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Center on Budget:
We’ve updated our analysis of the cuts that states made this year in their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs. Here’s a brief look at our findings:
States in 2011 implemented some of the harshest TANF cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children. The cuts affect 700,000 low-income families — over one-third of all low-income families receiving TANF nationwide.
A number of states have cut cash assistance deeply for families that already live far below the poverty line, ended it entirely for many other families with physical or mental health issues or other challenges, or cut child care or other work-related assistance that make it harder for many poor parents fortunate enough to have jobs to keep them.
Among the state TANF cuts to date:
At least five states — California, Washington, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and New Mexico — and the District of Columbia have reduced already-low cash assistance benefit levels for TANF families. (The benefit cuts for Wisconsin and California have gone into effect since our earlier analysis.) In addition, New Hampshire eliminated TANF cash assistance entirely for two-parent families. These cuts are pushing hundreds of thousands of families and children below — or further below — half of the poverty line.
States have shortened or otherwise tightened their lifetime time limits on receiving TANF benefits, cutting off aid entirely for thousands of very poor families and reducing benefits for thousands more. California and Arizona shortened their time limits, and several other states tightened time limits. Just this week, Michigan implemented time limit changes that caused about 12,000 families to lose TANF coverage.
Many of the cuts run counter to states’ longstanding approaches to welfare reform and are driven by state fiscal pressures. For example, some states have abandoned their “make-work-pay” policies designed to help poor parents working in low-wage jobs. Similarly, states have shortened their time limits and eliminated some bases for extensions or exemptions, and applied these changes retroactively. As a result, states have terminated or reduced benefits for some of the most vulnerable families, most of whom have very poor labor market prospects.
These TANF cuts come at a time when unemployment remains very high, the prospects of finding jobs (especially for people with low skills), are poor, and deep poverty — that is, the share of the population with incomes below half the poverty line ($11,157 for a family of four) — is worsening.
And, a new round of TANF cuts is starting. Kansas just announced a series of measures slated to take effect over the next three months, including shorter time limits. Washington, which imposed severe cuts this year, is considering more, including further cuts in benefit levels — which are already lower than when Congress created TANF 15 years ago.
Why are the Occupy Wall Streeters so angry at bankers? This chart might give you some idea:
That chart is from a new report from the New York State Comptroller’s office on the securities industry in New York City.
It shows that the average salary in the industry in 2010 was $361,330 — five and a half times the average salary in the rest of the private sector in the city ($66,120). By contrast, 30 years ago such salaries were only twice as high as in the rest of the private sector.
[…] It may shock you exactly how wealthy this top 1 percent of Americans is. ThinkProgress has assembled five facts about this class of super-rich Americans:
1. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Owns 40 Percent Of The Nation’s Wealth: As Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out, the richest 1 percent of Americans now own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Sociologist William Domhoff illustrates this wealth disparity using 2007 figures where the top 1 percent owned 42 percent of the country’s financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home). How much does the bottom 80 percent own? Only 7 percent:
As Stiglitz notes, this disparity is much worse than it was in the past, as just 25 years ago the top 1 percent owned 33 percent of national wealth.
2. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Take Home 24 Percent Of National Income:While the richest 1 percent of Americans take home almost a quarter of national income today, in 1976 they took home just 9 percent — meaning their share of the national income pool has nearly tripled in roughly three decades.
3. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Own Half Of The Country’s Stocks, Bonds, And Mutual Funds: The Institute for Policy Studies illustrates this massive disparity in financial investment ownership, noting that the bottom 50 percent of Americans own only .5 percent of these investments:
4. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Have Only 5 Percent Of The Nation’s Personal Debt: Using 2007 figures, sociologist William Domhoff points out that the top 1 percent have 5 percent of the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90 percent have 73 percent of total debt:
5. The Top 1 Percent Are Taking In More Of The Nation’s Income Than At Any Other Time Since The 1920s: Not only are the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans taking home a tremendous portion of the national income, but their share of this income is greater than at any other time since the Great Depression, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates in this chart using 2007 data:
As Professor Elizabeth Warren has explained, “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody…Part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” More and more often, that is not occurring, giving the protesters ample reason to take to the streets.
The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would put greater U.S. pressure on China and other countries to allow their currency to appreciate, giving the green light to a measure that supporters say would create jobs but that both the White House and House Republican leaders have warned could lead to a trade war.
