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Nothing explains the current contretemps in Washington as well as this NBC/WSJ poll (pdf). First, they asked Democrats and independents, “Do you want Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to make compromises to gain consensus on the current budget debate, or do you want them stick to their positions even if this means not being able to gain consensus on the budget?” Turns out they want compromise:
Then the poll asked Republicans and independents, “do you want Republican leaders in the House and Senate to make compromises to gain consensus on the current budget debate, or do you want them stick to their positions even if this means not being able to gain consensus on the budget?” The answer for independents was very similar, but for Republicans, it was almost the precise opposite:
The problem for Republicans is that what their base wants them to do is not what independents want them to do. Democrats, meanwhile, can work to prove their openness to compromise because that’s what both their base and independents want them to do. Their political incentives are a lot easier to navigate than the GOP’s.
Imagine how disastrous it would be if the Republicans shut down government for any length of time. Unpaid federal employees would cut back on shopping. Some would miss house payments. Family members might drop out of college. The I.R.S. might not be able to deliver some tax refunds. Small businesses would stop getting government loans. In sum, after the Democratic stimulus, we would have the Republican drag.
Republicans are also threatening to refuse to raise the government debt ceiling. By July, that could mean a default on U.S. government bonds. The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, says that would be “catastrophic,” and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warns that we could see “a financial crisis potentially more severe than the crisis from which we are only now starting to recover.”
All this seems mind-bogglingly petty and pusillanimous. If members of Congress shut down government and trigger a new financial crisis, then they shouldn’t just have their own pay docked. They should also learn the discipline of a market economy and be fired by the public that they are betraying.
In ordinary times, you might think that an over-the-top grassroots base would be restrained by party elites. But Tea Party millennialism is reinforced, not constrained, by key conservatives. Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard published a long article this week accusing liberals of “paranoid” dislike of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have emerged as the leading money-men of the American right. But according to Continettit’s own reporting, it’s the Kochs who seem paranoid. David Koch said to Continetti, “He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation,” he said, “and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.” Koch attributed this to Obama’s admiration for his father, who, he explains “was a hard-core economic socialist in Kenya.”
On this theory, despite his stated views, Obama is secretly a hard-core economic socialist, an ideology he picked up from his father without actually speaking to him. Newt Gingrich, who stands right at the center of the money men and the grassroots, worried on Monday about his grandchildren. “By the time they’re my age,” he fretted, “they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” And why shouldn’t secular atheism and radical Islam coexist if Obama’s brand of hard-core socialism can bring record profits to corporate America? […]
That the midterm elections change this calculus is clear. But the rise of apocalyptic conservatism does more than shift the terms of the negotiation. It likely makes compromise impossible.
Economic Policy Institute:
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal year 2012 budget resolution would undermine the modern social safety net, reversing the gains America has made in health and economic opportunity. This resolution would deny millions of middle- and low-income households access to the American Dream. A number of vital federal government programs are targeted for near-destruction by Ryan, including Medicare and Medicaid; and other programs, such as Social Security, likely would be radically weakened.
The budget resolution eliminates Medicare as we know it, shifting costs onto seniors. Instead of today’s system, Ryan’s proposal would provide seniors with vouchers to purchase health care from private insurers. Payments would be adjusted so that wealthier beneficiaries would receive lower subsidies. Though Ryan is vague about what level of income constitutes “wealthy,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has suggested in previous analyses of Ryan’s so-called Roadmap for America’s Future (2010) that “beneficiaries with incomes over $80,000 ($160,000 for a couple) would receive a voucher for half the basic amount or less.”1 In essence, Medicare would shift from being a program that guarantees benefits to one that guarantees only a specific level of contribution toward beneficiaries’ health care costs.
This plan puts money directly into the pockets of insurance companies, which are much less efficient than Medicare.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan would get about two-thirds of its more than $4 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years from programs that serve people of limited means, which violates basic principles of fairness and stands a core principle of President Obama’s fiscal commission on its head.
The plan of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who co-chaired President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, established, as a basic principle, that deficit reduction should not increase poverty or inequality or hurt the disadvantaged. The Ryan plan, which the chairman unveiled in a news conference, speech, and Wall Street Journal op-ed today, charts a different course, turning its biggest cannons on these people.
– SLOWER ECONOMIC GROWTH: According to analysts at Goldman Sachs, a shutdown “could shave 0.2 percent off the growth of Gross Domestic Product for every week it continued.”
– HOUSING MARKET THREATENED: During a shutdown, the Federal Housing Administration, “which insures and guarantees a large number of single-family mortgages and even more rental and multifamily properties,” would cease operations, blocking home loan and insurance applications.
