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Once again, the South Fulton, Tennessee fire department and Mayor David Crocker who allowed another house to burn down simply because the homeowner had failed to pay their “subscription fee.”
“In an emergency, the first thing you think of, ‘Call 9-1-1,” homeowner Vicky Bell said.
Firefighters came out. Bell said, “9-1-1 said they were in fact dispatched and they showed that they were on the scene.” But once on the scene, they only watched. “You could look out my mom’s trailer and see the trucks sitting at a distance,” Bell said. For Bell, that sight was almost as disturbing as the fire itself. “We just wished we could’ve gotten more out,” Bell said.
The firefighters sat there and watched the house burn to the ground.
Shockingly horrible people.
And this has happened before.
Today, thousands of 99 Percenters will march on K Street in Washington, D.C. as a part of an action called “Take Back The Capitol,” taking aim at the lobbying firms that corporate interests use to influence the federal government.
A report released this month by Public Campaign demonstrates just how important it is for Americans to battle corporate special interests and reclaim our democracy. The group’s research finds that thirty big corporations actually spent more money lobbying the federal government between 2008 and 2010 than they spent in taxes. For example, General Electric — one of the top 10 most profitable companies in the world — got a net tax rebate of $4.7 billion during this period. Meanwhile, it spent $84 million lobbying the federal government.
Here’s the full list of the 30 corporations identified and what they paid in federal taxes as opposed to lobbying:
The proposed two-page agreement [click to see simplified form] , which banks and other issuers would provide to consumers seeking cards, is about 1,100 words — much shorter than the 5,500-word average industry agreement, the agency said.
The new form highlights the actual costs — such as the annual percentage interest rate on purchases, cash advances and balance transfers — in large type. It uses plain language to explain other items, including how the interest rate is calculated, why late fees are assessed and how billing disputes are handled.
The agency is seeking public input on the form through its website and also plans to run a test of the proposed form with customers of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, one of the nation’s largest credit unions.
The simplified agreement is similar to one the agency is proposing for mortgage disclosure forms. Both are part of the consumer bureau’s Know Before You Owe project.
Credit cards are one of the main areas of focus for the agency, which began operations in July. It said last week that it had received more than 5,000 complaints about credit cards through Oct. 21, which showed consumers were struggling to understand terms and conditions.
Wednesday’s announcement comes amid a push by the Obama administration over the last week to get the Senate to confirm the nomination of former Ohio Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray to be the agency’s first director. Nearly all Senate Republicans have been blocking Cordray’s nomination because they want the administration to agree to changes to reduce the bureau’s power.
The White House has been trying to pressure some Senate Republicans to stop blocking the nomination. The Senate plans to vote on Thursday to try to overcome the filibuster, although the Republicans are expected to prevail.
The President’s speech [yesterday] in Osawatomie, Kansas — where Teddy Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech in 1910 — is the most important economic speech of his presidency in terms of connecting the dots, laying out the reasons behind our economic and political crises, and asserting a willingness to take on the powerful and the privileged that have gamed the system to their advantage.
Here are the highlights (and, if you’ll pardon me, my annotations):
For most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefitted from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.
He’s absolutely right – and it’s the first time he or any other president has clearly stated the long-term structural problem that’s been widening the gap between the very top and everyone else for thirty years – the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity gains.
For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed.
Exactly. But the first papering over was when large numbers of women went into paid work, starting the in the late 1970s and 1980s, in order to prop up family incomes that were stagnating or dropping because male wages were under siege – from globalization, technological change, and the decline of unions. Only when this coping mechanism was exhausted, and when housing prices started to climb, did Americans shift to credit cards and home equity loans as a means of papering over the new harsh reality of an economy that was working for a minority at the top but not for most of the middle class.
We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.
It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs, homes, and the basic security of millions – innocent, hard-working Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were still left holding the bag.
Precisely – and it’s about time he used the term “wrong” to describe Wall Street’s antics, and the abject failure of regulators (led by Alan Greenspan and the Fed) to stop what was going on. But these “wrongs” were only the proximate cause of the economic crisis. The underlying cause was, as the President said before, the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity.
Ever since, there has been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness. Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements – from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. And it’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president.
But this isn’t just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.
Right again. It is the defining issue of our time. But I wish he wouldn’t lump the Tea Party in with the Occupiers. The former hates government; the latter focuses blame on Wall Street and corporate greed – just where the President did a moment ago.
Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
He might have been a bit stronger here. The “they” who are suffering collective amnesia include many of the privileged and powerful who have gained enormous wealth by using their political muscle to entrench their privilege and power. In other words, it’s not simply or even mainly amnesia. It’s a clear and concerted strategy.
Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.
In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”
Some background: In 1909, Herbert Croly, a young political philosopher and journalist, argued in his best-selling The Promise of American Life that the large American corporation should be regulated by the nation and directed toward national goals. “The constructive idea behind a policy of the recognition of the semi-monopolistic corporation is, of course, the idea that they can be converted into economic agents…for the national economic interest,” Croly wrote. Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism embraced Croly’s idea.
For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.
Today, over one hundred years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.
Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where the workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100, so that layoffs were too often permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. These changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits – especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.
Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.
It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.
Obama is advocating Croly’s proposal that large corporations be regulated for the nation’s good. But he’s updating Croly. The next paragraphs are important.
Remember that in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history, and what did they get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class – things like education and infrastructure; science and technology; Medicare and Social Security.
Remember that in those years, thanks to some of the same folks who are running Congress now, we had weak regulation and little oversight, and what did that get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity, and denied care to the patients who were sick. Mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford. A financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.
We simply cannot return to this brand of your-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and its future. It doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.
Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top one percent has gone up by more than 250%, to $1.2 million per year. For the top one hundredth of one percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade, the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about six percent.
The very first time the President has emphasized this grotesque trend. Now listen for how he connects this with the deterioration of our economy and democracy:
This kind of inequality – a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression – hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity – that’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars they made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.
Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them – that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.
More fundamentally, this kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise at the very heart of America: that this is the place where you can make it if you try. We tell people that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, hard work can get you into the middle class; and that your children will have the chance to do even better than you. That’s why immigrants from around the world flocked to our shores.
And what it’s done to equal opportunity, and how it’s eroded upward mobility:
And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class.
It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. It flies in the face of everything we stand for.
What should we do about this? Not turn to protectionism or become neo-Luddites. Nor turn to some version of government planning.
Fortunately, that’s not a future we have to accept. Because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country – a view that’s truer to our history; a vision that’s been embraced by people of both parties for more than two hundred years.
It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society’s problems. It’s a view that says in America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.
So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s economy?
It starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is, we’ll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages or pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win – and shouldn’t want to win. Those countries don’t have a strong middle-class. They don’t have our standard of living.
In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. …
The fact is, this crisis has left a deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis, and working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house.
I wish the Obama administration had made this a condition for the banks receiving bailouts.
But there’s far more to the speech. Read it in full. [You can watch it in yesterday’s Daily Planet] It lays out the basis for what could be the platform Obama will run on in 2012 — increasing taxes on the rich, investing in the rest us, requiring corporations and Wall Street banks that reap benefits from being in America create good jobs for Americans, and protecting our democracy from being corrupted by money — a new New Nationalism.
Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008. Since then we’ve had a president who has only reluctantly stood up to the moneyed interests Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin stood up to.
Hopefully Obama will carry this message through 2012, and gain a mandate to use his second term to take on the growing inequities and game-rigging practices that have been undermining the American economy and American democracy for years.
In the shadow of the Great Recession and the Occupy Wall St. movement, ordinary people are re-negotiating their terms with big business. They want to spend less, do more, and solve problems together. They are the foundation of the new “sharing economy.”
Many brand-name U.S. companies are using deductions, credits and other means to shave their state tax rates below zero percent, a study by a left-leaning think tank released on Wednesday found.
The study of 265 corporations that publicly disclose their state and local income taxes in financial reports found they paid state taxes, on average, of 3 percent on U.S. profits over the three year period.
[…] “This 2 million student mark is quite significant,” Ursula Wright, interim CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement. “It demonstrates increased demand by families who want to see more high quality education options for their children.”
However, there is much debate over the effectiveness of charter schools. A 2009 Stanford University study in 16 states found that on average, charter schools were not performing as well as their traditional public-school peers. Comparisons of math and reading scores revealed that 17 percent of charter schools showed better academic results than comparable public schools, while 37 percent underperform.
Charter schools are funded by public dollars but operate independently from many of the laws and mandates that govern traditional public schools. For that reason, many charter schools have been able to explore new academic territory and alter learning methods that educators say weren’t working, and more than 400,000 students remain on waitlists to enroll in charters. Sixteen states have removed caps on the number of charter schools that may be established within their borders, a move the Obama administration and U.S. Department of Education support.
High-profile charter schools like Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, as well as films about the education movement such as “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery,” sparked national debates over the merit of charters and their impact on the education landscape. Opponents say that charter schools take away money that could be used to improve public schools, and that many charter schools have the luxury of turning away students with severe learning challenges or discipline problems. In addition, some of the strongest performing charter schools, such as the Knowledge Is Power Program network, rely on significant fundraising from the private sector.
“I think there are good charters and bad charters,” Cheryllyn Branch, principal of Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in Washington, D.C., told the NewsHour in 2009. “I really do feel that there’s room at the table, but I don’t think to designate that an entire city be charter-ized makes any sense. Good schools make sense for every child.”
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blocked an FDA ruling allowing over-the-counter Plan B morning after pill access to underage girls — that is, females 16 and younger.
WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s decision Wednesday that emergency contraceptives be sold freely over the counter, including to teenagers 16 years old and younger.
The pill, called Plan B One-Step, has been available without a prescription to women 17 and older, but those 16 and younger have needed a prescription — and still will because of Ms. Sibelius’s decision. In some states, pharmacists can write the prescription on the spot for teenagers. But the restrictions have meant the pills were only dispensed from behind the counter — making them more difficult for everyone to get. The pill, if taken after unprotected sex, halves the risk of a pregnancy.
This is was clearly a big mistake.
Studies have shown that the morning after pill is safe for use by underage girls, and, despite the administration’s claims, underage girls can still receive over-the-counter access in 10 states, as well as prescription access everywhere. But still, it further limits options for girls who are in trouble. The Obama administration is clearly more worried about the optics here rather than the harm it will do to girls who need it — the usual “abortion access for children” accusations from the right, etc. But the Republicans and the far-right are already calling liberals and Democrats baby killers and the like, I don’t see the additional harm here other than a temporary roundelay of talk radio screeching.
All of that said, some of the histrionics on the left today are, as always, frustrating. Specifically, the charge that the administration and the Democrats have joined up with the Republicans and their War Against Women. Not even close. This administration has a stellar record on women’s issues and, especially, women’s health issues.
Library of Economics and Liberty:
Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, “Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me.” They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped “NO CODE” to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.
[…] A lot of health care professionals in the United States seem to me to be slightly in denial about the level of service they’re providing. Somehow we have the most expensive health care system in the world, with the highest paid doctors, and yet it’s strangely difficult to actually get an appointment to see one.
My guess is that they’re not in denial at all. The reason it takes a long time to see a doctor is because they’re booked solid with appointments. They see 20 or 30 patients a day, every day, so most of them really have no particular incentive to make it any easier to make an appointment. Why would they when they’re already working at capacity?
And why are they working at capacity? Part of the reason is that we just don’t have all that many doctors in America:
These two charts are surprisingly uncorrelated, which presumably has something to do with how healthcare is run in various countries and something to do with cultural mores about how often we like to see doctors. Still, the overall picture is clear: we have relatively few doctors, they’re all really busy, and they get paid a lot more than in other countries. That may not be so hot from a patient’s point of view, but from a doctor’s standpoint, what’s not to like?
