Guest: NatSec expert Elizabeth Goitein of Brennan Center; Also: U.S. economy twice as good under Dem Presidents than Repubs for the past 90 years; MyPillow guy may not be sleeping well these days...
By Brad Friedman on 2/3/2021, 7:06pm PT  

Now that Trump is safely out of office, as my guest on today's BradCast argues, Congress needs to "get back in the game" to reform the National Emergencies Act now, so it cannot be so easily abused by yet another President. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

But, first up today, we pick up on a study we cited on yesterday's show finding that, in 16 developed countries examined over the past 50 years --- from the U.S. to Australia --- tax cuts have had no effect whatsoever on either jobs or Gross Domestic Product. The only thing they have done, however, is make the rich richer and increase economic inequality in countries that institute them.

In that vein, a new piece from the New York Times David Leonhardt reports on economic data finding that the U.S. economy has done better by every measure --- from jobs to GDP to incomes and even stock prices --- under Democratic Presidents than Republicans for the past 90 years. Going all the way back to FDR, the economy has grown at an average annual rate of 4.6 percent under Democrats and just 2.4 percent under Republicans. That means, as Leonhardt notes, that "The average income of Americans would be more than double its current level if the economy had somehow grown at the Democratic rate for all of the past nine decades." But why is that? We discuss. (HINT: It has to do with Dems heeding economic and historic lessons, such as using government resources to invest in flagging economies during recessions, versus the GOP's only apparent economic strategy for both good times and bad --- tax cuts!)

But, with Joe Biden now safely in office and Democrats finally in control of both Houses of Congress, things are, surprisingly enough, working out very well for a change...for now...after just two weeks. Years of Post Traumatic Democrat Syndrome, however, has left us waiting for that to change for the worse at any moment. Nonetheless, before that happens, what other lessons can be learned from the previous, disastrous Administration?

We're joined today by ELIZABETH GOITEIN, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. Back in 2018, with a report at the Brennan Center and a disturbing landmark article for The Atlantic on "The Alarming Scope of the President's Emergency Powers", Goitein scared the hell out of a lot of us, when she warned of the dangers of the National Emergencies Act and the extraordinary powers it affords to the White House. The Act --- ironically enough, enacted by Congress, in theory, to rein in Presidential emergency powers --- "unlocks powers contained in more than 100 different provisions of law," as she recently discusses again at Politico.  However, "Since the law’s enactment in 1976, presidents have declared 69 national emergencies; 39 remain in effect today," she explains.

One of those "emergencies," a phony one, was Trump's declaration at the border with Mexico, used to steal money appropriated to the U.S. Military in order to build his wall, after Congress expressly voted against it. Another one might have been a national emergency declaration that we now know --- thanks to some stunning reporting by Axios yesterday --- that Team Trump loons Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Flynn were encouraging him to declare during an absolutely bonkers (and frightening!) White House meeting in December. They were hoping he'd invoke the act in order to impound Dominion Voting Systems machines and somehow use them to steal the election from Biden.

Goitein argues that after the last four years offered a very clear demonstration of how Presidents can abuse these emergencies powers, now is the time to reform the "under a president who seems more inclined to rescind bogus emergency declarations than issue them." On today's show, she explains how that can responsibly be done by Congress.

"I think there is an understanding that this administration is our chance --- and it's a chance that we must seize - to shore up the guardrails on our democracy. Emergency Powers has been part of that conversation, and I hope and trust that it will continue to be," she tells me. "Many of those laws absolutely need to be revisited and reformed to be made more narrow. There's absolutely no reason why, in a national emergency, the President should be able to take over radio stations. And the fact that by merely declaring a threat of war, the President could potentially even take over the Internet in this country is horrifying."

At the same time, however, new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is now calling on President Biden to invoke an emergency declaration to take action on our worsening climate crisis, which, as Schumer argues, would allow him to do "many, many things under the emergency powers of the President...that he could do without legislation," in order to get around Republican denialism and intransigence in Congress. Is that a good idea? Is it justifiable? Is it even possible under the National Emergencies Act, reformed or otherwise? Goitein recently responded to some of those questions at WaPo. We discuss them with her today, along with her revelations about some of her worst fears that Trump might have carried out under the existing powers.

Finally, it seems that the loony wingnut MyPillow CEO, Mike Lindell, is having trouble selling both pillows right now and his evidence-free claims that Dominion voting machines were used to steal the election from Trump. We share an hilarious clip of Lindell trying --- and failing miserably --- to make his case, even on the far-right NewsmaxTV, after the voting machine company has issued very serious legal warnings to both Newsmax and Lindell that they intend to sue for defamation if they continue to libel the company. After $1.3 billion lawsuits filed against both Powell [PDF] and Giuliani [PDF], Newsmax appears to be taking that threat very seriously. Lindell? Not so much!...

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