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Chernynkaya On January - 18 - 2012

Lots of good news today for 2012. You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUDGET

President Obama warns the left: You won’t like the budget.

The Political Carnival:

[…] Via The Hill:

In his first three years, Obama had a free hand to suggest spending levels for government programs in his annual budget blueprint. But that is not the case this year because the administration is constrained by the budget deal reached in August to raise the debt limit. 

He must stick to the $1.047 trillion spending cap he agreed to with GOP leaders, which means he will call for less discretionary spending than he did last year.

Senior administration officials fear a backlash from the left and are trying to prepare their allies to expect a disappointing budget, sources say.

“A senior White House person said we weren’t going to be happy with the budget, but they’re doing the best they can” given the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act,” said one source…. This year, it appears the administration is giving Democrats a heads-up, which goes a long way in politics.

According to senior administration officials, union leaders can breathe a little easier knowing that the Department of Labor, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety Health Administration, won’t be at the receiving end of the big cuts. The same goes for the National Labor Relations Board.

The Hill’s article wasn’t specific about the question of smaller cuts, only referring to the “toughest” ones.

There is one thing we can be pretty sure of: GOP obstruction to any decent Democratic plan or suggestion.

Pennsylvania Slashes 88,000 Children From Medicaid Rolls 

BUSINESS

Have Banks Been Robo-Signing Credit Card Documents Too?

ThinkProgress:

[…] Robo-signing people into foreclosure is bad enough. But as it turns out, the practice may not have been limited to residential mortgages. American Banker, in fact, notes that JP Morgan Chase may also have been robo-signing credit card deals:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has quietly ceased filing lawsuits to collect consumer debts around the nation, dismissing in-house attorneys and virtually shutting down a collections machine that as recently as nine months ago was racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in monthly judgments…It is unclear whether Chase has stopped pursuing collection on many claims nationwide, or if intends to pursue the debts in some other fashion. The bank has not explained its apparent moratorium and declined comment.

Chase’s halt does, however, follow scattered defeats in state courts and a whistle-blower’s allegation that it falsely overstated the balances of thousands of delinquent accounts it sold to a third party. Former Chase employees and debt collection experts insist that the bank would not have abruptly retreated from its collections efforts in the absence of trouble. […]

Robo-signing, or the high-volume production of signed legal documents, has been a key element of the governmental and media foreclosure reviews. Chase’s current pullback raises at least the possibility that at least some banks may have documentation problems in other business lines…”If sloppy record keeping and problems with false affidavits is a problem with mortgages, it’s 100 times bigger in credit card accounts,” says Michelle Weinberg of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

As one finance blogger put it, “When a bank leaves money on the table for no obvious reason,you know that something’s not quite right.” It seems that JP Morgan, and who knows how many other banks, were attempting to collect on debts without being certain thatthe amount they were asking for was accurate. One whistle blower looked at $200 million in JP Morgan customer accounts and claims to have found that “half the accounts lacked adequate documentation of judgment and one-sixth listed the wrong amounts owed.”

Banks have been robo-signing documents since as least 1998, as an Associated Press investigation found, and its not all that surprising that a practice that worked so well for so long (at least in the eyes of the banks) would have migrated to other areas.

 

 

 

How income inequality today kills economic mobility tomorrow

ThinkProgress:

[…]

In the chart, the Gini coefficient, one of the most-commonly used measures of income inequality, is on the x-axis. The higher the Gini, the more unequal a nation is. Notably, for 1985, the United States was more unequal than any of the other nine advanced economies shown. A measure of economic mobility is on the y-axis. This measure, the “intergeneration earnings elasticity” measures how important a parent’s earnings are to predicting their child’s future earnings (in this chart, only looking at fathers and sons).

Imagine two American fathers, Middle Class Dad and Rich Dad, standing together with their adult sons. Rich Dad earned 100 percent more than Middle Class Dad when the boys were young. This chart shows that Lil’ Richie will earn about 50 percent more than Lil’ Middle.

When a parent’s economic status has too big an impact on his children’s economic status, it has a pernicious impact on the economy. Today, somewhere in America, there’s a young toddler who may be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (or just a really terrific manager who boosts productivity at her firm). But, if she’s not Rich Dad’s little girl, our economy may never benefit from her talents and that would be a loss for everyone.

As economists Flavio Cunha and James Heckman put it, “The best documented market failure in the life cycle of skill formation in contemporary American society is the inability of children to buy their parents or the lifetime resources that parents provide.” As they say, you can’t choose your parents.

 

 

 

Kraft to cut 1,600 jobs in split 

 

 

 

ECONOMY

 

 

 

U.S. Unemployment drops to 8.3% in Mid-January

U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 8.3% in mid-January — a slight improvement from 8.5% in December, and down from 9.9% in January a year ago.

Gallup’s mid-month unemployment reading, based on the 30 days ending Jan. 15, serves as a preliminary estimate of the U.S. government report, and suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics will likely report on the first Friday of February that its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined once again in January.

The percentage of U.S. employees who are working part time but want full-time work is at 9.8% in mid-January, the same as in December. The mid-January reading is substantially higher than the 9.1% of January 2011.

 

 

 

Americans’ savings rate falls to lowest level since Dec. 2007

MSNBC:

More than four years after the United States fell into recession, many Americans have resorted to raiding their savings to get them through the stop-start economic recovery.

In an ominous sign for America’s economic growth prospects, workers are paring back contributions to college funds and growing numbers are borrowing from their retirement accounts.

Some policymakers worry that a recent spike in credit card usage could mean that people, many of whom are struggling on incomes that have lagged inflation, are taking out new debt just to meet the costs of day-to-day living.

American households “have been spending recently in a way that did not seem in line with income growth. So somehow they’ve been doing that through perhaps additional credit card usage,” Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans said on Friday.

“If they saw future income and employment increasing strongly then that would be reasonable. But I don’t see that. So I’ve been puzzled by this,” he said.

After a few years of relative frugality, the amount of money that Americans are saving has fallen back to its lowest level since December 2007 when the recession began. The personal saving rate dipped in November to 3.5 percent, down from 5.1 percent a year earlier, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Jeff Fielkow, an executive vice president at a recycling company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, contributed less to retirement savings and significantly cut back on dining in restaurants and taking vacations in order to keep college savings on track for his two children. “We would love to save more,” he said, “but we’re doing the best we can.”

There have been some signs of a quickening in U.S. economic growth recently after it emerged from recession in mid-2009.

Hiring was stronger than forecast in December and confidence among consumers rose to its highest level in eight months in January.

But many see a long, hard slog ahead and economic growth this year is not expected to be much more than 2.0 percent, barely up from 2011’s growth pace.

The big risks include Europe’s debt crisis as well as the shaky finances of many Americans, hit by a five-year decline in house prices and still high unemployment. U.S. consumers account for about two thirds of the country’s economic output measured by total spending.

Retail sales rose at the weakest pace in seven months in December, according to data published last week.

Sales in 2012 are expected to grow at slower rate than last year, an industry group said on Monday. The National Retail Federation projected sales would rise 3.4 percent this year, compared with than 4.7 percent in 2011.

“When the stock market and the housing market were booming, we saw that a lot of people would take on more debt and save less. They felt the saving was being done for them,” said Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Today, the saving rate is falling out of necessity. Food and energy prices have risen and folks don’t have as much money to spend on the things that they would like.”

Just as Americans used to borrow against the value of their homes before the property crash, now many are taking out loans from their 401(k) retirement savings plans.

Almost a third of plan participants currently have a loan outstanding, according to an upcoming survey of 150,000 holders of 401(k)s by consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

“People are at a loss, and they are struggling,” said Pam Hess, director of retirement research at consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

Loans taken from retirement savings accounts jumped 20 percent last year across all demographics, according to a survey to be published in March. Among lower earners they leapt by as much as 60 percent, said Aon Hewitt’s Hess. The vast majority of borrowers, she said, need the money for essential expenses like bills, car repairs and college tuition.

The non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) annual retirement confidence survey hit a new low in 2011 with 27 percent of workers saying they’re “not at all confident” they’ll have enough for a comfortable retirement. Almost 15 percent expect to work until at least the age of 70, up from 11 percent in 2006.

