-time job they could lose their housing. A 2007 Coalition report found that families were being funneled into slumlord properties, where kids could build character by overcoming hardships like rat infestations and lead in the walls. The Advantage program, another impermanent rental subsidy that restricted rental help to 2 years, followed. Despite the administration's efforts, the rate of homelessness continued to climb as families ran out of Advantage subsidies without substantially improving their economic situation and had no choice but to return to shelter.

"Half of the program's costs were paid by New York state. When Governor Cuomo cut off funds, the Bloomberg administration scrapped the whole thing, leaving the city with no permanent housing plan for the city's neediest families.

"2. No Plan to Address Homelessness

"That didn't go well! This week, a report by Coalition for the Homeless found that as of November, 2,818 former Advantage families had returned to a shelter. A quarter of the families going into the city's shelters are former Advantage users, which explains, in part, why the rate of homelessness is high as during the 1930s.

"The Mayor's current plan seems to consist of saying out-of-touch-rich-guy things ("... it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before,' Bloomberg said when asked why homeless families were staying in shelters so long), and opening up emergency shelters. Spending on temporary shelter has jumped 30 percent since 2008, according to the Independent Budget Office.

"If the Mayor had his way though, the best strategy for lowering the cost of shelter is to let fewer people stay in them. At a press conference defending his large soda ban, the Mayor philosophized about the responsibility we have to take care of one another. Minutes later he warned that the city's policy of housing the homeless threatened to set off mass unrest.

"'You're gonna see an uprising here,' he said. 'The public cannot afford to continue to do what we've been doing with homeless where everybody has a right to shelter, whether they need it or not. The public at some point is going to say to their elected officials: "I don't want to pay anymore,"' he said.

"Although the Department of Homeless services can deny families shelter -- only 35 percent of families that apply for shelter are accepted -- they don't have the same luck with homeless individuals because of various state and city laws that require the city to house any individual who asks for shelter.

"Meanwhile, a plan by City Council members Christine Quinn and Annabel Palma to move homeless families into permanent housing instead of putting them in expensive emergency shelters is gathering dust. They suggest re-prioritizing shelter residents in the allocation of federal housing subsidies, and adding a rental assistance program similar to Advantage. So far, the administration seems intent to leave the problem to the next guy.

"3. Crushing the Living Wage Laws

"Contrary to nasty stereotypes, many people without permanent housing have jobs; they just don't earn enough to support life in one of the costliest American cities.

"The campaign for a living wage in New York famously united clergy, antipoverty advocates, and unions. A large majority of City Council members stood behind the two bills. The widespread support was not surprising, since it's pretty hard to come up with a convincing opposition to the measures, which simply demanded that development projects that receive more than $1 million in taxpayer subsidies pay their workers a decent wage: 10 dollars an hour with health insurance, or $11.50 without.

"Advocates pointed out that developers who underpaid their workers were being subsidized by taxpayers twice: once when they got the initial public money and again when their workers were forced to resort to food stamps, housing aid, and other social services in order to survive on their measly earnings. The city had already been more than kind to developers, with business tax subsidies growing by 180 percent in the past decade, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

"While the Mayor enthusiastically supported that government intrusion into the market, he deemed the living wage to be an unacceptable government overreach. The measures were 'a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated,' the Mayor mused poetically. But things were serious. 'The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn't work out so well,' he warned on his radio show.

"When the City Council overwhelmingly passed the legislation, the Mayor vetoed it. When the Council overrode his veto, the Mayor actually sued the City Council to prevent the measures from taking effect. In the meantime, Council member Christine Quinn got busy weakening the measure. In the end, the legislation applied to only 400 or 500 workers, reported the New York Times, allowing companies like Fresh Direct, which was about to receive a $100-million package of tax breaks for moving to the Bronx, to underpay their workers in peace.

"4. Budget Cuts

"At the start of his second term, the Mayor launched an anti-poverty initiative that consisted of a series of pilot programs, many of them privately funded. They included job training and teaching poor families how to save money. The administration also introduced conditional cash transfers, rewarding families that met goals like going to the doctor, school attendance for the kids or even getting a library card. The money could certainly make a short-term difference for families that participated but antipoverty advocates argued that the cash transfers and other programs were too small to address the root causes of poverty like high rates of unemployment, skyrocketing rents and low wages. (Cash transfer was abandoned when it showed little impact on the behavior of participants.)

"At the same time that the Mayor was introducing and then giving up on untested programs, the administration's proposed budget cuts ended up primarily impacting public services that helped the poor. An analysis by the Gotham Gazette found that programs aiding the city's poor and working class residents -- including those providing child care, health, education and homeless services 'have lost a disproportionate number of workers -- 6 percent to more than 26 percent of their staffs.' They point out that at the same time the police department 'lost fewer than 3 percent of its uniformed officers, and the corrections department has actually increased its uniformed staffing by 2 percent.'

