Under Wittich, Human Services subpoenas welfare queen stories

House Human Services Chair Art Wittich (R–Belgrade) invites you to get the hell out of his office.

House Human Services Chair Art Wittich (R–Belgrade) invites you to get the hell out of his office.

Between the political practices indictment and filing for the wrong district so he could switch and run unopposed, I’m starting to think Art Wittich is devious. Last week, the Republican from Belgrade chaired a meeting of the House Human Services Committee that heard testimony form three state aid workers. In this context, “testimony” means stories about welfare moms driving Hummers. After the committee had heard a series of what seemed to be office anecdotes, Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) asked if the witnesses reported any of these obvious abuses to fraud control. They had not. Could they connected these stories to any names or case numbers? They could not.

Here Wittich took proceedings in hand again, asking the witnesses not to offer names or numbers “in case there’s a prosecution.” Thus were facts formally banished from the meeting and rumors designated their proxy. This week in the Independent, I suggest that Wittich might lead us away from our base ignorance rather than toward it. There is plenty of actual data about welfare available, much of it indicating that underpayments are more common than overpayments. Maybe that’s because a woman whose job is to hand out benefits thinks what her coworker said about somebody’s husband is admissible evidence. Maybe it’s because the man appointed to chair the House Human Services Committee opposes all services and most humans. Maybe most poor people are, in fact, poor.

Summers says inequality costs average household $11,000 a year

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers

Former Secretary of the Treasury and gifted face-maker Larry Summers has calculated how much more middle-class households would make if the United States enjoyed the same income distribution it had in 1979, and the results are startling. According to his calculations, households in the bottom 80% of incomes would be making another $11,000 a year, on average, if we had experienced the same economy of the last 35 years without the growth in inequality. Households in the top 1%, on the other hand, would get $750,000 less. If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around those two numbers, NPR’s Planet Money podcast has produced a helpful graph. Scroll down to see the whole thing—like six screens down.

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Jonathan Chait commits internet seppuku with PC essay

New York Magazine author Jonathan Chait destroys his ally cred with a blue blazer.

New York Magazine author Jonathan Chait wrecks his ally cred via blue blazer.

One of the signal pleasures of reading Jonathan Chait’s essay on political correctness in New York Magazine is being glad you didn’t write it. Chait makes some good points, one of which is that social media will probably excoriate him. He’s right. My personal favorite is the tweet that accuses him of mansplaining the term mansplaining, which includes a shrugging emoticon but does not say how his explanation is wrong. Perhaps the implication is that anyone but a white man should explain what that term means, which seems right. It is certainly a bitter irony that a man should establish the definition of pedantic man-talk. Something about that sentiment seems illiberal, though. Must Chait be wrong in defining mainsplaining even if his definition is correct? Here we encounter the crux of his argument, and the complicating realization that he is the wrong person to make it.

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Sarah Palin delivers incoherent speech at Iowa Freedom Summit

At some point on Saturday, the snake that operates Sarah Palin fell in love with a licorice whip and ran away, leaving her host body to deliver a half-hour nonsense speech at the Iowa Freedom summit. Lest you think I am indulging a liberal trope, I want to make it clear that this was not the usual folksy assault on syntax. It was bona fide word salad. I quote from the 26-minute mark:

Things like that: it must change. Things must change for our government. Look at it. It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed. It’s too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads, or nothing will change. With the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo—another that word, status quo, and it stands for man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really getting taken for a ride. That’s status quo. And GOP leaders, by the way—you know, the man can only ride you when your back is bent.

That’s 23 seconds of a speech that lasted a half hour. I urge you to watch as much of the video as you can tolerate, if only for the reaction shots. That is as publicly surly as Iowans get.

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Friday links! Wonder Bread for everybody edition

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) perches on a fence post.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) perches on a fence post.

The problem with this blog is that it’s not nearly folksy enough. Sorry—I meant to say, “dang old blog is dicty as all get out.” You’ll never win an audience by encouraging them to rise to meet you. Better to show that you’re just like them—more famous and wealthy, of course, but definitely not cosmopolitan or freethinking. The ideal senator, for example, would be a hog-castrating soldier mom who wore bread bags for shoes. Of course I am speaking of Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who was chosen to rebut the State of the Union Address but still presented herself as a simple country girl woman bumpkin. Today is Friday, and what this country needs is a few people who are just like everybody else. Won’t you pander to an imagined mainstream with me?

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