The chamber approved the measure on a bipartisan 63-to-35 vote. Voting “yes” were 46 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, as well as 17 Republicans. Voting “no” were 30 Republicans and five members who caucus with Democrats.
The next step remains uncertain. House Republican leaders have declined to bring the measure up for a vote, arguing that the White House must first formally make its position known. […]
Several rank-and-file House Republicans have in recent days said they would support consideration of the China currency measure but described themselves as hesitant to buck their party’s leadership on the matter.
Obama said last week that he had spoken with Senate leaders about his concerns regarding the measure, which he called “symbolic.”
“Whatever tools we put in place, let’s make sure that these are tools that can actually work, that they’re consistent with our international treaties and obligations,” Obama said at a Thursday news conference.
The measure would require the U.S. Treasury Department to impose retaliatory tariffs on countries found to have “misaligned” currency. Treasury routinely assesses the practices of China and other countries but has declined to conclude that China’s valuation of the yuan is the result of manipulation. Economists estimate that the yuan is undervalued by as much as 15 to 38.5 percent.
Two former executives of a bank that received a $300 million federal bailout before its collapse during the financial crisis are facing criminal and civil fraud charges for their role in trying to conceal loan losses.
Ebrahim Shabudin and Thomas Yu, the former chief operating officer and first vice president respectively at San Francisco-based United Commercial Bank, face four criminal counts, according to an indictment unveiled on Tuesday.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also said it is seeking to prohibit 10 former UCB officers from further participation in the banking industry. Three additional officers who cooperated in the investigation consented to prohibition orders, it said.
Before his court appearance on Tuesday, Shabudin was led down a hallway in the San Francisco federal courthouse, the last in a line of shackled prisoners. Shabudin, who said in court that he currently works as a consultant for Capco, was the only detainee in line not wearing a prison jumper.
The Senate just voted to kill the jobs bill. The vote is being held open for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to return from Boston, where she received an award for economic leadership, but enough senators have voted against it to kill it, even though the vote count is not final yet. Two Democratic senators defected. […]
This was the bill revised by Sen. Harry Reid from the package President Obama sent over a few weeks ago. Nelson and Tester have not provided their reasons for opposing the bill. Republican opposition was unanimous. They could change their votes between now and the gavel, but it seems unlikely.
Now leadership and the White House are expected to split the bill in component parts and try to pass individual provisions. But remember this, from Obama/Biden campaign adviser Jim Messina:
“Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory. They think that the more folks see Washington taking no action to create jobs, the better their chances in the next election. So they’re doing everything in their power to make sure nothing gets done.”
Don’t expect the Republicans to allow anything to pass.
[…] We know going in that this bill isn’t going to pass. But how many Dems line up to support it — or more importantly how many fail to line up — will be the difference between whether Democrats come out of the vote with a clear political message or a muddied result where both sides share the blame for not doing anything.
Joan McCarter adds another critical point — the timing could not possibly be more ridiculous:
Now is not the time for ConservaDems to try to prove they are not really Democrats, when the Democrats are actually, finally, working on the issues that matter the most to the majority of people in this country, whether those people are in New York or California or Montana or Louisiana. Even Nebraska. Now, more than ever, it’s time for Democrats to be on the side of the 99 percent. If they want to keep their jobs, that is.
Still more from Steve Benen:
The president has done absolutely everything that could be asked of him — his White House crafted a serious plan; he sold it well to a joint session; he hit the road to present it to voters; and he’s used the kind of arguments the “professional left” has been urging him to make.
And yet, House Republicans are still extremists, Senate Republicans are both radical and obstructionist, and a few Senate Democrats are more comfortable cowering under the table in a fetal position, hoping the GOP isn’t too mean to them.
Exactly right. Again: Obama has done what skittish Senate Dems and their aides asked him to do — he has waged a public campaign to build support for his proposals. Have we already forgotten that only a few short months ago, the papers were filled wiith quotes from anonymous Dems complaining that Obama had failed to (a) focus on jobs; and (b) use the bully pulpit to rally public support for job-creation proposals?
