Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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What's Hurting White America? It's Not the Welfare State

| Tue Apr. 5, 2011 9:32 AM EDT

Since the election of Barack Obama, right-wingers like Glenn Beck have made a concerted effort to craft a narrative in which whites are the new oppressed and reverse-racism, rather than actual racism, is the new great challenge of our times. CNN captured the zeitgeist last month, when it headlined a story, "Are whites racially oppressed?" (the actual article was far less hysterical).

Charles Murray, the libertarian scholar most famous for his book The Bell Curve, thankfully, did not go down that path in his "State of White America" address to the American Enterprise Institute last night. Instead, he focused on a set of social trends he believes "will end what has made America, America." Specifically, an ever-widening gap between what he calls "the new lower class" and "the new elite," which he attributes to the slow creep of the European-style welfare state.

He's offered a glimpse of this before, but he expanded on it at AEI: Essentially, he says, the four virtues that hold the key to American Exceptionalism—marriage, religiosity, work ethic, and honesty—are in steady decline among the white lower class, with destructive consequences. It's an age-old problem: the government gives you food stamps, and the next thing you know, your marriage has collapsed, you've quite your job, you've turned your back to God, and you're facing 5 to 10 for holding up a Piggly Wiggly.

"The parallel that keeps nagging at me is Rome," he explained, comparing the nation's current precipice to the classical civilization's conversion from a republic to an empire. We're not going to collapse, he says, but society will become a lot more stratified.

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College Republicans Still Acting Like College Republicans

| Mon Apr. 4, 2011 5:20 PM EDT

Here's the Dallas Morning News:

An SMU junior and chairman of Texas College Republicans resigned his post this week after a video was posted of him describing getting "hammered," "hooking up" with a young woman and calling political opponents a homosexual slur.

He also calls his political opponents "nerds," which, I'm told, is a word people used to use to make fun of other people in the late 1980s. The context is that this was part of an endorsement speech for Alex Schriver, a leading candidate for chairman of the College Republicans, who was so enthused by the speech he posted it on his website. Now, one of Schriver's opponents—presumably a nerd—has turned it into an attack ad, complete with scary background music and the requisite white-text-on-black-background. Witness:

This is more or less business-as-usual for the College Republicans, who for decades have operated as basically a training camp for future GOP operatives (Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff, and Roger Stone are all alums). Here's what Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote six years ago:

[W]hen I talked to College Republicans in North Carolina, I heard constant, ridiculous allegations thrown at rivals within the organizations. This rival had an illegitimate son in Tennessee, that one paid for an abortion for some poor girl from Missouri. When I asked an innocent question about a network of political consultants in Raleigh, one College Republican stopped me imediately: "Surely you must have heard," he said ominously, his drawl thick, "about them bisexual orgies."

For what it's worth, Charles McCaslin, the former Texas College Republicans chairman, has since apologized to any gays, women—and, yes, nerds—he may have offended.

Chart of the Day, Big Government Nanny State Edition

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 10:27 AM EDT

Faced with a choice between cutting farm subsidies and cutting funding for food stamps, House Republicans have overwhelmingly chosen to cut funding for food stamps. Unrelatedly, House Republicans have received a ton of farm subsidies:

Courtesy of the Environmental Working Group

I'd love to see a similar breakdown on how much Republican members of the 112th Congress have benefited from food stamps, since 1995.

h/t Niolca Twilley.

The Great Sharia Freakout

| Thu Mar. 31, 2011 12:08 PM EDT

We've reported pretty extensively on recent efforts by conservative politicans to turn Islamic law into a bogeyman (see: here, here, and here). In doing so, it's become pretty clear that much, if not all, of the anti-Sharia movement is based on just plain bad information. How else can you explain the suggestion that Afghan-style tribal courts could somehow be instituted in South Dakota, for instance, or that a judge in Florida crossed any sort of line when he ordered two Muslim parties to settle their matter (per the terms of their contract) through an Islamic arbitrator?

In that vein, Wajahat Ali and Matt Duss at the Center for American Progress have a new report out today that pretty systematically dismantles the basic premise, espoused by prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich, that Sharia poses an existential threat to the United States. It specifically takes aim at Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, a think tank that's deeply influential in Republican circles, and more or less provides the intellectual clout (such as it is) for the anti-Sharia movement. A sample:

The "Sharia threat" argument is based on an extreme type of scripturalism where one pulls out verses from a sacred text and argues that believers will behave according to that text. But this argument ignores how believers themselves understand and interpret that text over time.

The equivalent would be saying that Jews stone disobedient sons to death (Deut. 21:18-21) or that Christians slay all non-Christians (Luke 19:27). In a more secular context it is similar to arguing that the use of printed money in America is unconstitutional—ignoring the interpretative process of the Supreme Court.

The report (which you can read here) does not address the future scourge of secular atheist Islamists that Gingrich warns could someday lord over the continent. But if Gingrich's recent record is any indication, he'll likely offer his own rebuttal sometime next week.

Best Lawmaker Voicemail Ever

| Wed Mar. 30, 2011 10:43 AM EDT

I have a story up today on the new push by conservative lawmakers to challenge the Federal Reserve by promoting the use of gold and silver currency at the state level. So far, Utah is the lone state to pass such legislation (as of last week, gold and silver coins are now legal tender in the Beehive State), but more than a dozen states have considered "hard money" proposals since the start of 2009.

Georgia Republican Rep. Bobby Franklin, who sponsored a bill that's currently before his state legislature mandating the use of gold and silver for paying state taxes, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for the article. That might be because, as his secretary told me, "he's a little media-shy." Or it might be because of a story my colleague Jen Phillips wrote two weeks ago, about a bill Franklin sponsored that would potentially proscribe prescribe the death penalty for women who have miscarriages. Or maybe the two are related.

But I've buried the lede. This is what you get when you call his home phone number:

This is State Represenative Bobby Franklin. Thank you for calling to give me encouragement about my sponsorship of House Bill 1, recognizing that pre-natal murder is murder. I'm not able to take that encouragement right now, so at the tone please leave your name, number, and a message.

Emphasis mine. For the record, we weren't calling to offer encouragement.

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