Word of the Day: fanfaronade fan-fair-uh-NAYD; -NOD \ , noun;
1. Swaggering; empty boasting; blustering manner or behavior; ostentatious display. 2. Fanfare.
Origin: Fanfaronade derives from Spanish fanfarronada , from fanfarrón , “braggart,” from Arabic farfar , “garrulous.”
DEFEND THE DREAM
Dear MoveOn member,
Force states to fire 65,000 teachers. Kill 700,000 jobs. And send 10,000 veterans into homelessness.
That’s what the Republican budget would do.1 And that’s not all, by a long shot. With $100 billion in cuts, their budget would hit at the heart of programs that just about every American depends on—all the while protecting tax giveaways for millionaires.2
This is nothing less than a full-out assault on the American Dream. And with Republicans in Wisconsin and other states proposing massive budget cuts of their own, we have to fight back.
So this Tuesday, March 15, we’re mobilizing to Defend the Dream in communities across America. We’ll hold events in front of the very places hit hardest by the GOP budget—schools, libraries, parks, and fire stations—to send a message to Republicans, in Congress and around the country, that slashing programs for working Americans while protecting the rich and big corporations is simply unacceptable.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, one of the nation’s worst tax dodgers is Bank of America, which paid a grand total of $0.00 in federal corporate income taxes in 2009. A UK-inspired group calling itself US Uncut has been demanding that tax dodgers like Bank of America pay their taxes so that the poor and the middle class aren’t the only ones asked to sacrifice in order to balance budgets.
Yesterday, the megabank held its investor conference in New York City. At one point during the meeting, activists from US Uncut disrupted the proceedings and unfurled a banner demanding that Bank of America pay its taxes. “Bank of America: Pay your taxes! When you don’t pay your taxes, we have to fire teachers and firefighters and public servants. You’re a Tax Dodger,” US Uncut activist Ryan Clayton exclaimed. “You’re bad for America. Pay your taxes. Tax dodger! Bank of America is a tax dodger. Pay your taxes. Do you pay your taxes? I do. Why doesn’t this company?”
Let’s keep up the pressure, keep up the fight. We will prevail.
And so the debate progressed, painfully, with Democratic leaders eyeing about $10 billion in cuts and Republican leaders demanding more than $60 billion in cuts, all from the same small pot. The final answer was likely to fall somewhere in between — the question was when they’d strike a deal, and how awful it’d be.
Today, Senate Democrats decided to throw a curveball. The debate has become overly narrow, they said, and it’s time to broaden the playing field.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the Republican Party’s bluff on the need for deficit reduction Wednesday, outlining a fiscal framework that involves broader cuts and revenue raisers than the GOP has proposed — and warning that there will be no agreement on funding the government unless the GOP broadens its approach.
“A bipartisan compromise simply will not be found in the domestic discretionary spending cuts alone,” Schumer said in a half-hour presentation at the Center for American Progress. Without a broader scope, Schumer said, “we won’t be able to come to a compromise on a seven month budget.”
Just as important, Schumer emphasized a distinction that’s gone largely overlooked thus far: “Right now a very small, very intense ideological tail is wagging the dog over in the House of Representatives. Their fervor for spending cuts is not grounded in deficit reduction at all. Instead the far right wing has deliberately confused two separate issues. They’ve conflated reducing the deficit — which is not their true priority — with cutting government — which is.”
And with that, Schumer began moving the game from the GOP’s field, where Dems have been losing, to a bigger venue.
Schumer endorsed the approaches taken by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both of whom reduced or eliminated deficits by cutting discretionary spending and addressing entitlements and tax revenues. He identified achievable savings on all three flanks, including cuts to defense spending, agriculture subsidies, and a surtax on millionaires and billionaires.
“I noted with interest last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, the most popular proposal to reduce the deficit out of 23 options surveyed was a tax — a surtax — on millionaires and billionaires,” Schumer said. “It’s not only a popular thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.”