By any measure, Obama has addressed those complaints. As ABC News polling director Gary Langer put it the other day, Obama proved that “it’s possible to move the bar” when it comes to public opinion on jobs. And yet, now that Dems have finally made that pivot to jobs and are finally fighting it out on turf favorable to themselves; now that Obama has shown it’s possible to move public opinion in the direction of his proposals, despite his low approval numbers; and now that Obama and Dem leaders are hoping to use GOP opposition to the jobs bill to cast the GOP as the number one enemy of progress on the economy, a handful of moderate Dems are still prepared to help Republicans muddy those waters.
[…] ThinkProgress’ Pat Garofalo explains why Romney’s strong opposition to the Buffett Rule presents a few problems:
Part of Romney’s problem in opposing the Buffett rule is that it likely applies to him. An analysis of publicly available data by Citizens for Tax Justice found that Romney’s tax rate is likely 14 percent, far below the statutory rate for someone who earns as much as he does.
You would think if Mitt Romney was not in fact paying a lower tax rate than many middle class Americans, he’d be eager to release his tax returns to prove otherwise. Not quite:
The financial disclosure forms Romney filed during his 2008 presidential run showed the former Massachusetts governor was worth as much $250 million at the time. But Romney has never released any tax returns — neither during his campaigns for president and Senate nor during his time as governor — and would not commit to doing so this time around.
As with all things Mitt Romney, he’s of course been on all sides of the tax return issue. Here’s the rundown.
Nothing to Hide, You Say?
Back in 1994 when he was running against the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Romney pressured Kennedy to release his tax returns:
With the tax-filing deadline looming, Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney yesterday challenged Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to disclose his state and federal taxes to prove he has ‘nothing to hide,’ but another GOP rival, John R. Lakian, called Romney’s move ‘bush league’ ‘It’s time the biggest-taxing senator in Washington shows the people of Massachusetts how much he pays in taxes,” said Romney, a business consultant from Belmont. Romney said he would disclose his own state and federal taxes for the last three years ‘on the very day that Kennedy turns over his taxes for public scrutiny.’ [Boston Globe, 4/19/94]
For a reality check on Governor Rick Perry’s mission of minimalist government, I took a drive to Bastrop County the other day. Once rural, the county has burgeoned into an outlying Austin bedroom community, a patchwork of subdivisions plowed deep into pretty forests of loblolly pine. Formerly pretty, I should say. A summer of parching drought, the hottest and driest on record, turned those forests to tinder, and on Labor Day weekend high winds lashed a few stray sparks into the worst wildfires in Texas history. The inferno here raced across an area 20 by 30 miles, and left 1,500 familieshomeless.
The fires were finally tamed a couple of weeks ago, but the day I drove out from Austin for a look at the remains, a flare-up incinerated another 1,000 acres. A visibly weary road foreman for the county, Andy Baker, took me around some of the devastation.
“I still can’t believe it, and I’ve been dealing with it over a month,” he said as we wove through a development called Tahitian Village, along roads with names intended to convey a tropical paradise: Mauna Loa, Akaloa, Kipahulu. We passed house after house burnt down to stubble, thickets of blackened pine spindles, husks of incinerated cars and the occasional charred swing set or septic tank.
Shortly before my visit, President Obama, without naming Bastrop, singled it out as a symptom of the Republican Party’s continuing war on reality. “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change,” he told supporters at a fundraiser. The Perry campaign retortedthat the president was playing politics with tragedy. But it’s hard to disentangle this tragedy from politics.
No climate scientist would claim a direct relationship between global warming and this or any other individual attack of extreme weather. But most would say confidently that the global trends tipped the odds towards disaster.
“We can’t say climate change is causing the extreme weather Texas is having right now,” Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Perry’s alma mater, Texas A and M, told John Burnett of NPR. “On the other hand, we can say humans have increased the temperature of the base climate state pretty much everywhere. And what that means is it makes the heat more extreme and increases evaporation form the soil. We can be confident we’ve made this hellish summer worse than it would have been.”
The Texas State climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, another A and M professor who is effectively Perry’s adviser on such matters, has said much the same. Asked by a reporter whether he had made his views known to the governor, Nielsen-Gammon said he had never been asked.
Actually there is a more immediately consequential link between the hands-off state and the ruins in Bastrop County.
Everywhere Andy Baker took me, you saw the soot-blackened foundations nestled right up against the brush that turned to kindling – no buffer zones, none of what planners call “defensible space.” It turns out the Texas legislature has never given county governments any authority over land use. According to the National Association of Counties, it is one of only three states where counties don’t have zoning power.