[…] Now Bachmann is upping the ante with perhaps the most cruel anti-immigrant statement to date. Media Matters reports that in an interview with Fox host Bill O’Reilly, Bachmann dismissed the humanitarian crisis of mass deportations and reiterated her baseless fear-mongering about “anchor babies.” Bachmann then expressed a “can do” attitude when it came to O’Reilly’s mock idea of dragging immigrants onto buses in front of their screaming children:
O’REILLY: [T]here are a lot of people here who’ve been here for a lot of years. And if you’re gonna start dragging them out of here, it’s gonna be very, very difficult to do that…I’m just saying on a human basis, I don’t think that — theory is one thing. Dragging people out, putting them on a bus with their children’s crying can be quite something else.
BACHMANN: It can be done. That’s the thing, it can be done.
O’REILLY: It can be done, but at what cost?
Few policy areas produce perverse results with the regularity of immigration policy. In my own community, a group of Indonesians came into the country legally and missed a deadline for filing for asylum. Most have been in the country for at least a decade and have American-born children, steady jobs and no criminal records. But their stay of deportation is now threatened.
In recent weeks, most of the Indonesians, many of whom fled persecution of Christians in Indonesia years ago, have received letters from the Department of Homeland Security ordering them to appear at the agency’s Newark office, a one-way ticket to Indonesia in hand.
These orders would lead to horrendous choices for parents who face deportation but have children that would face a questionable future in Indonesia. Legislation to grant this small group of immigrants asylum has just been introduced in Congress. Either ICE or Congress should act to produce the clearly humanitarian outcome.
A U.S. District Court judge in Portland has drawn a line in the sand between “journalist” and “blogger.” And for Crystal Cox, a woman on the latter end of that comparison, the distinction has cost her $2.5 million.
“This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet,” she says.
Cox runs several law-centric blogs, like industrywhistleblower.com, judicialhellhole.com, and obsidianfinancesucks.com, and was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group in January for defamation, to the tune of $10 million, for writing several blog posts that were highly critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick.
Representing herself in court, Cox had argued that her writing was a mixture of facts, commentary and opinion (like a million other blogs on the web) and moved to have the case dismissed. Dismissed it wasn’t, however, and after throwing out all but one of the blog posts cited by Obsidian Financial, the judge ruled that this single post was indeed defamatory because it was presented, essentially, as more factual in tone than her other posts, and therefore a reasonable person could conclude it was factual.
The judge ruled against Cox on that post and awarded $2.5 million to the investment firm.
Now here’s where the case gets more important: Cox argued in court that the reason her post was more factual was because she had an inside source that was leaking her information. And since Oregon is one of 40 U.S. states including Washington with media shield laws, Cox refused to divulge who her source was.
But without revealing her source Cox couldn’t prove that the statements she’d made in her post were true and therefore not defamation, or attribute them to her source and transfer the liability.
Oregon’s media shield law reads:
No person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public shall be required by … a judicial officer … to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise … [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]
The judge in Cox’s case, however, ruled that the woman did not qualify for shield-law protection not because of anything she wrote, but because she wasn’t employed by an official media establishment.
From the opinion by U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez:
. . . although defendant is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law
Cox tells Seattle Weekly that she plans to appeal the ruling by proving her assertion that Obsidian co-founder Kevin Padrick is guilty of bankruptcy fraud–a statement that, as Cox is quite proud of, is abundantly advertised if one simply Googles Padrick’s name and sees the dozens of Cox’s posts that spring up about him.
At this point Cox says that she still has no plans to get a lawyer.
We think that’s a bad idea.
UPDATE: Attorney Bruce E. H. Johnson, the man who wrote the media shield laws in Washington state, has weighed in on whether Cox’s fate would fly here. Read more here.
[…] As Meteor Blades wrote recently, Michigan Congressman John Conyers has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into Michigan’s new Emergency Manager Law, PA 4. He mentioned that Conyers is asking for the investigation because “Conyers wants to know whether the law violates the Constitution’s Contract Clause (Article 1, Section 10) by allowing an emergency manager to end collective bargaining rights and whether it violates Article 4, Section 4 on the requirement that states have a republican form of government.” However, what Meteor Blades did not mention was that Conyers also believes the way the law is being applied is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. As I have written recently, if Inkster and Detroit get Emergency Managers, and it seem clear they will, over 50% of Michigan African Americans will be without representative government at the local level.
Well, it turns out that Holder is already looking into it.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is reviewing whether the state of Michigan can legally appoint an emergency manager to oversee the Motor City’s finances, Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, said late today.
Conyers said he spoke to Holder about his request that the government move to block the law.
“(Holder) said, ‘I’ve got my lawyers working on it right now,’ ” Conyers said, adding he spoke to the attorney general about 4 p.m. today. “He’s trying to find out if my allegations of great constitutional concerns are valid. That’s what he’s got several hundred lawyers for.”
An alliance by California and Nevada to jointly investigate misconduct and fraud in the mortgage business further divides efforts by the nation’s attorneys general to bring the home-lending industry to account for improper foreclosure practices.
The two states, which are at ground zero of the nation’s housing bust, will join forces to probe allegations of foreclosure fraud and other wrongdoing in the mortgage markets, including the packaging and selling of mortgage-backed securities by Wall Street players and scams by smaller players offering to help troubled borrowers.
The agreement to work together, announced in Los Angeles on Tuesday by California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and Nevada Atty Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto, comes a week after Massachusetts said it was suing the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over alleged foreclosure illegalities. The moves escalate pressure on the nation’s biggest financial institutions already in high-level negotiations with a coalition of state attorneys general over their alleged abuses.
“This potential partnership with the Nevada AG may cover a fairly broad array of issues,” said Paul Leonard, California director for the Center for Responsible Lending. “Having the prospect of investigations and litigation could very well raise the stakes for — and put added pressure on — the financial institutions to come up with a settlement.”
