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The White House said Monday that President Obama wants to pay for his $447 billion jobs bill by raising taxes on the wealthy and businesses.
Jack Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said the tax hikes would pay for Obama’s entire bill, which the administration is sending to Congress Monday evening.
The chief provision announced by Lew would be to limit itemized deductions for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and families that make more than $250,000, something the Obama administration has previously pushed to do through its budget proposals. Lew told reporters at the White House press briefing that this would raise about $400 billion.
The administration would tax the income investment fund managers make, known as “carried interest,” as regular income instead of as capital gains, which has a low 15 percent tax rate. This is another longstanding administration goal that has been resisted by Wall Street as well as some Democrats.
The administration estimates the capital gains change would provide $18 billion in revenue.
The administration also wants to eliminate tax breaks for the oil-and-gas sector, which would raise $40 billion, the administration said.
Another $3 billion would come from changing the way corporate jets depreciate. With a few other revenue increases, Lew indicated the total measures proposed by the administration would bring in $467 billion, $20 billion more than the cost of the bill.
Obama is expected next Monday to formally unveil his recommendations to the supercommittee created by the debt-ceiling deal. That panel of 12 lawmakers is charged with cutting $1.5 trillion from the 10-year budget.
Obama will challenge them to “overachieve” and cut more from the deficit, including enough to pay for the jobs bill, if necessary, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney.
“The president is asking Congress to make choices,” Carney said.
Lew and Carney said that Obama is hopeful that the supercommittee will overshoot its goal of cutting the deficit by $1.5 trillion, but the president is sending Congress a bill that is paid for now because of the urgency to get the economy moving.
“It can’t wait until Thanksgiving and it can’t wait until Christmas,” Lew said.
Republicans pointed out that the proposal on itemized deductions had run into resistance even during the last Congress, when Democrats held large majorities in both chambers.
“It would be fair to say this tax increase on job creators is the kind of proposal both parties have opposed in the past,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement. “We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn’t appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit.”
The White House dug in on its refusal to say how many jobs the package would create, pointing instead to an estimate from Moody’s that said the bill would create about 1.9 million jobs.
Lew noted that he was not a part of Obama’s economic team when National Economic Council director Christina Romer and Vice President Biden’s former chief economist Jared Bernstein said that the original stimulus package would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent.
After months of being reminded by Republicans that the recovery act did not cut unemployment, which is now at about 9 percent, Lew said he thinks it is “dangerous to ever predict unemployment rates.”
Wall St Journal:
For generations, Procter & Gamble Co.’s growth strategy was focused on developing household staples for the vast American middle class.
Now, P&G executives say many of its former middle-market shoppers are trading down to lower-priced goods—widening the pools of have and have-not consumers at the expense of the middle.
That’s forced P&G, which estimates it has at least one product in 98% of American households, to fundamentally change the way it develops and sells its goods. For the first time in 38 years, for example, the company launched a new dish soap in the U.S. at a bargain price.
P&G isn’t the only company adjusting its business. A wide swath of American companies is convinced that the consumer market is bifurcating into high and low ends and eroding in the middle. They have begun to alter the way they research, develop and market their products.
Food giant H.J. Heinz Co., for example, is developing more products at lower price ranges. Luxury retailer Saks Inc. is bolstering its high-end apparel and accessories because its wealthiest customers—not those drawn to entry-level items—are driving the chain’s growth.
Citigroup calls the phenomenon the “Consumer Hourglass Theory” and since 2009 has urged investors to focus on companies best positioned to cater to the highest-income and lowest-income consumers. It created an index of 25 companies, including Estée Lauder Cos. and Saks at the top of the hourglass and Family Dollar Stores Inc. and Kellogg Co. at the bottom. The index posted a 56.5% return for investors from its inception on Dec. 10, 2009, through Sept. 1, 2011. Over the same period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average returned 11%.
“Companies have thought that if you’re in the middle, you’re safe,” says Citigroup analyst Deborah Weinswig. “But that’s not where the consumer is any more—the consumer hourglass is more pronounced now than ever.”
…Firms catering to low-income consumers, such as Dollar General Corp., also are posting gains, boosted by formerly middle-class families facing shrunken budgets. Dollar stores garnered steady sales increases in recent years, easily outpacing mainstream counterparts like Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which typically are more expensive.
The one thing every American politician can agree on is that small businesses are a crucial driver of the U.S. economy. So it’s somewhat surprising to discover that, as John Schmitt of the Center on Economic and Policy Research points out, the United States actually has the smallest small-business sector among wealthy countries. Here’s a chart, using data from OECD’s Entrepreneurship at a Glance 2011 , showing that the United States has the lowest share of employees in enterprises with 50 or fewer employees:
[…] Here’s a quick rundown from the experts:
Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi: “The fiscal boost from the jobs package next year would be larger than in the first year of the 2009 economic stimulus, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. Zandi, who was briefed on the plan before the president’s speech, forecast passage of the entire jobs package would add 2 percentage points toeconomic growth next year and bring down the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point compared with current policy, under which a temporary payroll tax cut and an extended unemployment benefits both expire Dec. 31.”
This morning Economic Forecasting FirmMacroeconomic Advisers issued a report: “We estimate that the American Jobs Act (AJA), if enacted, would give a significant boost to GDP and employment over the near-term. The various tax cuts aimed at raising workers’ after-tax income and encouraging hiring and investing, combined with the spending increases aimed at maintaining state & local employment and funding infrastructure modernization, would: Boost the level of GDP by 1.3% by the end of 2012, and by 0.2% by the end of 2013. Raise nonfarm establishment employment by 1.3 million by the end of 2012 and 0.8 million by the end of 2013, relative to the baseline.”
On CNN last night, Pimco CEO Bill Gross said, “Well, I think it’s significant, Piers. I mean, it’s $450 billion in terms of a proposal. That is 3% of GDP. If it’s passed, you know, it could lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
In a statement last night, Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons said, “The President’s proposed combination of personal and business tax relief, targeted spending to support infrastructure, and aid to states offers several direct and innovative ways of creating jobs and bolstering our economy. The President’s focus on assisting small business is spot on, since small business is the engine of job creation.”
The President will continue to make his case directly to the American people about the importance of passing the American Jobs Act. He discussed his strategy to rebuild the economy at University of Richmond this afternoon and he’ll travel to Ohio and North Carolina next week.
This package will keep cops on the beat, first responders on the job, and teachers in the classroom. This package will put folks back to work by rebuilding our roads and upgrading our schools. Plain and simple, this package will create jobs and help rebuild the economy. The time for obstruction and gridlock is over. Congress needs to put country ahead of politics, and pass the American Jobs Act.
[…] But despite calling for a “frank, honest national conversation” about Social Security, Perry misleadingly says that the program has “dire financial challenges” that require big changes (which Perry didn’t deign to explain):
The first step to fixing a problem is honestly admitting there is a problem. America’s goal must be to fix Social Security by making it more financially sound and sustainable for the long term. But Americans deserve a frank and honest discussion of the dire financial challenges facing the nearly 80-year-old program…For too long, politicians have been afraid to speak honestly about Social Security. We must have the guts to talk about its financial condition if we are to fix Social Security and make it financially viable for generations to come.
Perry is simply incorrect to say that Social Security’s financial situation is “dire.” After all, if nothing is done to Social Security, it will still pay full benefits until the year 2037. After that, the program is projected to pay out 75 percent of benefits until 2084, which is close to full benefits once inflation is accounted for. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said, “Social Security has not added a single penny, not a dime, a nickel, a dollar to the budget problems we have.Never has. And for the next 30 years, it won’t do that.”
One simple step — lifting the payroll tax cap so that more wages for the wealthy are subject to the payroll tax — guarantees Social Security’s solvency for 75 years. As Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum put it, “this is really the only thing you need to know about Social Security — the program costs about 4.5% of GDP today and will eventually top out at about 6% of GDP in 2030 and beyond. You can bring that into balance forever with tiny tweaks phased in over the next two decades. Not only is it not a Ponzi scheme, it’s not even a major problem.”