Good for Chuck.
Chris Christie might claim that he can’t afford high-speed rail, but a recent panel explained why the country can’t afford to miss out on it.
Hanging over the evening’s discussion was a shocking, job-killing decision in October 2010 by New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Citing cost overruns, he pulled the state out of the ARC project — a new train tunnel under the Hudson River that would have doubled commuter rail capacity between New Jersey and Manhattan, making room for an additional 25 New Jersey Transit trains per hour. Christie objected that his state had to pay more than originally budgeted and he refused to raise taxes to cover the costs. The ARC project was the nation’s largest infrastructure project. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit administrator Peter Rogoff went to Trenton to negotiate a compromise, but Christie rejected their offers.
The public does not want to have to pay any higher taxes, understandably, but often the benefits of the public works programs are not evident to already overstressed taxpayers, and thus support is lacking. The projects support the construction workers, the materials suppliers — an entire ecosystem of benefits. The tax income gained by state and federal treasuries as a consequence of infrastructure development and the related industries and services they feed spreads the wealth around to the general population. Public works projects should be understood as investments that last for generations.
At a time when Americans’ confidence in the economy remains depressed, their personal spending remains cautious, and underemployment remains high, they are looking to state governments to dial back spending rather than tax or borrow their way to a balanced budget. However, they have mixed views on the extent to which state workers should be asked to sacrifice. While 62% of Americans are in favor of reducing the number of workers on their state’s payroll, far fewer, 43%, favor reducing state workers’ pay and benefits.
The good news for lawmakers seeking consensus is that Republicans and Democrats are broadly united in support of cutting programs and reducing state work rolls, and both groups generally oppose raising income and sales taxes as well as borrowing. At the same time, the greatest disagreement is over curtailing collective bargaining, underscoring the difficult nature of the budget impasses in Wisconsin and other states.
Dave Jones, the Insurance Commissioner of California is ready for a fight and so are the people. Keep your eye on Dave as the battle for single payer in California unfolds.
The for profit health insurance industry is destroying lives in pay or die California. You don’t believe me? Look at this.
Working families are being gouged to the point of having to drop their already woefully inadequate coverage. Coverage so bad and so bare bones that it usually carries a deductible of $5000-$10,000. For Blue Shield customers who buy their own insurance, the likely rate hikes will be the third since October, amounting to up to 59 percent in some cases.
In a particularly naked attempt to tamp down criticism of its egregious gouging, Blue Shield is hiding behind an actuary who will not even speak to the press to explain his findings. The Blue Cross actuary who’s in hiding is none other than David Axene.
The good news is that grassroots groups, including California OneCare (where I serve on the all-volunteer board) are coalescing around plans to bring universal single payer healthcare to everyone in this beleaguered state.
Take a look at this report which was on the PBS Newshour a day or so ago. Pay attention to Dave Jones, the recently elected California Insurance Commissioner.
Dave Jones is their biggest nightmare, and we’re (that means all of us) , going to help him rid the state of this parasitic industry.
I got a question the other day about what does it mean to strengthen workers’ “bargaining power” in a policy context. Does that just mean more union density? Well it certainly could, but I think the biggest impacts of unions are on voice and politics not aggregate labor market outcomes (this is probably worth a post of its own).
We should probably just start by thinking of bargaining power pretty literally. Your bargaining power is pretty directly related to your ability to say “hey, f— you, I quit!” What are the main barriers to quitting? Obviously right now, high unemployment is a huge barrier. Macroeconomic policymakers need to take full employment seriously. Health care is also a huge issue in the United States that makes workers more risk-averse about quitting than they would be under either left-wing or right-wing alternatives to the status quo. The regulatory complexity of starting a small business is another issue. People who own their own businesses are happier than the rest of us, so employees of firms ought to get paid a premium. But in an environment when regulatory agencies can’t even tell you what you need to do to comply with their business-starting regulations this channel doesn’t operate optimally. Education matters. There are lots of illiterate people in the United States, and if you can’t read it’s hard to find out about possible job opportunities. Then there are barriers to mobility. Housing costs in high-productivity metro areas are higher than they need to be, which is a barrier to quitting your job to strike out for brighter prospects elsewhere. Last, the US is very weak in terms of “active labor market policies” and continuing vocational education. Our current landscape is quite punitive toward people who made choices in their late teens and early twenties that didn’t work out well and provides very little opportunity to revise one’s approach later.