– BLOCKED TAX REFUNDS: A shutdown would “delay $42.1 billion of refunds to about 14 million U.S. taxpayers,” the majority of whom are middle-class or low-income.
– INCREASED DEFICITS: By increasing the costs of funding the debt, a shutdown could actually increase the federal deficit.
– SMALL BUSINESS LOANS BLOCKED: During the shutdown, the Small Business Administration’s processing of loan applications is halted. The SBA approves about $50 million in small business loans per day.
– INSIDER TRADING INVESTIGATIONS HALTED: At the Securities and Exchange Commission, the shutdown would stop most investigatory activities, “including routine sweeps and examinations of investment advisers and broker-dealers and most work on in-progress enforcement cases.”
– SOCIAL SECURITY ENROLLMENTS SLOWED: While Social Security checks still go out during a shutdown, applications for new enrollment will be processed more slowly and “a huge backlog of applications for Social Security disability benefits would grow even larger.”
– WORKPLACE SAFETY INSPECTIONS STOPPED: At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which polices workplace regulations, only “‘imminent dangers’ to life or property could be investigated,” leaving 95 percent of workplace complaints unanswered.
– TOURIST INDUSTRY AROUND NATIONAL PARKS HURT: National parks close during a shutdown, while “tourists spend about $32 million a day in the communities just outside the parks,” according to the National Park Service.
– 800,000 FEDERAL WORKERS FURLOUGHED: A shutdown would force the furlough of about 800,000 federal employees, and “leave the Treasury owing them $174 million a day in back wages.”
– STATE BUDGET WOES EXACERBATED: If a shutdown occurs, “the federal money that helps states pay the administrative costs of their stretched unemployment programs could dry up, forcing states to advance the money to keep the programs running.”
Click an image to learn more about a fact!
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday rejected efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s program to regulate greenhouse gases, defeating four bills that would have limited the agency’s attempts to address global warming.
The Senate voted as the House was debating a measure that would also halt the regulations by repealing the agency’s scientific finding that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are endangering human health and the environment. That bill is expected to pass the House on Thursday. President Obama has vowed to veto any such measure if it should reach his desk.
OHIO: At the behest of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, an exemption was inserted into a 2005 energy bill — dubbed the “Haliburton loophole” — which stripped the EPA of its power to regulate a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing. This method, named fracking, entails drilling a L-shaped well deep into shale and pumping millions of gallons of water laced with industrial chemicals — chemicals which the energy companies are not legally bound to disclose. More>>>
PENNSYLVANIA: After injecting fracking fluid deep into the earth to extract natural gas, the waste that returns becomes a nasty byproduct of saltwater mixed with radioactive materials. Most states require energy companies to inject the waste thousands of feet deep back into the earth — a technique that caused earthquakes in Arkansas. But Pennsylvania, one of the major states at the center of the natural gas boom, dumps the radioactive leftovers directly into rivers and streams, where communities get their drinking water. More>>>
NORTH CAROLINA: With moratoriums on fracking in Arkansas, New York, New Jersey, and potentially Maryland, state Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R) plans to introduce a bill that would permit fracking in North Carolina. More>>>
TEXAS: Not only is Texas the biggest polluter in the country but it isn’t complying with federal air quality standards. Texas leads the nation in carbon dioxide emissions, and in 2008, Houston was ranked the fourth worst city for ozone. Texas has not been in compliance with federal air quality standards since 1994, when the state submitted a system of issuing flexible air pollution limits to the EPA — which allowed for a portion of a refinery or chemical plant to emit more pollutants than federal standards authorize as long as the total emissions did not infringe on federal air quality standards. More>>>
MAINE: Newly elected Gov. Paul LePage (R) — who infamously told the NAACP to “kiss my butt” and that he would tell President Obama to “go to hell” — announced that he will be trimming dozens of environmental protections in order to make Maine more “business friendly.” LePage will be changing a minimum of 36 environmental laws, including opening up 10 million acres of northern Maine for business development, weakening a new law that that requires manufactures take back and recycle old products, relaxing air emission standards, and replacing the state Board of Environmental Protection with an appeals panel. More>>>
MONTANA: … But state Sen. Chas Vincent (R) has proposed a bill to gut the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), citing that it’s what “venture capitalists” need. Moreover, state Rep. Joe Read (R) has introduced a bill declaring global warming a “natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it,” and that “global warming is beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.” More>>>
MINNESOTA: State Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R) convinced a committee to amend the House outdoors bill to include a provision that allows the for-profit logging industry to cut trees in Minnesota’s Frontenac and Whitewater state parks. More>>>
These assaults on the environment have very little to do with budget shortfalls, but they do conveniently provide a platform of austerity where state Republicans can justify their ideological attacks on behalf of corporate polluters — who are not just stripping states’ natural resources but also the health and the jobs of their citizens.