New York real estate broker Leila Yusuf had been very conscientious about saving for retirement, typically socking away $5,000 to $10,000 a year. But her income slid by 30 percent in the last two years as the housing market hit the doldrums and she stopped making contributions.

Indicative of the trend, contributions to the 529 plans managed by investment management firm Vanguard dropped 1.0 percent in 2011 after climbing 17 percent from 2009 to 2010. Parents of younger children are continuing to save, according to Vanguard, “but they may be concerned about the economy and market conditions and have cut back a little.”

At the same time, college students are borrowing twice as much as they did a decade ago when adjusted for inflation, according to the College Board, and Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards.

Household borrowing on cards, car loans, student loans and other installment debt jumped almost 10 percent from October to November, according to the Federal Reserve, its biggest jump in a decade.

Welcomed by some as a sign of confidence in the economic recovery, others worried it was really a reflection of desperation.

“Apparent stronger consumption at year-end was associated with falling savings rates, compensating for stagnating income growth,” Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said on Jan. 11.

“I question whether this consumer spending momentum will be sustained without a pickup in income growth.”

In a sign of concern among policymakers about the weak finances of many Americans, the Federal Reserve this month suggested an array of ways the U.S. government could help shore up the housing market.

House prices have fallen 33 percent from their 2006 peak, resulting in an estimated $7 trillion in household wealth losses and about 12 million homeowners are saddled with mortgages worth more than their properties.

Americans are steadily working off their overall debt levels, including their mortgages. Credit card balances, while little changed compared to a year ago, are down 18 percent from a peak in September 2008.

“It’s not like it was a year or two ago when it really felt like a recession, and there was no job growth,” said Scott Hoyt, a senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics. “It’s better than that and you can see that in the spending. But there’s still no reason to go back to the free-spending

 

 

Close the Romney Loophole

Citizens for Tax Justice:

[…] GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s personal wealth, estimated at $190 to $250 million, has been in the news a lot lately, including the sweet retirement deal he negotiated with Bain Capital, the private equity firm he used to head. The stories confirm CTJ director Bob McIntyre’s comments to Time Magazine that Romney’s multi-million dollar income is likely taxed at the special low 15 percent rate imposed on dividends and long-term capital gains.

This makes Romney a good poster child for the “Buffett Rule,” the principle that millionaires should not pay lower effective tax rates than middle-income people. One step towards implementing the Buffet Rule is to close the loophole that allows “carried interest” (the fund managers’ share of the deal they get as compensation) to be taxed at the 15 percent rate even though it is not truly capital gain.

Much of Romney’s income that is taxed at that super-low rate is actually compensation in the form of a “carried interest” in the private equity deals of Bain Capital. While CEO’s, actors, and athletes with multi-million dollar salaries, bonuses, or stock options pay income tax rates of 35 percent (and payroll taxes) on their compensation, managers of private equity firms,hedge funds, and other investment funds pay only 15 percent income tax (and no payroll tax) on their share of the funds’ profits that they get in exchange for their management services. Even some managers who benefit from the low rate admit it’s not justified.

Since this loophole benefits those who make millions, hundreds of millions and sometimes over a billion dollars in a single year, it is truly a case of the richest one percent being subsidized by the other 99 percent who pay higher taxes or get less in services to pay for this tax break.

Various proposals have been offered to close this loophole and, in the last Congress, one of those measures passed the House (three times!) but didn’t make it through the Senate. Republicans and many Democrats in the Senate claimed that the loophole somehow helps encourage investment in poor neighborhoods, helps minorities, small businesses and even cancer patients.

The truth is that it does not encourage any type of investment in any part of the country because it does not benefit the people putting up money for investment. It merely allows those who manage this money to pretend that they have invested their own cash and thus receive the capital gains tax break that is ostensibly in place to encourage investment.

Now that this loophole has the face of a very wealthy presidential candidate on it, perhaps the American public will start to notice and demand that it be eliminated. If you believe the tax code shouldn’t favor the richest 1 percent over the 99 percent, here’s a place to start: Close the Romney Loophole.

 

 

 

Measuring the Top 1% by Wealth, Not Income

NYT:

After our demographic profile of the 1 percent appeared on Sunday, there were a lot of questions from readers about the top 1 percent by wealth, rather than the measure we used, the top 1 percent by income.

We used income because the Census measures income, not wealth, and the Census contains the most timely data along with a large sample size, making it possible to look at income across many geographic and demographic categories.

But we also examined wealth through the Federal Reserve’s2007 Survey of Consumer Finances. This survey is much smaller in scope, and somewhat outdated (a release based on the 2010 survey is expected later this year).

But an analysis of the Fed data is still revealing in that it shows the wealth gap, as measured by net worth, is much more extreme than the chasm as measured by income.

The Times had estimated the threshold for being in the top 1 percent in household income at about $380,000, 7.5 times median household income, using census data from 2008 through 2010. But for net worth, the 1 percent threshold for net worth in the Fed data was nearly $8.4 million, or 69 times the median household’s net holdings of $121,000.

Some readers wondered if the 1 percent by wealth weren’t an entirely different group of people from the 1 percent by income. But there is substantial overlap: the Fed data suggests that about half of the top 1 percent of earners are also among the top 1 percent in the net worth category.

Almost all the rest of the top earners are still in the top 5 percent when it comes to net worth.

As for high-net-worth families and how much they earn – more than 80 percent of them are in the top 5 percent when it comes to income.

Other nuggets about the wealthy from the 2007 Fed data:

— The wealthiest 1 percent took in about 16 percent of overall income — 8 percent of the money earned from salaries and wages, but 36 percent of the income earned from self-employment.

— They controlled nearly a third of the nation’s financial assets (investment holdings) and about 28 percent of nonfinancial assets (the value of property, cars, jewelry, etc.). These measures will be particularly interesting to revisit when the new, post-recession data arrives.

— Money may not buy happiness, but the Fed survey suggests it buys good health. About 90 percent of the 1 percenters describe themselves as being in excellent or good health, compared with 75 percent of everybody else. About 85 percent expect to live into their 80s, compared with 68 percent of everybody else.

— Nearly half of the 1 percenters own two or more pieces of real estate. That was true for just 5 percent of the rest of the population.

— Nearly a third of 1 percenters own a vehicle besides a car, compared with 14 percent of other households. And not just in the driveway. While the rest of us are slightly more likely to own a mobile home, 1 in 5 of the wealthiest Americans say they have a boat, plane or helicopter, compared with 1 in 22 in other households.

— About three-quarters of the wealthy said they spent less than they earned in the previous year, compared with about 44 percent of everybody else. This is also a category that will be fascinating to track in the post-recession data.

  • When asked if they feel “lucky” in their financial affairs, nearly 80 percent of the super-rich strongly agreed. The rest of us? Fewer than one-third feel that financial good fortune is shining upon us.

 

 

 

EDUCATION

Schools in Arizona are banning Shakespeare’s The Tempest among other books

Blog for Arizona:

TUSD has ordered that a number of Mexican-American Studies-related texts “be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage,” according to Cara Rene, the district’s spokesperson. Jeff Biggers has the whole story on Salon.

Here’s the list of banned books in Jeff’s article. The book list is probably incomplete, he tells me, and it doesn’t include any DVDs, posters, or other materials which might have been swept up, or will be in the near future.

  • Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • Occupied America: A History of Chicanos
  • Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement
  • 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures
  • Critical Race Theory
  • [See next paragraph]

Also removed from classrooms was “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare. It seems some MAS teachers taught the play, Shakespeare’s last and considered among his best, in their classes, which makes it immediately verboten.

Yes, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is on TUSD’s banned book list.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of a move like this. After suspending the MAS courses, this is the district’s first public action. It’s a slap in the face to Tucson’s Hispanic community to remove all the books dealing with Mexican-American history. “First we come for your classes. Then we come for your books.” It’s an affront to the students and the teachers. As with all book banning, it’s an affront to the free expression of ideas.

It tells the world, TUSD is more interested in placating Huppental, who cited many of these texts in his condemnation of the MAS program, than in preserving its educational autonomy and integrity.

MORE>>>

 

 

ENERGY

Ezra Klein — Why the Saudis want $100-a-barrel oil  

In 2009, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah called $75-a-barrel oil a fair price. But the price of fairness seems to be rising fast: According to the Financial Times, the Saudis now prefer to keep oil prices at about $100 per barrel. What’s changed?