California bowed out of the multistate talks this summer, saying the banks were being let off the hook too easily, and has opened a number of probes into the mortgage business. Harris characterized her pact with Masto as an intensification of her efforts. The offices will share litigation strategies, evidence in ongoing investigations and link both the civil and criminal teams of each office.
The alliance unites two attorneys general in states with similar foreclosure processes and laws. Many of the same players acted in both states, Harris and Masto said Tuesday, resulting in a similar housing malaise.
Underscoring the harm the housing crisis has inflicted on their constituents, the attorneys general took turns Tuesday speaking in front of maps illustrating the high rates of foreclosure in both states.
“California and Nevada were particularly hard-hit as it relates to the foreclosure aspect and to the number of homeowners that we have underwater,” Harris said. “In that way, we have a very specific issue in terms of the harm that has resulted to our states — and also a focus for our investigations.”
In both states, the foreclosure process exists largely outside of the court system. For that reason, evidence of fraud in the foreclosure process has not emerged as readily as in other states.
Masto has perhaps made the most progress of any state attorney general in pursuing alleged fraud in the foreclosure process. Masto this week said she had widened a criminal probe that involves employees of Lender Processing Services, a Florida company that emerged as an important player in the fracas over faulty foreclosure practices. The ringleaders of the alleged scam were two Orange County loan officers.
Masto said taking action against the players involved in the housing crisis was necessary because of the harm done in the state.
“This crisis is causing great havoc in the local economy,” Masto said. “Families are being forced out of their homes — vacant homes are being vandalized.”
Harris also is investigating Lender Processing Services, having subpoenaed the firm this year.
California has other mortgage probes. Investigators with Harris’ office have subpoenaed information from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into lending and foreclosure practices in the state, The Times has previously reported.
Harris’ office also is investigating Bank of America Corp. and its mortgage arm Countrywide Financial, along with Citibank, seeking information on their practices selling mortgaged-backed securities in California. The Nevada attorney general has sued Bank of America and some subsidiaries, including Countrywide, accusing them of violating a consent order struck as part of a settlement with the state over its past bad lending practices.
The new alliance between Harris and Masto comes as the largest banks are working to strike a deal with a coalition of attorneys general and federal agencies that is led by Iowa Atty. Gen. Thomas Miller, who has forced the mortgage industry to accept large settlements in the past.
Masto has said the state would evaluate any proposed deal but would push ahead with her own work. New York, Delaware, Kentucky and Minnesota have signaled they are unhappy with the direction of the talks with the banks. New York and Delaware have struck their own agreement to pursue a wider probe of Wall Street’s role in the mortgage meltdown.
The negotiations were expected to have produced a settlement of as much as $25 billion for the states, including a provision that would write down principal for troubled borrowers, a move long pushed for by housing advocates. But despite pressure from the Obama administration for a quick settlement that might give the beleaguered housing market a boost, those talks have dragged on for more than a year.
Yesterday, the Obama administration announced a landmark full government strategy for advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in its foreign policy and called on nations around the world to recognize that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.” The president issued a new directive ordering “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons” and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a 30 minute speech in Geneva, in which she announced a new $3 million Global Fund to support the work of civil society organizations working for equality around the world.
But you would have likely missed this story watching the nightly network news programs, CNN or Fox News, a ThinkProgress analysis of the media coverage finds. While MSNBC devoted four separate segments to the administration’s announcement — with ample coverage from Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell — and Fox News even included the story in Bret Baier’s Special Report, CNN, ABC World News, and the CBS Evening News ignored it entirely:
Fortunately, the news was extensively covered online and in the alternative press.
Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi interrupted a press conference by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to ask him to prove to the state taxpayers that he’snot on drugs by peeing in a cup.
“You benefit from hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars every year, so would you be willing to pee into this cup to prove to Florida taxpayers that you’re not on drugs, that you’re not using that money for drugs?” Mandvi asked.
Scott replied that he’s “done it plenty of times.”
Mandvi then tried to pass a cup forward: “Would you pass this forward to the governor? We can all turn around, it’s fine.”
The press conference was to present Scott’s budget recommendations, but Mandvi’s question referenced the law proposed by Scott and passed by the state legislature that requires all welfare recipients to take a drug test before they can receive benefits from the state. In October, a district court judge issued an injunction against the law in response to a lawsuit by the ACLU.
Here’s video from the presser, via the Miami Herald:
Later, the Herald reports, Mandvi tried again to pass the cup forward: “I hate to keep harping on this, would you pee in a cup?”
Scott fired back: “You don’t get to run this.”
A cast iron cannonball rocketed through two homes and landed inside a minivan Tuesday when a “Mythbusters” TV experiment went wrong.
Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are hosts of the scientific experimentation show, which airs on The Discovery Channel. The pair was reportedly trying to figure out how fast a cannonball would travel, when it misfired and shot hundreds of feet in the air.
“This cannonball was supposed to go through several barrels of water and through a cinder block, and then ultimately into the side of the hill,” said J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.
Instead the cannonball flew over the foothills surrounding Camp Parks Military Firing Reservation, before spiraling back toward Dublin like a cruise missile.
It flew straight through the front door of a home on Cassata Place, and bounced around like a pinball, flying up to the second floor before blasting through a back bedroom wall.
Given the sheer volume of changes to the National Defense Authorization Act (which passed the Senate last week), I figured I’d do a quick post explaining where some of the most important issues stand as the bill heads into conference, facing the threat of a presidential veto.
The bill no longer authorizes the indefinite military detention of Americans captured in the US. That authority was removed from the Senate bill by a compromise amendment that stated nothing in the bill was intended to change existing authority on detention. While Senators such as Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argue that the president already has the authority to do so based on the 2004 Supreme Court decision Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, that case involved an American captured in Afghanistan. The Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on the constitutionality of indefinite military detention of Americans suspected of terrorism who are apprehended in the US.
