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.
Steve Benen :
I suspect questions like these are fairly common. Folks say, “We balance our budgets. Why can’t Washington?”
It’s worth noting that the question isn’t just flawed — the federal government of the world’s largest economy and military superpower has to operate differently — it’s also based on a false assumption.
When a family goes to buy a home, its members don’t simply write a check; they take out a mortgage. Almost no one can afford to simply and literally buy a home, so we take out very large loans, and make payments, with interest.
The same is true when a family wants a car, tackles college tuition, or thinks about starting a small business. American families, in other words, take on debts, some of them huge relative to their incomes, all the time. There’s nothing wrong with any of this — these are just routine examples of people investing in themselves.
The government’s debts aren’t identical — there is no mortgage or car payment, exactly — but officials take on debts to invest in things they consider worthwhile, too. A family that relies on student loans to pay for college should be able to relate to a government that relies on loans to pay for public services. The family thinks it’ll be worth living in the red for a while, so long as it can make the payments and afford the interest, because they’ll be better off in the long run — and the government believes the exact same thing.
The comparison between families and governments “living within their means” tends to annoy me because of the lack of parallels, but I’m wondering if I should just embrace it and turn it around. If Mr. and Ms. America take on debts they can afford to improve their position in life, why is it outrageous for their government to do the same thing?
The answer from Republicans, I suspect, is that we can’t afford this much debt. (They weren’t thinking this way when they inherited a national debt that was $5 trillion and shrinking, and turned into a debt that was $10 trillion and growing, but let’s put that aside.) But we can afford it; that’s the point. Like a family making its monthly payments, the government is doing the same. Indeed, we’re doing so well on this front that others keep loaning us money at low interest rates, confident that we’re good for it.
The point is, there is no debt crisis. We owe a lot, but we’ve owed more before, and we can back on track without resorting to extremist tactics like the GOP budget plan.
Transcript, Rachel Maddow Show:
This week as President Obama visited Facebook in northern California, he got a question president’s probably dread getting. “What is your biggest regret so far, sir. If you could do something differently, what would it be?”
Health care, obviously was a huge battle. it was so complicated that at a certain point, people started say, oh, this is typical Washington bickering. I have asked myself sometimes, is there a way we could have gotten it done more quickly in a way the American people wouldn’t have been so frustrated by?
Health reform and its frustrations. Remember the summer, 2009, cable news was wall-to-wall with frustrations and stuff like this every single day. [Video of Town Halls]
Cable news was absolutely transfixed by these town hall events in the summer of 2009. Less prominently featured was some of it was organized by corporate funded front groups, a lot of it the republican parties. Yes, those were real people, but there were big vinyl wrapped buses driving across the country, organizing for the events, directing people to specific town halls and providing specific talking points for town hall attendees and instructing them on how to disrupt the town halls. “You need to rock the boat early in the presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out. The goal is to rattle him.”
a year and a half later, the same thing is happening. this time with congress on recess, town hall events across the country, are, again, lighting up with anger and frustration. this time it’s about the republican party budget plan.
You would not know this was happening all across the country if you just read the press or watched most TV right now…there are not network news crews going out to cover the town hall events like in 2009. The beltway could not get enough of it back then. It is happening now, the same thing. Because it’s not angry conservatives, it’s angry everyone else, they could not care a less.
Of the comprehensive budget plans released this year, the one that does the most, the one that balances the budget 20 years earlier than Paul Ryan, it lets the bush tax cuts expire, raise taxes on the richest in the country, cut defense spending that’s doubled in the past decade and was already the biggest thing in the discretionary budget. It would end the subsidies for the orphan oil companies and on health care costs, still the budget eating dragon, we would get a public option. How does that sound compared to cutting taxes for the rich and dismantling Medicare. That is actually the most fiscally responsible budget in Washington. If you care about the deficit, this seems to be the one that does it. It’s from the Congressional Caucus. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s why the beltway press — it’s why you haven’t heard about it. It’s sort of an embarrassing thing to admit. People get mad at me and write letters from Washington. The beltway press does not cover liberals. Why is it not on the table? Joining us is Matt Miller.
RM: The progressive budget is a very populous plan. The individual stuff in it like raising the taxes on the richest, getting rid of the oil subsidies, they poll well. They are popular. Could the deficit be brought down that quickly with the policies in this plan?
MM: Yes. What was smart about the Progressive Caucus is they actually went to the right of the current debate on fiscal responsibility and said we don’t have to wait 25 years like Paul Ryan or Barack Obama, which never shows balance. We can balance the budget in ten years and in ways that are progressive. Here is a road map that shows you how. I think it’s such a surprise to the conventional wisdom that the normal beltway media has had trouble processing what to do with it.
RM: I made a joke that I meant about the beltway incapable of covering liberals. They are covered almost like foreign news if not like anthropology. Do you think it is a broader disinclination to cover liberal ideas and politics that explains it or is this the thing that’s introduced by the people that aren’t taken seriously on fiscal matters no matter what they say about them?