In a word, spending. Over the past few years, the Saudi government has taken advantage of sky-high crude prices to spend lavishly on public works and social programs to stave off the unrest that’s capsizing parts of the Middle East. As a result, the country now needs prices of at least $80 per barrel to balance its budgets, up from $60 per barrel in 2008 and way, way up from $20 per barrel a decade ago. It’s a big shift in attitude: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil producers used to be wary of overly high prices — because, if oil got too costly, then countries such as the United States might start rooting around for alternatives.

It’s not just the Saudis, either. A 2011 report from the International Monetary Fund found that the “break-even” point for the world’s major oil producers has been rising at a shocking rate. Russia now needs crude prices at roughly $110 per barrel to shore up its finances. Iraq, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran and the United Arab Emirates all need prices between $80 and $100 per barrel. The lone exceptions, Qatar and Kuwait, can skate by with moderately lower prices, but even those countries have seen their break-even points creep upward in recent years.

So although it’s always risky to guess where oil prices are heading, countries such as Saudi Arabia have ample reason to target $100 per barrel, even though the global economy’s still weak and demand is slackening. (OPEC can try to prop up prices by curtailing supply, although there’s always the possibility that some countries will cheat.) And, as I detailed in this post over the weekend, as long as the United States remains so reliant on gasoline, those persistently high prices could bite into growth and dampen the nascent economic recovery we’re now seeing.

HEALTH CARE


Illustrating the Success of Health Care Reform by Jonathan. Great video! 

 

 

 

 

Forbes: “Will Obamacare Really Prohibit Active Medical Intervention At Age 70?” No way. 

It’s often difficult to know how some of the great fallacies aimed at discrediting the Affordable Care Act manage to get started—but get started they do.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed a growing number of curious comments wherein readers express anger and concern over what they believe to be a ‘hidden’ element of the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, they have come to believe that once a Medicare beneficiary reaches the age of 70, Medicare will no longer provide active medical intervention—only permitting and paying for palliative or “comfort care.”

This means, by way of example, that should you be diagnosed with cancer, Medicare would no longer approve and pay for the surgical treatment you require to beat the illness. If you should suffer a stroke, brain surgery to repair your condition and restore you to a normal life would be out of the question. For any condition such as this, Medicare would only agree to pay for the palliative care that will keep you comfortable until you die.

Nonsense.

Utter, complete and horrifying nonsense that is, understandably, scaring the wits out of the many senior citizens who are being told that any medical misfortune suffered at age 70 —or beyond— will not be met with the appropriate medical response.

For those of you who identify as anti-Obamacare acolytes and who will inevitably say, “Oh yeah? Show me where the law says that I can still get what I need after 70!”, I have good news for you—I cannot.

I cannot show you such a paragraph in the law for the very same reason I cannot show you the provision in the legislation requiring baseball to be played in twelve innings with four outs per side  come 2014.

[…] Recently, I discovered the source of this particularly ugly bit of disinformation—a radio caller phoning into the uber-conservative talk show hosted by Mark Levin.

The caller, who professed to be a brain surgeon —he isn’t—who goes by the name “Jeff”, claimed that he had attended a meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) in Washington —he hadn’t—where a document was revealed to those in attendance purporting to be a secret HHS memo which laid out the coming policy for treating people over 70 who needed brain surgery.

Jeff went on to claim that the document “did not call [patients older than 70] patients, they called them units” and stated that “if you’re over 70 and you’d come into an emergency room and you’re on government-supported health care that you get comfort care” instead of medically necessary neurological surgery. Jeff further claimed the document mandated “ethics committee[s],” to which Levin replied: ”So, Sarah Palin was right. We’re going to have these death panels, aren’t we?” Jeff responded, ”Oh, absolutely,” and made a comparison to Nazi Germany.
Via Media Matters

It turns out that there never was any such memo- at least not according to the spokesperson for the AANS/CNS who knew exactly who the caller was but refused to publicly identify him for fear of a lawsuit. […]

The entire thing was a hoax-but a hoax that certain media outlets wasted no time in repeating.

I don’t know how you quantify such a thing as anything but pure evil.

What’s more, the fact that the entire affair was begun by someone who is a part of the medicalcommunity (we know that Jeff is in medicine, but we don’t know if he is actually a physician), makes it all the more offensive. Apparently, good old Jeff missed that day in school where they discussed the whole Hippocratic oath thing requiring medical people to “do no harm.”

It’s one thing to criticize aspects of this law with which you might disagree. I can even understand that there are those who will work hard to construe elements of the law in a light that will support a position most favorable to one’s political interests.

But, no matter how much you may disagree with the objectives of the Affordable Care Act, how do you, as an individual, justify frightening senior citizens by starting a false narrative such as this? […]Politics is one thing— misleading and frightening our parents and grandparents is quite another. It is very much not okay. This cannot be written off as just one more political dirty trick.

There should be no ideology that would support such a despicable form of influence.

 

 

 

IMMIGRATION

Romney May Rue Immigration Comments Come General Election Showdown With Obama

ABC NEWS:

[…] Only days before the Iowa caucuses, for instance, Romney said that as president he would veto the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented children of immigrants who attend college or serve in the military. The fall-out from Latinos was immediate. The next day I asked Juan Rodriguez, a Republican businessman in Des Moines, if he would back Romney. Rodriguez didn’t hesitate in his response.

“I wouldn’t vote for Romney because he doesn’t support immigration reform or the DREAM Act,” he said. “My business depends on Hispanics basically, and if there’s no immigration reform we are going to be very affected. Not just me, but all the businesses that, like us, depend on the Latino community.”

[…] “It really demonstrates how far he is from understanding the issue,” said Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of Texas, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on a conference call with reporters last week. “I understand that in that particular field one will try to out-pander another, but you still have to be responsible.”

“How do you paint yourself into such a corner on immigration where you can’t walk back from that statement?” he asked.

On primary night in New Hampshire I sat down with Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., who emphasized that Democrats are going to remind Latino voters time and time again about Romney’s immigration stance.

“It appears that the Republicans are so committed to moving to the far right to win the tea party vote that they have forgotten about the rest of American voters – the independents, the Latinos,” Becerra told me in Manchester. “It appears that they have said that at this moment what matters to them is the tea party because they want to be the nominee. And because of that we are hearing people like Mitt Romney who says whatever he needs to to win. But unfortunately for him there is a record, there are facts – and the facts are the things that are going to be used to judge who is the real Mitt Romney.”

MORE>>>

 

 

 

Gallup poll: Immigration issue roils voters

Politico:

The majority of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the level of immigration into the country, and more than four out of 10 of those concerned about the issue say they want to see fewer foreigners entering the U.S., according to a Gallup poll out Tuesday.

The percentage of people unhappy with the level of immigration, 64 percent, was slightly lower than the level dissatisfaction measured in Jan. 2008, when 72 percent said they were unhappy about the issue.

Nevertheless, the new poll found that only 28 percent of Americans currently feel satisfied about the level of immigration into the U.S.

Of those who expressed dissatisfaction with the level of immigration, 42 percent said they wished immigration could be decreased – down from 50 percent who said the same four years ago. Just 6 percent of those concerned about the issue said they wanted the level of immigration to be increased, unchanged from 2008.

The Gallup poll suggested that Republicans tend to be more concerned about immigration levels than Democrats and independents – just 19 percent of GOPers said they were satisfied with the issue, compared to 33 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents who indicated the same.

The majority of Republicans – 54 percent – said they wanted to see immigration into the country decrease, compared to 37 percent of Democrats and independents who expressed the same wish.

Similarly, conservatives were found to be more supportive of decreasing the level of immigration than liberals, with 55 percent of conservatives saying they wanted to see less immigration to the U.S., compared to just 27 percent of liberals who suggested the same.

According to Gallup, immigration is the third highest ranking concern among 17 issues that the polling company asked about.

The Gallup poll was conducted Jan. 5-8 among 1,011 adults ages 18 and older, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

JUSTICE

Federal watchdog launches campaign to nix Citizens United

The Hill:

A government watchdog is launching a grassroots movement to promote sending legislation to Congress that would authorize spending limits and make a distinction between corporations and people in campaign finance law.