Though Perry lays out literally no solutions in his op-ed, he has previously proposed an economically impossible state takeover of Social Security, that, if implemented, would simply cause the program to collapse. Read the Center for American Progress’ plan for Social Security here.
Bank of America said Monday that it will cut about 30,000 jobs over the next few years in a bid to save $5 billion per year.
“The whole goal here was to make our company more streamlined, more efficient, easier to do business with both internally and externally,” CEO Brian Moynihan said at a banking conference.
In a statement, Bank of America said it expects many of the 30,000 job cuts will come through attrition and eliminating unfilled positions as it tries to streamline operations. It did not give an exact timetable for the reductions, but said the cuts should save $5 billion a year by 2014.
The company also plans to slash roughly $73 billion dollars in annual expenses.
The cuts are part of “Phase I” in a cost-savings program the bank calls “Project New BAC.” Phase II, involving businesses and operations that weren’t part of the first round, is scheduled to begin in October, according to the statement.
In the past week, rumors about possible cuts at the troubled Charlotte, N.C.-based bank had ranged as high as 40,000 jobs.
Bank of America is the largest U.S. lender by assets, but it will likely lose that distinction as it strives to become profitable again. Shares of the company were up slightly in afternoon trading Monday. But confidence in Bank of America’s short term prospects remains low — the company has lost roughly thirty-five percent of its stock value in the past three months.
It also faces billions of dollars in lawsuits over mortgage backed securities its subsidiary Countrywide Financial sold during the housing boom. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.
The job cuts announced Monday follow a revamp of the bank’s top management team last week. Two senior executives, wealth management head Sallie Krawcheck and head of consumer banking Joe Price, left the bank. The bank also elevated commercial banking chief David Darnell and investment banking head Tom Montag to co-chief operating officers, reporting to Moynihan.
The latest job cuts will lead to a 10 percent reduction in Bank of America’s work force of 288,000, and are in addition to 6,000 positions the bank has already eliminated through the third quarter of this year.
The US mortgage crisis has crept upon the judicial and political scene in bits and pieces. One lawsuit will concentrate on robo-signing by the big banks. Another will look at errors in the securitization process. A third will probe the way mortgages were originated. None of these lawsuits really puts the whole picture together – until now. Catherine Cortez Masto, the Attorney General for the state of Nevada, has filed a complaint against Bank of America that takes you from the origination of mortgages to their foreclosure, showing you exactly how Nevada thinks Bank of America defrauded consumers in that state. It is a well-written legal complaint, but it is not easy reading. It will be hard for you to believe that one bank could be so deceitful and so reckless with the law. It will be even harder for you to understand how Bank of America is still allowed to call itself a bank.
[…] For the very richest Americans, low tax rates on capital gains are better than any Christmas gift. As a result of a pair of rate cuts, first under President Bill Clinton and then under Bush, most of the richest Americans pay lower overall tax rates than middle-class Americans do. And this is one reason the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country is widening dramatically.
The rates on capital gains — which include profits from the sale of stocks, bonds and real estate — should be a key point in negotiations over how to shrink the budget deficit, some lawmakers say.
“This is something that should be on the table,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), one of 12 members on the congressional “supercommittee” tasked with reducing the deficit. “There’s no strong economic rationale for the huge gap that exists now between the rate for wages and the rate for capital gains.”
Advocates for a low capital gains rate say it spurs more investment in the U.S. economy, benefiting all Americans. But some tax experts say the evidence for that theory is murky at best. What is clear is that the capital gains tax rate disproportionately benefits the ultra-wealthy.
Most Americans depend on wages and salaries for their income, which is subject to a graduated tax so the big earners pay higher percentages. The capital gains tax turns that idea on its head, capping the rate at 15 percent for long-term investments. As a result, anyone making more than $34,500 a year in wages and salary is taxed at a higher rate than a billionaire is taxed on untold millions in capital gains.
While it’s true that many middle-class Americans own stocks or bonds, they tend to stash them in tax-sheltered retirement accounts, where the capital gains rate does not apply. By contrast, the richest Americans reap huge benefits. Over the past 20 years, more than 80 percent of the capital gains income realized in the United States has gone to 5 percent of the people; about half of all the capital gains have gone to the wealthiest 0.1 percent.
“The way you get rich in this world is not by working hard,” said Marty Sullivan, an economist and a contributing editor to Tax Analysts. “It’s by owning large amounts of assets and having those things appreciate in value.”
Republicans have led the way in pressing for low capital gains tax rates, but they have been able to rely on a significant bloc of Democratic allies to prevent an increase and to protect the preferential treatment of money earned through investments over money earned through labor.
Secretary Arne Duncan:
In his speech to Congress, President Obama laid out two job programs critical to ensuring every child has the opportunity for a world-class education.
He proposed to invest $30 billion to put hundreds of thousands of construction workers, engineers, boiler repairmen, and electrical workers back to work rebuilding and modernizing our aging public schools and community colleges. And he proposed an additional $30 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of educators facing potential layoffs and furloughs in classrooms where they belong—instead of on unemployment lines.
In the global economy, the nation that out-educates America will out-compete America. But the hard truth is that a number of nations are now out-educating the U.S.—and the antiquated conditions of many public schools are limiting children’s access to the 21st century tools and skills needed to compete in a knowledge economy.
The average public school building in the United States is over 40 years old. Many school buildings are even more antiquated. Today, the digital age has penetrated every nook of American life—with the exception of many of our public schools.
Most classrooms have changed little from a century ago. In fact, 43 states report that a third or more of their schools fail to meet the functional requirements necessary to effectively teach laboratory science—even though hands-on science education is vital for the jobs of the future. That’s no way to provide a world-class education.
Cash-strapped school districts meanwhile face an enormous $270 billion backlog of deferred maintenance and repairs. Tragically, children in the nation’s poorest school districts often attend schools with crumbling ceilings, overcrowded classrooms, and facilities that lack basic wiring infrastructure for computers, projectors, and other modern-day technology.
This is not a partisan issue. The physical conditions at some aging schools today are shameful. They are no place for children to learn.
The President’s plan is one of the largest-ever investments in school modernization. It would modernize approximately 35,000 schools, or about a third of all public schools in the United States.
Under his plan, $25 billion would go to upgrading existing public school facilities (including charter schools), with $5 billion invested in modernizing community colleges.
Federal funds would be targeted to the neediest school districts and those ready to act fast to put people back to work. But the federal government won’t fund new construction or get involved in picking which schools to modernize.
Those decisions will be left entirely to states and districts with an on-the-ground knowledge of local needs. Some communities will support major classroom renovations, plaster, and plumbing upgrades. Others will invest in energy efficiency to reduce soaring utility bills—or modernize science labs and support technology needed to prepare students for 21st century jobs.
Projections from proposals similar to the President’s plan suggest it could create as many as 300,000 jobs in the construction trades. And modernizing and rebuilding our schools is a classic win-win solution. It benefits everyone—children, communities, and the construction workers back on the job.
While modernization could put a small army of Americans back to work rebuilding and upgrading our schools, looming teacher layoffs could have a devastating impact on classroom instruction and the careers of hundreds of thousands of teachers.
According to the Council of Economic Advisers, as many as 280,000 education jobs may be on the chopping block in the upcoming school year due to multi-billion dollar state and local budget shortfalls for teacher salaries and benefits.
Behind those numbers are the real lives of committed, talented teachers, who are devoted to their students and work tirelessly to help them learn.
The quality of the teacher at the front of the classroom is the single biggest in-school influence on student learning. As the bar for educational success rises worldwide in the knowledge economy, this is no time to be laying off scores of teachers and early childhood educators.
Already, financially-pinched school districts are reducing class time, shortening the school calendar, cutting afterschool programs and early childhood education, and reducing arts and music instruction.
The path to prosperity, the way to win the future, is to invest wisely in schools, remembering that children get only one chance at an education.
That’s why I support the President’s plan to modernize our schools for the 21st century and minimize teacher layoffs. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.