Last, the right kind of immigration policy matters, though not in the way that people often seem to think. If we flooded the market with monolingual English speaking high-school graduates lacking in other kinds of specialized skills, that would be a big problem for the typical American. But obviously that’s (rightly) not what our existing policies do. We ought to keep on not doing that (sorry, Bahamians) to a greater extent by creating a legal flow of low-skill monolingual Spanish speakers and creating a new flow of higher skilled individuals.
American International Group (AIG.N) repaid another $6.9 billion of its bailout on Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury said.
With that payment, the Treasury said it has now recovered 70 percent of the $411 billion distributed under the crisis-era Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
AIG paid the Treasury $6.6 billion from the proceeds of its sale of shares in insurer MetLife (MET.N), shares it acquired when it sold its international unit Alico to MetLife last year. AIG paid Treasury another $300 million in funds it had retained for expenses related to the Alico deal.
After those payments, the Treasury still holds about $11.3 billion in preferred interests in AIG. It also owns about 92 percent of AIG’s common stock.
The Association of American Universities, which represents most of the large research campuses in the United States and Canada, said that 11 of its 61 American member institutions have foreign-born chiefs, up from 6 five years ago. In the past two months, three colleges in the New York region have appointed presidents born abroad: Cooper Union tapped a scholar originally from India; Seton Hall University, a candidate from the Philippines; and Stevens Institute of Technology, a native of Iran.
The globalization of the college presidency, higher-education experts say, is a natural outgrowth of the steady increase of international students and professors on American campuses over the past four decades. And it will most likely lead to more relationships and exchanges abroad, they say, while giving students a stronger sense that they are world citizens — a widely advertised goal in academia.
The results come at a time of growing scrutiny of the potential hazards of radioactivity and other contaminants in wastewater from natural-gas drilling. The wastewater is routinely sent to treatment plants in Pennsylvania, which then discharge their waste into rivers. In a letter sent to the state on Monday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency noted the state’s test results, but instructed officials there to perform testing within 30 days for radioactivity at drinking-water intake plants.
The pace at which the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting is “accelerating rapidly” and raising the global sea level, according to findings of a study financed by NASA.
The findings suggest that the ice sheets – more so than ice loss from earth’s mountain glaciers and ice caps – have become “the dominant contributor to global sea level rise, much sooner than model forecasts have predicted”.
This study, published on Tuesday, the longest to date examining changes to polar ice sheet mass, combined two decades of monthly satellite measurements with regional atmospheric climate model data to study changes in mass.
“That ice sheets will dominate future sea level rise is not surprising – they hold a lot more ice mass than mountain glaciers,” said lead author Eric Rignot, jointly of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine.
“What is surprising is this increased contribution by the ice sheets is already happening,” he said.
Under the current trends, he said, sea level is likely to be “significantly higher” than levels projected by the United Nations climate change panel in 2007.
Rep. Mike Pence, defending his provision of the House GOP spending bill that would ban funding for family planning services at organizations like Planned Parenthood:
“This isn’t about denying funding for women’s health services…It’s about defunding Planned Parenthood. The largest abortion provider in America should not be the largest recipient of taxpayer money.”
What a crock of shit. The only thing this legislation is about is denying funding for women’s health services, consequences be damned. Pence’s legislation was designed to target Planned Parenthood, but it isn’t limited to Planned Parenthood. In fact, it doesn’t even directly mention Planned Parenthood. Instead, it bans family planning funding for any and all organizations that offer abortion services.