Common Cause introduced the Amend 2012 campaign Tuesday, on the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision. The nonpartisan group’s goal is to get “voter instructions” on state ballots in November to adopt an amendment to the Constitution that would overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision.

“We are in effect creating a road map for people to demand the overturn of Citizens United,” said Common Cause Board Chairman Robert Reich, who served as Labor secretary under the Clinton administration.

“We think the strategy has the potential to engage voters who are fed up with the system … whether they are Tea Partiers, Occupiers or simply independents.”

In the 2010 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not limit corporate spending for or against a candidate because it violates First Amendment, freedom of speech rights.

The decision led to the creation of super-PACs — political committees that can raise unlimited funds but aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates they support.

Voter instructions or initiatives would allow citizens to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision. The “wordsmith-ing of the amendment” is still under way, Common Cause President Bob Edgar told reporters.

There are at least 11 states where voter initiatives for the November ballot are still possible. Common Cause staff said they would focus on Colorado, Montana and Massachusetts first, although the group has worked in five states already where resolutions were passed pushing for the turnaround of Citizens United.

The group is not discounting those states where voter initiatives are no longer viable: The self-identified “citizen’s lobby” plans to promote movements for those state legislatures to put an advisory question regarding Citizens United on the November ballot.

“Our goal here is to introduce a tool to this movement,” Edgar said.

“Not a day goes by that I … am not asked by email, ‘what can we do about Citizens United?’ Our thoughts and our goal is to give citizens a road map for how they can … overturn this decision.”

Common Cause lobbyist Sarah Dufendach said the “real action” will take place in state and local environments or outside the Beltway because people inside the Beltway are the beneficiaries of these policies.

“Ultimately Congress has to initiate the amendment, so hopefully they will be watching the incredible passion [of the movement]. … This is really important for Americans and [Congress is] going to need to react soon,” Dufendach said.

Accomplishing Common Cause’s goal of a constitutional amendment will likely take years, staff said. Amend 2013 and Amend 2014 were both mentioned on the call with reporters. But getting the issue to the forefront and pushing candidates to voice their view on the court decision in 2012 is the first step.

“Underlying every major issue we face as a society … everything that people care about is related and determined by this fundamental issue of who controls this democracy,” Reich said.

“It is impossible to make progress on any major issue affecting Americans unless the public takes back [our democracy.]”

 

 

 

Truthout: The Problem With Citizens United Is Not Corporate Personhood

 [Excellent explanation]

MEDIA


Obama team scouting for possible major ad buy in key states

Greg Sargent:

Mark Murray reports on Twitter that the Obama campaign is out requesting rates from TV stations for a potential — and possibly very significant — ad buy. I’ve confirm that this is the case; Obama aides are requesting rates in key states, where there are millions and millions of dollars in anti-Obama ads already up on the air.

One has to wonder whether the Obama campaign is looking to do this in order to reclaim a debate that’s been largely ceded to his Republican rivals, one that will drive the election: Whether Obama succeeded or failed on the economy.

After all, as the now-infamous Twitter exchange between David Axelrod and Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom shows, the Romney camp has boiled its message down to a very simple assertion: The “net” job loss on Obama’s watch proves his record is a failure. As Fehrnstrom put it: “Obama is poised to be first president in history to end term with a net job loss. That is a fact. Can’t keep blaming Bush.”

The use of this “fact” as a metric for judging Obama’s record is highly dishonest, but as we’ve already seen, media figures haveproven themselves very susceptible to this framing of the debate.Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has already shown itself to be quite proud of its ability to mislead reporters. So that means it’s on the Obama campaign to figure out how to convincingly tell the story its way.

The problem, as Jonathan Chait points out, is that it’s very hard to come up with a bumper-sticker rebutal that’s as succinct as the claim itself:

The Republican argument is that things are bad and it’s Obama’s fault. It’s a simple, intuitive claim that requires no elaboration…

Obama doesn’t have a simple and straightforward reply. His complicated answer is reflected in Axelrod’s argumentation: The crisis began under Bush, the direction of the economy has improved dramatically since, and Republicans want to return to the Bush’s administration’s policies. Fehrnstrom’s reply to all this is to keep pointing, over and over, to the fact that things are bad. It’s your fault, it’s your fault, it’s your fault. That’s the argument Romney will drive home until November, and that argument usually prevails when an incumbent president is presiding over a bad economy.

Steve Benen aptly points out that if you don’t hold Obama responsible for job loss that occurred in the first five or so months after he took office, then overall, jobs were created on his watch, not lost. But again, this requires an uncomfortable amount of explanation. The fact is that it’s a difficult balancing act to make the case that things could have been a lot worse when people are still suffering, even if it’s true. And there are no signs that leading media figures are willing to subject the Romney camp’s claim to any scrutiny, even though it’s absolutely central to the case against Obama.

At any rate, if the Obama team does plan a major ad campaign, getting the argument right on this point early on seems like a decent place to start.

 

 

POLITICS

ROMNEY’S TAXES:

Full text & video of Romney admitting his 15% tax rate (& opposing GOP plan to axe capital gains tax entirely.) 

 

 

Do Presidential Candidates Always Release Their Tax Returns?

MentalFloss:

[…] Legally, tax returns are private. Presidential hopefuls must only file a financial disclosure report to the Office of Government Ethics, and Romney did that (revealing, for the record, that he’s worth between $190 and $250 million buckaroos).

Politically, though, Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns may be a little trickier. Already, his fellow Republicans, including Sarah Palin, have come out swinging on the issue. […]

The Democratic National Committee has been less diplomatic. Earlier this month, it produced a web video, complete with horror-movie background music, claiming that traditionally, all presidential and vice presidential candidates have released their tax records, “but Romney won’t.” “What is Mitt Romney hiding?”

Past Precedent

The DNC actually has a point. According to PolitiFact , a non-partisan Pulitzer Prize Winning fact-checking site, the vast majority of candidates who have run for president or vice president in the last thirty-five years have indeed released their tax returns. Of the thirty-four candidates who ran during that time period, only seven—Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani, Richard Lugar, and Ralph Nader—have refused to release their tax returns altogether. Most released their records in the late spring. Even Romney’s dad, George Romney, released his tax returns when he ran against Richard Nixon in the Republican primary in 1968.

But Mitt Romney has never released his tax returns. Not during the US Senate race in 1994. Not during the Massachusetts governor race in 2002. And not during his last presidential bid in 2008. Ironically, during the 1994 Senate race, Romney challenged his opponent, Senator Edward Kennedy, to release his state and federal taxes to prove Kennedy had “nothing to hide.” Romney said he would release his own tax records after Kennedy released his, but Kennedy never did.

Then again, Romney’s refusal to release his personal tax records might be the right choice, as far as his campaign is concerned. In the past, when candidates have released their tax returns, it hasn’t always gone well. In 1984, Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and her husband, John Zaccaro, released their tax returns only to discover that—oops!—they owed more than $50,000 in back taxes. And during the presidential race between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976, both released their tax returns, only to discover that a tax credit, signed into law by Ford himself, “resulted in a significant tax windfall” for one of Carter’s peanut warehouses —a revelation that both men perhaps would have preferred to keep out of the headlines.

 

 

 

NYT: White House says Romney’s statement that his effective tax rate is 15% reveals unfairness of tax code. 

[…] But in acknowledging that most of his income comes from investments, Mr. Romney underscored a fact likely to figure prominently in attacks from Mr. Obama and other Democrats in the coming months: He is among the small percentage of very wealthy Americans who have benefited enormously from shifts in federal tax policy that have pushed federal tax rates on investment income well below the top 35 percent rate for wages and salaries, which constitute most earnings for the vast majority of people. […]

At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama’s spokesman said Mr. Romney’s acknowledgment that he paid a 15 percent tax rate underscored an unfairness in the tax code that Mr. Obama was concerned about.

“This only illuminates what he believes is an issue, which is that everybody who’s working hard ought to pay their fair share,” said Jay Carney, the spokesman. “That includes millionaires who might be paying an effective tax rate of 15 percent when folks making $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000 a year are paying much more.”

 

 

NYT: The Obamas paid effective federal tax rate of 26 percent, most recent filings show

 

 

 

Paul Krugman — We Still Need To See Those Returns: We need to know more about his low, low taxes. 