The bill does mandate military detention for non-citizens. A bipartisan group of Senators approved provisions mandating military detention for non-citizens who are apprehended in the US and are suspected of “substantial” ties to Al Qaeda or affiliated groups, absent a waiver from the department of defense. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the Director of National Intelligence, the head of the FBI, and even former Bush officials have all said the provision would hamper counterterrorism efforts. Civil liberties groups, meanwhile, charge that it would violate longstanding prohibitions on the military enforcing domestic law. The administration has threatened to veto the bill over this provision.
The bill “affirms” the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. Both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA “reaffirm” the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al-Qaeda. Since the original AUMF was tied to the 9/11 attacks and therefore had an implied endpoint, civil liberties groups and some Democrats have charged that these provisions are essentially approval of an endless global war on terrorism. (Lawfare’s Ben Wittes, who thinks a new AUMF is appropriate, writes that the Senate version differs slightly in that it states it is “not intended either to limit or expand the authority to wage war under the AUMF.”)
Despite its flaws, the Senate version could provide some key oversight over executive authority. Marcy Wheeler has argued that the administration is concerned about provisions in the Senate version of the bill that would force the administration to clarify to Congress exactly who the US is at war with at any given time. Wheeler writes that this would be a “huge improvement over the secret unilateral decisions the Executive has been allowed to make for a decade.” That’s Congress though; the public would still be in the dark. Marty Lederman, formerly of Obama’s Office of Legal Counsel, has said that the US is secretly at war with groups and inviduals they don’t actually know they’re at war with. Freedom!
Obama wouldn’t be the first to veto a defense bill. According to the Congressional Research Service, if Obama makes good on his veto threat he wouldn’t be the first president to hate the troops—I mean excercize executive prerogative. All of Obama’s predecessors since President Jimmy Carter, with the exception of George H.W. Bush, have vetoed an NDAA. That of course, includes notable liberals George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. That said, vetoing the bill wouldn’t change the current paradigm, in which American citizens suspected of terrorism abroad can be killed without trial and the Obama administration’s approach to counterterrorism differs little from the post-2006 Bush administration. Vetoing this bill won’t close Gitmo, end the use of military commissions, or make the administration more judicious with its deadly flying robots.
At least 85 people were arrested as police cleared San Francisco’s Occupy encampment early Wednesday, police said.
Officials had not compiled exact numbers by Wednesday afternoon, but most of the approximately 85 people were cited and released after the daybreak raid, said Officer Albie Esparza.
About 15 people who were arrested on a variety of charges, ranging from resisting arrest to assault with a deadly weapon, were still in custody, Esparza said.
More than 100 officers carried out the raid, Esparza said. Afteward, officers blocked access to the former camp site as trash crews raked up paper and plastic bottles, removed chairs and other belongings that had accumulated there over the past two months, and pressure-washed the sidewalks.
A handful of protesters stood by, occasionally jeering at officers but otherwise heeding their instructions to stay back.
Most of the officers left the site later in the day.
About 200 protesters gathered in front of the Federal Reserve Bank near the former Occupy site in the afternoon, blocking a busy thoroughfare ahead of a planned march.
The raid began around 1 a.m., when dozens of police cars, fire engines and ambulances surrounded the campsite at Justin Herman Plaza and blocked off the area. City officials previously declared the site a public health nuisance.
Police didn’t immediately say how many people were in the plaza at the time, but campers put the estimate at 150.
“Most of the protesters went peacefully,” but one officer received minor injuries when two people threw a chair that cracked his face shield, said Esparza.
Jack Martin of San Francisco said he was trying to leave the plaza when he was zip-tied, taken to a police station, cited and released. Officers trashed his tent and personal belongings, he said.
“Everything I owned is gone,” said Martin, 51, as tears welled up in his eyes. “My medicine, my paper for my Social Security.”
He yelled at a line of officers blocking the plaza, “I was trying to get out of your way!”
Martin said he lost his job as a building manager and had moved into a hostel until about five weeks ago, when he ran out of money. Asked what he planned to do next, he replied, “Occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy.”
Richard Kriedler with Occupy SF said some protesters were injured, but he didn’t have the details.
“This is a very emotional town. We have anarchists, we have very emotional people that this is not going to go over well with, and this could have been handled a lot better,” he said.
“A much more simple way to do it would have been direct contact with the mayor and city officials here with us, and even though they’ve been invited many times, they didn’t come.”
But San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said the people at the campsite with whom officials had been holding discussions were no longer there.
“Negotiations had broken down,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We weren’t getting our emails returned.”
In a statement, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the city had taken a “measured and balanced approach,” including making an alternate site available to protesters. That site – an abandoned school in the Mission district – included a parking lot where the protesters could maintain their encampment, a classroom for meetings, and two bathrooms.
The city had taken out a six-month lease on the property and offered to send city trucks to help the occupiers move to the new location. It had given the protesters until Dec. 1 to leave Justin Herman Plaza.
In his statement, Lee said the city had negotiated with Occupy leadership in “good faith.”
“But unfortunately, communication with the liaison team designated by Occupy SF deteriorated to a point where it was clear that no progress could be made,” he said.
Kris Sullivan, 31, from Akron, Ohio, said many campers were sleeping and were taken by surprise during the raid. Sullivan, who said he had been at the camp for about two months, got his tent out but lost his pillow, mattress, blanket and another tent.
“They didn’t even give much time for anyone to get out. They handled it really badly. They could have given us a warning or some sort of eviction notice,” he said.
The tent city was set up in mid-October to protest bank bailouts and economic injustice.
Gene Doherty, 47, an Occupy protester who was not present during the raid but watched it on a live streaming website, said the Occupy protesters planned a noon rally at the site and still had several “mobile occupations” throughout the city.
“We will come back and reoccupy,” Doherty said. “A large segment of our community has no other options. They don’t have a home to go back to; this was their home.”