"Every year, like clockwork, the Mayor's proposed budget contains massive proposed cuts to programs that help poor kids and parents, like child care and after school programs. Between 2007 and 2011 more than 40,000 subsidized child services spots were canned, according to the Center for New York City Affairs. 'This year, the slots face the guillotine once again, with a $60 million cut to afterschool programs in Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget, and another $77 million to child care services,' writes Abigail Kramer Child Welfare Watch.

"5. Affordable Housing for Rich People

"One area the administration has been willing to spend money is in building affordable housing in the city. The New Housing Marketplace Plan, a multi-billion dollar investment, is expected to produce up to 140,000 housing units (the initial goal was 165,000). Small snag: many will only be affordable for upper-income people. A new report prepared by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development found that two thirds of the new spaces cost too much for most neighborhood residents. In half of the districts surveyed, the majority of units are too expensive for residents that make the neighborhood's median income (the administration disputes their conclusions). "The typical Bronx household would have to make 1.5 times its income in order to be able to afford the majority of the affordable housing built in the Bronx," they write. As Eric Jaffe points out in Atlantic Cities, 'In general terms, the affordable housing plan did create low-income housing, but it was upper-low-income housing.'

"For example, an 'affordable housing' apartment built in Central Harlem costs $1,492, most likely to be rented by a relatively high income person. In contrast, the report points to another 3 bedroom apartment in the neighborhood, built in collaboration with a non-profit, which rents for $531.

"The plan certainly isn't ideal for poor residents being priced out of their neighborhoods. As Alyssa Katz points out in the American Prospect, even if the housing units provided by the initiative served low-income people, they would not make up for the impact of gentrification. 'New York is losing far more than it's building to deregulation and gentrification. According to the Community Service Society, every year nearly 60,000 apartments become too expensive for the poorest two-fifths of city residents to afford.'

"While gentrification is often seen as being inevitable, it's strongly shaped by city policy, and the Bloomberg administration has been an especially ardent advocate of redevelopment. In the past decade the city has rezoned a record number of neighborhoods, which allows developers to come in and build expensive new apartments or fill a street with H&Ms and Old Navys. While in many cases neighborhood change can be positive, advocates for lower-income people and protestors of gentrification say that despite big promises made at city meetings, development is rarely met with matching measures that ensure residents can stay in the neighborhood.

"6. Stop and frisk

"The NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy essentially makes it a crime to be a poor black or Latino person in New York (the policy is currently the target of a large class action lawsuit). The shocking stats have become familiar: 5 million stops in the last decade, close to 90% of them minorities. Only 1 in 1,000 stops yields a gun, undermining the Mayor's contention that the policy plays an essential role inkeeping guns off the streets. But as AlterNet's Kristen Gwynne has reported, stats somberly repeated by the New York Times mask the horrific on-the-ground experience of the department's violent policing: the cold numbers obscure what it's like to have a cop touch your penis while your girlfriend watches.

"Gwynne has also documented how aggressive enforcement of so-called 'quality of life laws' in poor neighborhoods -- like riding your bike on the sidewalk -- sucks kids into the criminal justice system:
"A 'Quality of life' summons for disorderly conduct may seem like no big deal, but young people in the South Bronx told me that misdemeanor summonses are so often handed to them that they “lose track” and miss a court date. Next thing they know, a stop-and-frisk turns up a warrant for arrest, and they are hauled down to the precinct. The $25 fine quickly turns into $100, stacking up to exorbitant fees for crimes prosecuted almost exclusively in low-income neighborhoods of color.

"One can see how fining low-income people hundreds of dollars for riding their bikes on the sidewalk doesn't ease their path out of poverty. Also, probably pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is more complicated when going to school or work involves being yelled at, fondled, cited, or arrested by police."

For those who thought our earlier comments about "dead Republicans" was a bit unnecessary, re-read the two stories again and try to count the numbers of people affected by actions of these two criminals: people in misery, our taxes, women's health, the environment, employment and living wages, civil rights, homelessness, poverty, job training, child care and after school programs, health, education, affordable housing, civil rights, and police violence are all affected by these "good Republicans."

Both of these pols have separated themselves early on from the more radical segment of the GOP, the Tea Partiers, reckoning along with the rest of the Conservative Establishment that the Tea Freaks are detrimental to their own ambitions.

Admittedly, both of these Conservatives pose a danger in the next Presidential Election with only the candidacy of Hillary Clinton an obstacle to another four to eight years of misery under a Conservative rule.  Both Conservatives offer unique gifts for campaigning: for Bloomberg, a $27 billion net worth, and for Christie, a practiced charismatic presence on the tube, so it is critical that Ms. Clinton make her run for the White House.

There are no "good Republicans."  To reiterate, the GOP is the front group for the vast right-wing criminal conspiracy known as Conservatism.


"But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you
and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will
reward you."

Matthew 6:6


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