Don't be taken by corporate media both-siderism: The GOP alone manufactured this debt ceiling disaster

The credit-rating agency Fitch on Thursday morning put the nation’s AAA rating on a watch list, citing “increased political partisanship” over the debt ceiling. Later, I heard ABC News attribute the standoff on the debt ceiling to “polarization” in Congress. NPR blames the fight on “hyper-partisanship” in American politics. Reutersblames the stalemate on lawmakers “digging in on partisan positions.”

“Partisan standoff” is the way most of the media is now characterizing the fight.


Enough with the “both sides” reporting on the debt ceiling.

I admire Joe Biden, but he should not have allowed the media to so badly mischaracterize what’s happening.

The current fight over raising the debt ceiling — and the growing possibility the United States might default on its debts — is not because of partisanship. It’s not due to political polarization. It’s not because lawmakers are “digging in” to “partisan positions.”

Republicans alone manufactured this looming disaster.

In order to become speaker, Kevin McCarthy made a deal with right-wing MAGA House Republicans to use the debt ceiling as a way to hold America hostage and force the Biden administration to come begging.

McCarthy and his band of MAGA crazies don’t give a fig about the national debt. Hell, they had no problem raising the debt ceiling three times under Trump — while providing trillions in tax cuts for the rich.

This current fight is entirely theirs.

The “both sides” reporting is misleading the public and giving a free pass to McCarthy and his extremists.

I admire Joe Biden, but he should not have allowed the media to so badly mischaracterize what’s happening. He never should have begun negotiating with McCarthy. Biden has the bully pulpit; he should have addressed the nation by now, pointing out that this fight is manufactured entirely by House Republicans.

The media’s reporting is inexcusable.

DC insider: Biden should ignore the debt ceiling

I want to start today with a bit of history that sheds some light on what’s happening in Washington this week and what Biden should do about the debt-ceiling crisis created by Kevin McCarthy’s Republican House.

On October 22, 1985, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III told congressional leaders that if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling by the end of the month, the Reagan administration would pay the nation’s bills by taking back Treasury securities in which Social Security had invested.

I remember being stunned at the time. It was an extraordinary move. It meant Social Security would lose interest paid on its funds.

If Congress still didn’t raise the debt ceiling, Baker said the administration would borrow from the railroad retirement and military retirement trust funds.

And if the impasse continued, the administration would begin selling gold from the U.S. gold reserve “even though that could undercut confidence here and abroad based on the widespread belief that the gold reserve is the foundation of our financial system,” Baker said.

Baker’s point was that the Reagan administration would continue to find ways to pay the nation’s bills, come hell or high water.

An agreement was finally reached after the Reagan administration had begun raiding Social Security but before it took any other measures.

The comptroller general of the United States later found Baker’s raid on Social Security technically illegal but concluded nonetheless that Baker “did not act unreasonably” under the circumstances.

I recount this history to give you some perspective on the current debt-ceiling crisis, and what I believe should be Biden’s next move.

First, showdowns over the debt ceiling have been going on for a long time.

Second, they have often been fueled by soaring national debts due to Republican tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. (The 1985 standoff involved a refusal by Senate Democrats to support a balanced budget, even though Reagan’s mammoth spending on the military and huge tax cut had doubled the national debt in less than five years.)

Finally, fights over the debt ceiling have required Treasury secretaries to do extraordinary things to keep paying the nation’s bills — sometimes technically illegal.

Hence, there have never been “X-dates” at which time the Treasury runs dry. There are just ever more extreme government bookkeeping measures.

And there is no end to the measures the Treasury might use to keep paying the bills. Although their legality of some might be dubious, who is to complain? Who is to say a Treasury secretary acted unreasonably in paying a lawful claim on the U.S. government?

This standoff is different in one respect. Previous standoffs have been carefully crafted dramas in which both sides demonstrate their commitments to their position, knowing full well how the play will end — with the debt ceiling lifted.

This time, though, gonzo lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and raving nut-jobs like the current Republican frontrunner for president have considerable influence.

And unlike Bob Dole in 1985, these players have no real commitment to cutting the government debt. (Were that their goal, presumably they wouldn’t have supported the massive 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations that fueled the debt, or would now urge its repeal. And they certainly wouldn’t demand cuts in staffing for the IRS, which House Republicans are also now doing.)

Their only commitment is to power — gaining dominance over, and submission from, Democrats, progressives, putative “coastal elites,” and so-called “deep state” bureaucrats.

For them, this is not play-acting. It’s not for show. It’s for real. If they don’t get their way, they’re prepared to blow up the economy.

In fact, as the so-called X-date appears to loom ever closer, their demands have escalated. And as Biden appears ready to give in to some of those demands, the demands will continue to escalate.

Which is why it’s critical for Biden to stop negotiating.

Meanwhile, he should continue paying the government’s bills and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen should continue using every bookkeeping scheme imaginable to find the means to pay those bills.

And they must never declare an “X-date.” And must never default.

If Kevin McCarthy and his band of radicals don’t like this, let them take the Biden administration to court.

Let House Republicans argue in the courts that the 1917 act establishing the debt ceiling has precedence over Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which requires that the “the validity of the public debt …. shall not be questioned.”

Let them claim in the courts that the 1917 debt-ceiling act takes precedence over more recent acts of Congress that require the president to, for example, pay interest on the federal debt, distribute Social Security benefits, and pay bills from defense contractors and everyone else who has relied on the full faith and credit of the United States.

Let McCarthy and House Republicans argue that they have standing to sue Biden for having the audacity to pay the government’s debts as they come due.