Protesters will continue to “send a message that this is our right to protest, our right to assemble, and to talk about the economic injustices in the world,” he said.
[…] In an email obtained and posted by the financial website Zero Hedge, Bank of America’s field services operation warned about Occupy activities, saying “we need to be prepared” and advising bank representatives against interacting with protesters:
On Tuesday December 6th there is a potential nationwide protest planned that could impact our industry. We believe protests will likely take place tomorrow at auction sites, homes that are being foreclosed, homes in the eviction stage and vacant homes. We need to be prepared.
1. Your safety is our primary concern, so do not engage with the protesters.
2. While in neighborhoods, please take notice of vacant BAC Field Services managed homes and ensure they are secured.
See the email here. ThinkProgress contacted Bank of America, and a spokesperson confirmed that the email came from the bank. “This is standard operating procedure,” said BofA spokesperson Jumana Bauwens. “The safety of our associates and third party contractors is our first priority. It is the bank’s policy to protect and secure our properties for the investors who own them. Bank of America is committed to helping our customers with home retention solutions and other foreclosure avoidance programs. Foreclosure is always our last resort.”
But if any major mortgage lender deserves to be protested when it comes to foreclosures, it’s Bank of America. Not only has the bank dragged its feet when it comes to getting borrowers into sustainable loan modifications, but it has engaged in some truly absurd foreclosures, including foreclosing on a man whose home was destroyed by a hurricane and breaking into another borrower’s home to incorrectly repossess her pet parrot. Perhaps the banks’ failure on the foreclosure front has something to do with its CEO’s belief that foreclosures are a good thing.
This week, “Take Back the Capitol” brought hundreds of self-proclaimed 99 percenters to Washington in hopes of impacting key legislative battles that will take place between now and the end of the year. Thousands are sleeping either in pitched tents near the national mall, or in church basements, union halls and community groups throughout the city—and participating in mass action during the day.
While clearly akin to the Occupy movement—many of the people I spoke with today came from Occupy encampments across the country—there is also heavy labor involvement in this push, with several union groups, most notably SEIU, lending organizing muscle. And unlike the deliberately non-electoral Occupy movement, “Take Back the Capitol” came directly to lawmakers’ offices with specific goals: primarily extending unemployment insurance, passing a jobs bill, taxing the wealthy and not cutting too deeply into domestic spending.
Tuesday’s action involved splitting into state-by-state delegations and visiting Congressional offices to push for these specific requests. Some members, like Representative Chris van Hollen of Maryland, spoke to the protesters, while many others did not.
I spent the day with the Massachusetts delegation, one of the largest of the state groups. About half of them—more than 100 people—marched to the office of Senator Scott Brown and arrived a little before noon. They massed inside and nearby his office, and requested to speak with the senator. A staffer told the group Brown was “not available,” but offered to take two or three demonstrators to speak with Brown’s chief of staff, provided the conversation was not recorded.
The demonstrators rejected that offer and announced their intention to wait for the senator. They promptly made themselves comfortable on the couches, chairs and floor inside Brown’s office. Dozens more demonstrators lined the hallway outside—this completely prevented Brown from coming into his office unseen, since the only doors were in that hallway.
Despite being in Washington and voting on the Senate floor today, Brown somewhat mysteriously never returned to his office after the protesters arrived. We waited for six hours, until the office closed, but Brown never showed up. His press staff would not confirm his schedule for me, nor say where he was.
While we waited, I spoke with many of the participants. All of them were either unemployed or underemployed, doing part-time work or jobs that paid much less than they were accustomed to getting. They had a variety of very specific concerns: Medicaid cuts, the expiration of unemployment benefits, the failure of Congress to pass infrastructure bills or more general job bills.
I filmed intermittently throughout the day—you can see a brief compilation here:
[…] On Tuesday night, about 100 mostly unemployed activists rallied outside the swank Lincoln restaurant downtown, where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was holding a $2,500 a plate fundraiser for his leadership PAC.
In no small bit of irony, Cantor had themed the fundraiser a “Festivus” event. Seinfeld fans may recall that Festivus is a fictional holiday created for the show. It involves an undecorated aluminum “Festivus” pole and rituals including the “airing of grievances.” (On the Seinfeldepisode, Frank Costanza declares, “The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you’re gonna hear about it.”)
The invitation to Cantor’s fundraiser asked attendees to come and “air your grievances.” So the protesters did. In between heckling donors and GOP members of Congress and chanting for millionaires to pay their fair share, the protesters stopped for the occasional “mic check,” in which they had an unemployed person step forward to tell his or her tale of woe. (“I used to be a science teacher…”) Many of the people in the crowd had been flown in from Idaho by the Service Employees International Union, which helped organize the protest.
You can watch the video footage of Tuesday night’s Cantor protest below, including a scene where a Cantor staff member talks to a Channel 4 reporter with her back turned before having him tossed out:
The Lincoln restaurant has big plate-glass windows looking out on to the street, which wouldhave given diners a good view of all the ruckus outside, but the restaurant staff drew the curtains so that the protesters had to make due with several bullhorns. The noise was significant, and despite the curtains, the protest had its intended effect. According to admittedly unreliable sources on the scene, Cantor lasted only seven minutes at the fundraiser before taking off, prompting the protesters to declare victory. An SEIU organizer on hand was quick to observe that, while Cantor might still have raised significant funds at the event, at least the donors didn’t get access to him in exchange for their donations.
Cantor has been a regular target of such protests as Occupy Wall Street activists have focused on his lucrative ties to Wall Street and the financial industry, which has donated hundreds ofthousands of dollars to his campaigns and leadership PAC. In October, Cantor abruptly canceled a speech shortly before it started at the University of Pennsylvania after discovering that it would be open to the public. Hundreds of protesters had shown up for the event. And now, the Occupy movement is honing in on his donors.
Cantor isn’t the only member of Congress whose fundraisers have been disrupted by protests. Earlier in the day, protesters had crashed a fundraiser for Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) at the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse. Such actions are likely to continue throughout the week. Given the reaction to last night’s event, the OWS folks might be on to something.