MM: It’s a bit of both. The basic mode of coverage is the establishment press act as stenographers to power. You have the opposition represented by Paul Ryan. That defines it boundaries of debate because the media faithfully reflects the poll of debate. If you are coming from outside the polls or in this case, what’s interesting about the Progressive Caucus is they are more fiscally conservative than the current debate but more socially liberal in terms of investments, infrastructure and jobs and more progressive on upper income earners in the tax code. The beltway, because they are not the official spokesperson like the president is, they tend to get ignored. They have to be more creative to get attention for their ideas.
RM: You served in the Clinton administration in the ’90s. You know about economic policy and winning politics. In terms of this battle now, what do you think of Democrats prospects of turning the policy into good political outcomes? Do you think they are aiming at doing that?
MM: There’s no question the speech Obama gave the other day contrasting his approach with the Republican approach is going to be a winner. It’s what you are seeing in the town halls already. When you are able to contrast the republicans want to cut Medicare or change Medicare in order to cut taxes for the wealthy. It think it’s very powerful for politics. The things you have to realize is the debate isn’t the right debate. Obama can win on those politics. If that’s what the debate sounds like, he will. There’s a difference between Obama winning and having solutions equal to the problems that the country faces. Obama doesn’t do enough. Not only on the debt, but on reorienting enough federal spending on the elderly, where all the growth is on the budget. The entire budget today goes for consumption on the elderly. There’s less and less left for education, teachers to the toughest schools where you need to raise pay substantially. Infrastructure and things the progressive caucus is fighting for. Obama’s message may win for 2012, but it’s not going to get us where we need to go.
The Senate’s “gang of six” appears to be headed toward a budget compromise that would boost tax revenues and rein in popular entitlement programs, according to a Democrat and a Republican from the bipartisan group who appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“If we don’t have an agreement soon, we won’t be relevant to this discussion,” Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said. “We intend to be relevant. We have made enormous progress in this group. It is the only bipartisan effort that is under way, and at the end of the day it has to be bipartisan or nothing is going to happen.”
The group’s recognition that compromise is required perhaps explains why Conrad is embracing plans to overhaul Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Reforming entitlement programs has largely been a priority for Republicans.
It may also explain the willingness of Sen. Tom Coburn to raise additional tax revenues, partially by closing perceived loopholes, despite a pledge he signed with the conservative interest group Americans for Tax Reform.
“Which pledge is most important — the pledge to hold your oath to the Constitution of the United States? Or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all of America’s conservatives, when in fact they really don’t?” the Oklahoma Republican asked on “Meet the Press.” “We’re not talking about raising tax rates at all. If there’s a net effect of tax revenue, that would be fine with me. I experienced that during Reagan’s period in 1986.”
Coburn added that a compromise that can earn 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House is critical.
“The president doesn’t have a plan that’ll get 60 votes,” he said. “The House doesn’t have a plan that’ll get 60 votes. And what Sen. Conrad and myself and other colleagues are trying to do is — where is the compromise that’ll save our country?”
“It’s all a conspiracy to keep us spending on consumer electronics we don’t really need,” I argued.
“Luddite,” my husband snickered as I continued my rant.
“Stop calling me that, and why should we spend more money replacing perfectly good phones?”
It will have a faster processor, my husband said. And in an effort to appeal to my business self, he said: “Companies have to stay in business, so they have to move forward technologically. If you stand still, you might as well be going backward.”
I’m not opposed to change, just change that keeps costing me more money when the old machinery works fine. I lament losing the argument to upgrade our VCR to a DVD and then to the Blu-Ray. So what if the picture is clearer, crisper. We’re usually so tired we fall asleep halfway through the movie anyway.
Two years later, and I’m still cranky about the cost of upgrading to the iPhone 3GS. Yes, it’s a cool phone. But really, who needs all this technology?
No one made me get the iPhone. My basic cellphone broke, and I replaced it because it would have cost just as much to fix the old one.
When my old phone became disabled, my husband saw a window of opportunity. (For a second, I wondered if he had sabotaged my phone.)
“Honey, my love, as long as you are looking at a replacement, let’s check out the iPhone,” he said. “And if you get one, it would be nice if I got one, too. We could learn to use it together.”
No, no, no, I protested. Yet in the end, I went to the dark side.
I bought one, and so did my husband. He’s been giddy ever since.
See, this is how they get you. They ensnare the technology enthusiast first — our spouses, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers — who then work on the rest of us. My pastor, bless his heart, is a technology aficionado. I try my best to keep him away from my husband when he gets a new gadget.
It’s not just the price of the new technology. It’s all the ancillary costs that go along with the purchase. Wireless devices make it all too easy to bust your budget.
With smartphones, it’s the extra monthly fees you have to pay to fully use all the systems on the phone. It’s the accessories and mobile applications. ABI Research found in a 2008 survey that 17 percent of smartphone users spent upward of $100 on apps. That’s significant given the low cost of many of them. Darn those “Angry Bird” application creators. I spent 99 cents for the game after my husband got me hooked. Now it’s costing me all kinds of time trying to destroy evil green pigs.
Kindle users, and I include myself, spend money on books they would have otherwise borrowed from a friend or checked out of the library. Or they buy books in which they have only a mild interest.