If everyone ran an hour a day at eight miles per hour, that would actually make up for the increase, but obviously that’s not what’s happening.
(Interactive) HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HOW PROVISIONS OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT HELP CANCER PATIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES? TAKE OUR SHORT QUIZ AND FIND OUT!
Rachel Maddow Tears Into Beltway Media For Paul Ryan Budget Coverage (VIDEO)
Ryan has received substantial positive press coverage for his plan, including on Maddow’s own network, where a “Morning Joe” panel lavished the congressman with praise. Maddow, though, cited economists who contended that the budget would increase the national debt and hurt the poor and the elderly. She then further criticized the media:
“I doubt that actual numerically based fact based information will penetrate the smoochy smoochy love bubble surrounding Paul Ryan right now…there’s this cult of him being brave and bold and doing this difficult workout every morning. What he’s just introduced is not a feature on grit versus glamor in today’s GOP. It is not a pinup. It is not the brave story of a strong boy in a tough environment. It’s the official Republican Party budget for 2012, and the numbers in it are so wrong they are occasionally funny.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) seemed taken aback this afternoon when the four chiefs of the armed forces testified that they had not run into any major problems in implementing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
During the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 years, the United States spent $4.6 trillion — in 2010 dollars — on defense, or about $460 billion a year, excluding war costs. This was a 17.5 percent increase over the post-Cold War, peace dividend years of 1991-2000, slightly above the Cold War average of $450 billion per year.
One year ago, President Barack Obama laid out a defense plan for 2011-2020 that called for spending $5.8 trillion — or $580 billion a year. This represented an additional 25 percent real increase in defense spending above the 1990s.
Meanwhile, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recently proposed a defense program of $4.9 trillion — or $490 billion a year for 2011-2020. This is a 15 percent decrease from Obama’s plan but still 6 percent more than the Bush years and the Cold War average.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the commission’s proposed cuts catastrophic and is determined to fend off any cuts of that magnitude. But under pressure from the White House, Gates reluctantly agreed to more than $78 billion in reductions from 2012 to 2015, a cut of 4 percent from Obama’s plan.
In a political bombshell, the clerk in a Republican stronghold released new vote totals adding a net total of 7,582 new votes in the tight state Supreme Court race to Justice David Prosser, swinging the race significantly in his favor.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said Thursday that she failed to save in her computer and then report 14,315 votes in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial tally released after Tuesday’s election. The new totals give 10,859 more votes to Prosser from Brookfield and 3,456 more to Kloppenburg, she said. Smaller discrepancies turned up in two other communities as well.
“I’m thankful that this error was caught early in the process. This is not a case of extra ballots being found. This is human error which I apologize for, which is common,” Nickolaus said, her voice wavering as she spoke to reporters.
She said she had reviewed numbers from all the other municipalities in the county to ensure that no other similar errors were made. She said she was not aware of any error of this size being made in any past election in her county.
The fresh numbers provide a new tilt to a race that had appeared to be headed toward the first statewide recount in two decades and as well spring a new surprise on a state that had already faced two months of chaotic politics. But the numbers also seemed almost certain to inject new controversy into an already heated race.
Waukesha – Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’ decision to go it alone in how she collects and maintains election results has some county officials raising a red flag about the integrity of the system. Nickolaus said she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county’s computer network – and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office – for security reasons. “What it gave me was good security of the elections from start to finish, without the ability of someone unauthorized to be involved,” she said. Nonetheless, Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said because Nickolaus has kept them out of the loop, the county’s information technology specialists have not been able to verify Nickolaus’ claim that the system is secure from failure. “How does anybody else in the county know, except for her verbal word, that there are backups, and that the software she has out there is performing as it should?” he said. “There’s no way I can assure that the election system is going to be fine for the next presidential election.”
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus, has been sharply criticized in recent months for her handling of recent elections. Even the archly-conservative Waukesha County Board has sharply condemned Nickolaus after past elections, demanding an immediate audit of her practices following ominous red-flags that emerged regarding her lack of oversight, failure to create backup files and her stubborn insistence to “keep everything secret.”
The County auditors said it was eminently possible — including historical precedent — for Nickolaus or a rogue employee to tamper with data. Why? Nickolaus insists on controlling password access and has unilaterally decided to move sensitive files, like election results, onto her personal computer.