“We can educate, and education needs to go on,” said Ronnie McDonald, the highest county executive. “But at the end of the day, it’s an individual choice.” With, needless to day, consequences for everyone else.
Andrew Revkin, a science reporter who writes our Dot Earth blog, calculated that the population of Bastrop County has quadrupled since 1970: “The question is, will the public recognize that losses from such fires are mostly not the consequence of bad luck or fate, but bad planning?”
“Planning,” of course, is an expletive in the libertarian-leaning politics of Texas.
Another is FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In Perry’s campaign manifesto, Fed Up!, FEMA looms as a classic example of the slow-acting, heavy-handed Washington bureaucracy he hopes to dismantle as president.
Would you care to guess which agency arrived in Bastrop County, got temporary housing vouchers into the hands of the displaced families, and helped underwrite the cleanup of debris? You don’t hear a lot of FEMA-bashing in Bastrop County.
3:27 p.m. | Update
What’s it like being a scientist in the land of denial? My friend Glenn Frankel, director of the School of Journalism at University of Texas, Austin, sent along this interesting Q. & A. with Perry’s state climatologist.
The Senate Tuesday night is expected to vote down President Obama’s jobs bill. Democrats aren’t even sure they can get 51 votes, let alone the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. And even if it passed, Republican House Speaker John Boehner has declared it dead on arrival in the lower chamber. So, what’s the point of this political theater?
Simple: the presidential campaign is already roaring to life–we’re on GOP debate No. 147 tonight, in case anyone missed the first 146–and the President needs to prove it’s not his fault that Washington isn’t doing more to create jobs. “There is no Republican alternative that would create jobs now,” David Axelrod, a senior strategist for the Obama campaign wrote in a Tuesday memo that cited poll numbers showing Obama’s plan’s popularity. “The American people have rallied around Obama’s call to pass this plan. After 3 weeks of advocacy by the President, support (for the jobs bill) has grown by nearly10%.”
Hours before the vote, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina sent a note to supporters urging them to call Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and demand he “not let politics get in the way of creating jobs.” “Call Sen. McConnell’s office,” Messina wrote. “Tell him you’re watching, and you expect Republicans in the Senate to do the right thing and move forward on this bill today.”
Senate Republicans were less than impressed, calling the bill–and Messina’s e-mail–nothing more than campaign posturing. Republicans point to at least 10 Democratic Senators who’ve said in statements that there are parts of the plan that they don’t support and therefore have reservations voting for it. “It was designed to fail from the start,” says a senior GOP Senate aide. “This is [Harry] Truman running against Congress in 1948.”
Truman, who coined the term “Do-Nothing Congress,” started his bid for re-election deeply unpopular, having lost both chambers of Congress in the 1946 midterms. But he ran an effective, if vicious, campaign against a recalcitrant Congress that won him a second term, not to mention Democratic majorities in both houses, in the closest race in history.
Obama last week said at his press conference: “If Congress does something, then I can’t run against a do-nothing Congress. If Congress does nothing, then it’s not a matter of me running against them; I think the American people will run them out of town, because they are frustrated, and they know we need to do something big and something bold.” Of course, there is one important difference between 1948 and 2011: This time, Democrats control the Senate.
Democrats argue that their 53-seat majority is useless if they can’t convince at least seven Republicans to vote with them to overcome filibuster threats. To prove this point after Tuesday’s failed vote, the Senate is expected to break up the bill and hold a series of doomed votes on its pieces. Democrats believe this could be electoral gold for them, so brace yourselves for an autumn full of showmanship and many, many votes. As if we didn’t already have enough proof of Congress’s utter dysfunction.
As the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators moved to Washington on Thursday and swarmed outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President Obama was at the other end of Lafayette Square trying to align himself with the swelling protest movement.
“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place,” the president said at a news conference in the East Room.
For the struggling president, the nascent movement offers a chance at salvation, the opportunity to excite liberals with the sort of populist energy that has fueled the Tea Party for two years. But, as liberal leaders already know, the young movement must be careful to avoid Obama’s embrace: He decimated the progressive cause once, and he would do it again if given the chance.