Think of what we could do with even a fraction of the money we spend on electronics. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that industry revenue will reach a new peak this year, at more than $186 billion.
In an April 14 op-ed he co-authored, Grijalva – the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands – called for an end to the approximately $40 billion in annual public subsidies oil and gas companies receive from the federal government, in addition to other policy changes that make up the Congressional Progressive Caucus “People’s Budget” proposal. BP used tax breaks specifically designed for the oil industry to write off 70 percent of the cost of leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010, a savings of $225,000 per day since the lease began, according to the New York Times.
Krugman:Bob Gordon has an interesting paper on US-Europe differences (pdf) that actually comes down on the side of those claiming that Europe is hurt a lot by high taxes; I don’t fully agree, but will have to come back to that some other time.
Lots of people have an image of Europe as an economic pit of doom, with millions of prime-age workers sitting idle thanks to the welfare state. And there was some truth to that image 15 years ago. But things got better over there even as they got worse here: Even before the Great Recession struck, people in the prime of life were equally likely to be employed on either side of the Atlantic, and at this point Europe has a better prime-age employment situation than we do.
It’s different for the young and the old. Young Europeans don’t work in part because they don’t have to: thanks to more generous student aid, they’re less likely to have to work while in school. But there’s also a lack of job opportunities. And the elderly retire earlier, largely thanks to generous benefits.
Not an entirely positive picture, but a much better one than many Americans imagine.
Oh, and small businesses actually flourish more in Europe than here (pdf): health benefits, you know.
As the economy begins to show signs of life, it’s important that progressives own the recovery. Despite the fact that conservative policies plunged us into the economic crisis, the right’s ideas continue to dominate the discourse. It’s time for new ideas and arguments that can restore broad-based prosperity, and for a sharper critique of conservative economics.
The White House has joined congressional Democrats in targeting oil companies with criticism for nearly $4 per gallon gas.
President Obama lashed out at oil companies — and the tax breaks they get from the government — for a second consecutive day on Thursday and again in Saturday’s address.
“Four billion dollars of your money are going to these companies at a time when they’re making record profits and you’re paying near record prices at the pump,” the president said at a Nevada town hall. “It has to stop.”
Obama also announced a Justice Department task force that will probe whether speculators and traders are to blame for the high prices. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday criticized the effort as an attempt to deflect attention from White House and Democratic opposition to increased drilling in the United States.
High prices are being triggered in part by the perception that turmoil in the Middle East and higher demand in the summer driving season should drive up prices, according to Sander Cohan, a fuels analyst at Energy Security Analysis. Petroleum supplies in the U.S. are actually at seasonal levels, he said.
While the war in Libya is pulling a couple million barrels per day from markets, Cohan emphasized that perceptions of higher demand are having an even bigger effect on price.
Members of Congress are hearing complaints from their constituents, which has led to tensions between the White House and Democrats in the House and Senate.
Obama has come under pressure from members of his party to do more to reduce gas prices. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called on the president to release fuel from the strategic oil reserve, which he said would provide relief to drivers at the pump and prevent the economy from slipping back into a decline.
The administration has been cool to opening the reserve, though officials have described it as an idea under consideration.
Obama said Saturday there are no easy answers for lowering gas prices, which are hovering around $4 a gallon, and criticized politicians who push plans to immediately reduce the price of gas.
But by hitting the oil companies over subsidies and sending the Justice Department on an investigation, Obama can try to mend fences with his allies.
Massachusetts – The House Ways and Means Budget Proposal
Overall funding levels for education are reduced as a result of the loss of the federal stimulus funds. The loss of federal monies that helped protect higher education last year is not made up by state dollars this year. This results in a proposed cut of 7.5 percent ($61.5 million) to college campus accounts. Chapter 70 spending for preK-12 is slightly more than in FY11, while local aid is cut by 7 percent. Early education and most education grant programs are proposed to be level-funded.
California – Top Education Official Impressed by Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA)
It was a federal fact-finding mission with a lot at stake for at-risk students when Jo Anderson Jr. visited California. Anderson is a senior adviser to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan who looked at six at-risk schools in late March to explore whether the CTA-sponsored Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) program could become a national model to turn around struggling schools.
The landmark 2006 legislation established the largest school reform program in the nation. It provides $3 billion over eight years for proven reforms at 500 low-performing California public schools serving nearly a half million students. The schools benefit from smaller class sizes, better training for teachers and principals, and more counselors.
For the full article from CTA, click here. To read a personal account from a teacher working in QEIA school, check out this article right here on Education Votes.
Colorado – House Legislators Offer Further Reductions to Cuts in School Funding
How low can the cut go?
That question has been a hot topic of Capitol conversation in April as Colorado lawmakers wrestled over the amount of education cuts that districts, schools and children will have to endure in the upcoming 2011-12 school year.
The answer gained some clarity today when the House approved amendments to Senate Bill 11-230, also known as the School Finance Act, which would immediately use $22.5 million to offset the earlier proposal of a $250 million K-12 public education cut. The new version of the bill would later add $67.5 million more to a special education fund, pending a positive June revenue forecast for the state.
