Stories to Watch: 10/20/11
OK, better late than never. Now here’s the news…
Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to spend a big ol’ pot of money on infrastructure — Libya’s infrastructure. America, on the other hand, can go screw herself.
More Republicans come out with the bizarre argument that President Obama didn’t win Libya right. Mitt Romney looks especially stupid on that point.
Marco Rubio’s story about being the son of Cuban exiles turns out to be bullshit.
Herman Cain comes out as pro-choice. Everyone’s pretending to be confused over the fact that he personally opposes abortion, yet says the government has no business making that decision for people. I’m sorry, he’s saying he’s pro-choice. The only thing I find confusing about this is all the confusion.
Louisiana has passed what may be the stupidest, most poorly thought out law in history.
Andrew Sullivan: “To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now.”
Finally, the GOP’s claims about what they laughably call their “jobs bill” are, quite frankly, insane.
News Roundup for 10/5/11
Rep. Steve King believes there’s just way too much voting going on in America
-Headline of the Day-
"Rep. Steve King Pines for the Days When Only Male Property Owners Voted."
A high-ranking member of the House Conservative Moron Caucus, Rep. Steve King, used his time on a hearing on a Balanced Budget Amendment to long for the good ol’ days when only male property owners could vote.
"As I roll this thing back and I think of American history, there was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote," Steve said. "The reason for that was, because they wanted the people who voted — that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending — to have some skin in the game."
See people who rent or are women don’t have that “skin in the game,” because “47 percent of American households don’t pay taxes, 51 percent of American wage-earners don’t have an income tax liability.” According to the report, “King made the disclaimer that he was only making ‘a historical observation’ about the era of property-owner-only voting, but the rest of his dialogue made it seem as though he thought the Founding Fathers might have been on to something.”
Here’s the problem with his “historical observation” — it’s not historically accurate. Or, at least, apt. The income tax didn’t actually exist until 1861, when it was first implemented to pay for the Civil War. The only people running around in stockings and powdered wigs at that point were lunatics, not founders.
The thing is that the only people in the US nowadays who aren’t paying taxes are those who never make or spend money. Everyone has “skin in the game” and if King wants to pretend that the only tax in America is the income tax, then its his prerogative as an American to pretend he’s an even bigger idiot than he already is. (Crooks and Liars, with video)
-Meanwhile, in the corporate penthouse…-
Click to embiggen
He probably already does. (McClatchy)
"IBM Projects It Will Have World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer in Two Years, Artificial Human Brain in 10."
Can you speed that artificial brain project up a bit guys? Steve King needs one now. (Talking Points Memo)
Stories to Watch: 9/26/11
Finally. I needed to get some bandwidth issues taken care of and it took me a lot longer than I thought it would. I think I’ve got it squared away now, but I’ll run diagnostics later tonight to make sure. I’ll set them up to run overnight. For once, I’ll be productive even while I sleep. Now here’s the news…
Greg Sargent takes on the idea of a third party by pointing out that there isn’t exactly a third position on most issues for that party to take. Hence, it would be redundant. I’d go a bit farther and point to parliamentary systems where several parties exist; those tend to be narrowly focused parties (dealing almost exclusively with environmentalism, women’s rights, copyright reform, etc.) that wind up as part of one coalition or another along the conservative/liberal divide. All we do in the US is skip the coalition building part. You may agree, you may disagree, but it’s always nice to see a sound, logical argument. Paul Krugman also takes a stab at the issue.
The House and Senate continue to wrangle over disaster relief spending as the government faces a possible shutdown. David Dayden of Firedoglake makes an excellent case for Democrats sticking to their guns.
Allegations of the use of excessive force get awfully hard to deny in NYPD crowd control during the Occupy Wall Street protests. I want you to stop a moment and consider the political shitstorm that would ensue if police treated ‘bagger protesters this way. I guess it’s OK to abuse liberals.
Speaking of ‘baggers, how racist can they be? How’s this?
The DNC capitalizes on the bloodthirsty and hateful nature of the crowds at GOP debates.
