How Conservatives Took Over Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s current political landscape looks wildly different than it did just a few years ago. Long a state with reliably Democratic leanings, everything changed in 2010 when conservative outside groups helped flip the state legislature and governor’s office from blue to red.

Led by Governor Scott Walker, the state’s new Republican leadership quickly set about imposing its extreme conservative agenda. They introduced an assault on collective bargaining rights that effectively cut public workers’ pay and destroyed their ability to negotiate over health coverage, safety, or sick leave. The severity of the bill prompted impassioned protests centered around the state capitol and forced Republican lawmakers to use underhanded measures to pass it without a single Democrat. Although a judge initially blocked the law because of the Republican tactics, it was reinstated by the state Supreme Court, which had maintained a conservative majority thanks to a narrowly re-elected justice whose campaign got significant support from right-wing interest groups.

In 2011, Republicans enacted one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country – although it was later placed on hold due to court challenges – as well as a Stand Your Ground-style gun law and a measure allowing concealed weapons in public parks, bars, and near schools. They also passed a budget cutting taxes for businesses and the wealthy, increasing the burden on low-income families, and slashing $800 million from K-12 education in a way that hit high-poverty districts the hardest. The next year, they passed an abstinence-only education bill and limited certain types of abortions. In 2013, Walker signed one bill forcing medically unnecessary ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and another – currently under injunction – imposing requirements that could force some of the state’s abortion clinics to close. So far this year, Republicans have stalled a minimum wage increase, interfered with local minimum wage laws, and further limited voting opportunities.

Read more after the jump.

Meet The Man Behind The Claim That Obama ‘Gutted’ Welfare Reform

Following a July 2012 Health and Human Services memo offering states a chance to apply for waivers that would allow them more flexibility in complying with welfare’s work requirements, conservatives began claiming that President Obama had ‘gutted’ the 1996 welfare reform law and waived all work requirements associated with receiving assistance. This is false. Currently, activities that fulfill work requirements are narrowly defined by changes made during the law’s 2005 reauthorization, and the waivers would let states try out new approaches to moving welfare beneficiaries towards stable employment while maintaining the principle that recipients must be progressing towards work. Yet the allegation remains popular among conservatives, thanks largely to the efforts of the Heritage Foundation’s in-house welfare expert, Robert Rector.

In the past two months, Rector has published at least 16 items on the subject of welfare reform, including the July 12 blog post cited in Mitt Romney’s now-infamous television ad that provoked a storm of fact checks. Given his role in promoting the attack on the administration, Rector’s record deserves a closer look.

Rector was involved in crafting the 1996 welfare reform law and has spent more than two decades arguing that Americans who live in poverty are not truly “poor” because they own “modern amenities,” such as vehicles and household electronics. To bolster his position, Rector has cited statistics showing that impoverished Americans are “more likely to be overweight” than better-off Americans and outright denied that poverty is “harmful” to children. The clear intent of these claims is to undermine the logic behind the safety net. In fact, Rector has stated explicitly that welfare is based on the “idiot premise” that more resources will cause poor Americans to “behave more like middle-class people.”

Read more after the jump.

Meet The Man Behind The Claim That Obama ‘Gutted’ Welfare Reform

Following a July 2012 Health and Human Services memo offering states a chance to apply for waivers that would allow them more flexibility in complying with welfare’s work requirements, conservatives began claiming that President Obama had ‘gutted’ the 1996 welfare reform law and waived all work requirements associated with receiving assistance. This is false. Currently, activities that fulfill work requirements are narrowly defined by changes made during the law’s 2005 reauthorization, and the waivers would let states try out new approaches to moving welfare beneficiaries towards stable employment while maintaining the principle that recipients must be progressing towards work.

Yet the allegation remains popular among conservatives, thanks largely to the efforts of the Heritage Foundation’s in-house welfare expert, Robert Rector. In the past two months, Rector has published at least 16 items on the subject of welfare reform, including the July 12 blog post cited in Mitt Romney’s now-infamous television ad that provoked a storm of fact checks. Given his role in promoting the attack on the administration, Rector’s record deserves a closer look.

Rector was involved in crafting the 1996 welfare reform law and has spent more than two decades arguing that Americans who live in poverty are not truly “poor” because they own “modern amenities,” such as vehicles and household electronics. To bolster his position, Rector has cited statistics showing that impoverished Americans are “more likely to be overweight” than better-off Americans and outright denied that poverty is “harmful” to children. The clear intent of these claims is to undermine the logic behind the safety net. In fact, Rector has stated explicitly that welfare is based on the “idiot premise” that more resources will cause poor Americans to “behave more like middle-class people.”

Read more after the jump.