Last year, California paid only 47 percent of the tuition per student in the University of California system, compared to the 78 percent that it paid in 1990. This means students shoulder an increasing cost to attend some of the nation’s premier public universities. The Economist illustrates in the following chart this semi-privatization of the University of California system, which exceeds the national average of tuition fees:
As the Economist wrote, this trend “runs counter to the philosophy of the [University of California] master plan, by pricing ever more Californian families out of a place. The state now ranks 41st in the number of college degrees awarded for every 100 of its high school graduates.”
Here’s a handy tool from the redoubtable Henry Waxman: a searchable database of Republican votes to dismantle environmental protections in the current session of Congress. Just in its first six months! And it doesn’t even count the growing popularity of calls from GOP presidential candidates to simply eliminate the EPA lock, stock, and barrel. (Excuse me: the “job-killing EPA.” Precise terminology is important here.)
Anyway, it’s handy stuff if you want to know with precision just how deeply Republicans are committed to undermining the environment in the service of their corporate interests. You can search by agency, by topic, or by legislation. The full database is here. Have fun.
The People’s View:
The Keystone XL, proposed by TransCanada Pipelines of Calgary, would carry dirty, toxic and corrosive oil from the tar sands of Alberta through six states in the American heartland to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Obama Administration has said it will decide by the end of the year whether to permit the pipeline, after the State Department determines whether it is in the national interest.
All along its prospective route, the pipeline endangers farms, wildlife and precious water aquifers–including the Ogallala Aquifer, the US’ main source of freshwater for America’s heartland. We are aware that Nebraska’s Governor Dave Heineman–as well as two Nebraska Senators–has urged you to reconsider the pathway of the pipeline. In his letter to you he clearly stated his concern about the threat to this crucial water source for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. The aquifer supplies drinking water to two million people in Nebraska and seven other states. …There is a better way. Your rejection of the pipeline provides a tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal and gas and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency. We urge you to say ‘no’ to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions. This will be your legacy to Americans and the global community: energy that sustains the lives and livelihoods of future generations. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) – Argentina Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) – South Africa His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate (1989) – Tibet Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) – Guatemala José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) – East Timor Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) – USA Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) – Iran
Now to the fun part, i.e., what we can do. According to this statement, Obama has said he will decide by the end of the year, so we’ve got three months. Please, pretty please, write letters to the editor, especially if you are in one of the six states affected. Five of the six Governors involved approve of the pipeline. The only reason the sixth, Nebraska’s Dave Heineman, opposes it is because its path could impact the Ogallala Aquifer. He’d be more than happy to see it built somewhere else. So, please, if you live in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas, write LTEs and call your Governor. Stage protests in the capitols. Get as many people as you know to do the same. If you need ideas and fodder for LTEs, just click on the tar sands tag from any diary on the subject and you will have a wealth of info/talking points. One of my favorites is the fact that Keystone 1, the parent pipeline, if you will, has been shut down due to leaks at least a dozen times. Another favorite is the fact that none other than James Hansens of NASA has called this pipeline “game over on climate change” if it is constructed. If you do not live in one of the six states directly affected, there is still lots you can do. Letters to the editor anywhere are also powerful; if one letter spurs a low-information voter to action, it’s a win. You can also sign the petition and join the over 1,200 people who have protested at the White House. If you live, or know anybody, in Nebraska, please make sure they know there are two upcoming public meetings with Mike Johanns regarding the pipeline.
Nebraskans will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route at two meetings scheduled in September. U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns says the meetings he requested will be held on Sept. 27 in Lincoln and Sept. 29 in Atkinson.
So, that gives us about a week and a half to set the tone for these meetings with letters to the editor all across Nebraska. Let’s make Johanns’ meetings standing room only!
Kaiser Health News:
Federal officials say they first set their sights on Alaska militia leader Schaeffer Cox after a series of speeches he gave describing his plan to overthrow the government using a 3500-member militia, and weapons like bombs, lasers and and “all sorts of nifty stuff.”
Alaska Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki filed a brief Friday that included excerpts of speeches Cox reportedly gave in Montana and Colorado as early as 2009 — speeches that drew the attention of the FBI because they talked of violently overthrowing the government and may have crossed the line “between First Amendment protected speech, and conduct which is actionable.”
Cox was first put on a watch list on February 16, 2010, about a year before he and four other members of his Alaska Peacemakers Militia were arrested for allegedly stockpiling weapons and plotting to kill a federal judge and Alaska State Troopers.
Though the full speeches are still sealed, the documents include an excerpt from a speech Cox gave in Montana, in which he reportedly described selling people into slavery as a possible outcome of the “common-law court” system that would take the place of the current justice system.
According to the documents, Cox answered a question about “capital murder or a capital crime” cases and common-law trials, saying “I don’t think we can deal with those until our current system is very, very decrepit, but common law jurisprudence says that in the case of murder that person has forfeited their right, and at that point the victim can choose.”
He continued that in those cases “if the pain they went through is so horrible if they want to spare other people the pain by deterring others, by putting that person to death, that’s up to the victim or the victim’s family. They can do that, and that person can be hung; or they can sell that person into slavery for the rest of their life. That person is owned by the person they violated, and they can sell him or they can kill him.”
The idea of “common-law trials” is a theme among so-called “sovereign citizens,” who believe that all government institutions are illegitimate. Many conduct their own trials in response to confrontations with law enforcement, and often find officials guilty of “crimes” through these trials.
Cox himself held would eventually put himself on trial in a common-law court in the back room of an Alaska Denny’s, after he received a misdemeanor weapons charge for failing to notify a police officer that he was carrying a concealed weapon. Cox, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, called the state court system a “for-profit corporation,” and skipped out on his February court date before he was eventually picked up in the larger FBI operation in March.
In the aforementioned speech, Cox reportedly claimed that he had 3500 people in his militia, along with various weaponry and personnel. “It is not a rag-tag deal,” he said.
I mean, we’re set: we’ve got a medical unit that’s got surgeons and doctors and medical trucks and mobile surgery units and stuff like that. We’ve got engineers that make GPS jammers, cell phone jammers, bombs, and all sorts of nifty stuff. We’ve got guys with, we’ve got airplanes with laser acquisition stuff and we’ve got rocket launchers and grenade launchers and claymores and machine guns and calvary and we’ve got boats. It’s all set.
According to court documents, Cox didn’t have nearly this kind of fire-power, and was charged with allegedly possessing and stockpiling inert hand grenades, an automatic machine gun, tear gas and rubber bullet grenades, and semiautomatic guns.
The documents also reference a speech Cox gave called “The Solution,” in which he says: “I would kill for liberty. You know everybody asks ‘would you die for liberty?’ That’s not really the right question to ask. The right question to ask is: ‘Would you kill for liberty?'”
The filing was in response to a request by Cox’s attorney, Nelson Traverso, for more information on how federal authorities began their investigation. “The discovery thus far provided does not provide any explanation of what statements were made by Mr. Cox in his speeches that violated criminal laws, where they took place, when they were delivered, and the circumstances in which they were made,” Traverso said earlier this month.
How the Tea Party Express took over both the Republican Party and CNN.
CNN’s coverage of Monday’s CNN/Tea Party Express Republican presidential debate was anchored all day by special coverage of the Tea Party movement, documentaries about where it came from, and steady commentary from CNN’s in-house Tea Party star, Dana Loesch, whose Twitter feed has taken on the feel of one of those “They’re Just Like Us!” spreads in US Weekly.
Huntsman will be swinging by the tent soon.
Huntsman just walked in to makeup. I think he’s competing with Cain for the youngest entourage.
Just met Huntsman. Nice guy. Wouldn’t vote for him but nice guy.
The Tea Party Express debate features questions from real, live Tea Party activists. The questions-from-real-Americans debate format isn’t new. What’s new,we’re told, is the hands-on involvement of America’s grassroots-iest conservative movement. What’s actually happening is the culmination of a few decisions that made the Tea Party into what it is today—a wing of the GOP that attracts cameras like a massive electromagnet.