Finally, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is just a clown.
GOP: Soft on Defense
Republicans are weak on national defense. It really is that simple. If the threat is military, then they’re strong on defense, but actual military threats to the United States are pretty rare. And they’re big on fighting terrorism — unfortunately, in ways that whittle away the freedom they say they’re trying to defend. But get away from those threats and they could really care less. If the threat to the nation is not human, then they really have no interest in it. With Hurricane Irene come and gone, we see that the GOP’s message to those affected by disaster, had they had their way, would be “sucks to be you.”
And, of course, the rationale is that government does more harm than good. Katrina proved that, when the president and the head of FEMA are incompetents, that’s probably true. Irene proves that, when the people running things are both qualified and give a damn, it’s not true at all. But don’t expect Republicans to admit that, because — as I’ve already pointed out — they’re weak on national defense. It’s an ideology-based weakness, so they’re going to ignore all evidence to the contrary. It’s what they do.
Here’s an example of real world, common, day-to-day national defense in action, courtesy of Dana Milbank:
On Monday, six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and obliterated the notion of a competent federal government, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate offered an anecdote that showed just how different things were with Hurricane Irene.On the podium in the White House briefing room, he recalled the satellite images of Irene’s path. “Do you remember seeing the satellite, how big that storm was and how close it was to the state of Florida?” he asked. Fugate, the former emergency management chief in Florida, said that a decade or so ago, “Florida would have had to evacuate based upon this track.”
Instead, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s improved models predicted landfall in North Carolina, and, in fact, “the track was only about 10 miles off of where they actually thought it was going to come ashore.”
So, no hit to the economy as Florida businesses needlessly shut down. No families jammed bumper-to-bumper on freeways, evacuating from a disaster that isn’t going to happen. No stores emptied by panic buying. What a terrible failure of government, huh?
The competent response to Irene is “one model,” wites Milbank. “The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good. You might call that the Tea Party model.”
And the Tea Party model is very real. House Republicans would cut funding for FEMA and the NOAA tracking technology that avoided a mass evacuation in Florida. Over at Fox News, they’re wondering if we should even have a National Weather Service — who needs tornado and flood warnings? — to provide cover for Republicans who want to cut that too. From tsunami warning systems to volcano monitoring, Republicans demand we turn a blind eye to very real threats that face America. And let’s not even talk about global warming.
Defense against outbreaks of disease? They want it cut. Defense against pollution? They want it cut. Earthquake research? They want it cut. Go ahead and run “Republicans cut ___” through google and, if it’s a non-human threat to the nation and it falls under federal jurisdiction, they want it cut. Republicans are weak on national defense.
When all is said and done, Hurricane Irene is estimated to cost Americans as much as $7 billion dollars. But it could’ve been much worse. Had Tea Party Republicans been allowed to weaken our national defense further, it no doubt would’ve been.
An Unsustainable Free Ride for the Wealthy
Let’s start out by talking about a flat tax. At one point, a flat tax was all the rage among conservatives. For many, it’s still a fave. When someone on the right talks about “simplifying the tax code,” what they really mean is flattening the tax rate. If everyone paid the same percentage and there were very few deductions, everything would be “fairer,” they argue. People making a lot of money are “punished for success” by being pushed into a higher tax bracket. Never mind that this “punishment” doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent, since the total number of US millionaires is expected to double by 2020, as the income inequality between the wealthy and everyone else grows at an astonishing clip. The wealthy are gluttons for this particular punishment, apparently.
Now, keep a flat tax — the conservative favorite — in mind while you read this quote from an op-ed by Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
That’s right, a flat tax would actually be better than what we’re paying now. We now live in an upside-down world where an office worker is taxed at a higher percentage than the CEO of the same company. Do the wealthy still pay more in total than everyone else? Of course they do. But if we take the flat tax as a serious argument, we have to conclude that even conservatives believe the rich should pay more than everyone. They may not say so outright, but it’s the only logical conclusion to the sets of facts. Even Republicans believe that the wealthy should send more total to Washington than the average citizen.
