Opponents of Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have announced that they have obtained enough signatures to trigger a recall election next year.
After they took power in January, the hard-line Republicans who dominate the House reached for a radical overhaul of American government, hoping to unravel the social safety net, cut taxes further for the wealthy and strip away regulation of business. Fortunately, thanks to defensive tactics by Democrats, they failed to achieve most of their agenda.
But they still did significant damage in 2011 to many of the most important functions of government, and particularly to investments in education, training and transportation that the country will need for a sound economic recovery.
This spending category has been the main focus of Republican pressure for decades. In the 1970s, nondefense discretionary spending represented about 5 percent of the gross domestic product; that is now down to about 2.5 percent. Over the next decade, once the new cuts go into effect, it will decline to less than 2 percent. This year’s spending bill, signed into law a few days ago, is roughly 10 percent lower than last year’s, cutting Pell grants, environmental programs and aid to desperate states. Low-income heating assistance was cut by 25 percent.
As the economist Jared Bernstein has noted, this is the category of spending that helps people move up the income ladder, providing nutritious food, improving early education and job training and putting people to work.
The precise cuts on individual programs will be determined each year by appropriators acting under the new caps. Each year’s cuts will be more painful than the last because the spending limits fail to keep pace with population growth, inflation and the needs of the economy.
This situation is the result of the Republicans’ success at shifting Washington’s focus from job creation and revenue increases to deficit reduction, at exactly the wrong time, when the economy was too weak to handle it.
The long-term deficit needs to be reduced once economic growth has returned, but only in the context of higher taxes for the rich and a careful restructuring of Medicare. Even if the Bush tax cuts expire on time, much of the $3.8 trillion that that would bring in over a decade would have to be used for deficit reduction if the caps stay in place.
MOSCOW — The Ukrainian authorities abruptly transferred the jailed opposition leader Yulia V. Tymoshenko to a prison camp about 300 miles east of the capital on Friday, a move that her supporters suspect is intended to cut off her access to the press and the public.
This was a great year for bad news, whether you’re a crime buff, a lover of disaster porn, or just a run-of-the-mill gawker. The stories came fast and frequently, and many left the news cycle with details un-reported or still unsolved. We’re still thinking about those, and hoping for follow-up in 2012. Here’s our list of the best unsolved mysteries.
“Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.”
-John P. Judis
In 12 months that revealed the existence of mutually empowering bullies in every realm of American life, nothing insulted Lee Siegel more than The Donald, our oligarchic Congress—and the rotten Jerry Sandusky.
A writer’s contentments should remain private—who cares?—but his animadversions belong to all the world (even if no one cares about them, either). As the inevitable “best” and “worst” accountings appear this week, here is my list of the year’s outrages that kept my head bent over the keyboard, and my heart young.