There are Tea Partiers who wince when they think about this. Tea Party Patriots, the most disaggregated of all the movement’s organizations, is not present in Tampa, Fla. Mark Meckler, the group’s co-chairman, offered a crisp “no comment” when asked why. For him, it’s rhetorical question. In the early days of the movement, Meckler and other Tea Party leaders viewed the Tea Party Express (TPX for short) as a rehab center for Republican strategists—which, in a way, it was. In 2009, the brains behind the middling Our Country Deserves PAC—most famous for a post-2008 election ad thanking Sarah Palin for being herself—realized that the “Tea Party” was seeding some fertile, unclaimed territory.
“We have to be very very careful about discussing amongst ourselves anyone we include ‘outside of the family,’ ” wrote OCDPAC’s Joe Wierzbicki in an organizing memo obtained by Politico’s Ken Vogel, “because quite frankly, we are not only NOT part of the political establishment or conservative establishment, but we are also sadly not currently a part of the ‘tea party’ establishment.”
The movement, in listservs and in interviews with the press, started an internal argument that never quite finished. A former flight attendant, Amy Kremer, was pushed out of Tea Party Patriots for the crime of joining the TPX’s first tour. It was an irresistible story of “Tea Party tension.” It wasn’t hype: There was tension. There would be a lawsuit filed against Kremer. “They are … working to position themselves as *THE* Tea Party Movement Spokespeople, for the purpose of gaining gravitas, for the purpose of raising funds, TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES,” wrote California Tea Party activist Laura Boatright in an October 2009 email about the controversy, on the Tea Party Patriots listserv. “It’s a BUSINESS for them. They make their living doing it. And building a reputation is important to their success, and FUTURE PROCEEDS.”
For some Tea Party activists, joining up with TPX meant losing the movement’s innocence. It meant becoming partisan, getting wrapped up in the mania of national politics, getting wedded to the GOP.
“Supporting candidates was not what the Tea Party was about,” says Judy Holloway, who co-founded the Austin (Texas) Tea Party Patriots in 2009 and raged against the rise of TPX. “Now, it’s been overtaken by the Republican Party.” She shut down the local organization in March 2011, turning her effort to local issues, still annoyed at the fundraising and candidate-endorsing turn the Tea Party had taken. “I think … I can’t tell you what I really think.”
Holloway and her like minds were the exception; the TPX enjoyed more and more success. One big reason for that was that CNN started embedding with the TPX tours. At an April 2009 Tea Party, the network’s Susan Roesgen started challenging the premises of activists, and spotlighting one protester who compared Obama to Hitler. She was eased out of her job. The crackdown was followed by glasnost; reporter Shannon Travis climbed on the bus, getting regular interviews with activists and defending the movement from attacks.
“Being at a Tea Party rally is not quite like seeing it on TV, in newspapers or online,” Travis wrote in an April 2010 article that went viral. “That’s the reason CNN is covering this political movement—and doing so in ways few others can or choose to do.” He ran down a list of things the rest of the media was leaving out: “Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper.”
So began the CNN-TPX romance, to be consummated tonight in prime time. The movement’s skeptics were partly wrong, partly right, about the effects. It did not make the Tea Party look partisan. The TPX’s leaders were reliable critics of the GOP, who would endorse candidates that Karl Rove didn’t like—Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle. The rallies were wonderfully random affairs—no one who’s seen the cowboy-hat-clad singer Lloyd Marcus sell CDs of his “Tea Are the World” singalong, or heard him write Tea Party lyrics to “New York, New York,” could think “Wow, that’s one well-oiled Republican machine.”
What were the skeptics right about? By folding so neatly into the left-right framework of cable news, the TPX helped the Tea Party become what it is today. No one wonders anymore how to define the Tea Party, or whether it will break up American politics as we know it. The debate is whether the Republican Party is an arm of the Tea Party, or the other way around. A movement that grew out of anti-TARP, anti-American Recovery Act anger was mostly tamed. Tonight, says TPX’s political guru Sal Russo, the group has encouraged CNN to ask more economic questions, fewer questions about social and foreign policy wedge issues. This is what Tea Partiers want to ask; it’s also what every Republican campaign, so very, very tired of questions about evolution and poll numbers, wants to be asked.
“We would like to find more Democrats to endorse,” says Russo. “But it’s hard to find any that are opposing Obama’s policies. We will find more when there is a Republican President, just like the Boll Weevils during Reagan’s tenure.”
For more than five years Rupert Murdoch and his most trusted executives told the world that a rogue reporter and a rogue private detective were responsible for hacking phones for the News of the World. Reporter Sarah Ferguson investigates that claim and reveals the links between Murdoch’s newspapers and the British criminal world going back two decades.
I can hardly believe what I’m seeing: Breitbart’s creature Dana Loasch is on CNN with Ali Velshi and John King, doing economic “analysis” and critiquing the President’s jobs plan as if she is some sort of expert. Velshi is doing a good job of exploding the myth that “the government doesn’t have a revenue problem it has a spending problem” and he blames the Tea Party for it. He points out that the best way to fix the deficit is to grow the economy and even challenges the whole “household budget” thing. Huzzah! Then John King says it isn’t the Tea Party’s fault and blames the American people because they elected a leftwing president and a rightwing congress.
Loesch, in her guise as a normal person, replies that there really isn’t a disagreement about this at all and that the “grassroots” (is “Tea Party” out of vogue these days?) believes that instead of redistributing wealth they should “expand the tax base” and if you look at the past six decades, “it’s proven.” She cleverly avoids saying what she means by that: that poor people don’t pay enough taxes.
Now she’s complaining that Obama didn’t fulfill his promises, which she evidently wants people to think she supported, and says “the grassroots” want him to cut taxes, end regulations and pass the Keystone Pipeline project.
Why is she on my TV?
Update: I have my answer. Doh. The CNN-Tea party debate is tonight. And that’s shocking and disgusting in itself.
Anyone who is still wondering whether Obama intends to go all in with his push to get his jobs plan passed as is — and not piecemeal — should be encouraged by the new ad the DNC has released today ratcheting up pressure on Congress to pass the bill.
The reason the public campaign for the American Jobs Act is so important is not just that it may increase the prospect for Congressional action on jobs, though that’s obviously critical. Rather, it shows that we may be witnessing a more fundamental shift in the White House’s approach to our current political reality — a recognition that it’s past time to attempt something dramatically new.
With Obama set to make jobs-tour appearances in Ohio, North Carolina and possibly Colorado and other swing states, the DNC’s new spot suggests that his political machinery is set to go full throttle to sell the plan:
The ads will run in select markets in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia — some of which are key swing states. It will also air in DC, suggesting that members of Congress are also the target audience.
* Will Obama stay tough? Here’s why that ad is important. As E.J. Dionne notes in a must read column today, Obama has offered sharp contrasts with the GOP vision before, only to revert to a compromising posture that led him to look weak and trade away core liberal priorities. But it’s critical that this time he proceed from the assumption that there
The central question — for his jobs plan and his future — is whether this time he sticks with an analysis of the nature of our political fight that sees it as it is, not as he wishes it were.
This is why it’s critical that Obama keep up this public fight — it will show a healthy recognition of political reality itself, which is that there simply is no ideological common ground between the parties on the core question of whether government can and should act to create jobs. Not backing down will make it more likely that the public, too, will gain a clearer understanding of the fundamental difference at stake — and the new DNC push suggests this is how Dems are coming to view the landscape.
* Will GOP try to deny Obama a victory on jobs? This quote in Politico will drive discussion today:
“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely. “I just don’t want to co-own the economy by having to tout that we passed a jobs bill that won’t work or at least won’t do enough.”
* Where’s pressure on “super-committee” to focus on jobs?Meanwhile, the “supercommittee” is set to drag the conversation back to deficit reduction yet again. Dozens of business leaders and former government officials will release a letter today demanding that the Congressional super-committee go “big” and strive for deficit reduction that’s even more ambitious than its mandated $1.5 trillion. It will surely get lots of attention.