Nickolaus has actually scoffed at complying with impartial audits, thumbing her nose at critics. A move that drew a sharp reaction at the time from the County Board Chair:
“There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy,” said Waukesha County Board Chairman Jim Dwyer when Nickolaus willfully ignored complying with the earlier impartial audit. “Don’t sit there and grin when I’m explaining what this is about.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/18/10; 1/17/11]
“There is a history of secrecy and partisanship surrounding the Waukesha County Clerk and there remain unanswered questions,” Scot Ross, director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, said in a statement.
An audit of Nickolaus’ handling of the 2010 election found that she needed to take steps to improve security and backup procedures, like stop sharing passwords. The audit was requested after the county’s director of administration said Nickolaus had been uncooperative with attempts to have county experts review her systems and confirm backups were in place.
Nickolaus was given immunity from prosecution in a 2002 criminal investigation into illegal activity by members of the assembly Republican Caucus. She worked for 13 years as a data analyst and computer specialist for the caucus.
She resigned from her state job in 2002 just before launching her county clerk campaign.
The corruption probe took down then-Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, a Republican; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison; Sen. Brian Burke, D-Milwaukee, co-chairman of the powerful Joint Finance Committee; Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti, R-Oconomowoc; and Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, R-Racine. They all reached plea deals.
The Government Accountability Board, which is in charge of overseeing Wisconsin’s elections, will review Waukesha County’s numbers to verify the totals, said agency director Kevin Kennedy.
“We will conduct our own review of issues because we want to make sure that we are tracking every entry she made into our system,” Kennedy said. “We’re concerned when data is missing from a total. We’d like to make sure there is much better communication between their office and our office.”
Kennedy said it was unfortunate the clerk didn’t double check the data before releasing it to the press.
“Mistakes are never simple, they usually compound themselves, but these are the kind of mistakes we see happen, we just don’t see them of this magnitude,” Kennedy said.
Nickolaus said she didn’t notice an absence of votes because her figures showed a 42 percent voter turnout, which exceeded the 30 percent turnout the county typically sees in spring elections.
“That was an amazing amount of votes,” she said. “So I had no reason to believe I was missing anything.”
Pdf from One Wisconsin Now
“When you’re speaking to the base you’re much more explicit about Christian values and religion than when you’re talking to the public at large,” Stewart said.
“At times, you soft-sell something that I think is what’s maybe more in your heart than you let on, and I don’t know why people wouldn’t embrace it,” he added.
Stewart also noted Huckabee’s praise for controversial historian David Barton, an evangelical Christian who has claimed that Jesus didn’t believe in the minimum wage, and that God, not man, delineated nations’ borders. Huckabee defended his praise of Barton, saying that he was a respected historian with well-sourced works.
Ohio Democrats are well on the way to forcing a referendum over their state’s union-stripping bill, SB 5. Now comes news that Ohio Republicans are trying an end-run around a citizen repeal.
The idea is sort of the opposite of what happened in Wisconsin, where Republicans took the anti-union provisions out of the budgetary bill so they could pass it without a quorum. In Ohio, Republicans say they’re ready to put most of the union-stripping provisions into the budget. That would force Democrats to run two referendum campaigns — the one they’re pushing for now, and a second one next year. From the Columbus Dispatch:
Oddly enough, a second referendum presumably couldn’t be held until November 2012 — seemingly right when Democrats would want it, beside the presidential election would be on the ballot.
Again, the history here: The last time the Ohio ballot included a major anti-union measure was in 1958. Republicans themselves proposed that referendum, to ban union shops. The measure went down to heavy defeat, and so did almost the entire Republican ticket, including the governor. It was a wipeout. No wonder Governor John Kasich sounds less than eager to talk about this new strategy. “I don’t want to get into what I want to do, what I don’t want to do, because then I might have to retract,” he tells the Dispatch.
Honeybees are taking emergency measures to protect their hives from pesticides, in an extraordinary example of the natural world adapting swiftly to our depredations, according to a prominent bee expert.
Scientists have found numerous examples of a new phenomenon – bees “entombing” or sealing up hive cells full of pollen to put them out of use, and protect the rest of the hive from their contents. The pollen stored in the sealed-up cells has been found to contain dramatically higher levels of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals than the pollen stored in neighbouring cells, which is used to feed growing young bees.
‘Entombed’ pollen is identified as having sunken, wax-covered cells amid ‘normal’, uncapped cells.
Researchers at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics love a good pair of merging white dwarfs, but their most recent discovery of an orbiting pair is interesting beyond just being a galactic rarity. This new pair is the fastest orbiting pair of white dwarfs ever seen, completing an orbit every 39 minutes. What’s more, in several million years their orbits will decay to the point that they collide, merge, and are reborn as a single star.