Finally, let McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the other loonies demand openly and publicly in court that Biden not honor the full faith and credit of the United States — with the predictable results that the cost of borrowing skyrockets, bond markets crash, the stock market plummets, the global economy is in turmoil, the dollar’s status as the world’s major currency is up for grabs, America is plunged into a deep recession, and millions of jobs are lost.

In other words, let McCarthy and House Republicans seek to enforce their dangerous nonsense about the debt ceiling — so that Americans can see clearly what they’re up to.

Why did CNN do it?

Why in hell did CNN give Donald Trump a full hour of prime-time television before an audience of ardent supporters who applauded every lie and laughed at every sexist insult?

The germ of an answer could be found last August, when Chris Licht, CNN’s new chairman and CEO, canceled Brian Stelter’s Sunday show, “Reliable Sources,” which had been a reliable source of intelligent criticism of Fox News, right-wing media in general, Trumpism, and the increasingly authoritarian lurch of the Republican party.

Licht also fired Stelter and his staff.

The show had been commercially successful. It was doing better than several of CNN’s prime-time shows.

Around the same time, Licht told CNN staff they should stop referring to Donald Trump’s “big lie” because the phrase sounded like a Democratic party talking point. Licht also told the staff he wanted more “straight news reporting,” along with more conservative guests.


Follow the money. CNN’s new corporate overseer is Warner Bros. Discovery Inc, whose CEO is David Zaslav.

Zaslav has been pushing Licht to reposition CNN to be a network preferred by “everybody … Republicans, Democrats.”

But CNN was never going to be the network preferred by Republicans. Fox News has that sewn up.

Besides, facts, data, and logic are no longer relevant to the Republican base.

The anti-democracy movement in America is among the biggest issues confronting America today. Is reporting on it considered “straight news” or “opinion?” Wouldn’t failing to report on it in a way that sounded alarms be a gross dereliction of duty?

How is it possible to report on Trump and not speak of the big lie, or say they’ve broken norms if not laws?

So, what’s motivating Zaslav? Keep following the money.

The leading shareholder in Warner Bros. Discovery is John Malone, a multibillionaire cable magnate. (Malone was a chief architect in the merger of Discovery and CNN.)

Malone describes himself as a “libertarian” although he travels in right-wing Republican circles. In 2005, he held 32% of the shares of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. He is on the board of directors of the Cato Institute. In 2017, he donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration.

Malone has said he wants CNN to be more like Fox News because, in his view, Fox News has “actual journalism.” Malone also wants the “news” portion of CNN to be “more centrist.”

It’s unlikely that Malone instructed Zaslav to tell Licht to fire Stelter. Power isn’t exercised that clumsily in large corporate media bureaucracies.

It’s more likely that Licht knew what Zaslav wanted, and Zaslav knew what Malone wanted. A source told Deadline’s Dominic Patten and Ted Johnson that even if Malone didn’t order Stelter’s ouster, “it sure represents his thinking.”

When you follow the money behind deeply irresponsible decisions at the power centers of America today, the road often leads to right-wing billionaires.

Last year, Stelter wrote in his newsletter that Malone’s comments about CNN “stoked fears that Discovery might stifle CNN journalists and steer away from calling out indecency and injustice.”

Last August, on his last show, Stelter said:

“It’s not partisan to stand up for decency and democracy and dialogue. It’s not partisan to stand up to demagogues. It’s required. It’s patriotic. We must make sure we don’t give platforms to those who are lying to our faces.”


Sadly, there are still many in America — and not just billionaires like Malone — who believe that holding Trump accountable for what he has done (and continues to do) to this country is a form of partisanship, and that such partisanship has no place in so-called “balanced journalism.”

This belief is itself dangerous.

After I first criticized Licht for the direction he was pushing CNN, he phoned me. He was angry that I doubted his motives, and said he took the top job at CNN because he “believes in journalism.”

When I mentioned the particularly challenging time American journalism now finds itself in — with Trump, most of the Republican Party, and most Republican candidates for office denying that the 2020 election was won by Joe Biden, thereby on the way to undermining America democracy — Licht agreed that it’s challenging. He said, emphatically, that this was why he is so deeply committed to restoring CNN’s credibility as an “unbiased” source of news that “people can feel they can trust.”

Well, Chris, after what you did last week, you can forget the public’s trust in CNN.

DC insider: A new progressive era in America is likely in about 20 years — unless Republicans destroy democracy in the meantime

A new progressive era is dawning in America, and almost nothing Republicans can do will hold back the tide — unless Republicans destroy democracy altogether (more on this in a moment).

Start with the recent victories. In Chicago, progressive Brandon Johnson, a once little-known county commissioner and union organizer, won the mayor’s race over his more conservative Democratic opponent, Paul Vallas, who ran on a tough-on-crime platform and was endorsed by a police union.

In Wisconsin, Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Milwaukee County judge, won a high-stakes race for a seat on the state’s Supreme Court.

A progressive now holds the mayor’s office in Los Angeles, and progressives compose a majority on the board of aldermen in St. Louis.

Progressives have swept into statehouses in Colorado, Connecticut, and Wisconsin (where two Democratic Socialists this year revived a socialist caucus inactive since the 1930s).

John Fetterman successfully campaigned for Senate in Pennsylvania. In Virginia, progressive Jennifer McClellan became the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress. The House’s Congressional Progressive Caucus has added 16 new members, bringing the total number of the organization to 102. It is now among the largest caucuses in Congress.

These newly elected progressives view America’s widening inequalities of income and wealth as dangerous. They believe government has no business forcing women to give birth or telling consenting adults how to conduct the most intimate aspects of their lives. They want to limit access to guns. They see climate change is an existential threat to the nation and the world. They want to act against systemic racism. They want to protect American democracy from authoritarianism.