Which raises a question: Why is there so little discussion in the media of pressure on the supercommittee to make job creation a part of its mission? Is the problem that news orgs have failed to cover those calling for jobs to be part of its work, or is the problem that the left has failed to sufficiently organize behind a push to make that happen?
House Republicans may pass bits and pieces of President Barack Obama’s jobs plan, but behind the scenes, some Republicans are becoming worried about giving Obama any victories — even on issues the GOP has supported in the past.
And despite public declarations about finding common ground with Obama, some Republicans are privately grumbling that their leaders are being too accommodating with the president.
“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely. “I just don’t want to co-own the economy by having to tout that we passed a jobs bill that won’t work or at least won’t do enough.”
Even with the presence of so many GOP-friendly provisions in Obama’s plan — like trade agreements and small-business tax relief — some senior lawmakers are pulling back, wondering how the president will ensure his initiatives will not add to the nation’s debt.
“To assume that we’re naturally for these things because we’ve been for them does not mean we will be for them if they cause debt, if they [have] tax increases and if they take money from the free-enterprise sector, which creates jobs,” said Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who heads up the House Republican campaign arm.
So as they try to grab smaller, passable measures from Obama’s jobs package, Republicans are also trying to strike their own balance between appearing open to bipartisan solutions and not giving the president an easy legislative victory that could tether them to his ownership of a bad economy.
Immediately after Obama’s speech on Thursday, Republican lawmakers said they liked some of what they heard in the president’s plan — identifying and eliminating unnecessary federal regulations and the free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which have been front and center on the Republican agenda for several months.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said at an event at a cement mixing plant in Henrico, Va., that there were “lots of things” in Obama’s speech that “reflect the kind of things” that House Republicans want to pass. Cantor singled out small-business tax relief, certain infrastructure spending projects and trade deals.
“All [of] these are things we can work together [on] to build consensus,” Cantor said.
But that feeling wasn’t universal.
“I have great respect for everybody in Republican leadership,” Sessions said. “I found what the president said to be out of balance; … It’s fair to give any [proposal by the] president [a chance] out of respect to him, but also we need to look at the substance.”
Sessions, noting the president’s dismal approval ratings on the economy, said that he didn’t get the sense over the August recess that voters were frustrated with both parties’ efforts to revamp the economy. Of course, Congress enjoys even worse approval ratings than the president — but many Republicans are still placing their electoral bets on the public placing ownership of the economy squarely on the president in 2012.
“I know how to read,” Sessions said, referring to the polls, “but my sense is that I’m unhappy with us also, with the way we work together, the House and Senate. We’re not on a pro-growth agenda; we’re on a pro-tax and spend agenda. … The American people will judge us [on] the aggregate, not [on] specifics.”
Moving individual pieces of the jobs bill isn’t all Republican leadership is aiming to do. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are also embarking on a 10-week crusade to cut federal regulation. During his appearance in Henrico last week, Cantor talked about helping construction companies by cutting regulations on cement and the regulation that forces companies who do business with the federal government to withhold 3 percent. Cantor said he wants the Obama administration to return to a “reasonable regulatory posture.”
“You should pass this jobs plan right away.”
If only it were that easy for President Barack Obama to get Congress to implement his agenda.
Many of Obama’s priorities have sputtered and stalled, and the president blames gridlock in Washington for the lack of progress that voters might hold over his head come next November. But the White House has signaled it is willing to use other options such as executive orders, administrative action at the agency level and a review of regulations to implement the president’s wishes without Congress on board.
In recent weeks Obama has exerted his executive authority on issues ranging from education to housing policy to the environment.
Obama signed an executive order granting a waiver for states wanting to opt out of No Child Left Behind. It’s a move backed by even GOP governors, and one that has broad support in Congress. But nothing happened legislatively, so the White House took matters into its own hands.
Obama overruled his Environmental Protection Agency by repealing an ozone regulation, and he’s commissioned Cass Sunstein, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, to identify other regulations that can be tweaked or rolled back to save the government money or to relieve pressure on the lagging economy.
The administration also implemented several policies related to mortgage assistance and housing without Congressional action.
Will the American people see the president bypassing Congress more frequently?
“It’s possible,” a top White House aide told Roll Call.
Don Stewart, a top aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said the No Child Left Behind executive order became necessary because Senate Democrats never brought up legislation for a floor vote. And while the GOP agrees with some of Obama’s actions and wants to see more regulation changes, “Any big picture item, you want Congress to be involved,” Stewart said.
In the past two weeks, the White House used an administrative maneuver to make it easier for foreclosed properties to get back on the rental market. The aim is to help keep property values stable and to provide affordable rental housing.
In another move, the administration worked through the Department of Housing and Urban Development to extend from four months to 12 months the forbearance on mortgage payments for Federal Housing Authority-backed homeowners who have been laid off.
In his speech Thursday night to Congress, Obama said he agrees with many Republicans who feel “there are some rules and regulations that do put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it.”
The president said Sunstein has found more than 500 reforms that could save “billions of dollars over the next few years” and that his standard is to have “no more regulation than the health, safety and security … the American people require.”
Sunstein wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month that “significant burden-reducing rules have been finalized or publicly proposed by the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation — and they are expected to save more than $4 billion over the next five years.”
The administration estimated that once all of the regulations are examined, they could find private-sector savings of as much as $10 billion over five years.
As for Obama’s outline to Congress on Thursday, the administration believes several proposals the president called for passing have a chance. “These really do have bipartisan support,” the White House aide said. Indeed, Obama mentioned past GOP support for his proposals at least eight times during the 34-minute speech, one of which was sent to Obama’s desk last week.
Stewart said Obama can’t pin the lack of action entirely on Congress because there are a number of trade agreements with bipartisan support that are “gathering dust on his desk.” He said Republicans have identified 20 to 30 pending items that have bipartisan support, including trade deals and patent reform.
Most of the administration’s efforts have been small and have created little friction with Congress. The administration contends that, collectively, the moves make a difference and hints there could be more where those came from, especially when it comes to scaling back regulations that Obama can tinker with on his own.
The Political Carnival:
YEAH!!!! KILL MORE PEOPLE AND THEN LET MORE DIE ON THEIR OWN!!!!! That’s the f why we’re Republicans.
The crowd at the CNN Tea Party Debate broke out into cheers when host Wolf Blitzer brought up Gov. Rick Perry’s comments that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s emergency economic policies “almost treasonous.”
Perry stood by the comment, calling it “a very clear statement of fact.”
It looks like Bob Turner, a Republican, is going to walk away with the special election in New York’s Ninth Congressional District. (This is the seat vacated by Anothony Weiner.) Certainly, a Republican House pickup is a cause for celebration.
It’s true also that a result will, at least in part, be a referendum on the President and, in a heavily Jewish district, his policies towards Israel. But, just as victories for Democrats in two special elections for previously Republican seats during the 2008-2010 period didn’t signal any Democratic pickups in the 2010 elections (quite the opposite), a Republican victory in 2011 won’t necessarily foretell big Republican pickups in the 2012 elections.
First, special elections for are unique. Because they usually are the only election going on at the time they are held, they get far more media coverage and money than they would otherwise. In a less media-heavy environment, it’s probable that Dede Scozzafava could have simply coasted to victory in 2009’s special election in New York’s heavily Republican 23rd district if relentless media attention hadn’t revealed that she was both prone to gaffes and, ideologically, almost indistinguishable from the Democrat she eventually endorsed after dropping out of the race.
Second–as a corollary to the first point–individual candidates matter far more when there is only one race on the ballot. In general elections, candidates benefit from their parties’ own mass mobilizations. In special elections, the quality of the candidates themselves matters a lot more. Scott Brown won his Massachusetts Senate race in large part because he was a much better candidate–smarter, less prone to gaffes, more principled–than Democrat Martha Coakley. In a general election year these things would have mattered a lot less and Coakley might possibly have won simply because Massachusetts’ Democratic Party is so powerful.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Weiner’s own scandal obviously has an impact. Even though he isn’t on the ballot, voters are obviously going to have been turned off by his antics and what he represents. At least some voters will probably pull the R lever for that reason alone.