If House Republicans get their way and prevent President Obama from using any discretionary appropriations to implement “Obamacare,” it would cripple existing Medicare programs, many of which are operated under methodologies enacted in the health care law.
In response to a letter from Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lists the ways the House spending bill would hamper existing entitlements.
“If H.R. 1 were enacted, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would not be able to use CR funds to administer payments based on any rate calculated on the basis of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act — which is to say virtually all rates,” she writes.
Among many other things, the law rescinded the old methodology by which the government paid Medicare Advantage providers and replaced it with a new one. The House spending bill would prohibit HHS from making payments under the new regime. And with the old regime eliminated, the department would have no legal authority to cover those services, according to Sebelius.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
The president supports state innovation in health care, but vigilance is required to ensure state reforms improve health as we continue to call for national reform. President Obama announced at the National Governors Association on Monday that he supports an amendment to the health law that would allow states some flexibility to innovate with their own models of health reform beginning in 2014, rather than waiting until 2017, as is currently required by law. The president’s concession comes as the current federal health law is deteriorating and states are complaining that the financial burden of complying with the law are too onerous in the face of serious budget deficits.
While some welcome the president’s support for the amendment and hope that, if it passes, a state will be able to demonstrate the benefits of a single-payer system, as happened in Saskatchewan (and which led to Canada’s national Medicare system), it is possible that the actual outcome of such an amendment will be a further attack on our necessary public health programs. For this reason, it is imperative that we continue to push for a national health program, improved Medicare for all in the US.
The overall population grew to more than 37 million, dwarfing the nation’s second-largest state, Texas, by 12 million people.
Among Californians of all ages, the 38 percent who are Hispanic almost equal the 40 percent who are white, a drop of 5 percent. Even in Orange County, where the airport is named after John Wayne, whites are now a minority and Hispanics make up the largest block of school-age children.
“Hispanics are the future of California,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “Any local or state initiatives that have to do with education need to reach out to this population. That’s more crucial in California than anywhere else.”
The census statistics released Tuesday suggest the Golden State is losing its luster as growth has slowed and many of its residents have decamped for states where housing is cheaper. But it remains a harbinger of trends that have broad implications across the nation.
The rapid expansion in California’s Hispanic population has transformed the state’s political balance, putting Republicans at a disadvantage in statewide elections.
Whatever the future, it is certain to include more Hispanics. More than nine out of 10 Latinos under age 18 are U.S. citizens, according to the National Council of La Raza, and the median age of Hispanics is just 27.
“From a political perspective, any party that wants to be a majority party in the future is going to have to have a significant share of that population,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
Federal judges have been retiring at a rate of one per week this year, driving up vacancies that have nearly doubled since President Obama took office. The departures are increasing workloads dramatically and delaying trials in some of the nation’s federal courts.
The crisis is most acute along the southwestern border, where immigration and drug cases have overwhelmed court officials.
In central Illinois, three of the four judgeships remain vacant after two of President Obama’s nominees did not get a vote on the Senate floor.
Since Obama took office, federal judicial vacancies have risen steadily as dozens of judges have left without being replaced by the president’s nominees. Experts blame Republican delaying tactics, slow White House nominations and a dysfunctional Senate confirmation system. Six judges have retired in the past six weeks alone.
“It’s fair to say that the Obama administration has had an impact on the federal courts and that at the end of this Congress, I believe that impact will be reinforced,” said Sheldon Goldman, an expert on judicial selection at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Obama’s opportunity is brief, however, because the presidential election season will ramp up by next year. And even with the current promises of bipartisanship, Senate rules allow individual senators to hold up nominations.
Beyond the practical need for judges, the political stakes are high. The vast majority of federal cases are dispensed through the district and circuit courts of appeal, with the Supreme Court hearing fewer than 100 cases each year.