In the LA Times … Spike Dolomite Ward lays out Barack Obama’s essential political problem for all the world to see. The recession hit her family hard, she lost her health insurance, and then she got cancer:
Fortunately for me, I’ve been saved by the federal government’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It’s part of President Obama’s healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months.
….Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down. […]
And there you have it: Obama’s core problem with his supporters from 2008, the ones who listened to his soaring rhetoric and believed he really was going to transform Washington — and have since been bitterly disappointed. This has always been something I could understand only intellectually, since I never for a second paid any attention to his stump speeches. Of course they soared! Of course they promised a new era! That’s what politicians always promise. Why on earth would anyone take this seriously, when every single other piece of evidence showed him to be a cautious, pragmatic, mainsteam, center-left Democratic candidate?
Beats me. But lots of people did take it seriously, and now Obama is stuck trying to convince them in very practical, non-soaring terms that he really has done a lot for them. That list is pretty long and includes a big stimulus bill, a landmark healthcare reform bill, student loan reform, an end to the Bush torture regime, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a hate crimes bill, a successful rescue of the American car industry, resuscitation of the NLRB, passage of New START, the death of Osama bin Laden, withdrawal from Iraq, a decent start on rationalizing Pentagon procurement, repeal of DADT, credit card reforms, unprecedented gas mileage improvements, a second stimulus in 2010, and passage of financial reform legislation.
Were there disappointments too? Sure. Obama badly mishandled cap-and-trade, has a weak record on civil liberties, escalated the war in Afghanistan, has been unaccountably sluggish on appointments, treated the financial industry too gingerly, and failed to seriously address underwater mortgages, among other things.
But that’s to be expected. This is the real world, not utopia, and Obama is a cautious, pragmatic, mainsteam, center-left Democratic president. So how do you win back the people who believed the soaring rhetoric and either don’t know or don’t care about Obama’s impressively long list of concrete achievements? It’s his essential dilemma. Maybe Spike Dolomite Ward can give him some suggestions.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is increasing pressure on Republicans to resolve the impasse over extending a payroll tax cut by saying his chamber won’t adjourn for the holidays until an agreement is reached.
“We’re not going to leave town until it’s complete,” Reid said at a news conference today in Washington. “We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way.”
Unless lawmakers act by Dec. 31, the Social Security payroll tax — which was cut to 4.2 percent for 2011 — will return to 6.2 percent next year. Republicans are split over whether the tax cut should be continued and, if so, how to cover the $119.6 billion cost in forgone revenue of an extension.
Reid’s comments reflect confidence among Democrats that they have the upper hand in the debate over extending the payroll tax cut before it expires. Reid filed a motion today that sets up a Dec. 9 procedural vote for a Democratic proposal that includes the extension.
Reid said President Barack Obama told Democratic leaders at the White House this morning that he would postpone his holiday vacation if no agreement has been reached on the payroll tax.
“Michelle and the girls are going to have a great time in Hawaii,” Reid paraphrased Obama as saying. “They want me to be here.”
Press Release: Posted by DNC Press on Wednesday, December 07, 2011 at 3:27 p.m. ET
Mitt Romney’s two decade political career has been characterized by one reboot after another of his campaign, political strategy and even his beliefs. If you combine the number of times Mitt Romney has “revamped” his approach to his various campaigns and his positions on the issues he could easily be diagnosed with multiple political personality disorder–or MPPD.
If we were extremely generous and set aside Mitt Romney’s constant and politically calculated shape-shifting on issues, looking only at his multiple political personalities over the course of his nearly 20 year political career, we still woke this morning to at least personality number five after the latest re-launch of his campaign.
Here’s a look at the multiple political personalities of Mitt Romney:
The Unabashed Social Liberal: When he ran for the Senate in 1994, he was an unabashed social liberal–proclaiming to be more of a champion for gay rights and a woman’s right to choose than even Ted Kennedy. He also held himself out as the ultimate independent Republican–famously rejecting the Reagan-Bush era by declaring in one debate with Kennedy: “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”
The Competent Manager: By the time he ran for Governor in 2002, Mitt Romney was on to personality number two–the competent manager who was best suited to run the state–a moderate Republican who promoted the role of government in solving tough problems like health care and climate change–and who was still a social liberal on issues like abortion.
The Social Conservative: By 2007 when he started running for President, Mitt Romney, who once said he be a better advocate for gay rights than Ted Kennedy, ran as a social conservative–appearing before every right wing social gathering he could find to promote his brand new anti-choice, anti-gay rights social views. He even tried to out-social conservative Mike Huckabee and ran hard to win over Iowa’s social conservative voters in an unsuccessful effort to win the state’s first in the nation caucus.
The Economic “Mr. Fix-It”: After personality number three failed to win Romney the Republican nomination in 2008, he was on to political personality number four in 2011. An economic “Mr. Fix It” whose private sector experience was supposed to set him apart from the rest of the field. Gone were his desperate appeals to social conservatives to accept him as one of their own and instead Romney, for the better part of year, focused almost exclusively on the economy and shied away from personal political attacks on his primary opponents.
But while Romney campaigned as the presumed nominee–training all his fire on President Obama and ignoring his rivals–an unexpected roadblock popped up in his path in the form of…Newt Gingrich.
PalainRich (Palin-Cain-Gingrich): Time for another reboot, and political personality number five. Now Mitt Romney has morphed into some bizarre version of Sarah Palin, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. In a speech today he stopped even pretending he cares about the middle class and instead echoed these tea party favorites in blaming the middle class for the struggles they face. Instead of believing that Americans are greater together, Mitt Romney has, overnight, adopted the far right wing view that the middle class and people trying to enter it should simply be on their own to fend for themselves.