Bottom line: A Republican pickup in New York ninth district is good news for sure. But, like most special elections, it can’t really be considered.
If Dems lose the bid to keep Anthony Weiner’s seat, as seems likely, many will cast it as more proof Obama’s Israel stance is costing him Jewish Dems, but as Ben Smith explains, this tidy storyline is complicated by the fact that the Dem candidate is Jewish and to Obama’s right on Israel.
Dems are eying the possibility of a schism between Congressional GOP leaders and the party’s political leadership, including the 2012 candidates and the heads of the party committees, who are expected to strike an increasingly strident and uncompromising tone towards Obama’s new jobs plan.
With Obama vowing to take his jobs bill to the American people, House GOP leaders have gone out of their way to signal a willingness to work with the president. Boehner today pledged a “careful examination” of Obama’s plan, adding: “It is my hope that we will be able to work together to put in place the best ideas of both parties and help put Americans back to work.”
Whatever the true intentions of the GOP leadership towards Obama’s plan, the tonal shift signals a recognition that Republicans must appear prepared to work with Obama on jobs, and must not be seen rejecting his ideas wholesale.
Contrast that with the tone taken by Republican National Committee chair Rience Priebus, who dismissively declared: “Once again, another speech from Obama making the exact same promises he did before the first stimulus.”
In all likelihood, the 2012 GOP candidates will increasingly adopt such language and worse, bashing the jobs bill wholesale in an effort to appeal to GOP primary voters — particularly with a Tea Party debate set for tonight. What’s more, this potential schism goes beyond just a divide between the Congressional leadership and GOP candidates and political operatives. As Jonathan Cohn notes, conservatives in Congress have also struck a far more aggressive tone towards the jobs bill than the GOP leadership has.
How does this all impact the prospect for the jobs proposal itself? Unclear. On the one hand, a divided GOP might struggle to send a unified message on jobs, giving Obama more leverage as he pushes Republicans to pass his plan. On the other, having the 2012 GOP hopefuls out there uniformly trashing the jobs bill could make it less likely that the House GOP rank and file will embrace even parts of it if the leadership appeals for their support. Either way, the prospect for GOP division over the American Jobs Act is a key dynamic Dems will be watching.
The Political Carnival:
Please go to Blogging Blue for details:
The look on his face is pure contempt that this plebe is bothering him. You can also see the look on his wife’s face that she can’t wait to shower the smell of the lower class off of her.
Why did the GOP presidential contender wait six years to clean up the culture of child rape at Texas youth detention centers?
Mary Jane Martinez’s son Jimmy entered the Texas criminal justice system in 2003 because he missed his school bus. He was charged with truancy and destruction of property (for throwing rocks) and sent to live in a county juvenile detention center for a sentence of six months. After five months, instead of being released, he was transferred to an academy 400 miles away, managed by the Texas Youth Commission, the agency that oversees detention and treatment centers across the state. Jimmy finally came home, four years after he was sent away, a period his mother now describes as a living hell. His best friend had been murdered, and Jimmy had been beaten and raped—both, Mrs. Martinez testifed, by TYC guards.
“It just made him worse,” Martinez says of the treatment. “My son has PTSD now. He’s schizo.” Unable to find a job after getting out, he was arrested for burglary and landed in a prison facility eight hours away from his native San Antonio.
Martinez’s story is hardly an outlier. For years, the Texas juvenile justice system was wracked by reports of rape, unsanitary conditions, and physical abuse. According to statistics submitted by the TYC in 2007, 83 percent of residents who requested counseling that year were ultimately diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. At one youth facility in central Texas, the mistreatment and squalid conditions (feces on the walls and bed-sheets, steel bars blocking fire escapes) were so bad they left no choice but for the agency to shut it down entirely.
Gov. Rick Perry did not take swift action to address the problem, which his office knew about for years. Allegations of systematic mistreatment at TYC facilities first came to the Governor’s desk in 2001, when then-Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) forwarded along a complaint that his office had received. That was six years before media coverage of the conditions in juvenile detention centers launched a public scandal. And critics of Perry, who is now a frontrunner for the GOPpresidential nomination, point out that he received tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and executives for a firm tied to some of the worst abuses.
Far from the picture initially painted by Perry, of a shocking scandal that was dealt with swiftly and emphatically, his administration had sat on the concerns for years.
The TYC’s own numbers tell the tale. The commission officially reported535 cases of abuse at its facilities in 2002, more than double the total from just four years earlier. Likewise, the number of residents diagnosed with mental illnesses skyrocketed during that same period, from 27 percent in 1995 to nearly half in 2002. And despite his office’s initial denials, top Perry staffers had been formally briefed on abuses at juvenile justice facilities as early as 2005. In 2006, President Bush’s Department of Justice even initiated a probe of the TYC conditions, but declined to intervene because it was not able to prove that any victims sustained “bodily injury.”
“I think that prior to the abuse coming out, everybody dropped the ball—and I mean that by like everbody that was running the institution you know, everybody that had complaints, that knew about that complaints and did not bring it forward out of fear of retaliation, everybody dropped the ball,” says Ana Yanez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, a watchdog group that’s pushed for more lenient sentencing guidelines.
Perry, for his part, tried to change the subject. “I think this ‘When did you know? When did you know it? Do you think someone should have done more?’ is missing the point of how are we making progress to getting these kids the protections that they need,” he told reportersafter the Austin American-Statesman reported on his administration’s complicity in the abuses. Perry called on the Statesman to retract its report (the paper refused).
It was only when the public found out about the TYC abuses that Perry sprung into action—and even then, some of the worst offenders got off easy. In February of 2007, the Dallas Morning News broke the news that multiple employees at the West Texas State School, a juvenile detention center in the small town of Pyote, had filed formal complaints alleging that staffers had sexually assaulted inmates and traded favors for sex. But the agency, rather than investigating the claims, had simply deferred the charges to the local level, where the charges were dropped.
Over the next six months, the Morning News and the Texas Observerfleshed out the story: The abuses weren’t unique to Pyote; all in all, the TYC had received 750 complaints of sexual misconduct from inmates since 2000, and it had, for the most part, failed to act. One prison guard who was accused of sexually assaulting inmates was found to be a registered sex offender already—and unbeknownst to the agency, was living on site with a 16-year-old boy.
Is Rick Perry the Br’er Rabbit of the Republican Field? [And is reference to “Uncle Remus” a dog whistle?]
Matthew Dowd, The National Journal:
‘Why do Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s recent comments about Social Security remind me of his remarks a few years back about Texas possibly seceding from the Union? Perry recently went on a wholesale attack against the Social Security system, saying it’s completely broken, a failure, and a lie to younger people. They were pretty harsh and pointed words, and pundits, including top GOP strategist Karl Rove, have roundly panned the Texan for his comments. Let me tell you where the Washington, D.C., punditocracy just might be off base and misunderstanding the power of his message.
In Perry’s primary race against popular Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010, he raised the possibility of Texas seceding as part of his message that the federal government was busted and people in Washington were disconnected from the lives of average Americans. Many folks criticized his remarks, and I got call after call from pundits and reporters saying that Perry was toast. I cautioned my callers about underestimating the anti-federal-government sentiment he had tapped into, and I shared my view that his secession comments would in the end help him in his race. Perry went on to win in a landslide against Hutchison—and at the same time, beating much of the Republican establishment, including Rove and former Vice President Dick Cheney. The Senate primary race in Texas was a factor in the budding tea party movement, and Perry was one of the first elected officials to tap into the energy and power of that movement.