And control of the influential appellate courts tends to shift with the party in power: By the time Bush left office, his appointees had given Republican nominees a majority of about 56 percent on those bodies.
Party affiliation is not a perfect predictor of a judge’s behavior, but studies have shown that Democratic and Republican nominees vote differently on some ideologically charged issues, such as abortion, gay rights and capital punishment.
Still, Obama has been putting his stamp on the courts. When he took office, Democratic appointees had small majorities on two appeals courts – the New York-based 2nd Circuit and the 9th Circuit. Obama’s nominees have also given Democrats control of the 4th Circuit and the 3rd Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The 4th Circuit is an influential voice on national security and one of the appellate courts expected to hear challenges to the health-care overhaul law. It has a 9-5 Democratic majority, because of four Obama appointees.
A Stevens County man has been charged with the attempted bombing along the route of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in downtown Spokane.
A magistrate clerk at the U.S. District Court in Spokane said that Kevin William Harpham is scheduled to make an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon in Spokane. Harpham was arrested Wednesday near Addy, Stevens County.
Harpham, 36, has been charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device, according to a complaint that was unsealed Wednesday.
An FBI source in Washington, D.C., said the man was arrested Wednesday outside a home near Addy. Agents, including a bomb expert from Quantico, Va., were planning to search a house where others associated with the suspect may be living, the source said.
The suspect is believed to be affiliated with white supremacists, the source said.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Harpham was a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance in late 2004. The Law Center said it was not known when Harpham joined or whether he was still a member.
The National Alliance was one of the most prominent hate groups in America for decades, but has fallen on hard times since the 2002 death of its founder, William Pierce, the Law Center said. Pierce is the author of “The Turner Diaries,” a race war novel often referred to as the Bible of the radical right.
Vivian Schiller, the embattled chief executive of NPR, resigned from the organization Wednesday, one day after an embarrassing video surfaced of another NPR executive disparaging conservatives.
Gov. Chris Christie’s poll numbers have taken a hit since his budget address two weeks ago, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released this morning.
Voters are split on whether they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Christie, with 46 percent viewing him favorably and 44 percent unfavorably. That’s down significantly from December, when 49 percent of voters saw Christie favorably and 39 percent had an unfavorable impression.
“While some polls showed Gov. Christie’s support increasing before the budget speech, reaction to the budget itself is mixed, which appears to be reflected in a decline in his post-speech favorability and job performance ratings,” said poll director David Redlawsk.
Forty-eight percent of voters said they are displeased with the governor’s proposed budget, while 45 percent said they are pleased.
Check out the policies of each state with an easy chart.
For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.
As David Frum noted, “It’s not the infidelity. It’s the arrogance, hypocrisy, and — most horrifying to women voters — the cruelty. Anyone can dump one sick wife. Gingrich dumped two.”
Aware of his problem, Gingrich has a new line to explain his misdeeds. Here’s the explanation he offered radical TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. (thanks to R.B. for the tip)
“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.”
If Gingrich thinks the public will find this persuasive, he’s completely lost his mind.
Here’s what Wisconsin Republicans accomplished tonight: In a situation where they had repeated opportunities to resolve this standoff and plausibly declare victory for themselves, they have now ensured that this battle is only going to escalate.
This evening, Wisconsin Repubicans took the drastic step of breaking up the budget repair bill and passing only a measure rolling back the collective bargaining rights of public employees. A committee removed some parts of the bill, allowing Republicans to pass it by a simple majority, without missing Dems, and it’s expected to pass the Assembly tomorrow.
A lawyer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the move appeared to violate the state’s open meetings law. One assumes this is headed for court, but let’s just presume for the moment that the move will stand.
There’s no quibbling with the fact that if it does stand, Walker and Republicans will have gotten their way in the short term fight. But let’s recall an important fact: Republicans control the governorship and state legislature. The fact that they were forced to resort to this trick is itself a concession that they had lost the battle as they themselves had previously defined it. And in so doing, they were forced to pull a maneuver that will only lend even more energy to the drive to recall them.