The bigger news is that these progressive leaders couldn’t have gotten to where they are without a fundamental transformation occurring in America: Voters who also believe these things are rapidly becoming the majority.

First, consider the age of people who believe these things — including the huge millennial generation now in their late 20s to early 40s.

According to a recent analysis by the Financial Times, if millennials were following previous trends, someone who is now 35 years old would be about 5 percentage points less conservative than the national average and would gradually become more conservative as they aged.

But, in fact, millennials are 15 points less conservative. Today’s 35-year-olds are the most progressive cohort of 35-year-olds in recent history.

Why? Millennials have faced an inequitable economic system, a runaway climate crisis, and the herculean costs of trying to have a family — including everything from unaffordable child care to wildly unaffordable housing. They’re demanding a more equitable and sustainable society because they desperately need one.


Next, consider women. Young women have become significantly more liberal over the past decade — while the political identity of young men has remained largely unchanged.

Part of this is the result of anger over abortion rights, but the trend started before the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.

Researchers point to diverging views about societal change, with young women more likely than young men to support fluidity over gender identity and sexual preference, LGBTQ rights, children having gay or lesbian parents, men staying home with children, and women serving in the military. Young women are also more likely to loathe Donald Trump and any politician who emulates him.

Over the next two decades, these women will be moving into positions of power and leadership. That’s especially likely in that women now compose a remarkable 60 percent of college undergraduates.


Next, look at the growing percentage of Americans who are (or who consider themselves) people of color.

The United States is projected to become a majority-minority nation sometime between 2041 and 2046 (depending on the amount of net immigration into the U.S., birth/death rates, and intermarriage rates over the preceding years).

By 2050, the Census Bureau projects that the number of white people in America will be falling, the number of Black people will have grown by roughly 30 percent, the number of Latinos will have risen by 60 percent, and the number of Asian Americans will have more than doubled.

Not all these people believe in all the progressive values I mentioned above, of course. A sizable share of Black voters are uneasy with LGBTQ rights. Some Latino voters —specially those who fled Cuba during the Castro regime — reject socialism. (Biden won Latino voters by a 59 to 38 percent margin, yet that was a net 17-point decline from Hillary Clinton’s 66 to 28 percent victory in 2016.)

Overall, people of color are deeply concerned about the nation’s widening inequalities. They’re committed to social justice. They want to act against systemic racism, and they want to protect American democracy.


Finally, consider college graduates, who are overwhelmingly more liberal and progressive than non-college grads.

Republicans argue this trend has been offset by people without college degrees, who have become more conservative. True, but irrelevant.

Here again, look at the trend. Over a third of Americans now have a college degree, double the percentage in 1980. If the trend continues — and given the demands for educated workers in an ever-more-complex economy, that seems likely — by 2040, a majority of Americans will have college degrees.


All these trends point to a new progressive America — in about 20 years.

Twenty years is a long time, of course. These trends have already ignited an anti-democracy backlash — especially from Americans who are older, whiter, straighter, without college degrees, and mostly male — that is, from people susceptible to authoritarian strongmen peddling conspiracy theories and stoking hatred.

The Republican Party knows it’s doomed unless it radically restricts voting, or goes full throttle and wholly adopts Trumpian fascism.

So, my friends, the stakes ahead could not be higher.

How to stop Republicans from tanking the economy

Republicans are threatening to destroy the economy if President Biden doesn’t give into their demands. But the Fourteenth Amendment gives him the power to stop them.

Republicans are taking advantage of the “debt ceiling” to try to force deep, painful cuts to programs Americans rely on. If Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, America might have to default on its bills, destroying the credit of the United States and wiping out millions of jobs.

Remember, raising the debt ceiling isn’t about taking on new debt. It’s about whether America will pay its current debts.

This is a key reason why raising the debt ceiling should not be negotiable.

Ironically, Republicans had no problem raising it three times under Trump, even as they enacted major tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that caused the nation’s debt to soar.

But now, Kevin McCarthy and his band of MAGA radicals say they’ll only raise it in exchange for drastic cuts to health care, education, veterans’ benefits, and more.

My advice to President Biden: Ignore them. Mr. President, your oath to uphold the Constitution takes precedence. And as the supreme law of the land, the Constitution has greater weight than the law on the debt ceiling.

Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment states that, “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”

A debt ceiling that prevents the government from honoring its existing financial commitments clearly violates the Constitution.

So, if Republicans threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, you are constitutionally obligated to ignore the debt ceiling, and must continue to pay the nation’s bills.

Should they wish, let the radical Republicans take you to court.

Even the conservatives on the Supreme Court will likely support you. No “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution could read that document differently,

The Constitution makes it clear that Congress’s power to borrow money does not include the power to default on such borrowings.

If Republicans are going to play this game, Mr. President, you need to play hardball.

How to Stop Republicans From Tanking the Economy

The real reason Social Security is going broke — and how to save it forever

I run into lots of young people who don’t believe Social Security will be there for them when they retire.

They have reason for concern. The trustees of the Social Security Trust Fund — of which yours truly was once a member — just released their annual report on Social Security’s future. The report says Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2034 but then faces a significant funding shortfall. After 2034, it can pay only about 80 percent of scheduled benefits.

The biggest reason Social Security is running out of money is not what you (and the media) think it is: that boomer retirees are, or will soon be, soaking it all up.

The Social Security trustees anticipated the boom in boomer retirements. This is why Social Security was amended back in 1983, to gradually increase the age for collecting full retirement benefits from age 65 to 67. That change is helping finance the boomers’ retirement.

So what did the trustees fail to anticipate? Answer: the degree of income inequality in 21st century America.

Put simply, a big part of the American working population is earning less than the Social Security trustees (including me) anticipated decades ago — and therefore paying less in Social Security payroll tax.