Today, Perry’s comments on Social Security feel a lot like that. Yes, he will have to clean up his language a bit—he has been calling the program a “Ponzi scheme”—but his message underscoring how broken the system is and how national leaders are not being honest with the American public will resonate with voters, especially Republican primary voters and caucus participants. Whether it was intentional or not (and sometimes in politics, the best developments are unplanned and unscripted), Perry is voicing a concern that many Republicans and independents share. And it’s a concern that many 20-year-olds also share. […]
If I were advising his debate opponents, I would say, “Be very careful if and how you attack Perry on Social Security.” Though he did it a bit awkwardly, Perry has underlined a huge concern that strikes many Republicans as authentic and true. Those are two values in great demand in this election cycle. It could be like the old story of Br’er Rabbit. Perry says, “Oh please, please, don’t throw me in the briar patch.” And in the end, he comes out ahead, while the Washington pundits and campaign operatives come away shaking their heads asking, “How did that happen?”
[…] In a USA Today op-ed published Monday, Perry once again casts himself as the one man willing to tell the truth about the current state of the nation’s public retirement system. But he leaves his “monstrous lie” talking points at the door, preferring to discuss how he’ll keep the miserable, failed program alive for the future.
From the op-ed:
For too long, politicians have been afraid to speak honestly about Social Security. We must have the guts to talk about its financial condition if we are to fix Social Security and make it financially viable for generations to come.
Perry’s opponents — specifically Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann — are strongly suggesting that Perry wants to eliminate Social Security completely (which, admittedly, is an easy suggestion to make after reading Perry’s book, which calls Social Security “‘by far the best example’ of a program ‘violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles,’” as Matt Yglesias cataloged.)
But in the op-ed, which could telegraph new language from Perry on the topic at the debate tonight, the Texas governor says he’s just trying to figure out how to preserve Social Secuirty, not destroy it. And don’t worry, current retirees — you don’t need to be a part of it.
Americans must come together and agree to address the problems so today’s beneficiaries and tomorrow’s retirees really can count on Social Security for the long haul.
We must have a frank, honest national conversation about fixing Social Security to protect benefits for those at or near retirement while keeping faith with younger generations, who are being asked to pay.
Rick Perry’s “humble origins and down home straight talk are central to his political identity,” but Politico notes “for years Perry has enjoyed lavish perks and travel — mostly funded by a group of deep-pocketed supporters — that are allowed under his state’s lax ethics and campaign rules.”
“Some of the same Texas donors who have funded Perry’s political rise also have footed the bills for Perry and his family to jet around the world, stay in luxury hotels and resorts, vacation in tony Colorado ski towns, attend all manner of sporting events and concerts, and to maintain, entertain — and even pay the cable bill — at the 4,600-square-foot mansion with a heated pool that taxpayers are renting for him at a cost of about $8,500 a month.”
As the work of the debt-reduction super committee gets underway in earnest, lobbyists have launched a “full-court press” to protect their clients from the chopping blocks — meeting lawmakers, hosting fundraisers, and engaging in grassroots outreach. “The 12 Members of the Super Committee are going to be lobbied so hard in the next four months, they will be known as the ‘Dirty Dozen,’” Republican lobbyist Alex Vogel told Politico last month. A Democratic lobbyist quipped that he was “preparing by writing 12 really large checks.”
But at least one member of the bipartisan committee has decided to the steer clear of Washington’s influence machine. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has canceled fundraisers and is swearing off lobbyists while the committee works:
“I’m not meeting with a lot of lobbyists; I’m meeting with people I choose to meet with, who can inform me, assist in the process of crunching numbers and dealing with consequences, and so forth,” Kerry told the [Boston] Globe last week in his first extensive interview about his committee membership. […]
Kerry said he has already cancelled two fund-raisers and won’t raise any money during the committee’s work through Nov. 23.
“I will not fund-raise; I will raise no money,” the senator told the Globe. “I’m not raising any money while the committee is working.”
Super committee members have scheduled at least 14 fundraisers through Thanksgiving, the committee’s deadline to find $1.5 trillion in savings, according to the Sunlight Foundation. “These events are basically giving access to these members for special interests,” said Sunlight’s Bill Allison. One of those hosting fundraisers is House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), who even created a new fundraising organization that will split money between his personal campaign and his PAC.
Most of the members are already prodigious fundraisers, with large war chests and strong backing from corporate donors and lobbyists. For instance, the Wall Street-aligned Club for Growth is the largest single donor to committee members, giving over $1 million to the group’s Republican lawmakers. The health care and defense industries have perhaps the most on the line in the negotiations, and the industries are employing dozens of former congressional staffers to help influence their former bosses. Meanwhile, many of committee’s staffers, especially on the Republican side, are former lobbyists themselves.
Good government groups have proposed special transparency rules for the super committee, given its unusual powers, calling for real-time disclosure of campaign contributions and meetings with lobbyists.
[…] During his Monday show, Limbaugh warned the 2012 Republican field not to use Perry’s remarks against him. He specifically named Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“I’ve not endorsed anybody and this is not an endorsement” Limbaugh said. “But be very careful if you start attacking Rick Perry on Social Security and the ‘Ponzi scheme.’ There are too many of you out there who have already said that yourselves — Mitt Romney. Mitt, you have already called it a Ponzi scheme. And worse.”
“I’ve got a whole list of people here — media and outside — in politics who have referred to Social Security as a Ponzi scheme,” Limbaugh went on. “And … I would like to warn everybody: Be careful here because you’re pandering to the media.”
[…] This underscores something interesting about Romney’s challenge. He needs to argue that Perry’s overwrought and extreme positions and statements render him unelectable in a general election — while avoiding alienating voters and influential commentators who want this sort of combustible rhetoric, and don’t want their candidates to go all weak-kneed when the liberal media elite tells them they’re out of line.
Remember what Jon Stewart noted about Rick Perry’s post-debate instinctive appeal to Republicans? It went something like: Mitt Romney’s chart-based wonkery won’t hold a candle to the inexplicable, magnetic pull of the Perry one-liner. The Texas governor is still leading in the latest tally byCNN/Opinion Research, which has him leading with 32 percent, well ahead of second-place Romney’s 21 percent. Libertarian darling Ron Paul is the only other candidate in double digits, at 13 percent, while Michele Bachmann, who had been surging in the summer, is now tied for fourth place with Newt Gingrich at 7 percent.
The reason for the preference for Perry looks pretty clear from the poll: Republican primary voters want someone who can beat Barack Obama, and Perry’s tops on that list. According to CNN, 42 percent of voters leaning toward the GOP think he’s got the best shot of beating Obama in a head-to-head match up compared with 26 percent who like Romney.
The survey also found Perry to be the “strongest leader” in the field by a 15 point margin over Romney. But those measures may not even be the most concerning part for Mitt. The former Massachusetts governor, whose staked his candidacy this time around on being the guy who says the word “jobs” the most, is even losing to Rick Perry on hypothetical handling the economy. From the poll: “35 percent say Perry is the Republican candidate most likely to get the economy moving again, with Romney in second at 26 percent.”
PublicPolicyPolling: 39% of Republican voters nationally agree with Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, 49% dissent
Crooks and Liars:
Speaking to reporters after touring a Boeing plant in South Carolina Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pledged to pursue legislation that would prohibit unions from contributing dues to political campaigns.
“We have a very unusual circumstance in this country,” Romney said, “and that is that we allow union bosses to collect dues from union members and then to use that money as the union boss sees fit to elect people who might do their bidding. It’s unseemly at best.”
“I will pursue and hopefully enact legislation which inhibits taking money in the form of dues and putting it behind political campaigns. That should not happen.”
The candidate added that he had “no problem with unions.”
After years of working closely with the Democratic Party, the nation’s largest labor federation wants its space. The AFL-CIO is becoming a more independent operator, aggressively building a permanent campaign infrastructure that will give less money to the party and more to its favored candidates.
In many ways, it’s less of a divorce than an open marriage. The union wants more say in which candidates get its money and more control over its message; it plans to aggressively target nonunion voters in addition to its traditional labor audience.