[…] And an immediate question is, do you agree that unearned income should be taxed at a rate so much lower than earned income?

Besides, he’s still fudging: how much of that is true investment income, and how much is carried interest, which is actually earned income that for reasons unclear manages to get taxed like investment income (making nonsense of the claim that investment income should face low taxes because it has already been taxed once)?

Oh, and don’t give me the argument that private equity is special because it’s a risky business, in which you put in a lot of effort for an uncertain return. So is any kind of small business venture; and so, as it happens, is textbook writing. Yet small businessmen and textbook authors pay normal tax rates.

 

 

Is It Even 15%?

TPM:

A very interesting nugget down deep in this Reuters piece on Romney’s taxes.

Tax analysts say Romney may have good reason to be reluctant to release his returns.

His vast fortune is invested in dozens of funds linked to Bain Capital LLC, the powerhouse private equity firm he co-founded and led for 15 years. Several Bain funds have offshore connections and take advantage of tax breaks used only by the U.S. financial elite.

His tax returns could shed light on how Romney and Bain use offshore strategies to avoid taxes, said Daniel Berman, a former U.S. Treasury deputy international tax counsel and now director of tax at Boston University’s graduate tax program.

Bain funds in which Romney is invested are scattered from Delaware to the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, Ireland and Hong Kong, according to a Reuters analysis of securities filings.

 

 

GOP rolling the dice 

Greg Sargent:

[…] So let’s tally up some of the major things we know about Romney in the context of this cultural, political and economic moment.

1) At a time when the 2012 presidential election is expected to focus heavily on tax fairness, the GOP is set to nominate someone who is worth as much as $250 million, but pays a lower tax rate than many middle class taxpayers.

2) At a time when polls suggest public anger at Wall Street conduct is running high, the GOP is set to nominate someone who presided over corporate restructuring deals that resulted in mass layoffs and economic suffering — even as he raked in an enormous fortune in the process.

3) At a time when majorities support higher taxes on the wealthy and are increasingly preoccupied with inequality and the shrinking middle class, the GOP is set to nominate a candidate whose tax plan, by one analysis, would cut taxes on the top 0.1 percent by nearly half a million dollars, while marginally raising them on many lower end taxpayers.

4) At a time when Democrats are salivating to paint their opponent as the candidate of the one percent, the GOP is set to nominate a candidate who regularly says things that (fairly or not) can be used to feed this narrative. To name just a few, Romney has said that “corporations are people”; confided that he likes to “be able to fire people” who provide him services; and has refused to say whether any and all questions about inequality and Wall Street excess are rooted in anything other than “envy.”

Now, none of this means that Romney isn’t the strongest general election candidate, and indeed, polls show he’s locked in a dead heat with Obama nationally and in key swing states. The question, though, is whether Romney’s strength as a general election candidate is real, or whether it’s a matter of perception.

The bad economy is obviously a huge liability for Obama. But it remains possible that it is inflating the poll strength of opponents like Romney, because respondents are picking the alternative to Obama before getting to know him better, a state of affairs that could change once Romney’s record and biography are better understood by voters. It’s also possible that Romney’s potential weaknesses as a general election candidate are getting papered over by the far worse weaknesses of his GOP rivals. This is why conservatives like Erick Erickson predict that despite current perceptions, Romney will ultimately prove a “disastrous general election candidate.”

 

 

 

Richie Rich for president! 

Steve Benen:

[…] There’s some dispute about the precise figure from Romney’s disclosure forms, but at a minimum, he earned $362,000 in speaking fees last year.

In Romney’s mind, that’s “not very much” money.

For a candidate already accused of being an out-of-touch elitist, unaware and unconcerned about the struggles of working families, this is clearly another “uh oh” moment.

As American Bridge joked, for most of us, “not very much” refers to money “found in the couch.” For Romney it means over $360,000.

This is the same guy who recently suggested elected office is only for the rich, thought nothing of dropping $10,000 on a bet during a debate, and considered a $1,500-a-year tax cut for the typical middle-class family to be ameaningless “band aid.”

Remember when Rachel Maddow compared Romney to Thurston Howell III? It was well grounded.

 

 

 

Ezra Klein — Why does Mitt Romney only get taxed at 15 percent?

[…] It’s one thing, after all, to be wealthy. It’s another to be wealthy and paying a lower tax rate than people who aren’t wealthy. […]

But that might not be the end of the issue for Romney. It’s likely he also benefited from related tax privileges during his time at Bain. While the lower rate on capital gains and dividend income is supposed to benefit investors, private-equity executives and hedge-fund managers who get paid by taking a share of their firm’s profits rather than a normal salary are also able to classify their income as a capital gain rather than a wage, and so they, too, pay a 15 percent tax rate — even when that money is, effectively, their salary.

Ultimately, the private-equity tax loophole could become far more controversial than whether private-equity deals destroy or create jobs. Today, even the Wall Street Journal came out against the loophole, arguing that capital gains should benefit those actually receiving a return on an investment rather than labor. “It is difficult to defend the fact that private-equity and hedge-fund executives pay no more than 15% on their share of their partnership’s profits because it is considered a capital gain,” writes Francesco Guerrera, editor of the Journal’s Money & Investing section. “If it looks like income and smells like income, it should be taxed like income—at much higher rates.”

Interestingly, all this may explain why Romney has moved away from his position in 2007, when he advocated for eliminating the capital gains tax entirely during a Florida GOP dinner. Romney says that he wants to eliminate the tax just for families earning less than $200,000 a year–presumably preserving the 15 percent tax on wealthy earners like himself. This places him to the left of every other major GOP candidate, who’s either campaigned on eliminating the tax or lowering the rate across the board.

By contrast, President Obama has long campaigned for closing the carried-interest loophole entirely. It was a part of his 2011 platform and House Democrats passed a bill closing it in 2010, which would raise about $25 billion over the next 10 years.Obama also wants to raise the capital gains tax itself.

 

 

 

Paul Begala on the “Romney Rule”: “Millionaires like Mitt should pay lower tax rate than maids”

 

 

 

The Atlantic: What’s hiding in Romney’s tax returns? A massive income tax loophole. 

[…] Romney’s largely basing his campaign on his time in the private sector, so the work Bain did during his tenure (and what has gone on there since) has garnered a significant amount of attention. The other GOP presidential candidates, as well as many Democrats, have piled on to portray Romney as the second coming of Gordon Gekko, while conservative commentators have come racing to his defense.

The record of private equity firms, such as Bain Capital, suggests that their creative destruction might add value to the economy, but sometimes leaves companies stripped while investors walk away with millions. But the real scandal at the heart of the industry is the way in which private equity managers receive special treatment in the tax code.

Managers of private equity firms like Romney are often paid under an arrangement in which they receive both a set fee for their management, as well as a share of the profits that the firm makes for investors. While their management fees are taxed at normal income tax rates, the share of investor gains that go to a private equity manager (called “carried interest”) are treated as capital gains, and thus taxed at a top rate of 15 percent. (Hedge fund managers and partners in real estate ventures also benefit from receiving carried interest.)

The argument for a lower capital gains rate is that it encourages investment. Whether that’s true or not, private equity managers are allowed to pay the capital gains rate on the profits they make managing someone else’s money, not for any risk that they take themselves. Treating carried interest as capital gains is an unjustifiable tax break that needs to be eliminated.

Congress has attempted to close the carried interest loophole on a number of occasions, with the Democrats passing legislation to close it three times when they controlled the House of Representatives. But intense lobbying and Senate intransigence has kept the tax giveaway in place.

Senate Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claim that changing the tax treatment of carried interest would somehow cause a drop in private equity activity. But as the venture capitalist Fred Wilson put it, closing the carried interest tax loophole won’t dry up any money for investments, because the tax on the source of capital wouldn’t be changing.

“Wealthy families, endowments, pension funds, and the like, will still put the capital in the places where they will get the highest after tax return,” Wilson explained. “And the fund managers will still have to compete with each other to get access to that capital and their incentives will still be to produce the highest returns they can produce, regardless of whether they are paying capital gains or ordinary income on their fees.”