Had the pay of American workers kept up with what had been the trend decades ago — and kept up with their own increasing productivity — their Social Security payroll tax payments would have been enough to keep the program flush.

At the same time, a much larger chunk of the nation’s total income is going to the top than was expected decades ago.

Here’s the thing: Income subject to the payroll tax is capped. Every dollar of earnings in excess of the cap is not subject to Social Security payroll taxes. This year’s cap is $160,200.

The Social Security cap is adjusted every year for inflation, but the adjustment is tiny compared to what’s happened to incomes at the top.

As the rich have become far richer, more and more of the total income earned by Americans has become concentrated at the top. Therefore, more and more total income escapes the Social Security payroll tax.

The obvious solution to Social Security’s funding shortfall 11 years from now is to lift the cap so that the super-rich pay more in Social Security taxes.

To make sure it’s the super-rich — and not the upper middle class — who pay, it makes sense to eliminate the cap altogether on earnings in excess of, say, $400,000.

As it happens, Joe Biden campaigned for the White House on a plan to do exactly this.

What happened to that plan? The budget Biden proposed last month made no mention of any tax increase linked to Social Security (although it did include tax increases on high earners and corporations as a way to extend the solvency of Medicare by 25 years).

I suspect Biden’s plan for Social Security was a casualty of the bare-knuckled politics surrounding both Social Security and the debt ceiling. Biden doesn’t want to give Republicans any opening to debate Social Security in the coming fight over lifting the ceiling.

Hopefully, he’ll revive his plan for Social Security after that brawl. The long-term future of Social Security depends on it.

What do you think?


Reminder: Please join me Friday for the fourth class in my Wealth and Poverty course, right here on this page. We’ll be taking a deep dive into the widening inequalities of place — the geographic sorting mechanism that’s making the poor even poorer and the rich even richer, as well as shrinking the middle class.

If you missed the earlier classes, no problem. You can pick up with the fourth, or retrieve class one here, class two here, and class three here.

D.C. insider urges states to leave Trump off of 2024 primary ballots

The most obvious question in American politics today should be: Why is the guy who committed treason just over two years ago being allowed to run for president?

Answer: He shouldn’t be.

Remember? Donald Trump lost reelection but refused to concede and instead claimed without basis that the election was stolen from him, then pushed state officials to change their tallies, hatched a plot to name fake electors, tried to persuade the vice president to refuse to certify Electoral College votes, sought access to voting machine data and software, got his allies in Congress to agree to question the electoral votes and thereby shift the decision to the House of Representatives, and summoned his supporters to Washington on the day electoral votes were to be counted and urged them to march on the U.S. Capitol, where they rioted.

This, my friends, is treason.

But he is running for reelection — despite the explicit language of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits anyone who has held public office and who has engaged in insurrection against the United States from ever again serving in public office.

The reason for the Constitution’s disqualification clause is that someone who has engaged in an insurrection against the United States cannot be trusted to use constitutional methods to regain office.

Can any of us who saw (or have learned through the painstaking work of Congress’s January 6 committee) what Trump tried to do to overturn the results of the 2020 election have any doubt he’ll once again try to do whatever necessary to regain power in 2024, even if illegal and unconstitutional?

Sure, the newly enacted Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022 (amending the Electoral Count Act of 1887) filled some of the legal holes — creating a new threshold for members to object to a slate of electors (one-fifth of the members of both the House and the Senate), clarifying that the role of the vice president is “solely ministerial,” and requiring that Congress defer to slates of electors as determined by the states.

But what if Trump gets secretaries of state and governors who are loyal to him to alter the election machinery to ensure he wins? What if he gets them to prevent people likely to vote for Biden from voting at all?

What if he gets them to appoint electors who will vote for him regardless of the outcome of the popular vote?

What if, despite all of this, Biden still wins the election — but Trump gets more than 20 percent of Republican senators and House members to object to slates of electors pledged to Biden, and pushes the election into the House, where Trump has a majority of votes?

Does anyone doubt the possibility — no, the probability — of any or all of this happening?

Trump tried these tactics once. The likelihood of his trying again is greater now because his loyalists are in much stronger positions throughout state and federal government.

Yes, they were held back in the 2022 midterms. But in state after state, and in Congress, Republicans who stood up to Trump have now been purged from the party. And lawmakers in what remains of the Republican Party have made it clear that they will bend or disregard any rule that gets in their way.

In many cases, the groundwork has been laid. As recently reported in The New York Times, for example, the Trump allies who traveled to Coffee County, Georgia, on January 7, 2021, gained access to sensitive election data. They copied elections software used across Georgia and uploaded it on the internet — an open invitation to election manipulation by Trump allies in 2024.

If anything, Trump is less constrained than he was in 2020. “In 2016, I declared I am your voice,” Trump said in a speech last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference and repeated at his first 2024 campaign rally in Waco, Texas, a few weeks later. “Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”

Filing deadlines for 2024 presidential candidates will come in the next six months, in most states.

Secretaries of state — who in most cases are in charge of deciding who gets on the ballot — must refuse to place Donald Trump’s name on the 2024 ballot, based on the clear meaning of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Fox News settlement: 'Accountability' is just another cost of doing business

Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems have agreed to settle Dominion’s defamation lawsuit for $787.5 million. (Dominion had sued for $1.6 billion over allegations that Fox defamed the voting company by knowingly or recklessly airing false claims tying voting machines to a conspiracy to undermine the 2020 presidential election.)

A lawyer for Dominion celebrated the agreement, saying, “Money is accountability.”

Rubbish. The Fox Corporation has an estimated value around $17 billion. The settlement amounts to a cost of doing business for Fox.

The settlement also means that Fox’s major figures — including Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, and Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Maria Bartiromo — won’t have to testify at trial.