Like many frustrated progressive groups, the House of Labor is reevaluating its politics heading into the 2012 elections. Unions are still stinging from Democrats’ failure to pass such high-profile labor priorities as immigration reform, a public health care option, and a measure to make organizing easier. As one strategist put it, labor was “voting for change in ’08, and [members are] not getting quite the change that they bargained for. Now, the question is, ‘What do we do about that?’ ”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka believes that the answer is to create a year-round structure that will help elect labor’s allies and then hold them accountable to the workers who put them in power. “With our friends, we’ll be able to use it to help them more. With acquaintances, they’ll probably get what they gave us—a ‘We love you’ and a handshake,” Trumka said in an interview.
A big part of that new structure includes a super political action committee that can raise money in unlimited amounts to communicate with voters across the country—and not just union members. Before the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, if a union wanted to expressly advocate for or against a candidate, it had to spend PAC money, which it could raise in increments of no more than $5,000. Unions could, however, raise and spend money in unlimited amounts to talk with their own members.
But now, thanks to Citizens United, labor can bring those same economies of scale to bear when communicating with the voting public. That will allow the AFL-CIO to be more of a factor in states with fewer union members.
Starting with a dozen or so battleground states, Trumka said he plans to build a 50-state operation funded by the super PAC and the AFL-CIO. What races will the operation target? How much money will the super PAC raise? How will the federation split its cash among the presidential and congressional races? So far, Trumka has been mum on specifics. Many of those questions will likely be addressed at an executive committee meeting on Sept. 12, but a former AFL-CIO official said that the union will need to raise a minimum of $10 million to $15 million to be effective.
What Trumka made clear is that his union plans to give less money than it once did to the Democratic Party and independent committees. In other words, the union will take back some of the leverage it relinquished when it sent more of its cash directly to the party. In effect, the AFL-CIO is cutting out the middleman.
Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., “had no incentive to listen to union members in her state, because she knew, come hell or high water, that the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] was coming in behind her. But if she has to depend on the [AFL-CIO] PAC coming in itself, then that gives them a lot more leverage,” said former federation official Eddie Vale.
Lincoln, whose pro-business positions often drew progressive ire, survived a primary challenge from the left by then-Lt. Gov. Bill Halter last year but lost to Republican John Boozman. Some labor leaders argue that even though Lincoln won her primary, Halter’s bid sent a message to other Democrats who have strayed from labor’s agenda that they could face a primary fight. An independent campaign structure and a super PAC will enable the AFL-CIO to more easily reward friends and punish foes inside the Democratic Party.
“I think it says to Democrats institutionally that people are extremely concerned that despite the fact that unions in the last decade have been extremely supportive of Democratic candidates, people feel [that officeholders are] not accountable to the issues that they promise our members when they run,” said Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union. “And I would hope it would lead to a more issue-based endorsement process and much more use of primary elections as an accountability tool.”
Or as one AFL-CIO official put it, “Propping up outside organizations has not proven to be an effective political strategy, because once you’ve spent the money it’s out the door, and you’ve not built anything permanent.”
But creating something permanent has its challenges, not the least of which is funding a 365-day operation. Keeping resources flowing in nonelection years—when the campaign heat cools and interest wanes—has always been tough. And, of course, some turf wars are inevitable. Local union affiliates accustomed to holding their member of Congress accountable will likely have to cede some of their influence to the super PAC. And the super PAC will probably also suck up at least some of the campaign cash that has positioned locals as players in congressional races, forcing them, as one labor insider put it, to trade their local access for greater national clout.
But Trumka said that affiliates will have a seat at the table when the AFL-CIO decides what races to target and how much to spend—not to mention an obligation to help fund those efforts.
“We’re focused inward,” Trumka said. “We’re not going to rely on anybody else’s structure. We’re going to build our own structure.”
The N.C. General Assembly will convene today for a special session on whether to put before voters a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which is already illegal under state law.
The Defense of Marriage Act, the bill to launch the amendment process, was introduced earlier this year by a bipartisan group of lawmakers who say a constitutional amendment is needed to prevent judges from overturning the state law banning gay marriage. But other Democratic lawmakers, as well as business leaders and human rights advocates, are fighting the referendum, calling it unnecessarily divisive.
The public got a glimpse of just how divisive during a press conference held last week at the legislature that featured a group of anti-gay preachers — including a minister who has used his pulpit to denounce gay people using hate speech.
Rev. Donald Q. Fozard Sr., pastor of the Mount Zion Christian Church in Durham, N.C., took part in the press conference along with several other conservative black ministers. They were joined at the podium by House Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth), who helped arrange the event and introduced the speakers. Rep. Folwell also spoke at an August press conference on the measure where House Speaker Paul “Skip” Stam (R-Wake) compared gay marriage to incest.
First up at last week’s press event was Kevin Daniels, president of the North Carolina chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a conservative black Christian organization, who argued that the marriage question should go to the state’s voters and not be left up to elected officials. He was followed by Dr. Johnny Hunter, a minister with Cliffdale Community Church in Fayetteville, NC., who said that one reason N.C. voters should be allowed to vote on the marriage amendment is because “homosexuals cannot consummate their marriage.”
To illustrate his point, Hunter held up two padlocks. “Two locks cannot open each other,” he said. “They don’t work together. They weren’t designed to work together. In fact, even if you had two keys, two keys don’t work together. What it takes to consummate a marriage is a lock and a key.”
The third speaker was Pastor Patrick Wooden with the Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, who compared the need for the amendment to a homeowner protecting his property with locks, security systems and guns.
The final speaker was Fozard (at podium in photo). “I’m not trying to be politically correct,” he said before going on to denounce homosexuality as “immoral” and to make the claim that “every major empire that ever came to naught was because homosexuality was pushed” (apparently forgetting the Soviet government’s well-documented hostility toward gays and lesbians).
Fozard kept his language relatively civil during the press conference, but the message he’s delivered from the pulpit of his church has at times been anything but. Back in 2004, a reporter for Durham’s Independent Weekly attended one of his services and reported:
From this past Sunday’s sermon, one would think the Rev. Donald Q. Fozard Sr. likes saying the word faggot. The pastor of Durham’s Mount Zion Christian Church hollers the word’s last syllable as if he were exorcising a demon, or as if he were a movie star who understands that notoriety rises when you do something incendiary.
“Faggots across the nation, heading churches. Homos on the pianos. Faggots in the choir. What kind of spirit is leading that church?” he asked his 150 worshippers. …
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Notorious for his anti-Semitic rants, Gibson is developing a movie about Judah Maccabee — one of the greatest warriors in Jewish lore
The story: Mel Gibson is — surprise, surprise — once again courting controversy. Deadline Hollywood reports that Gibson, widely reviled for his drunken 2006 tirade against Jews, is working with Warner Bros. and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct) to bring the story of the second-century-B.C. Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, who led the revolt against the Greco-Syrian empire, to the big screen. Gibson will produce — and possibly star in and direct — the film. “This subject matter is a decided departure for the filmmaker famous for directing The Passion of the Christ,” says Mike Fleming at Deadline, though Gibson has reportedly been interested in the story for years.
The reaction: Casting Gibson as “Judah Maccabee is like casting [Bernie] Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a white supremacist trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr,” says Rabbi Marvin Heir in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. Yes, it is strange, says John Young at Entertainment Weekly. But it sounds like this is happening, so “hold ontoyour yarmulkes!” Well, maybe it’s just a last-ditch effort, says Sean O’Neal at The Onion’s A.V. Club. “The Jews already kind of hate him,” so perhaps this is “like a double jeopardy, nothing-left-to-lose, nowhere-to-go-but-up sort of thing.”
No true Scotsman is an intentional logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universalclaim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it.
Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.”
—Antony Flew, Thinking About Thinking
A simpler rendition would be:
- Alice: All Scotsmen enjoy haggis.
- Bob: My uncle is a Scotsman, and he doesn’t like haggis!
- Alice: Well, all true Scotsmen like haggis.
When the statement “all A are B” is qualified like this to exclude those A which are not B, this is a form of begging the question; the conclusion is assumed by the definition of “true A“.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“One of the things that I learned very early on is not to worry about polls, because if I was worrying about polls, I wouldn’t be sitting here interviewing with you.”
— President Obama, in an interview with NBC News.