Liberal activists who rallied behind Obama in 2008 watched as he defied their wishes and instead made unrequited concessions to the Republicans. “Every one in this crowd, I am certain, has had disappointments and frustrations with this White House,” Robert Borosage, a director of the Campaign for America’s Future, told the audience as he convened the Take Back the American Dream Conference, an annual gathering of liberal activists in Washington, this week. He accused Obama of being “too cautious” and “pre-compromised” and criticized his performance on jobs, global warming, defense and foreign policy.
Another of the speakers at the confab, former Obama White House official Van Jones, said it was liberals’ own fault for placing too much faith in the president. “We all affiliated [with] him,” he said. “We made a mistake.” Obama “got to become head of state, he got promoted — good for him,” said Jones, who was forced to quit the White House when conservative critics attacked him. “But here we are — and it’s worse than before.”
But the most striking thing about the progressives’ gathering this week was how little Obama was mentioned, and how dismissive the few mentions were. When one woman at the convention attempted to ignite Obama’s trademark “fired up!” cheer, only a few people responded with the usual answer, “ready to go!” The attempt quickly died.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) came closer than most in defending Obama, with a less-than-ringing endorsement. “I haven’t always been the happy Democratic camper, okay?” But, in terms of liberals’ goals, “we can get there faster with our crowd than we can get there with their crowd.”
The more successful appeals ignored Obama in favor of calls to turn the Wall Street protests into a “movement moment” to target corporate greed and, as one protest flier put it, “Wall Street’s servants on K Street, in the Pentagon and in our government.”
That would seem to be a fat and juicy target. American companies are sitting on $2 trillion in cash while nearly 15 million of their countrymen are out of work. And Washington does nothing, in large part because vast swaths of the town are controlled by corporations. Some 5,400 congressional staffers have joined lobbying outfits in the last decade, according to a LegiStorm study, and 605 current congressional staffers have lobbied in the last decade. The Center for Responsive Politics counts 328 Obama officials who have already passed through the revolving door to corporate riches. Of the 120 lawmakers who departed from Congress last year, 39 are now in the lobbying trade.
The Democrats, however, have been unable — or unwilling — to turn the corporate excess to their political benefit. The Democratic National Committee’s latest attempt, a Web ad released Wednesday, shows various Republican presidential candidates calling for repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, a piece of legislation the average voter almost certainly doesn’t know about.
Then there’s Obama, entirely too even-handed to be a populist. “I think people are frustrated, and the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,” he said during Thursday’s news conference. But in the next breath, he added: “Now, keep in mind I have said before and I will continue to repeat, we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow.”
True, but uninspiring. And liberals should by now know that a nuanced president cannot be a movement’s mouthpiece.
The Obama campaign, in an email to supporters today, goes there:
The U.S. Senate is supposed to vote on the American Jobs Act as early as tonight.
It’s a bill that will put people to work immediately, and it contains proposals that members of both parties have said in the past that they’d support.
But Senate Republicans want to block it. Not because they have a plan that creates jobs right now — not one Republican, in Congress or in the presidential race, does. They only have a political plan.
Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory. They think that the more folks see Washington taking no action to create jobs, the better their chances in the next election. So they’re doing everything in their power to make sure nothing gets done.
There’s still time for principled Republican senators to declare their independence from this kamikaze political strategy. And the only way it can happen is if they hear from constituents like you today.
As Steve Benen notes, this may be the first time the Obama campaign has officially endorsed the argument that Republicans are trying to destroy the economy on purpose. My guess is that this is about establishing a certain narrative in the media — by raising the accusation, the campaign hopes to get reporters to ask Republicans for a response to it, forcing them to get into an argument over whether they’re really trying to sabotage the economy in order to take back the White House.
This actually isn’t an argument that Dems initially wanted to embrace. As Kevin Drum pointed out back in June, the notion that they’d take this route seemed far fetched. “No serious person in a position of real influence really wants to accuse an entire party of cynically trying to tank the economy,” Drum noted. “But it would sure make headlines if Obama decided to take up this ball and run with it.”
Now they’re going there in a big way.
This seems like a new direction for the Obama strategy, one routed in frustration with the state of our discourse on the economy. Recall that Obama recently called on reporters to give some real scrutiny to the GOP’s jobs plan and ask analysists whether it would actually create any jobs. Today’s blast email seems of a piece with that. The Obama camp is trying to push the media to debate the core question of whether the GOP’s stance on the economy is being offered in good faith or deserves to even be treated as a legitimate contribution to the debate over what to do to solve our national crisis.