Which in turn means they won’t have to explain all the pretrial evidence (emails, depositions, and so on) showing that they knew Trump lied about the 2020 election being “stolen” but they went ahead and joined Trump’s lie nonetheless — in order not to lose viewers to Newsmax, One America News, or any other group to their right with even fewer scruples — so they’d preserve their revenue stream.

Fox said in a statement that “we acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” adding “we are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”

Move forward?

What about an apology from Fox? From these Fox hosts? A confession of complicity in Trump’s big lie? A promise to stop lying in the future?


Dominion may have protected its trademark, but it hasn’t protected American democracy.

Little about the settlement has been aired on Fox News. The network devoted a total of no more than six minutes of coverage to it yesterday after the news of the settlement broke, and most of it was on Neil Cavuto’s afternoon news program. The evening prime time hosts said nothing. Fox News published one story on its home page, calling the lawsuit “media fodder.”

As a result, Fox viewers continue to be in the dark about it — including Trump’s big lie, Fox’s amplification of the big lie, the lawsuit, and the emails and pretrial testimony showing that Fox News and its hosts knew it was all a big lie.

There’s a small chance Fox might still be forced to tell its viewers the truth. Smartmatic, another election technology company, is moving ahead with a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox that a judge ruled can go to trial. Meanwhile, a former Fox News producer has sued her former employer, accusing it of pushing her to give misleading testimony in the Dominion case.

And Fox investors are seeking internal corporate documents that would reveal whether Fox’s board and leadership properly oversaw coverage of Donald Trump’s baseless election-rigging assertions.


Meanwhile, Trump continues to push his big lie. Presumably, Fox News will continue to push it as well because, hey, it sells to the Trump base that Fox News helped create.

And that’s really what this is all about: Money. Money to Trump. Money to Dominion. Money to Murdoch. Money to people such as Carlson and Hannity and Ingraham and Bartiromo — all of whom long ago cashed in their integrity for big bucks.

Even though their traitorous behavior has brought America to the cusp of civil war — including an attack on the U.S. Capitol — they’ll continue to do whatever is necessary (short of defaming a deep-pocketed voting machine company) to keep the money flowing in their direction.

Yesterday, the Grifter-in-Chief announced the release of a second round of superhero-style digital trading cards with cartoonish images of him at $99 apiece.

Fox’s and Trump’s grift goes on.

DC insider: GOP is becoming the American fascist party

The modern Republican Party doesn’t give a damn about democracy – it is rapidly becoming the American fascist party.

This party is devoted to three ideas: that power is only legitimate if Republicans wield it, power must be acquired by any means necessary, and the party is accountable to no one once it has it.

Are Democrats protesting your inaction on gun violence? Expel them!

Does the public want to speak against your extremist proposals? They’ve got 30 seconds each – if you let them speak at all.

At risk of losing your supermajority due to changing demographics? Bypass your own state constitution and redraw legislative districts early to keep it!

Lose the election? Deny the outcome!

And what if one of your own is charged with a crime? Reject it all as a witch hunt, and undermine the justice system to protect them.

My friends, the Republican Party is only committed to maintaining its own power. Nothing more, nothing less.

We must continue to protest this radicalism in the streets, and punish it at the ballot box.

Authoritarianism is not just an external threat. It’s right here in America.

How Republicans Are Stepping Closer to Fascism

The perfect punishment for Fox News

The trial of Fox News is expected to begin tomorrow. If Dominion Voting Systems wins, I have a suggestion for what the court should demand of Fox News, in addition to paying damages for the harm to Dominion.

The judge has already ruled that on-air statements by Fox News hosts, asserting that Dominion’s voting machines played a role in causing Donald Trump to lose the 2020 election, were false. The task for the jury is to decide whether Fox made those false statements with actual malice.

If Dominion wins, it will be because Fox’s own internal emails, text messages, and depositions revealed that its hosts (and owner, Rupert Murdoch) knew that the allegations of election fraud by Trump and his allies were baseless but kept airing them anyway, in part because they feared that another right-wing network, Newsmax, would otherwise steal their audience. When Fox News reporters shot down the allegations publicly, the network’s big personalities complained internally that telling their viewers the truth was hurting the network’s brand.

To this day, Fox News viewers still don’t know the truth — neither about Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, nor about Fox News’s role in promoting Trump’s big lie. This is the real damage of the Fox News propaganda feedback loop: After inflaming right-wing conspiracy theories, Fox has a financial incentive to continue to push them in order to retain its inflamed audience, which further inflames them.

The case raises a fundamental question: Will there be a penalty for profiting from the spread of dangerous disinformation?

Think of the poison Fox has knowingly been pumping into America as analogous to the poison cigarette manufacturers pumped into Americans’ lungs. Part of the remedy for the cigarette poison has been warning disclosures on every pack. Why not an analogous remedy for Fox News’s poison?

If Dominion wins, the court should order Fox News hosts — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and all other hosts similarly implicated — to tell their viewers every half hour, at least until the end of 2024:

“When we told you the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, we lied. Trump lied, too. He continues to lie. The 2020 election wasn’t stolen. Biden won fair and square.”

As on cigarette packs that must vary their warnings, the court should require alternative disclosures, perhaps every other week:

“We apologize for lying to you about the 2020 election. There was no fraud. Biden won. We lied because we were afraid of losing ad revenue if we told the truth. Shame on us.”

And every third week:

“The 2020 election wasn’t stolen from Trump. Trump made that up, and we repeated his lie because we’re greedy and unscrupulous. And that’s the truth.”

What do you think? Should Fox News be required to issue any other disclosure messages?

Will Fox News be detoxed?