I don’t bring this up as an endorsement of a flat tax — which I believe is fiscal insanity — but to point out just how insane our current tax rates are. If a flat tax is idiotic, then our current system is worse, by virtue of being not-flat in the wrong direction.
"I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people," Buffett goes on. "They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering." He calls on Washington to "stop coddling the super-rich."
And he’s right for several reasons, not the least of which is that if we increase taxation rather than cut spending, the wealthy will actually be better off. Republicans have tried to repeal the law of supply and demand, but reality is a stubborn thing and will not be dismissed by wishful thinking — no matter how earnest all that wishing may be. If the government spends more, this has the effect of increasing demand — including demand for labor — and the increased employment and consumer spending will send money all the way to the top (money gushes up, it doesn’t “trickle down”). In the meantime, tax revenues for the lower brackets will also increase as people become better off. Wealth isn’t created by tax cuts, wealth is created by working and spending and borrowing. In fact, borrowing probably makes up the biggest chunk of wealth creation, since it’s the source of all interest. If you want a quick explanation of this, check out the "run on the bank" scene in It’s a Wonderful Life — “The money’s not here. Why, your money’s in Joe’s house…” If we increase demand to the point where people spend, that’s great. If we increase it to the point where people feel safe enough to borrow, that’s even better. And maintaining a stupidly bass-ackward rate of taxation just isn’t doing the job.
Would raising taxes on the wealthy be political suicide? Not at all. Polling shows it’s only slightly less popular than free beer. And, despite the claims of Republicans that these tax hikes would hit the upper middle class, the fact is that just 3% would see their taxes go up if the increase were set at households earning $200,000 or more, as President Obama has proposed in the past. And the increased revenue from the tax hikes, combined with the increased tax revenues from higher wages and employment spurred by government spending, would go a long way toward reducing our deficit. Republicans want to run government like a business? Fine. Just remember the old business dictum; “It takes money to make money.”
When your tax burden is so weighted toward people at the bottom of the economic ladder that a flat tax would actually be an improvement, then something is really out of whack. This needs to be fixed, because the current system heads no place but down and everything we’re seeing happen to the economy today will only get worse. It’s clearly unsustainable.
Obama Swamping GOP Fundraising
It’s a point I make often — in fact, regular readers may think I try to pound it into the ground — that people generally don’t vote for things, but against things. I suppose the same goes for fundraising. It’s a lot easier to get people to open their wallets to stop something than to start something. This is why negative campaigning works; it’s all about being against something. Candidate X voted for a bill I don’t like and candidate X must be stopped.
There isn’t anything wrong with this in and of itself. Progress is impossible without preventing backsliding. And, although it might appear to the contrary, it seems to make progress possible. Progress is always opposed and whether something moves forward or not seems to depend on the weakness of the opposition (in most cases), rather than the strength of the support.
Anyway, this whole theory of mine goes a long way toward explaining this:
Talking Points Memo:
The latest fundraising numbers from President Obama’s reelection effort are jaw-dropping and represent the kind of haul Republicans have been warning their supporters about for months.
In a video sent to reporters and supporters Wednesday morning, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina announced $86 million in total fundraising between April and June of this year. Messina said $47 million went to the Obama campaign itself, while $38 million went to the DNC.
The combined goal was $60 million. In the end, Obama’s fundraising forces burst through that goal by more than $20 million, which is more than Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney raised in total.
Politico puts the amount in deeper context, reporting, “The $86 million raised for Obama’s reelection easily doubles — and nearly triples — all the major GOP candidates to announce so far, combined. While there are a few Republicans who haven’t shared their numbers, including Michele Bachmann, the group that includes Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich has taken in just $33.1 million.”
What’s surprising about this is that Obama’s support among Democrats is actually pretty weak. The 2008 enthusiasm for the guy is pretty much gone — whittled away in compromise after compromise — but he’s still able to raise a significant amount of money.
Of course, the incumbent’s advantage applies to fundraising, too. Those who want a friend in the White House are going to play the odds. And, since the odds are that the incumbent wins, that candidate generally gets the bulk of that influence-seeking cash.