Heritage’s Rector: Liberals Want To ‘Replace Marriage With A Welfare State Family’

From a September 4, 2012, Bloggers Briefing with the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector:

RECTOR: Okay now as I’ve said, having a child without being married is actually a stronger predictor of childhood poverty than dropping out of high school. Again, not recommending dropping out of high school, but this is a huge deal. And in every state in the United States I can guarantee you that in this at-risk population not once is any young boy or girl ever told, look, if you don’t want your children to be poor, it’s critically important to be married before you have children. Not once. Dead silence. Okay, so we pretty much guarantee this result because we never even offer them the information. If this is where you want to go with the house in the suburbs, these are the choices that you need to make in order to get there. You need to understand that a child that’s born outside marriage is 80 percent more likely to be poor than if you make other choices. And give them that information to empower them to begin to make other choices. Not that that would be a panacea, but as long as we have a gag rule about talking even why people are poor, we would have no chance whatsoever of ever altering this behavior, which is fine with the left because the left does not like marriage in the first place and the left basically has had a plan all along to remove marriage and replace it with a welfare state family, because none of these single-parent families can possibly be self-sufficient. They always require massive amounts of subsidies through the welfare system, not only for food, cash, and housing, for medical care, but also even if the mom is working you have to subsidize her daycare. So you end up basically with moms married to the welfare state, and if you’re a statist, that’s a good deal, okay. Not that you ever exactly set it out to plan that, but when things started falling apart the left has basically said that we’re not going to do anything to correct this situation.

Read more after the jump.

Unequal America: The Facts About Income Inequality And Economic Mobility

The American economic pie may have increased in size, but 95 percent of Americans are getting a smaller slice than in the past. This is partly because the top 1 percent of the country has nearly quadrupled the size of its own helping. Their nearly 300 percent increase in take-home pay over that time dwarfs the more modest progress of the rest. Furthermore, while conservatives allege that progressives seek equal outcomes for all, at the cost of American economic freedom, the fact is our storied “equality of opportunity” is overstated. Economic mobility is scarce in the U.S. compared to other advanced economies, and most born into wealth or poverty stay more or less where they started.

Earnings Have Exploded For The Top 1 Percent, While Everyone Else Has Seen Much More Modest Growth

Economic Boom Following World War II Saw Income Gains “Distributed Rapidly Across Income Classes.” From the Economic Policy Institute’s State of Working America: “Between 1947 and 1973, economic growth was both rapid and distributed equally across income classes. The poorest 20% of families saw growth at least as fast as the richest 20% of families, and everybody in between experienced similar rates of income growth. Since then, growth in average living standards has unambiguously slowed. Between 1973 and 1995, growth in productivity, or how much income can be generated in each hour of work, collapsed to less than half the rate that characterized the previous quarter century.” [The State Of Working America, accessed 3/7/12]

Read more after the jump.

Schlafly: Poor People Today “Don’t Know What Poverty Really Is”

At the Heritage Foundation Blogger Briefing on July 24, Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly said:

However, I grew up during the Great Depression. And I read the list that the Heritage Foundation made up of all the amenities and all the advantages that people living in poverty today enjoy. And I went over that list of 50 and I didn’t have a single one as I was growing up except for a stove and an oven. We didn’t even have a refrigerator because my father lost his job, and I think today’s people in poverty don’t know what poverty really is.

“Freeloaders” Far From Tax-Free: Examining The Tax Burden Of Low-Income Americans

In their determination to prevent any tax increase for the wealthiest Americans, conservatives have argued that the real unfairness of our tax code is that approximately half the country did not pay income taxes in recent years due to their earnings levels and the tax credits aimed at middle- and low-income families. Though conservatives frequently describe these people as paying “no taxes,” the reality is that income taxes are only one facet of the tax code. Most of those without income tax liability still face the payroll tax, federal excise taxes, and state and local taxes. Meanwhile, one in four American millionaires paid a lower tax rate in 2006 than did 10.4 million middle-income Americans.

Despite Not Earning Enough To Incur Federal Income Taxes, Middle- And Low-Income Americans Do Pay Federal Taxes

Payroll And Excise Taxes Affect Americans At All Income Levels. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The reality is that the income tax is one of a number of types of taxes that individuals pay, both over the course of their lifetimes and in a given year, and it makes little sense to treat it as though it were the only one that matters. Some 86 percent of working households pay more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes. In fact, low- and moderate-income people pay a much larger share of their incomes in federal payroll taxes than high-income people do: taxpayers in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale paid an average of 8.8 percent of their incomes in payroll taxes in 2007, compared to just 1.6 percent for taxpayers in the top 1 percent of the income distribution (see Figure 2).

cbpp-taxes-low-income

[CBPP.org, 5/31/11, internal citations removed]

Read more after the jump.

Conservatives For Class Warfare

Ask someone what conservatives have in common and you’re likely to hear something about cutting taxes. As it turns out, the modern conservative movement would like to see taxes increased on one very specific group of people: struggling Americans who owed no federal income taxes in the aftermath of the Wall Street collapse. At the same time, conservatives insist that the jobless prefer government handouts to honest work. Though they decry any attempt to raise marginal tax rates on the wealthiest as some sort of attack on success, it appears conservatives are the ones waging class warfare.

“The New Republican Orthodoxy”: Raising Taxes On The Poor

Heritage Foundation Portrays Those Who Pay No Income Taxes As “The Non-Taxpaying Public” Who “Paid Nothing.” From the Heritage Foundation: “One of the most worrying trends in the Index [of Dependence on Government] is the coinciding growth in the non-taxpaying public. The percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 14.8 percent in 1984 to 49.5 percent in 2009. This means that in 1984, 34.8 million tax filers paid no taxes; in 2009, 151.7 million paid nothing.” [Heritage.org, 2/8/12]

Read more after the jump.