The $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News — which starts Monday, with jury selection tomorrow — has uncovered a trove of damning text messages and emails showing that Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham knowingly lied to their viewers about false claims of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election. A few weeks ago, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled that the evidence made it “CRYSTAL clear that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” and that the statements from Fox News that are challenged by Dominion constitute defamation “per se.”
Yesterday, Judge Davis said he was imposing a sanction on Fox News and would very likely start an investigation into whether Fox’s legal team had deliberately withheld evidence, scolding the lawyers for not being “straightforward” with him. The rebuke came after lawyers for Dominion revealed a number of instances in which Fox’s lawyers had not turned over evidence in a timely manner. The judge also said he would likely appoint a special master to investigate Fox’s handling of discovery of documents and the question of whether Fox had inappropriately withheld details about Rupert Murdoch’s role as a corporate officer of Fox News.

Doesn’t look good for Fox.

But one key group of people haven’t heard the revelations about Fox News: Fox News viewers. There’s been a near-total blackout of the story on Fox News, and Fox host Howard Kurtz has confirmed that Fox higher-ups have issued orders to ignore the story. Fox has even rejected paid ads that would have alerted viewers about the lawsuit. Other Rupert Murdoch-owned properties, like the New York Post, are also keeping their readers in the dark. Fox News has even filed a motion arguing that the court should maintain the confidentiality of discovery material already redacted by the network, shielding it from the public.

So today’s Office Hours question: If the court finds that Fox News defamed Dominion, will Fox viewers ever know the network knowingly lied to them about the 2020 presidential election? And will the judgment force Fox News (and other news media) to change the way they cover the news in the future?

What do you think?


My two cents:

IMHO, most of you nailed it. As long as there’s big money to be made by selling lies, weaponizing Trump viciousness, and peddling conspiracy theories, Fox News will continue to do it. The network will appeal any verdict that goes against it, and even if it ultimately loses on the law it will negotiate damages lower than $1.6 billion — and quickly make it up in future revenue. Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give a fig about the public interest or even the opinion of most of the public as long as he can continue to inject profitable toxins into the brains of his viewers (and readers). And he has rounded up sufficiently venal and unprincipled hosts — Tucker Carlson et al — who will also sell dangerous lies as long as they make big bucks doing so.

Advertisers don’t care, either, as long as Fox News viewers continue to watch the network’s appalling content.

I very much like Marilyn Anderson’s idea that, if Dominion wins the lawsuit, part of any settlement should specify that Fox News makes a statement of transparency about the litigation they lost and why.

But the basic question here is whether lawmakers are willing — and courts are willing to let them — impose any special responsibilities on cable networks, as they did with the old “fairness doctrine” as once applied to broadcasters who utilized the public spectrum. I doubt it.

Wish I could be more optimistic about this, but profiting off of dangerous lies has become a big business in America. This is one of the core challenges to the future of democracy.

DC insider: Tennessee offers a chilling example of GOP's increasing fascism

I hate to say this, but America no longer has two parties devoted to a democratic system of self-government. We have a Democratic Party, which — notwithstanding a few glaring counter-examples such as what the Democratic National Committee did to Bernie in 2016 — is still largely committed to democracy. And we have a Republican Party, which is careening at high-velocity toward authoritarianism. Okay, fascism.

What occurred in Nashville last week is a frightening reminder of the fragility of American democracy when Republicans obtain supermajorities and no longer need to work with Democratic lawmakers.

The two Tennessee Democrats expelled from the Tennessee House were not accused of criminal wrongdoing or even immoral conduct. Their putative offense was to protest Tennessee’s failure to enact stronger gun controls after a shooting at a Christian school in Nashville left three 9-year-old students and three adults dead.

They were technically in violation of House rules, but the state legislature has never before imposed so severe a penalty for rules violations. In fact, over the past few years, a number of Tennessee legislators have kept their posts even after being charged with serious sexual misconduct. And the two who were expelled last week are Black people, while a third legislator who demonstrated in the same manner but was not expelled is white.


We are witnessing the logical culmination of win-at-any-cost Trump Republican politics — scorched-earth tactics used by Republicans to entrench their power, with no justification other than that they can.

Democracy is about means. Under it, citizens don’t have to agree on ends (abortion, health care, guns, or whatever else we disagree about) as long as we agree on democratic means for handling our disagreements.

But for Trump Republicans, the ends justify whatever means they choose —including expelling lawmakers, rigging elections through gerrymandering, refusing to raise the debt ceiling, and denying the outcome of a legitimate presidential election.

My friends, the Republican Party is no longer committed to democracy. It is rapidly becoming the American fascist party.


Wisconsin may soon offer an even more chilling example. While liberals celebrated the election on Tuesday of Janet Protasiewicz to the Wisconsin Supreme Court because she’ll tip the court against the state’s extreme gerrymandering (the most extreme in the nation) and its fierce laws against abortion (among the most stringent in America), something else occurred in Wisconsin on election day that may well negate Protasiewicz’s victory. Voters in Wisconsin’s 8th senatorial district decided (by a small margin) to send Republican Dan Knodl to the state Senate.

This gives the Wisconsin Republican Party a supermajority — and with it, the power to remove key state officials, including judges, through impeachment. Several weeks ago, Knodl said he would “certainly consider” impeaching Protasiewicz. Although he was then talking about her role as a county judge, his interest in impeaching her presumably has increased now that she’s able to tip the state’s highest court.

As in Tennessee, this could be done without any necessity for a public justification. Under Republican authoritarianism, power is its own justification. Recall that in 2018, after Wisconsin voters elected a Democratic governor and attorney general, the Republican legislature and the lame duck Republican governor responded by significantly cutting back the power of both offices.