Former Office of Management and Budget Director and current Citigroup Vice Chairman of Global Banking Peter Orszag said that the carried interest loophole is akin to a famous actor’s portion of a movie’s revenue being taxed as capital gains, a proposition that most people would hopefully find absurd. Citizens for Tax Justice opined that carried interest “is clearly compensation for services and not a return on investment,” and that private equity managers “should pay income taxes at ordinary rates on their compensation, just like everyone else, from the folks who sweep their floors or answer their phones to CEO’s exercising stock options and professional athletes getting playoff bonuses.”

Thanks to a lucrative retirement package, Romney is still making millions from Bain, much of which is likely being taxed as carried interest. (While Romney has refused to make his tax returns public, he’s said that all of his income is taxed at investment rates.) Analysts have estimated that Romney’s tax rate is about 14 percent, lower than that of many middle class families.

Leaving aside the questions over whether Romney and Bain’s modus operandi adds value to the economy, there’s certainly no value added by letting private equity managers treat the paycheck they receive from investors as capital gains: that particular tax loophole just lets very wealthy money managers avoid paying the top tax rate, for no real reason.

 

 

 

Wonkette: Romney’s Tax Rate Is About the Same As Congress’s Approval Rating 

 

 

 

* * * *

 

 

David Axelrod: A post-debate revue worth watching. [It really is!!]

 

 

 

Holy Moly! McCain 2008 Opposition Research on Romney

Some gems, Tweeted by Andrew Kaczynski at Buzzfeed:

  • Romney said he and his buddies at Bain would “launch hostile takeover of NH.
  • Bain teamed up w/ Chinese appliance maker Haier Group in 2005 in effort to purchase IA-based Maytag Corp. & send jobs overseas.
  • Romney mocks Kerry, saying he threw his “yarmulke into the ring.”
  • Romney: “My position and Common Cause are going to line up straight down the road.”
  • Romney: “Gay marriage is legal in MA and im delighted to have [Bill Weld] back and celebrating that legal union.”
  • #Romney: Makes a joke about putting old people in the greenhouse and watering them every day #RomneyBook pg. 197
  • Romney would “oppose a capital gains tax cuts.”

 

 

 

Jared Bernstein offers some thoughts on why Obama’s accomplishments-to-credit ratio seems low

I’ve always said that if someone calculated a ratio of credit-for-things-accomplished/things-accomplished President Obama would score extremely low.  Andrew Sullivan collects the facts.

One question I was left with after reading this was why does the President score so low on that ratio?  Why hasn’t he gotten more credit for what I believe history will ultimately judge as a record of remarkable accomplishments?

A few thoughts:

–The main reason is that people don’t do “counterfactuals”—things are getting better but still pretty bad for a lot of folks and pointing out that “it coulda been worse,” while true, is not…um…good politics.  It didn’t help that the admin—and I played a role in this one—underestimated how high unemployment would go.

–On the other hand, where we were and where we are is (good politics, that is)…and good economics too (if we don’t accurately evaluate the impact of policies like the Recovery Act, we won’t be guided by lessons learned next time).

–A useful concept in this regard is what economists call the “swing”—(see table; and you thought we economists weren’t swingers!).  It’s the difference between changes in a variable over two different periods.  So if GDP was falling 9% last year and growing 4% this year, the swing—the change from how you were falling to how fast you’re now growing is 4%-(-9%), or 13%.  The swings in GDP and jobs over the President’s first year in office are historically large.

[CHART HERE]

People don’t like bailouts.  Saving the banks and autos was necessary but unpopular.  I get why helping the banks was unpopular; I don’t really get why the autos weren’t.  People particularly dislike bailouts when too little is asked of the recipients (again, this should have favored the autos, where creditors took haircuts, unions made concessions, execs were replaced…I think that story was just not well explained).

Housing: missing from Sullivan’s review, these programs underperformed, and millions were hit by the bursting of the bubble.

Stuff Kicks in Later : Health care reform, financial regulation, consumer protection—most people haven’t yet benefitted from these changes.

A level of opposition heretofore unseen: when a national leader (senate minority leader Mitch McConnell) says out loud that his party’s #1 goal is not jobs, deficit reduction, improving education, the business climate, etc…but is instead defeating the President, you’re into some unchartered territory.  These are the same folks that flirted with default on US debt.  When one side is willing to self-inflict wounds of that magnitude on the body politic, it’s awfully hard for anyone to look good.

Budget deficits: Polls show most people actually hold a reasonable view of federal budget deficits in that they don’t see them as our biggest problem right now (that would be “jobs”).  But the echo chamber resounds with noise about all of our borrowing–Europe’s debt problems amplify the noise–and the admin has had trouble talking about the short-term imperative of more stimulus to attack unemployment at the same time as persuing the longer term imperative of getting on a sustainable budget path.

I’m sure there’s more, but those are some of the big ticket entries.  Still, I could be wrong, but unless the economy heads south again, the truth of Sullivan’s survey will dominate in coming months.  I may be way too optimistic about this, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.

 

 

 

President Romney vs. President Obama: The Cage Match

Kevin Drum:

[…]  My list is so conventional that I’m afraid it’s pretty boring, but here goes. All of this is based on the assumption that if the electorate is pro-Republican enough to elect Romney, it will also be pro-Republican enough to give Republicans control of the Senate.

  • Obamacare gets repealed via reconciliation. And even if that turns out not to be possible, it will be gutted enough to make it all but dead in practice.
  • The judicial system gets packed with a lot more conservative, business-friendly judges.
  • The Bush tax cuts are made permanent.
  • Corporate tax rates are cut substantially. There’s a slim chance that this would be done via a 1986-style tax reform bill that’s a net positive, but since Republicans wouldn’t need any Democratic help to pass it, probably not.
  • The estate tax might very well be eliminated.
  • Overall, for reasons of basic arithmetic, spending cuts will be much smaller than Romney and the GOP are promising, and the deficit will be substantially higher than it would be under Obama.
  • We might stay in Afghanistan significantly longer than we would otherwise — though I’m not sure about this.
  • Tightening of environmental regs would come to a halt. (Though it’s unclear how much of the existing regulatory infrastructure would get rolled back. Probably not that much.)
  • If another financial crisis hits, Romney would be very constrained in how he could deal with it. (So would Obama, but probably somewhat less so.)
  • Although congressional Republicans will be less successful than they’d like at slashing social welfare programs, they’ll still make some cuts. Life will get tougher for the poor.

For the record, there are also several things I think won’t happen. Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann argue in the Washington Monthlythat Republicans would eliminate the filibuster, but I doubt it. (And I’d count that as a long-term benefit in any case.) Romney has talked tough on China, but that’s just campaign bushwa. He’d quickly find out that his options are extremely limited on this score. On foreign policy more generally, Obama is actually fairly tenacious, despite Romney’s bluster to the contrary, and I doubt that Romney would be able to move much further to his right. Dodd-Frank is a question mark. I suspect some would get repealed (or effectively repealed) but not all of it. This couldn’t be done by reconciliation, after all. Social Security privatization is a nonstarter no matter who’s president. Substantial cuts to Medicare are probably unlikely too. Ditto for comprehensive immigration reform.

Among big ticket items, what have I missed?

 

 

OpenSecretsDC: ‘Big banks have chosen their candidate and it’s Romney’ 

 

 

Great Long-Read: Inside the GOP’s dark money-moving machine

 

 

RollingStone: What makes Mitt Romney run (like a robot)?

Here is a truism about the psychology of politicians: there is almost nothing so soul-definingly traumatic for them as losing an election. You believe yourself a great man, a figure of destiny.  You love your job, or covet an even more important one—and then suddenly one day it’s gone, all because the public decides it doesn’t love you any more. The trauma shapes future ideology: if you’re a conservative, say, you might become more conservative. That was the case for two pioneers of the Democratic Party’s long march to the right: Joseph Lieberman, who lost a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Bill Clinton, who lost his reelection as Arkansas governor, both in 1980, a year of profound reckoning for Democrats who got blindsided by Ronald Reagan and his coattails.

I say there is almost nothing as traumatic for a politician than losing an election. Here’s what might be even worse: You are an aspiring office-holder, a young and handsome and ambitious man on the rise, and your father loses an election. Dad is your hero, and then the world’s goat; you start rethinking your vision of how the world works. Consider a third pioneering Democratic corporate sellout, Evan Bayh, who managed the 1980 Senate reelection campaign in which his fighting liberal father Birch Bayh lost to baby Reaganite Dan Quayle. Thereafter, as governor and senator from Indiana between 1989 and 1997, the son hardly met a right-wing idea he couldn’t embrace.