“School finance has been a difficult proposition as we’ve worked through it over the last month, to say the least,” Rep. Tom Massey told his fellow House members. “A $250 million cut to our institutions of public learning, K-12, is particularly high and very damaging to Colorado’s local, rural school districts.”
This week we feature Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Texans pride themselves on being the heart of the nation’s oil and gas business. But even here, public concern about natural gas drilling is growing. On Wednesday, several dozen protesters marched through downtown Fort Worth, waving signs and chanting anti-drilling slogans that reflected concern over air and water pollution.The anxiety centers on a recently expanded drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is now used in more than half of new gas wells drilled in Texas.
In last week’s New York Times Magazine, the science writer Gary Taubes argues forcefully that a range of chromic health problems — heightened rates of obesity, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer — can be blamed on overconsumption of refined sweetener. It isn’t just the surge of empty calories that sweeteners provide that’s making us sick, Taubes argues; it’s also — and mainly — the way our bodies process them.
Taubes acknowledges that the science around sugar metabolism isn’t fully settled. But he brings highly suggestive evidence to bear, and I find it convincing, with a couple of caveats. I agree with Melanie Warner on BNet that Taubes should have been more clear that his indictment of “sugar” does not apply to all things sweet. Your body doesn’t process the fructose in an apple the same way it does, say the jolt of refined sweetener in a can of Coke.
I also agree with Melanie that the forceful demonization of a particular substance is problematic. First, it gives a free pass to other troublesome substances. Added fats have grown even more dramatically than added sweeteners in the U.S. diet over the past several decades — much of it in the form of partially hydrogenated soybean oil. I’d be surprised if all that added fat, too, didn’t play a role in our festering health problems.
All of that said, Americans eat an awful lot of added sugars — about 12 teaspoons per day, or 45 pounds per year, Taubes reports. Again, I’m close to convinced by his argument that the damage caused by our sweet tooth transcends all the empty calories. If Taubes is right, sweetener consumption drives growth in what the medical authorities call “chronic disease” — and thus causes vast amounts of human suffering and economic dysfunction.
According to the Partnership to fight Chronic Disease, “Chronic diseases are the No. 1 cause of death and disability in the U.S.”; and “treating patients with chronic diseases accounts for 75 percent of the nation’s health care spending.”
All of which makes me think of U.S. farm policy. A space alien who alighted upon earth and took to analyzing our farm policy could be excused for concluding that it’s specifically geared to maximize consumption of refined sweeteners. The government subsidizes the corn that gets turn into high-fructose corn syrup, our most prevalent sweetener (see above); and the sugar beets, that get processed into our second most prolific sweetener, beet-derived sugar.
If Taubes is correct, that policy has been ruinous to public health. Rather than promoting maximum production of corn to be transformed into a cheap sweetener and low-quality meat in factory animal farms, government policy should be pushing farmers to grow a wide variety of crops that nourish people, and don’t make them sick.
As immigrant advocates battle hardline immigration bills in state capitols across the country, they’re receiving crucial support from caucuses of black legislators. Black politicians have come out in defense of immigrants, questioning the morality and wisdom of tough immigration legislation in states from Nebraska to Georgia, where ‘copycat bills’ are being modeled on Arizona’s immigration enforcement legislation, SB 1070.
Approximately a dozen teachers, teen mothers and their children were arrested and taken away by Detroit police while staging a peaceful sit-in protest at the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit on Friday April 15th. Eight students, along with their children and some faculty members of the Catherine Ferguson Academy of Detroit, MI began the sit-in at the end of the school day in protest to Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s announcement to close the school for pregnant and parenting teens. The decision to occupy was made after many other attempts by students, staff and supporters to have their voices heard by EFM Robert Bobb through letter writing and petition campaigns, to no avail.
This action principally concerns the failure of defendant Club for Growth, Inc. (“Club”) to register as a political committee with the Federal Election Commission (“FEC” or Commission”), despite spending millions of dollars on federal campaign activity during the 2000, 2002, and 2004 election cycles, and despite receiving significant contributions from donors in response to solicitations clearly indicating that their donations would be used to help elect or defeat specific federal candidates.
An appeals court Friday potentially revived the prosecution of four Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqis in a controversial shooting in a busy Baghdad square more than three years ago.
In a 17-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously that a federal judge misinterpreted the law in a 2009 ruling that dismissed all charges against the Blackwater guards.
Although Friday’s decision is a victory for the Justice Department, the ruling stopped short of clearing the way for the guards’ prosecution. Instead, the appeals court sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina to reconsider his earlier findings.
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement that prosecutors were pleased with the ruling and “assessing the next step.”
Documents and research related to the 779 people who have been sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison since 2002.
It was often assumed on the Hill and elsewhere that White House counsel Gregory B. Craig was in charge, but he rejected that characterization in an interview and said he was pushing the boundaries of his office to be as involved as he was.
“There was a real serious problem of coordination in this whole thing,” Craig said. “No one was coordinating.”
The White House, often without much internal deliberation, retreated time and again in the face of political opposition.