As Jonathan Chait noted recently of the Republicans’ approach to the economy: “They have undergone an intellectual conversion at a time that makes very little sense given economic circumstances but a great deal of sense given the partisan circumstances.”
Presumably this argument will grow louder in the weeks and months to come.
Five key trends in Washington Post polling will be tested in Tuesday’s debate, spanning Cain’s momentum and the tea party to immigration and jobs.
1. Can Cain capitalize? A 55 percent majority of Herman Cain’s supporters back him “strongly” in Post-ABC polls, far and away the most intense support for any candidate in the Republican field. By comparison, 34 percent of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s supporters do so strongly, and 24 percent of Romney backers say the same. Cain owes his spot in the top tier to solid debate performances: Seven in 10 Republicans who have watched recent debates say the more they hear from Cain, the more they like him.
2. Can Perry recover? Unlike Cain, a 56 percent majority of Republicans (and GOP leaning independents) who watched recent debates say the more they hear about Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the less they like him. About half as many, 29 percent, say their fondness toward Perry grows as they learn more.
3. Who can appeal to the Tea Party and make it stick? Three different candidates have led among Republicans who strongly support the tea party in as many Post-ABC polls since July. First, Michele Bachmann held 28 percent support; she’s down to 9 percent among this group. Next up to bat, Rick Perry earned 45 percent among strong tea party backers; he’s dropped to 10 percent. The most recent favorite, of course, is Herman Cain, who earned 30 percent support among this group in the latest Post-ABC poll. The up and down swings among avid tea party Republicans indicate they’re still on the lookout for a standard bearer. Will Rick Santorum get his turn next?
4. Which way on immigration? Perry took a pounding in recent debates for his support of in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants in Texas colleges and universities. A Post-ABC poll this month finds that solid majorities of Americans — and even larger majorities of Republicans — oppose such a measure. But while Romney has singled out Perry for attacks on the issue, he may also be on the wrong side of public opinion on immigration issues. A new Post-Bloomberg poll finds almost six in 10 adults and two thirds of Republicans are against a proposal to increase the number of visas for highly skilled foreign workers, a measure outlined in Romney’s 59-point jobs proposal (p. 128).
5. Where are the jobs? A slight majority of Americans support President Obama’s proposed jobs plan, he’s opened up a 15 point edge over congressional Republicans on trust to create jobs and owns a 20 point advantage in caring about the economic interests of the middle class in the most recent Post-ABC poll.
Republican contenders are sure to criticize Obama’s jobs record, standing on solid ground given that six in 10 Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of jobs. But Republicans have some work to do in softening the perception that they are biased toward the wealthy. Fully seven in 10 see congressional Republicans as more concerned about the wealthy than Obama.
Favorability rating: UP 11 points
Job approval rating: UP 6 points
Poor David Nir at Daily Kos just can’t explain it. “I can tell you what changed in our cross-tabs,” he says, “but I can’t tell youwhy things changed.” It’s a complete mystery why the president could possibly be surging to him? I’ma go out on a limb and say four simple words:
The. American. Jobs. Act.
NINA TOTENBERG, NPR:
Clarence Thomas is not just a member of the conservative block of Supreme Court justices, he is without a doubt the most conservative justice, willing to regularly strike down long-accepted case law that has been in place for decades, in some cases as much as a century.
He is the only justice willing to allow states to establish an official religion; the only justice who believes teenagers have no free speech rights at all; the only justice who believes that it’s unconstitutional to require campaign funders to disclose their identity; he’s the only justice who voted to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act; and the only justice to say that the court should invalidate a wide range of laws regulating business conduct and working conditions.
Though his defenders shy from calling his views radical, they trumpet Thomas as the only justice to consistently return to what they see as the original meaning of the Constitution when it was adopted in 1789.
TOTENBERG: But that vision is so far removed from modern constitutional law that critics see it as little more than trying to turn the clock back. Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman.
PETER EDELMAN: I think it’s fair to call Thomas a radical conservative He’s the Tea Party of the Supreme Court.
TOTENBERG: Even former Reagan administration solicitor general, Charles Fried, who admires Thomas, sees his views as off-kilter. His opinions, says Fried, are well written and researched.