In my first weekly online column for Rolling Stone, I’m here to write about another loser and son: George and Mitt Romney – both almost-certain Republican presidential nominees. Pollster Lou Harris said late in 1966 that George Romney, then governor of Michigan, “stands a better chance of winning the White House than any Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower.” Then, just over a year later, he was humiliated with a suddenness and intensity unprecedented in modern American political history (of which more below). His son was 19 years old. What makes Mitt – né Willard – Romney, run? Much, I think, can be understood via that specific trauma.

I wrote a Los Angeles Times op-ed four years ago, just before Romney dropped out of the 2008 race, arguing that he would “go down as the most robotic big-ticket presidential candidate in history.” I chalked it up to psychobiography: Even more than most kids, Mitt couldn’t help but view his dad as a messiah – because much of America did, too. George Romney’s first appearance on the cover of Time, in 1959, came just before Mitt’s twelfth birthday. As CEO of the Americans Motors Corporation, he had single-handedly set Detroit on its ear by calling its products “gas-guzzling dinosaurs.” The first full biography of him came out in 1960. Soon after, he became Michigan’s James Madison, heroically leading a bipartisan effort to redraft the state’s messed-up constitution. By 1963, he was governor, a Republican in a Democratic state, a politician so beloved that John F. Kennedy was terrified at the thought of running against him in 1964. After his reelection in 1966, he ran 54-46 in a hypothetical 1968 match-up with Lyndon Johnson.

His calling card was his shocking authenticity; his courage in sticking to his positions without fear or favor was extraordinary.
Read more: 

 

 

 

TNR Exclusive: More Selections From Ron Paul’s Newsletters

The New Republic:

Militias, Cults, and Anti-Government Militancy

[…]

The July 1993 issue of the Survival Report cited the tape recording of a 911 call made by Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. “Far from revealing a crazy madman, the tapes show him to be a reasonable person, despite his alleged religious views, with a traditional American request: to be left alone.” The newsletter also asserted that “What happened at Waco was a human rights violation as serious as any that occurred in the waning days of the Soviet Union.” It further referred to “the martyrs at Waco” and said, “Lesser crimes in the past have led to the overthrow of whole governments.” In the November 1995 issue of the Survival Report, Waco was referred to as a “holocaust.”

The August 1994 Survival Report called the U.S. government a “tyranny.” It warned about a provision of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which encouraged the recruitment of police officers from Hong Kong, saying that it “reminds me of King George’s Hessian mercenaries used against our Founding Fathers.”

The November 1994 issue of the Survival Report celebrated anti-government militias in an item entitled, “Why Militias Scare the Striped Pants Off Big Government.” Evoking the American Revolution, the newsletter declared, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” and concluded that the rising militia movement “is anencouraging sign that the end of government as we know it may be near.” That issue also sold something called the “Ron Paul Privacy Card.”

The August 1995 Survival Report praised the rising militia movement as “the biggest anti-government movement this country has seen since the Whiskey Rebellion.”

Israel and Jews

A letter on congressional letterhead, dated August 30, 1979, from Paul thanked a Mr. Amos W. Bruce for “the copy of the article in The American Mercury and the copies of your essays. I found them all very interesting.” The American Mercury was an anti-Semitic magazine owned by Willis Carto, one of America’s most notorious holocaust deniers and the founder of The Liberty Lobby. The issue of The American Mercury Paul praised included essays entitled, “You Can’t Escape the Kosher Food Tax,” “Are You Ready for the White Man’s Doomsday,” and “Racism – Black African Style.”

The February 1988 Political Report alleged that a female terrorist who bombed a disco in Berlin frequented by American servicemen (an operation backed by the Libyan government) “was in cahoots with Syria, or Israel’s Mossad, which always seeks to stir up anti-Arab feeling here.”

The November 1989 issue of the Political Report revived conspiracy theories about the U.S.S. Liberty, namely that Israel deliberatelyattacked an American warship in the Mediterranean (investigations by both the U.S. and Israeli governments concluded that the attack was a mistake).

The June 1990 Political Report Paul complained, in the context of deported war criminals, of “the anti-German bigotry that the Nazi spectre is used to stir up” and suggested the creation of “a German Anti-Defamation League.”

The February 1991 Political Report alleged that Israel’s “supporters in this country were the most bloodthirsty for war” against Iraq. “And why, would someone please explain to me, are we supposed to be so grateful to Israel because it lets us fight its war?” it asked. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq “was Israel’s enemy. This poor country of 17 million with a GNP less than 1% of ours, was no threat to us, despite the hysteria of the Israel First Lobby.”

The February 1993 issue of the Survival Report claimed that “major Jewish organizations are complaining that Zionists did not get enough jobs in the Clinton administration. Plenty of Jews were appointed but just being Jewish doesn’t count. These lobbyists want people 100% dedicated to Israel.”

Gays and AIDS

Paul’s newsletters were particularly obsessed with the casual transmission of AIDS, a hallmark of right-wing fear-mongering at the time. A Survival Report item referred to the Americans With Disabilities Act as a “totalitarian law” because “dentists can no longer refuse to work on the bloody mouths of AIDS carriers.” The piece referred to then-Assistant Attorney General and future Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (inaccurately called “Patrick Deval”) as “evil.”

The main story of the March 1987 Investment Letter is headlined, “AIDS – the Government Lies Again.” It attributes to a mysterious “Dr. Arnold” the claim that “AIDS can be transmitted through means other than sexual intercourse and blood transfusion, specifically saliva, tears, sweat, feces and urine.” The newsletter also advocatedthat “federal laws which force schools to accept students known to carry a fatal, communicable disease, and businesses to employ adult victims as ‘handicapped’” should be repealed. The November 1987Political Report said that “we must also allow local school boards to ban AIDS carriers from the public schools.”

A March 1988 Political Report entitled “AIDS by Mail?” approvingly cited speculation that AIDS was being transmitted via the U.S Postal Service. The allegations were sourced to Robert Mendelsohn, a self-proclaimed “medical heretic,” who also opposed water fluoridation and immunizations.

The March 1990 issue of the Political Report cited Dr. Lorraine Day, who claimed that “aerosol transmission” of AIDS was “possible,” that is, “through sneezes, breath, etc. through the air.” (Day says she cured herself of cancer by drinking vegetable juice and eliminating refined sugar from her diet.)

The August 1991 issue of the Political Report advertised a book, AIDS: The Unnecessary Epidemic, by Stanley Monteith, an orthopedic surgeon. A former leader of the Santa Cruz branch of the John Birch Society, Monteith is a conspiracy theorist who has also authoredHidden Agenda: The Fluoride Deception.

The December 1991 Political Report asserted that “[Magic] Johnson may be a sports star, but he is dying because he violated moral laws.”

A January 1993 item in the Survival Report on gays in the military asserted that “Homosexuals, if admitted, should be put in a special category and not allowed in close physical contact with heterosexuals.”

MUCH MUCH MORE>>>

 

 

Heritage Foundation says nobody cares about inequality

 

 

 

POLLS

 

55% of Americans say “the economic system that favors the wealthy” is a bigger problem than “over-regulation” 

 

 

 

ppppolls: Obama leads Romney 49-44 nationally, the largest lead we’ve found for him since last May

 

 

 

Poll: Colbert would steal votes from Obama running as an Independent 

 

 

 

Solid majorities of indys/moderates say unfairness of economic system more serious problem than overregulation

 

 

 

UNIONS

H/T The Political Carnival

Alex Seitz-Wald makes another key observation: “The number of signatures comes close to the 1,128,941 votes Walker received.”

 

 

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

Eels Always Look Like They Just Told A Joke And Are Waiting For A Reaction

TAKE ACTION

Go to Google today. And Wikipedia.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” ~~Thomas Jefferson

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

21 Responses so far.

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  1. choicelady says:

    BTW Cher -- LOVE the eels. They also remind me of Fozz E Bear who tells a joke and then has the same, “Bah-Boom!” look on his Muppet face waiting for a laugh. Cheered me right up seeing those pix and your interpretation!

