Thunder on K Street
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz teaming up to push for lobbying reform? Bizarre — and encouraging.
The Senate and the House currently impose respective two- and one-year bans on members lobbying Congress after they leave, which isn’t much better than no restriction at all. And they can lobby the White House immediately. This year alone, more than a dozen former members joined lobbying firms.
Ocasio-Cortez is among the most liberal Democrats in the House; Cruz is among the Senate’s most conservative Republicans. They don’t agree on much, but they discovered during a recent Twitter exchange that they agree former members of Congress should be banned for life from lobbying.
“If we can agree on a bill with no partisan snuck-in clauses, no poison pills, etc — just a straight, clean ban on members of Congress becoming paid lobbyists,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez, “then I’ll co-lead the bill with you.”
Cruz responded: “You’re on.” If this is for real, it could mean Congress finally stops working for special interests represented by former colleagues and starts working for the people.
Hen in the Fox house
Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand had the guts to appear at a Fox News town hall meeting this week, and expressed some things that needed to be said about the network’s slanted coverage. Democrats have debated about how to handle invitations from Fox — which long ago graduated from the mere bias typical of most cable news to full-service shilling for the Republican Party.
Some say appearing on the network gives it credibility it doesn’t deserve; others point out that going on could help open the eyes of its long-deceived viewers. Gillibrand took the latter position, informing Fox viewers that a long segment they’d earlier watched was a “false narrative” that conflated the sincere debate over abortion with a misleading and irrelevant discussion of infanticide — which is defined as murder in every jurisdiction, with no one suggesting it shouldn’t be.
Host Chris Wallace deemed Gillibrand’s attack on his network as not “polite.” Considering the way Fox News’ attack dogs go after Democrats when they’re not present to defend themselves, that’s progress.
Kudos to Republican House leaders who are standing firm against a cadre of right-wing extremists in their party trying to get Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, reinstated to his committee assignments. King has a long history of expressing his bigotry in creative ways — associating with Nazi sympathizers, promoting the racist “birther” lie about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, and declaring, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
In a January New York Times interview, King asked: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
That was the last straw for GOP leaders, for whom racial issues are fraught enough these days. They stripped King of all committee assignments.
It was the right thing to do. So, of course, a group of hard-right House ideologues wants it undone. They, and King, absurdly claim the above words from the interview were taken out of context — as if any context could de-fang them. GOP leaders should stick to their guns.
It’s easy to cheer people like Anthony Greene, the St. Louis-area man who, with others, stages online stings to expose child sex predators. But authorities are right: Vigilantism isn’t the answer. As the Post-Dispatch’s Erin Heffernan reported, Greene and others engage suspected pedophiles online, pretending to be underage girls, and set up meetings with them, then confront them with cameras.
It’s the same concept as the old NBC reality show “To Catch a Predator.” The difference is that the NBC show worked with law enforcement; the private citizens don’t. While there have been a few arrests as a result of their work, most often the cases are unprosecutable because they weren’t undertaken by police.
The alleged perpetrators’ faces are shown online anyway, opening the possibility that these amateur sleuths could publicly tar innocent people — or end up in physical altercations with guilty ones. As the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office said in a statement: “While we believe the intentions of these citizens are good, the consequences personally and legally can be serious.”
Voodoo economics award
President Donald Trump is giving the prestigious Medal of Freedom to economist Arthur Laffer, the supply-side guru whose theory has for decades enthralled the GOP and plagued the U.S. with monstrous deficits. The announcement came the same week the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported that the supply-side-based Republican tax cuts of 2017 have been a bust for everyone except the rich, which says it all about Laffer’s ideas.
That was by no means the first time reality has punctured Laffer’s economic fantasy — that cutting taxes on the rich would “trickle down” to everyone else in the form of business expansion, creating enough new taxable income to pay for the cuts.
Ronald Reagan’s strong economy may or may not have been helped by his implementation of this theory — but it inarguably drove Reagan’s huge deficits. The collapse of Kansas’ radical tax-cut experiment is another example of how well this theory works in real life. Add the Medal of Freedom to the growing list of once-hallowed institutions Trump has now sullied.