But the rest comes from individuals and issue-oriented PACS — things like pro-choice groups, labor groups, environmental organizations, gay rights groups, etc. It’s here that the “voting against things” idea kicks in. Faced with a truly crazy GOP, these organizations have seen their fundraising skyrocket. For example, Planned Parenthood’s fundraising is up, in response to attacks from both national and local Republicans. Likewise, labor groups are seeing an increase. A lot of that money’s going to find its way into the president’s reelection fund.
And who can blame them? Republicans are engaging in an insane overreach nationwide, acting as if they’d been elected unanimously. Unions are under attack, education is under attack, women’s health services are under attack, the environment is under attack, consumer protection is under attack.
Worse, the Republican presidential candidates are currently in a contest to see who can be the most insane. Want to raise a lot of money from pro-choice or gay groups? Send out a flyer showing Michele Bachmann’s latest poll numbers in the GOP primary, along with a list of things she’s said.
I can guarantee, those people will be against that.
John Boehner (Almost) Creates One Job
Republicans have their eye on jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. You know this because they keep saying it. Which is good, because if they didn’t keep saying it, you’d never know. Apparently, creating jobs comes after firing everyone at NPR and Planned Parenthood on the big list of GOP priorities. And beginning to privatize Medicare in 2012. So 2013, I guess, after the elections. That’s when Republicans plan to work on getting people jobs.
One person who won’t have to wait to get a new job is a former Bushie, who Speaker Boehner thinks employing right now is the most important thing ever.
Earlier today, Speaker John Boehner’s (R) office announced that American taxpayers would pay former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Clement, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, is widely viewed as one of nation’s leading appellate attorneys. He is also one of the most expensive…
Clement is on track to make $5 million a year, the report tells us, so this guy’s not going to come cheap. But congratulations Speaker Boehner, you’re now on track to create one job. That is, if we’re generous. The guy already has a job, but you’re still throwing work his way.
See, back in February, President Obama announced that his administration wouldn’t defend the Defense Of Marriage Act — which bars the federal government from recognizing same sex unions — because he believed the law was unconstitutional. Republicans, who’d been making a lot of noise about states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment, decided this was the worst thing ever. Apparently, Republicans feel the same way about states’ right as they do about all their other of their basic, core beliefs — they’re for them until they’re not. State governments can bust up unions and deny their citizens healthcare, they can outlaw abortion and decree that brown people show their papers on demand, but if two men or two women want to get married, then states’ rights go out the window — who needs them? Apparently, states only have the right to oppress their citizens. If state governments start expanding freedom and recognizing new rights… Well, clearly something must be done.
And Boehner, being newly concerned about deficit spending, has a plan to both pay for this big-money lawyer and punish the administration for recognizing the Tenth Amendment.
Speaker John Boehner asked House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s for her support to cut funds for the Department of Justice and use them to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
In a letter sent to Pelosi (D-Calif.) Monday, Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote that the funds Justice would have used to protect the law should be used by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to protect the act.
"The burden of defending DOMA, and the resulting costs associated with any litigation that would have otherwise been born by DoJ, has fallen to the House," Boehner wrote. "Obviously, DoJ’s decision results in DoJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA. It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DoJ, defending DOMA."
Justice won’t be defending DOMA, because that’s a waste of time, which means they won’t need the money for other things which aren’t a waste of time — like, you know, fighting terrorism and stuff. Can you imagine how the right would’ve reacted to Pelosi wanting to cut funding for the DoJ under Bush? “Siding with terrorists!” would’ve been the phrase of the month.
And is Boehner defending the will of the people, who don’t want same sex couples marrying their sweethearts? Not if you ask the people. The last poll on the issue — taken almost a month ago to the day — found that a clear majority (53%) supports marriage equality, while only 44% oppose. This is a trend toward marriage equality that’s been going on for some time. It’s not going to turn around. So Speaker Boehner wants to cut funding from federal law enforcement to pay for a big-money lawyer, who’ll then defend a law that most people don’t want.