“At each turn, when faced with congressional opposition, the instinct was to back off, and the result was not what the White House hoped,” said a senior U.S. official involved in Guantanamo policy. “We kept retreating, and the result was more pressure to retreat more.”
Here are major setbacks that contributed to the ultimate unraveling of what was once a signature goal of Obama’s administration.
Northern Virginia. A key step in the process, agreed on by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior national security officials, involved the stealth relocation of eight of the 17 Uighurs held at the off-shore facility to the United States, mostly in Virginia.
But before the plane left Cuba, word leaked to Rep. Frank R. Wolf that detainees were on their way to his district in Northern Virginia. Wolf, who had not been briefed on the matter by the White House, was infuriated, and faxed a letter to the administration and media declaring that the “American people cannot afford to simply take your word that these detainees, who were captured training in terrorist camps, are not a threat if released into our communities.” The administration shelved the plans in response.
The vote against funding. On May 20, 2009, as part of a war-funding request, the Senate voted 90 to 6 against appropriating $80 million to close Guantanamo. The administration was stunned.
The 9/11 trial. In his boldest move, Holder announced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators would be tried in a Manhattan federal courthouse less than a mile from Ground Zero. While the city initially welcomed this, the prosecution soon collapsed.
At the Justice Department, officials thought they had been sandbagged by inflated security estimates made by the New York Police Department, and exaggerated concerns about disruption to the life of the city. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly spoke about creating security rings around the courthouse at an annual cost of approximately $200 million.
Mayor Bloomberg was facing increased local opposition to the trial, but “the administration was silent and did nothing to help him.”
Military commissions. In August 2010, the Defense Department began to advocate for a full resumption of military commissions. While Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton argued that any military commissions should be accompanied by federal trials, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he wanted to be able to lift the hold on commissions in 90 days.
The Ghailani trial. Ahmed Ghailani, a former high-value detainee at Guantanamo Bay, was charged with multiple counts of murder. His trial was in Manhattan, and might have served as a blueprint. But although Ghailani was given a life sentence for conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property, he was acquitted of 284 other counts, including all the murder charges. Critics seized on the fact that an an al-Qaeda terrorist almost got off.
The end of the road. In December, in the provisions of a major defense bill, Congress imposed the tightest restrictions yet on the handling of Guantanamo detainees. And while President Obama called the restrictions a “dangerous and unprecedented challenge” to the executive branch, he did not say he could lawfully ignore them.
But the truth is that something else entirely is going on – the Tea Party is fading away , and in it’s replace are Unions and Seniors who are getting mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore From the GOP!.
A number of you have written in after our story last night about the possible closing of Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for pregnant girls and young mothers. Below, a few links to that conversation about this that has already been going on in Detroit and Michigan. If you’ve got others to share, please include them in the comments. This is a story that’s happening at the grassroots level — no Catherine Ferguson gardening pun intended. This is a story that depends on you to tell it.
The independent Voice of Detroit has terrific reporting from inside the sit-in at Catherine Ferguson, including accounts from people we showed last night.
You can learn tons more about Catherine Ferguson Academy through the “Grown in Detroit” documentary.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Snyder is training hundreds, yes, hundreds, of emergency managers, and he has pulled financial support from many Michigan municipalities.
Lansing, Michigan mayor, Virg Bernero, on the Maddow Show:
…….they‘ve cut revenue sharing for cities. So they‘re really cutting support for cities. In essence, shoot you in the foot and blaming you for limping.
We‘re struggling to survive in this economy, and the state is doing nothing to help us. In fact, they‘re hindering us. And the only thing they‘re doing then is threatening us with this privatization, this corporatization with a czar who‘s going to be appointed who is not going to work with the local authorities.
What does this mean? Can we expect that hundreds of localities will lose their right to govern themselves and become mere departments/cogs in the corporate wheel?
That’s exactly what seems to be indicated. And, make no mistake, that is Snyder’s intention. See, if communities become simply departments in his corporation, he can hire, fire, allocate, dissolve, at will. His will. His rules. His corporation. And Michigan……Michigan will become the first state to be corporatized.
Recall is too good for Snyder and the filthy Republican corporatists who enacted this anti-Democratic legislation. They all need to be arrested and jailed for participation in a plot to rape corporatize a state. A STATE, damn it.
Foster children in Michigan would use their state-funded clothing allowance only in thrift stores under a plan suggested by State Senator Bruce Caswell.
Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor is actually used for that purpose.
He says they should get “gift cards” to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.
“I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes.”
Gilda Jacobs is CEO of the Michigan League for Human Services. She’s not a fan of the thrift shop gift card idea.
“Honestly, I was flabbergasted,” Jacobs says. “I really couldn’t believe this. Because I think, gosh, is this where we’ve gone in this state? I think that there’s the whole issue of dignity. You’re saying to somebody, you don’t deserve to go in and buy a new pair of gym shoes. You know, for a lot of foster kids, they already have so much stacked against them.”
Caswell says the gift card idea wouldn’t save the state any money.