CHARLES FRIED: They are high quality work, there’s no question about that. They’re just completely out of the mainstream.
TOTENBERG: Scholars note that Thomas’s views are in fact so extreme that he is considerably to the right of the court’s most heralded conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia. Supreme Court advocate Tom Goldstein says that Scalia balances purism and pragmatism, while Thomas is a purist.
TOM GOLDSTEIN: Justice Scalia has his foot hovering over the brake pedal. Justice Thomas’ is firmly planted on the gas.
TOTENBERG: Conservative blogger Ed Whelan says Thomas is the only justice who’s willing to trust the Founding Fathers, even if that means, for instance, that states are free to prefer one religion over another.
ED WHELAN: You can call that un-pragmatic if you want, but I think it reflects a deeper faith in the citizenry.
TOTENBERG: Thomas, the second African-American appointed to the court, has proved to be the ideological opposite of the man he replaced, Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American. A stark example of their differences is in cases involving prisoners beaten or denied essential medical care.
Marshall wrote key decisions declaring such treatment a violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At his confirmation hearing, Thomas seemed to agree, noting that every day as an appeals court judge, he looked out the window at the federal courthouse to see busload after busload of criminal defendants being brought to court.
Justice CLARENCE THOMAS: And I say to myself almost every day, but for the grace of God, there go I. So I can walk in their shoes and I could bring something different to the court.
TOTENBERG: Two months later, Thomas, now a Supreme Court justice, dissented from a Supreme Court opinion upholding an $800 damage award to a prisoner who was beaten so severely by prison guards that his teeth and dental plate were broken. Thomas, joined only by Scalia, said that quote, “a use of force which causes only insignificant harm to a prisoner is not cruel and unusual punishment.”
Perhaps no subject has engaged Thomas more on a personal level than race. He votes often against civil rights claims, and his own feelings of being underestimated because of his race come out most clearly in Affirmative Action cases.
Although Thomas is widely believed to have been the beneficiary of Affirmative Action programs, he sees them as a scar, not a benefit. And when the Supreme Court reaffirmed the use of race as one factor that can be used in university admissions, Thomas railed that these programs were quote, “nothing more than a facade, a cruel farce of continued racial discrimination that stamp minorities with a badge of inferiority.”
Can someone who is so untethered to the big decisions of the last century be influential on the court? Yes and no. For now, it is his dissents, not his majority opinions, that are the attention grabbers.
Supreme Court advocate Tom Goldstein.
GOLDSTEIN: I think he’s planting flowers in a garden that he thinks are going to bloom a long time from now. And whether that’s going to happen is going to depend on the court’s membership.
TOTENBERG: Other scholars note that Thomas makes the other very conservative justices on the court look centrist by comparison. UCLA’s Volokh observes that studies show people like to be seen as in the middle.
VOLOKH: That means that if you influence what the extremes look like, then you can shift the middle.
TOTENBERG: And Volokh adds that by just staking out a previously inconceivable position, Thomas, even though alone, makes that position plausible.
California has a new law that will allow state regulators to automatically certify union elections by farmworkers if they determine growers used threats or intimidation toward workers in the election process.
The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown late Sunday, is part of a compromise after union efforts to change the fundamental way farmworkers organize failed earlier this year.
The United Farm Workers of America, whose membership has dwindled in recent years, says the new law will keep growers more accountable but doesn’t solve the issue of intimidation.
“It’s not what we want, not what we feel we really need to benefit a large number of farmworkers,” said Arturo Rodriguez, UFW president. “But it’s an improvement over what we had before. Clearly the current system was not working. It offered an incentive for the growers to violate the law, because they had no reason to obey it.”
Farmworkers previously called for majority sign-up elections, also known as card-check balloting, that would have allowed workers to vote by signing petitions away from the fields. Farmers and agricultural organizations vehemently opposed the moved due to possible election violations by union organizers.
During his first stint as governor, Brown in 1975 signed the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which gave workers the right to hold secret ballot elections. However, he vetoed the card-check bill in June.
Brown and Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, who authored the vetoed bill, compromised on the new law that became an amendment to the Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
Growers said they were not happy with the new law, because previous elections protections were sufficient.
One of the first things that anti-choice politicians did when they took over Virginia after the last election was launch the War on Women. Now, their campaign to shut down the majority of women’s health centers that provide abortion care in that state is about to become law.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.