At least he can say he created a job with a straight face. Well, almost anyway…
We’ve got the hostage this time
Matt Yglesias on how to win the coming debt ceiling fight:
This isn’t a sudden “shutdown.” Nor is is true that we have to default on obligations to our bondholders. Rather, it means that government outlays are now limited by the quantity of inbound tax revenue. But for a while, the people administering the federal government (to wit Barack Obama and Timothy Geithner) will be able to selectively stiff people. So the right strategy is to start stiffing people Republicans care about. When bills to defense contractors come due, don’t pay them. Explain they’ll get 100 percent of what they’re owed when the debt ceiling is raised. Don’t make some farm payments. Stop sending Medicare reimbursements. Make the doctors & hospitals, the farmers and defense contractors, and the currently elderly bear the inconvenient for a few weeks of uncertain payment schedules. And explain to the American people that the circle of people who need to be inconvenienced will necessarily grow week after week until congress gives in. Remind people that the concessions the right is after mean the permanent abolition of Medicare, followed by higher taxes on the middle to finance additional tax cuts for the rich.
Stories to Watch 3/31/11
If you’re up late and looking for something on the teevee, you might switch over to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim to watch The Room — which is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. A lot of people think it’s campy fun, but I just think it’s awful — and boring. I never have seen the whole thing. Ought to put you right to sleep. Cinematic crime begins at 12:30 eastern — i.e., first thing in the morning on April Fools Day. Now here’s the news…
A bunch of Tea Party faves in congress are taking the big bucks in subsidies from Uncle Sam. Hypocritical? Yes. Surprising? No. Everyone always defines a “government handout” as “somethingsomeone else gets.”
A NYT piece spells out what everyone already knows — ‘baggers are in bed with big business. The piece calls this an “odd alliance.” It’s like discovering a puppet has a hand inside it and declaring that “odd.”
"Uterus" is a dirty word in Florida.
An administrator for USAID — “the primary agency in the government responsible for dispensing humanitarian aid and assisting global development efforts” — estimates that GOP budget cuts will lead to the deaths of 70,000 kids globally. The GOP loves the “unborn,” but once you’re born, you’re on your own.
Oh, and speaking of killing people, the GOP wants to cut $1 trillion from Medicaid.
I’m sorry, but there is no fucking way 5,000 illegal aliens participated in Colorado’s 2010 elections. I don’t care what some Republican’s “study” shows. Seriously, there is no way that figure will stand up to scrutiny. I laughed out loud when I saw the headline.
Finally, Stephen Colbert’s political action committee — ColbertPAC — is official. Other than making crazy-awesome videos, though, it’s unclear what — if anything — he’ll do with it. I’m on the mailing list so, if something comes up, I’ll let you know.
Stories to Watch: 3/28/11
Man, the mayoral race has got me stumped. I get to choose between liberal incumbent Dave Cieslewicz and liberal former incumbent Paul Soglin. I’m having a hard time caring who wins here, so I don’t know who I’ll vote for. I’d be happy enough with either. This strikes me as the sort of problem you want to have. Now here’s the news…
The latest in government shutdown news, from Brian Beutler: “The parties have until April 8 to reach agreement, and the odds of a government shutdown are higher now than they’ve been since this process began.” Harry Reid blames the impasse on freshman Republican Tea Party crazies.
Speaking of Tea Party crazies; a short-lived story on the wingnutosphere had Bill Ayers — of “paling around with terr’ists!” fame — admitting that he’d written Obama’s Dreams from My Father. This had something lunatics had speculated on during the presidential campaign. This time, they had video to prove it!
And then people actually watched the video. Long story short,wingnuts are too stupid to get obvious sarcasm.
Here’s a crazy idea: maybe revenues in states are so low becausetaxes have been cut to the bone.
Just when you thought the GOP’s 2012 field couldn’t get any crazier… Remember Judge Roy Moore? Yeah, he thinks he’s got a shot at the White House.
People don’t like like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Finally, President Obama will address the nation tonight on the subject of Libya.