Why should the right monopolize religious rhetoric? A Christian moral vision for the other end of the spectrum
President Obama, Jesus and Paul Ryan
For the last generation, Americans have grown accustomed to evangelical Christianity aggressively entering the arena of public life to support a raft of conservative causes — fights over the contents of school textbooks, battles against gay employment and marriage rights, anti-abortion activism — all of it nudging the Republican Party further and further to the right.
It is, however, far less common to see Christian ideals — or the ideals of any religion, for that matter — harnessed to ideas or initiatives that originate on the political left. There are reasons for this. Offering a religious rationale for policy goals threatens what for many has become the cherished principle of secular rationalism in public life. Invoking a moral basis for public goals, to many otherwise well-intentioned liberals, undermines the separation of church and state, to which they reflexively seek to repel any threat. But this comes at the cost of chronically ceding the moral high ground and a potentially galvanizing force in national politics.
It’s refreshing, therefore, to see a group like What Would Jesus Cut? amid the partisan posturing surrounding debates over the federal deficit crisis. Launched by Jim Wallis, the co-founder and CEO of Sojourners magazine, this movement aims to infuse this critical national debate with thoughtfulness about the moral priorities it reflects. To deliver the message, the campaign sends What Would Jesus Cut? bracelets and emails to congressional representatives, and questions the limited pain of national belt-tightening the “super-rich” are asked to bear under the House Republican deficit-slashing plan.
If the moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable, the emergence of What Would Jesus Cut? may be the flashlight leading us out of the dark cave of budgetary wrangling. But it should also provide progressives with a model for marrying religion to politics in a way that reinvigorates their agenda, rather than simply leaving the field wide open to often intolerant evangelicals and social conservatives.
Significant New Progressive Ad Campaign Targets Republicans For Voting To End Medicare
GOP PA Rep. Lou Barletta Smacked Down by Angry Constituents Concerning the Ryan Budget
Speaking about the potential government shutdown, De Niro was quoted according to Movieline saying:
“How did we get to this point? . . . This is crazy. And I know Obama was trying to bridge the gap. His intentions are really good. Maybe some things are not as good as we all would like, but his intentions were right. A lot of these guys, they’re intentions are not even good. They’re just playing the game. And they’re playing with people’s lives.”
However, when talk turned to Trump, De Niro got even more pointed with his comments. At first De Niro tried to avoid making his comments specific, suggesting any potential political candidate “get the facts before you start saying things about people.” However, when Williams pressed whether De Niro was talking about Trump, De Niro confirmed and stated:
“It’s like a big hustle. It’s like being a car salesman. Don’t go out there and say things unless you can back them up. How dare you? That’s awful to do. To just go out and speak and say these terrible things? Unless you just wanna get over and get the job. It’s crazy.”
If Trump keeps angering celebrities like this, then if he decides for some reason not to run for President, there might be no one left willing to do another season of Celebrity Apprentice!
Only 11 percent of those surveyed in a McClatchy-Marist poll this week said Obama and Democrats are to blame for high gas prices. Thirty-six percent of U.S. residents blamed turmoil in the Middle East for the high prices, while 34 percent say U.S. oil companies are to blame.
Seven percent said congressional Republicans were at fault.
“I do think people aren’t really sympathetic to the oil companies,” said Democratic strategist Peter Fenn, who contributes to The Hill’s pundits blog.
But he also said “there’s no question” the high prices are hurting the president, and that there’s not a lot the White House can do to lower prices.
Democrats — 44% — and independents — 39% — are more likely to blame U.S. oil companies for the high price of gas while Republicans — 37% — are more likely to cite the turmoil in the Middle East.
Thirty-nine percent of those polled said the economy was getting worse, up from 28 percent who thought the economy was getting worse in October.
Forty-six percent of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling his job, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, while nearly the same percentage – 45 percent – disapprove.
Mr. Obama’s disapproval rating has risen four points since March and six points since January, and now matches where it stood in October 2010, shortly before the Republican-dominated midterm elections. His approval rating has dropped three percentage points since last month, though that drop is within the poll’s three-point margin of error.
Congress, meanwhile, remains exceedingly unpopular, with just 16 percent approving of the job Congress is doing. That roughly matches where Congress’ job approval rating stood last May, before the midterm elections. Last month, Congress’ approval rating was at 21 percent.
Seventy-five percent of Americans – three in four – say they disapprove of the job Congress is doing. That’s up from 66 percent last month.
With rare exceptions, it is extraordinarily difficult to find an election analyst make the case that for President Obama to get re-elected, he needs to tack left, at least some of the time.
You are about to read a rare exception. Perhaps not stunning, coming from a site that calls the progressive blogosphere home. Nevertheless, there is a legitimate, data-driven case that triangulation and tacking to the “center” (or, heaven forbid, the “center-right”) will not yield President Obama the electoral dividends he seeks.
To make the case, I will use several sets of data. To save us from incessant linkage down the line, let’s lay out the sources up front. They are:
- 2010 Exit Polls, both nationally and from a total of 15 states.
- 2009 Exit polling from New Jersey and Virginia
- 2008 Exit Polls, both nationally and from a total of 20 states.