North Carolina is another state where a supermajority of GOP legislators has cut deeply into the power of the executive branch, after Democrats won those posts. The GOP now has veto-proof majorities in both of the state’s legislative chambers, which enable Republicans to enact conservative policies over the opposition of Gov. Roy Cooper, including even more extreme gerrymandered districts. Although North Carolina’s constitution bans mid-decade legislative redistricting absent a court order, Republicans just announced they plan to do it anyway.

Meanwhile, a newly installed Republican supermajority in Florida has given Ron DeSantis unbridled control over the state — granting him total control of the board governing Disney, the theme park giant he has fought over his anti-LGBTQ+ “don’t say gay” law; permission to fly migrants from anywhere in the U.S. to destinations of his own choosing, for political purposes, and then send the bill to Florida’s taxpayers; and unprecedented prosecutorial power in the form of his newly created, hand-picked office of election “integrity,” pursuing supposed cases of voter fraud.

Florida has now effectively silenced even Florida residents from speaking out in opposition to Republican proposals. A new rule prohibits rallies at the state house. Those testifying against Republican bills are often allowed to speak for no more than 30 seconds.


Without two parties committed to democratic means to resolve differences in ends, the one remaining (small-d) democratic party is at a disadvantage in seeking ends it deems worthy. The inevitable result: Eventually it, too, sacrifices democratic means to its own ends.

When one party sacrifices democratic means to its own ends, partisanship turns to enmity, and political divisions morph into hatred. In warfare there are no principles, only wins and losses. One hundred sixty years ago, our entire system of self government fell apart because Southern states refused to recognize the inherent equality of Black people. What occurred in Tennessee last week is a throwback to that shameful era.

I don’t believe Trump alone is responsible for the birth of modern Republican fascism, but he has legitimized and encouraged the vicious rancor that has led much of the GOP into election-denying fascism.

DC insider tackles 3 criticisms against Donald Trump's indictment — and explains why they're wrong

You’re going to hear three basic criticisms of this indictment. Let me rebut each in turn.
  1. It sets a dangerous precedent.

Rubbish. In order for the justice system to work, there must be trust that the system will not play favorites or ignore the wrongdoing of the powerful.

Donald Trump has done everything possible over the last seven years to destroy that trust for his own political gain.

It is true that no former president has ever been indicted, but no former president has done what Donald Trump has done — repeatedly defied laws and disregarded the U.S. Constitution. America never quite recovered from Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon for all crimes he might have committed.

The Framers of the Constitution explicitly provided that presidents could be charged after leaving office. Article I Section 3 states that a president impeached by the House and convicted and removed from office by the Senate “shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.”

The fundamental idea that no one is above the law is only true if we make it so. Holding our leaders accountable is vital to maintaining trust in our legal system, and the survival of our democracy itself.

  1. The indictment plays into Trump’s claims that he’s the victim of a witch hunt and will further rile his core supporters.

Irrelevant. Undoubtedly some Trump supporters will be upset by this. The indictment will confirm for them that Trump is not only being prosecuted but also being persecuted.

But Trump has used every move against him so far — whether by the FBI, the Justice Department, Congress, or even opponents in the Republican Party — to claim he’s the victim of a witch hunt. This indictment is not fundamentally different from all the other charges and allegations. His entire campaign is founded on variations of this same grievance.

But in this case, a grand jury has found that he broke the law. It will be harder to cast an independent grand jury composed of ordinary people as part of a “deep state” witch hunt.

  1. This is the weakest of the cases now being prepared against Trump

So what? To be sure, paying hush money to cover up something embarrassing during a presidential campaign is not nearly on the same level as asking Georgia’s secretary of state to “come up” with the exact number of votes needed to reverse the outcome of Georgia’s presidential election, or fomenting an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

And it may be true that an allegation like this is usually treated as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

None of this alters the fact that a grand jury had enough evidence in this case to decide that Trump broke the law. That’s the critical point. A federal judge can decide whether the case rises to a felony or is more appropriately treated as a misdemeanor. The overriding issue is that no person is above the law, not even a former president.

Indeed, since the basic issue here is one of accountability, this case could actually open the the way for the other, more serious ones. Prosecutors in Georgia and Washington won’t have to bear the burden of justifying an action that had never been taken before. Their more serious charges would come to a public that had already adjusted to the phenomenon of a Trump indictment.

D.C. insider: This one thing would increase American wages by $300 billion

There’s a dirty trick many employers use to keep workers from getting a better job.

Some 30 million Americans are trapped by contracts that say if they leave their current job, they can’t work for a rival company or start a new business of their own.

These are called non-compete agreements.

They block workers from seeing higher wages or better working conditions. And they enlarge corporate monopoly power by stifling competition.

But a sweeping new rule from the Federal Trade Commission would put a stop to these non-compete agreements.

The FTC estimates that banning them could increase wages by nearly $300 billion a year overall by allowing workers to pursue better job opportunities.

But non-competes aren’t just bad for workers. They also harm the economy as a whole by depriving growing businesses of the talent and experience they need to build and expand.

Experts argue California’s ban on non-competes was a major reason for Silicon Valley’s boom.

For several decades, non-compete agreements have been cropping up all over the economy — not just in high-paying fields like banking and tech but as standard boilerplate for employment contracts in many lower-wage sectors such as construction, hospitality, and retail.

A recent survey found that non-competes are used for workers in more than a quarter of jobs where the typical employee only has a high school diploma. Another found that they disproportionately impact women and people of color.

Employers say they need noncompete agreements to protect trade secrets and investments they put into growing their businesses, like training workers.

Rubbish. Employers in states that already ban these agreements (such as California) show no sign of being more reluctant to invest in their businesses or train workers.