The employment discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart, which the Supreme Court heard last week, is the largest in American history. If the court rejects this suit, it will send a chilling message that some companies are too big to be held accountable.
It began in 1999 after Stephanie Odle was fired when she complained of sex discrimination. As Ms. Odle recounted in sworn testimony, as an assistant manager she discovered that a male employee with the same title and less experience was making $10,000 a year more than her.
She complained to her boss, who defended the disparity by saying the male had a family to support. When she replied that she was having a baby that she needed to support, the supervisor made her provide a personal budget and then gave her a raise closing just one-fifth the gap.
The plaintiffs who have brought a class action on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees allege that they, too, faced discrimination in pay and promotion. If Wal-Mart loses, it could owe more than $1 billion in back pay.
Modeled after Nebraska’s first-in-the-nation measure, the bill — like the one passed in Kansas last week — is based on highly disputed medical research alleging that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Idaho’s bill, however, also fails to include exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or the mental or psychological health of the mother. “Only when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or physical health could a post-20-week abortion be performed.”
In 1990, Idaho’s anti-abortion Gov. Cecil Andrus (D) vetoed a similar bill expressly because it failed to provide a rape or incest exception. “The bill is drawn so narrowly that it would punitively and without compassion further harm an Idaho woman who may find herself in the horrible, unthinkable position of confronting a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest,” he said.
But this year during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, state Republican lawmakers found plenty of reasons to advocate for it. State Rep. Shannon McMillan (R) argued that women who were impregnated under “violent circumstances” should have no choice because it’s not the fetus’s fault. State Rep. Brent Crane, the bill’s sponsor, took it a step further. Believing that “tragic, horrific” acts of rape or incest are the “hand of the Almighty,” Crane said women should trust God to turn the consequences of their sexual assault into “wonderful examples.”
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
When discussing what “makes” a great portrait with Exposure Compensation’s Miguel Garcia-Guzman, we quickly realized that we couldn’t really agree on much. So we figured we might as well ask some other people, and we sent out an email to a large number of photographers, fine art and commercial, bloggers, curators, editors, and gallerists: “What makes a good portrait? Could you provide us an example of a portrait that you really like – either from your or someone else’s work – and say why the portrait works so well for you?” to publish what we would get back on our blogs, as a collaborative effort to get a little bit closer to understanding the topic. Below is what we got back from those who managed to find the time to write something.
The Stewart Sisters, 7th Grade demonstrates this intangible. The girls are being photographed, communicating with the viewer, being self aware and being all of these things and more, nothing is very dramatic, nothing heavy handed, but the end result feels utterly profound.
Nathan, Boonville, North Carolina, 2007: This image is made up of many of the elements in which I strive to make all my portraits. It has meaning, it is graphic, it is telling, and has strong lines and light.
Look at Eisenstaedt’s menacing portrait of Goebbels. Eisenstaedt made the picture because he had something he wanted to say about Goebbels. The image is more of an indictment than a likeness.
One of my favorite examples of portraiture would have to be Edouard Boubat’s stunning Lella, Bretagne, 1947… here we are presented with a real person, one who has been captured in two dimensions yet leaps off of the paper and right into our world, a living, breathing woman…
The 2012 Republican budget is shocking. Republicans would:
- Repeal health care reform
- Kill Medicare as we know it and funnel its money to private insurance companies
- Shrink corporate tax bills
- Give millionaires and billionaires huge tax breaks
And thanks to these giveaways to the wealthy, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that our debt will actually INCREASE under this plan. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank said: “Ryan’s proposal isn’t a budget. It’s a manifesto for the anti-tax cause.” So much for fiscal responsibility!
Sign our petition, and stand against the Republicans. It’s simply immoral to take crucial health care away from seniors and the most vulnerable among us and use the proceeds to pad corporate pockets – and score political points.
Next National Days of Action: Tax Weekend April 15-18th!
On the weekend of tax day, April 15th-18th, let’s all take a stand for folks like Earl in our own communities. And let’s send our leaders a message- corporate tax cheats must pay up before veterans, the elderly, the unemployed, and the most vulnerable members of society are asked to sacrifice any more than we already have.
When it comes to paying their fair share of taxes, FedEx simply does not deliver. When FedEx made $1.9 billion in profits, they managed to pay less than .0005% of it in taxes by using 21 tax havens. FedEx also spent 42 times (4200%) more on lobbying Congress than they did in taxes.
When FedEx does not deliver on its fair share of taxes, we are forced to cut $373 million in teacher training programs (Americorp).
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
In the dim background of mind we know what we ought to be doing but somehow we cannot start. ~ William James