- 2006 Exit Polls, national House poll only.
- A trio of late-cycle Independent polls from 2010: a SUSA poll from Georgia, a PPP poll from Minnesota, and a PPP poll from North Carolina. These three polls were chosen for two simple reasons: these were states that did not have exit polling on Election Day, and the poll toplines closely reflected the final result.
Based on the above data sources, there is a reasonable case to be made that a base strategy may well prove to be as sound an electoral strategy as triangulation. This argument is based upon four primary points of emphasis.
1. WHO votes is every bit as important as HOW they vote […]
Consider than in 2008, when President Obama scored his historic victory, the ideological makeup of the electorate was as follows: 22% liberal, 44% moderate, and 34% conservative. By 2010, the electorate looked dramatically different: 20% liberal, 38% moderate, and 42% conservative.
To put it another way, in two years the liberal/conservative gap went from Cons +12 to Cons +22. And therein lies the landslide.
The bottom line is that President Obama needs a Election Day 2012 composition that is at least 60%-65% comprised of moderates (many of whom are left-leaning, but don’t want to self-identify as liberal) and liberals. Absent that, even a solid performance with those two groups is unlikely to be a guarantee of victory. He cannot run away from the left and simultaneously expect them to turn out in droves on his behalf next November. The Democrats, and his second term, cannot survive another “enthusiasm gap.”
2. Yes, the President does have a little bit of a “base problem”
Some pollsters have it even worse: this week’s Marist/McClatchy poll had the liberal job approval numbers at 68/24. Some polls don’t have it nearly as bad: this week’s installment of the Daily Kos/SEIU State of the Nation poll had it at 88% approval.
Nevertheless, that is a group that should be pretty close to unanimous. And they are not. If the President cannot up those numbers by a few points, there is serious peril there for him. Because, as you’ll see, it might prove difficult for him to get the numbers to move elsewhere.
4. The President already has a solid standing with moderate voters.
In the blockquoted piece at the start of this essay, the author lauded President Obama for the tax cut deal with Republicans, in essence arguing that any loss of support among liberals would be offset by the re-evaluation of the man among moderates.
Two pieces of data seem to disprove that.
The November edition of PPP’s national polling, conducted before the tax cut deal, showed that the President was already doing quite well (61/34) among moderates. He was also doing extremely well (90/8) among liberals. Earlier, I noted where the President’s approval now stood in that monthly survey (low 80s) among liberals.
Meanwhile, in that same April survey, where was the President with moderate voters? 61%. A solid performance, to be sure, but also exactly the same percentage support he enjoyed among moderates last November.
Therefore, only two conclusions can be drawn. Either (a) the tax cuts paid no dividends with moderate voters, or (b) any positive re-evaluation of the President post-tax cuts by centrist moderates was nullified by a dip among left-of-center “moderates”. Therefore, the overall number remained constant.
You see, a cursory look at polling data reveals one truism: a large number of moderate voters…simply aren’t. A load of them are actually left-of-center voters who are uncomfortable, after decades of the term being gradually hammered into an epithet, with self-identifying as “liberal.”
The proof is in the data.
Virtually every poll over the past few months has shared a common theme: the President is on shaky footing with the electorate, but continues to hold leads over the potential GOP field. This rather strange dichotomy is owed to two characteristics of that Republican contingent: they are still very undefined to the electorate, but what the electorate knows of them, they do not like.
Given that a bit of fratricide on the GOP side appears inevitable as the field of declared challengers begins to grow, President Obama will have a great deal of flexibility. Triangulating might allow him to frame himself as the “adult in the room”, but it also runs a very real risk of leaving loads of potentially decisive voters on the sidelines. However, the prospect of a real spectacle on the other side may also allow Obama the ability to tend to his base on some big-ticket items and still look reasonable by comparison, given the tea-flavored festival that seems bound to begin (and already has, if the ideologically flexible Tim Pawlenty is any indication).
Scientists have developed a super-material that is thinner than paper but ten times stronger than steel.
Developers of graphene paper, a compound based on graphite, claim it is not only lighter, stronger, harder and more flexible than steel, but also eco-friendly.
They say it will revolutionise both the commercial and engineering industries – particularly car and aeroplane manufacturing.
According to what Limbaugh delights in calling “the drive-by media,” the number varies wildly. Is it 30 million (Pat Buchanan on MSNBC), 20 million (Time magazine, ABC News), 19 million (Fox News), 14 million (CNN), or “14.2 million to about 25 million” (The Washington Post)?
Limbaugh is widely acknowledged to be the most popular talk-radio host, as evidenced by the record $400 million, eight-year contract he signed with his syndicator last July. But estimates of Limbaugh’s nationwide (and overseas) audience are exercises in guesswork, slippery methodology and suspect data. Limbaugh himself has muddied the water with the claim that he reaches 20 million people a week, although there’s no independent support for that figure.
Arbitron, the radio industry’s dominant audience-measurement company, has never publicly released a national estimate for Limbaugh, and it says, in effect, that the job is too complicated, expensive and time-consuming to bother with.