This kind of conduct is exactly what recalls are for.
Still having never learned to be calm, retract their claws, and sit around and act rationally in a situation that calls for panic, Wisconsin’s Republicans and their Corporate Puppeteers tonight guaranteed themselves an unprecedented and disastrous recall next January.
More over, they also guaranteed themselves that any cloak of stealth under which they have operated in their attacks on teachers, firefighters, policemen, unions, and the settled law of collective bargaining, has been stripped away. If you pass a supposedly urgent “budget repair” bill with key budget components cut from it, you forfeit the fiction that you are doing anything remedial, anything essential, anything except a naked power grab on behalf of corporations who will get the money stolen from organized labor – civic or private.
And further, when you accomplish all this by parliamentary trick – after your national party has spent two years and more decrying Congressional reconciliation – when you deny the minority the right to participate in the outcome whether by compromise or protest, you cut through the cacophony of political-speak in this country and you transmit your sneering indifference towards democracy to ordinary citizens who do not normally pay attention.
This is not to try to mitigate the disaster for Wisconsin and its public servants and its immediate future. Governor Scott Walker, the cross-eyed Koch-sucker, will make inchoate sounds of celebration, like a seal with a rack of horns before it. The Right will claim victory. Good workers who were under the illusion that their public service earned them just as much protection from irresponsible and uncontrolled management as any private employees, will have their lives and families damaged and risked. But the Republicans have overplayed their hand in a way that seems startling even for them, and they shall inherit the proverbial wind. They have taken another step, neither to be retraced nor erased, towards their political suicide – an event that cannot come a minute to soon for the real America of fairness, the sanctity of a contract, rules, and equal opportunity.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, denounced tonight’s actions as illegal and said he planned to contact the attorney general to request an investigation.
“It is a continuation of a pattern of a naked abuse of power,” Barca said.
People for the American Way: “In 1992, the Supreme Court, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upheld women’s constitutional right to abortion services, but allowed certain leeway in placing restrictions on access to reproductive healthcare. Since then, right-wing politicians have increasingly pushed through state laws meant to chip away at the right to choose and undermine the protections of Roe v. Wade. These state-level draconian proposals are intended to cripple the ability of women to access reproductive health services. Burdensome waiting periods and parental notification requirements have been passed throughout the country, and now anti-choice activists are increasingly turning to new ways to undercut women’s healthcare and constitutionally protected liberties. Not only are radical state legislators threatening the ability of women to gain access to reproductive health services, but they are also testing the boundaries of both Roe and Casey.”
Pew Research comes through with a new poll providing some invaluable public opinion context.
In particular, Pew finds that the only group to think Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence are conservative Repubilcans and Tea Partyers. Both groups overwhelmingly endorse this view, with two thirds of each agreeing with it.
By contrast, not even moderate Republicans as a group believe this: 46 percent support this view, while 47 percent oppose it. This view is also opposed by independents (38-44) and the broader public at large (40-42).
UPDATE, 12:29 p.m.: I should add that the 40 percent of the broader public who think Islam is more likely to encourage violence is uncomfortably large. But the point is, conservatives and Tea Partyers are the only groups in which far, far more believe this than disagree with it.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
A retooled classic hitting bookstores this week will raise new questions for millions of Christians about the nature of sin, whether women can exert authority over men and what the word “booty” really means.
That book is the Bible.
Far from relying on one book and a pastor, American Christians today can sit in the pew during a Sunday sermon and use their phone to flip through 50 interpretations of any particular passage of the New or Old Testatment and compare wording.
Here are examples of changes in two new Bibles, which will be released in their print versions Wednesday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
~~The above quotation is widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but that is unverified.
It seems that the origin of the quote is a Chinese Proverb, which reads, ‘Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle.’
What can be accomplished by this call? Strike your own match, and see.