    With all the rest of the news, this was a great pick-me=up! Romney? Not so much.

  2. Taxreturngate continues and now it’s going to be almost impossible for Romney not to release them. Of course he will still hide everything he can like his offshore investments but we will get to see how the 0.001% really avoid paying their fair share.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Axlerod Tweeted the other day that Romney was busy “scrubbing” his returns. Can someone really do that? Because if he can of course he will. Can’t we find out about the offshore funds? I think the offshore taxes and the Bain offshore registry is even more damning than the 15% tax rate. Both are legal, but there is something so unpatriotic about evading taxes in foreign countries--plays right into the Right’s xenophobia, even if they rationalize the low tax rate. And, off course, sending jobs to other countries ain’t too job-createry either.

  3. Chernynkaya says:

    BREAKING Obama rejects Keystone Pipeline
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/2012/01/18/gIQAwoVE8P_story.html

    The Obama administration will announce this afternoon it is rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate a massive oil pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border, according to sources who have been briefed on the matter.

    However the administration will allow TransCanada to reapply after it develops an alternate route through the sensitive habitat of Nebraska’s Sandhills. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will make the announcement, which comes in response to a congressionally-mandated deadline of Feb. 21 for action on the proposed Keystone pipeline.

    • agrippa says:

      It was the correct decision.
      There was insufficient time allowed for a logical judgement.

    • bito says:

      Statement from the State Department on “Denial of the Keystone XL Pipeline Application…”

      http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/01/181473.htm

      Today, the Department of State recommended to President Obama that the presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline be denied and, that at this time, the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline be determined not to serve the national interest. The President concurred with the Department’s recommendation, which was predicated on the fact that the Department does not have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest.

      Since 2008, the Department has been conducting a transparent, thorough, and rigorous review of TransCanada’s permit application for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project. As a result of this process, particularly given the concentration of concerns regarding the proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, on November 10, 2011, the Department announced that it could not make a national interest determination regarding the permit application without additional information. Specifically, the Department called for an assessment of alternative pipeline routes that avoided the uniquely sensitive terrain of the Sand Hills in Nebraska. The Department estimated, based on prior projects of similar length and scope, that it could complete the necessary review to make a decision by the first quarter of 2013. In consultations with the State of Nebraska and TransCanada, they agreed with the estimated timeline

      […]

    • I think the president put the right and the green left in a box on this one. The right pushing the decision gives the president a great out to disapprove it now. The right obviously has overplayed it’s hand.

      But the green left has too by letting the MSM narrative define that they were against the pipeline only because is was over “the sensitive habitat of Nebraska’s Sandhills” when the green left does not want to build it at all because of the type of crude that is being pumped and what land the pipeline goes over is secondary.

      So politically speaking it gave the president an out either way he was going to make the decision probably in the affirmative after the election.

      Anyone who doesn’t think we are not going to use every liter of hydrocarbons does not fully understand the implications of the global economy. It’s not even about using fossil fuels as energy while that will be a major part in the near to midterm future. We need hydrocarbon stocks for making about 80-90% of the chemical products we use today from plastics to pharmaceutics. Only the fractions we use for organic chemicals and energy will change. Ironically the tar sands oil has a greater fraction of chemicals that will be used for fine chemicals than will be used for gasoline than most crude oils. So the left leaning meme that everything will be exported as gasoline is another half truth.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        But won’t we export most of the oil from tar sands regardless of what kind of use it will have? Everything I’m reading says we will export it. To me, it’s not only about the USE of the oil, it’s that WE get all the pollution and environmental damage and then export it on the global market, where we re-buy it!

        • choicelady says:

          That makes no sense, really -- Canada could export it from their refineries. And even if we do, it balances what we import, though I actually doubt we’ll do it unless it’s sweet crude to nations without it. I have concerns about the safety issues, Sandhills matter to me, but we live with millions of miles of pipeline much LESS safe now. I’m not sure where the angst is coming from IF environmental protections to the Ogalalla aquifer are in place. THAT is more significant than even the Sandhills.

        • I think vilifying it because it is going to be exported is pretty short sighted as well. These plants after all employ Americans for the most part and it lowers our import/export ratio which stabilizes the dollar. I’m sure allot will be exported but again exporting the more expensive gasoline still helps Americans because it keeps our oil prices lower when they are fractioned in the US. Not even considering the big picture we will use allot of the fractions as feed stocks in the US which makes things like plastics, household cleaners and personal products.

          Petroleum chemicals is a highly vertically integrated industry which is a fancy way of saying everything like cost of raw materials and prices you get for export supports other parts of the industry. For the most part we get gasoline at a very low margin only because the rest of the world pays for the high priced gasoline we manufacture.

            • I’ve actually read this article before and allot of arguments it cites on both sides. With arguments like these you have to read between the spin on both sides. Bottom line is the biggest environmental concern is in Canada with the strip mining of the tar sands themselves. I’m not as concerned with the contamination from spills as much as some because it’s solid at ambient temps so the physical nature of the spill is not like say drilling crude in the gulf. In other words spills just won’t spread far or deep. That being said they pump it at a higher temp and pressure so there will be more small spills. The argument that dilbit is ‘corrosive’ and ‘abrasive’ are almost laughable because it’s no more corrosive than rapeseed oil and it’s oil thereby a lubricator so a relatively small amount of sand in it does not cause wear.

              The economics is a much more complex argument. It will create jobs and more importantly spending in the US. I’m sure the number of jobs is somewhere in the middle of the spinned up numbers.

              Actually for once the Heritage Foundation does make a good point. If the crude dilbit is exported then it will be refined in a more poluting process in China or India.

              As far as taking away from other green technologies again that’s very simplistic and not quite how things works looking at the global perspective because like I said it will be used somewhere somehow.

              The other possibility people don’t discuss is that if the economics still work out and they could especially if the gasoline will be exported they will ship dilbit via rail car through the US like they do with coal.

    • choicelady says:

      GOOD FOR OBAMA -- AND WISE!

      I just want to make one REALLY firm point on the Romney 15% tax rate issues.

      The stock market does not generate capital for companies after the first Initial Public Offering (IPO) which brings in the money. If you buy stock from someone else, not a dime goes to the company BUT you get either the dividend (payout from the company profits) OR the increased value of the stock (if it goes up) or both -- but YOU have contributed nothing. First -- the stock market is mostly gambling, throwing your money around without actually creating anything -- but it’s also like being a landlord.

      Build a house and keep it in good repair, you create value. Sell it to someone who has not interest in it, puts nothing into it, and just takes rent money, and do that over and over and over, and you have capital deterioration (house falls into disrepair) but riches for the owner (rents and sales. Finally, if there is no one to invest in it with repairs, the only thing left to do is burn it for the insurance money (closing businesses to get the federal tax write off and walk away.)

      The stock market generates richs, not wealth. To reward someone for being a business-based slumlord is absurd. Those who do invest in the improvement of a business should indeed get breaks. Those who flip the “house” (businesses) without putting anything in it should not. They should be penalized if their riches cost jobs and that burden falls on the taxpayers, too in unemployment, pension and health pickups -- why should we pay for the owners’ negligence?

      Mr. Romney is the manifestation of the class warfare that has transferred riches UPWARD without any responsibility for the slums he left behind, the “tenants” (employees) he displaced or devalued, the shifting of burdens to taxpayers and stiffing of other interests in bankruptcy.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        C’Lady, that is just a brilliant analogy. It really explains it all in terms anyone can understand. Wow, thanks!

        • choicelady says:

          I used to teach a course in the legal and political foundations of global capital back East as an adjunct at a major university. Mostly I taught union folks,and this worked -and resonated -- with them as a way of explaining what many of them had experienced and watched happen.

          Stock market investor as slumlord really makes things pretty clear. The idea that Wall Street is a “job creator” is absolutely FALSE.

      • Romney is the worst candidate for the times. But it will be a good election to put the 0.001 percenters on trial. If Obama does lose it will show this country really is doomed because people just are too stupid in America to vote for their self interests. Instead Americans will show they have a full throated belief in Reaganism, economic Darwinism, corporatocracy, you name it. Or they just hate African Americans that much. Either scenario is an indictment of America at it’s very core.


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