The real purpose of noncompetes is to make it harder (or impossible) for workers to bargain with rival employers for better pay or working conditions. Workers in states that have banned non-compete agreements have seen larger wage increases and more job mobility than workers in states where they are still legal.

As we learn again and again, the economy needs guardrails — and workers deserve protection. Otherwise, unfettered greed will lead to monopolies that charge high prices and suppress wages.

America once understood the importance of fighting monopolies. Woodrow Wilson created the Federal Trade Commission in 1914 to protect the public against the powerful corporate monopolies that fueled unprecedented inequality and political corruption.

In 1976, when I ran the policy planning staff at the FTC, it began cracking down on corporations under its then assertive chairman, Michael Pertschuk.

Corporate lobbyists and their allies in Congress were so unhappy they tried to choke off the agency’s funding, briefly closing it down. Pertschuk didn’t relent, but eventually he (and I) were replaced by Ronald Reagan’s appointees, who promptly defanged the agency.

Now, under its new Biden-appointed chair, Lina Khan, the FTC is back. Its ban on non-compete agreements nationwide marks the first time since Pertschuk that the agency has flexed its muscle to issue a rule prohibiting an unfair method of competition.

The rule is hardly a sure thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the radical-right Republicans, now in control of the House, tried to pull off a stunt similar to what the House tried in the late 70s. And corporations are sure to appeal the rule all the way up to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, kudos to Lina Khan and the FTC for protecting American workers from the unfettered greed of corporate America.

This One Thing Would Increase Wages By $300 Billion | Robert Reich

'Follow the money': DC insider explains how the gun debate changed in the last 25 years

Yesterday morning, a 28-year-old armed with assault rifles entered a Christian school in Nashville and fatally shot three nine-year-old children and three staff members before she was shot and killed by the police.

It makes me weep. It’s happening gain and again and again. Our children.

President Biden renewed his call for Congress to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban, but with Republicans in control of the House there’s little to no chance.

So far this year, there have been 129 mass shootings in the United States.

Ten of the 17 deadliest U.S. mass shootings since 2012 have involved AR-15s. In a review of the history of the AR-15, the Washington Post reports that it was originally designed in the 1950s as a soldiers’ rifle. “An outstanding weapon with phenomenal lethality,” according to an internal Pentagon report. It soon became standard issue for U.S. troops in Vietnam (where the weapon was called the M16).

Few gunmakers envisioned that ordinary people would buy the semiautomatic version, which didn’t seem suited for hunting and appeared overkill for home defense. The National Rifle Association and other industry allies focused on promoting traditional rifles and handguns.

Today, the AR-15 is the best-selling rifle in the United States, owned by about 1 in 20 U.S. adults, or roughly 16 million people. It dominates the walls and websites of gun dealers. (Republican Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama has even introduced a bill to declare the AR-15 the “National Gun of America.”)

What accounts for this dramatic change? Follow the money. The early 2000s were a tough time for the firearms industry. Gun sales had been flat for several years. But after the Assault Weapons Ban ended in 2004, gun manufacturers saw a chance to ride a post-9/11 surge in military glorification. As America soldiers were seen in Afghanistan and Iraq wearing tactical gear and holding M16 and M4 carbine rifles, gunmakers used the conflict-zone images to market AR-15s.

“We made it look cool,” said Randy Luth, the founder of gunmaker DPMS, one of the earliest companies to promote AR-15s. “The same reason you buy a Corvette.”

One Smith & Wesson AR-15 ended up in the hands of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who fatally shot two people and wounded a third during 2020’s racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As Rittenhouse explained during his trial, he chose an AR-15 because “I thought it looked cool.”

Another AR-15 was alluring to the gunman who killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo in May 2022. “The AR-15 and its variants are very deadly when used properly,” he wrote in a manifesto filled with racial vitriol. “Which is the reason I picked one.” Ten days later, 19 schoolchildren and two adults were shot to death in Uvalde, Tex., with another AR-15.

The string of attacks prompted President Biden, who as a senator had strongly supported the 1994 assault weapons ban, to promise a renewed effort to stop the sale of military-style weapons. Last year, the Democratic-led House passed a new assault weapons ban on a tight party-line vote of 217-213 — the first time the measure had been voted on in nearly three decades. But the Senate, also run by Democrats, never took action.


When Bill Clinton signed the original Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, he was widely condemned by Republicans and gun owners. The Democrats’ subsequent losses of the House and Senate in the 1996 midterm elections were partly blamed on the ban. But it saved lives.

The 10-year length of the ban has allowed researchers to compare mass shooting deaths before, during, and after the ban.

Before: From 1981 (the earliest year analyzed) until the ban went into effect in 1994, the proportion of deaths in mass shootings in which an assault rifle was used was lower than it is today, and the average number of yearly deaths attributed to mass shootings was 7.2.

During: In the years after the assault weapons ban went into effect, the average number of yearly deaths from mass shootings fell to 5.3. Even including 1999’s Columbine High School massacre (the deadliest mass shooting during the period of the ban), the 1994 to 2004 period saw lower average annual rates of both mass shootings and deaths resulting from such incidents than before the ban’s inception.

After: In the years after the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, the data shows an almost immediate – and steep – rise in mass shooting deaths to an average of 25.

Researchers have calculated that the risk of a person in the U.S. dying in a mass shooting was 70 percent lower when assault weapons ban was in place than it is today.

Facts, data, logic, analysis — do they play any role in what our government decides? The Republican Party in particular no longer listens, or thinks. It is owned — lock, stock, and barrel — by the gun industry.

You might think that preventing young children from being murdered in random mass killings by assailants with assault weapons would be a goal shared by all lawmakers. But you’d be wrong.

The Assault Weapons Ban must be reinstated — the greed of gun manufacturers be damned.