The difficulty comes from the vast patchwork that is Limbaugh’s radio empire. His three-hour daily program is carried on more than 600 domestic stations, but these stations don’t all carry the show at the same time or even for the same duration. Most air all three hours of Limbaugh’s broadcast each weekday, but some carry only two hours. Arbitron has never attempted to aggregate all of this audience data for this many stations and times. “There is no economic motivation for any objective third party to do that kind of analysis,” says Thom Mocarsky, an Arbitron spokesman.
And there are no ratings at all for a constituency of Limbaugh listeners: U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. Limbaugh’s program is carried to these listeners on about 400 stations of varying audience sizes via the Armed Forces Radio Network, which Arbitron doesn’t monitor.
Harrison’s own calculation — that Limbaugh typically attracts about 14.25 million listeners weekly — is based on Arbitron figures from about 30 cities and spot checks of a similar number of stations. Harrison stands by his guess even though Limbaugh’s program is heard on more than 600 stations across the country. “Once you get below the big markets, [the audience] doesn’t add up to critical mass,” he said.
No matter the exact figure, Harrison says Limbaugh’s weekly audience eclipses all other nationally syndicated personalities, including conservatives Sean Hannity (13.25 million), Michael Savage (8.25 million) and Laura Ingraham (5.5 million), according to the magazine’s “rough projections.”
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
TED is an international conference platform based on spreading ideas with a focus on (T)echonolgy, (E)nivroment, and (D)esign. Originating in the United States, TED and TEDx (independently organized versions of TED) events have become an internet phenomenon successfully harnessing the power of social media by spreading informative lectures via Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. TED is the prime conference platform of the new media age.
Using TED’s structure, Palestinian comedians, writers, filmmakers, musicians, environmental CEO’s and poets came together last Saturday to host the first TEDx event in Palestine.
While the event had a clearly political slant, it was not completely bogged down in depressing stories of occupation, control, war and violence. In fact, the atmosphere was jovial, upbeat and celebratory. Mohamad El Dahshan, a writer and blogger in Egypt, shared incredible stories from the Egyptian revolution such as the creative ways people recharged cell phones or computers in Tahrir square during the height of the demonstrations. Rim Al Banna, performed three songs for the late Juliano Mer-Khamis. Alessandro Petti, shared his insight about reorganizing space in the West Bank as settlements are dismantled. Khaled Sabawi explained how he wants to “keep Palestine cool” by harnessing geothermal energy to cool and heat homes. Some speakers like the cartoonist Wael Attili were denied Israeli entry permits to the West Bank and forced to deliver their speeches via video link from Amman or Beirut. Throughout the event, comedian and host Jamil Abu Wardeh kept the crowd engaged and laughing. The final speaker of TEDx Ramallah, the acclaimed author and architect Suad Amiry, was a perfect end to an exhilarating day. You have to see her speech, embedded in two pieces throughout this post, to understand what I mean.
PayUpNow.org is an online effort to “uncut” the cutbacks by promoting boycotts of corporations who pay little or no federal income tax.
According to a US Senate subcommittee report, eliminating tax havens could save $100 billion a year. That’s a conservative estimate. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calculated that companies and individuals are holding up to $5 trillion in foreign tax havens.
Several of the tax evaders are featured at PayUpNow.org, with brief summaries of their recent tax escapades, products to avoid and links to online forms or email addresses to corporate management. The web site was developed by US Uncut members. A Facebook “Pay Up Now” page has also been created.
As noted on the Pay Up Now web site, every effort has been made to provide truthful, documented information, but errors and omissions are likely in such a sensitive area. Corporations are adept at tax strategy. A New York Times story said “G.E. is so good at avoiding taxes that some people consider its tax department to be the best in the world, even better than any law firm’s.”
Feedback is requested to correct inaccuracies, to add or remove companies depending on their tax-paying behaviors, to clarify company products and to provide the most suitable modes of communicating to management (online forms or email addresses). The web site includes message-sending help. Polite but assertive objection to tax avoidance is essential. Contact information for Pay Up Now is offered as a substitute for a message-sender’s personal information.
It is occasionally suggested that consumers end up paying corporate taxes anyway, through higher prices. This argument fails when the extraordinary increase in upper management pay is taken into consideration. Literally billions of dollars have gone to the richest 1 percent, while their personal and corporate taxes have decreased. PayUpNow.org is, at the very least, a means of better informing the public of the truth behind the budget deficit.
Petitions Available Statewide
A campaign is under way to allow Idaho voters the opportunity to weigh in on three education reform laws passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature.
Volunteers from Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform and the Idaho Education Association are collecting signatures on each of three petitions to put Senate Bills 1108, 1110, and 1184 to a vote next year.
For more information on this statewide petition wide, please visit the following links:
- Main Reject the Luna Laws site
- Reject the Luna Laws on facebook
- Idaho Education Association statement
- Full list of local events – find out where you can go to help collect signatures or sign the petition yourself
Maryland – Thank You for Your Activism
In this thank you video, Maryland State Education Association President Clara Floyd thanks educators for their historic activism during the 2011 legislative session.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.” ~Theodore Roosevelt