Mitt Romney woke up this morning channeling the inner tea party voices of the likes of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich for one reason and one reason alone: to try to gin up interest for a campaign that has rarely found the support of more than 25 percent of the primary electorate. After all, what’s a candidate to do when he’s been campaigning for president for half a decade but still has 75 to 80 percent of voters in HIS OWN party who prefer someone else – almost anyone else – to him?
The Romney campaign also signaled today that they are ready to get negative and personal – preparing to send out surrogates to attack Newt Gingrich’s private life in a desperate attempt to block his path to victory.
The problem for Mitt Romney is his latest reinvention is no more likely to be successful than the last, or the one before that, because it feeds the very problem his reinventions seem to be trying to solve: that with Mitt Romney, you never you know what you are going to get and you simply can’t trust him to lead. […]
ROMNEY RECENTLY HIRED SARAH PALIN’S SPEECHWRITER…
…AND HIS SPEECH TODAY AT THE RJC CHANNELS THE RHETORIC OF TEA PARTY FAVORITES GINGRICH, CAIN, AND PALIN
Mitt Romney: “President Obama is replacing our merit-based, opportunity-based society with an entitlement society.” [Romney, Speech to Republican Jewish Coalition, 12/7/11]
· Newt Gingrich: “Over the last 40 years, we have become an entitlement society. We have evolved into people who say ‘Give it to me now.'” [Telegraph Herald, 5/4/06]
· Herman Cain: ‘‘We must go from an entitlement society to an empowerment society, which means we help people help themselves.” [New York Times, 11/6/11]
Mitt Romney: “That which is earned by some is redistributed to others. And the only people to enjoy truly disproportionate rewards are the people who do the redistributing – the government.” [Romney, Speech to Republican Jewish Coalition, 12/7/11]
· Newt Gingrich: “Now you have a president who says openly, you know, some people make too much money, and maybe he should decide. Now, I mean, his idea of redistribution is that politicians decide how much you ought to get to keep of what you earn.” [Newt Gingrich, On The Record With Greta Van Susteren, 5/20/10]
· Newt Gingrich: ‘He wants to redistribute wealth. I want to make sure everybody has a chance to create wealth. You know, if somebody hasn’t created it, you can’t redistribute it.’” [Newsmax, 3/5/11]
· Sarah Palin: “Voters were not told what it was that he truly believed in until we saw some snippets here and there that were uncensored, unedited when he alluded to his desire to redistribute wealth and to fundamentally, transform America. Now, people are realizing what he meant by that. Fundamental transformation of America and they are saying no, that is not what we need. What we need is a great restoration of America.” [Fox News, 8/12/11]
Mitt Romney: “President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy.” [Romney, Speech to Republican Jewish Coalition, 12/7/11]
· Newt Gingrich: “The Administration’s commitment to “multilateralism” at the U.N. is nothing more than appeasement.” [Human Events, 8/9/11]
· Herman Cain: “Appeasement is not a strategy. As Ronald Reagan proved, strength is the strategy.” [World Net Daily, 5/2/11]
Mitt Romney: “This election will come down to a president who wants to ‘fundamentally transform’ America, and a Republican candidate who can restore America and get back to the founding principles that made this nation great. “ [Romney, Speech to Republican Jewish Coalition, 12/7/11]
· Newt Gingrich: “President Obama Wants To Change America Into A Different Country. I Want To Renew The American Dream.” “‘I think President Obama wants to change America into a different country. I want to renew the American dream, that all of us are endowed by our creator with certain alienable rights, that we have the right to pursue happiness.” [Newsmax, 3/5/11]
· Sarah Palin: “We must not fundamentally transform America as some would want; we must restore America and restore her honor.” [National Journal, 10/2/10]
For a politician who once proposed relocating children from single-parent households to orphanages, it was not all that surprising when Newt Gingrich recently declared that, if elected president, he’d ease child labor laws to allow poor kids to work as janitors.
What’s notable, however, is the newly minted GOP presidential front-runner’s explanation. Gingrich argues that poor children lack role models who can instill in them the value of hard work—something that, say, a part-time job cleaning bathrooms could easily remedy. Making his case to an audience in Des Moines, Iowa, last week, Gingrich touted the work of an educational nonprofit he founded in the early 1990s called Earning by Learning (EBL). The program offered cash—$2 per book—to students as an incentive to read over the summer. What he failed to mention is that his group also led to a formal ethics complaint amid concerns about not just who was funding Gingrich’s program, but where that money was really going.
As Gingrich tells it, the program started that first summer in 1990 with 9 kids and ended with 30. “What happened was simple,” he said. “The ice cream truck comes by. The kid who’s in the program walks up and buys their own ice cream. Their friend says to them, ‘How come you have money?’ He goes, ‘Well, I read.’ So kids are showing up to the program saying, ‘I demand that you let me read!'”
The point of the story is that private initiatives often succeed where government programs fail. EBL was a lean, mean, private machine. “The overhead is entirely voluntary,” Gingrich said ofthe program in 1995. “The only money goes to the kids. So if you have $1,000 at $2 a book, you can pay for 500 books. Whereas, in the welfare state model, if you have $1,000, you pay $850 for the bureaucracy.”
But that description turned out to be false. A 1995 Mother Jonesinvestigation revealed that the program’s all-volunteer army came at a hefty price. The group paid its Atlanta volunteers $500 each; nearly half of the total budget of the Houston branch of the program went to one salaried staff position.
A Wall Street Journal report earlier that year was even more damning, revealing that most of the money in the program’s endowment in Georgia was being kicked back to Gingrich’s friends, including Mel Steely, a former Gingrich staffer who was at the time working on an authorized biography of the House speaker. According to the paper, “90% of the $20,000 raised in the past year went to Steely and two other professors who help him evaluate the program. The children earned less than $10,000, from money leftover from prior years.”
The Los Angeles Times piled on, noting that “reading program funds were used to reimburse Steely for travel, lodging and meal expenses during three trips to attend Gingrich’s Saturday morning college course.” The overhead, in other words, was actually quite substantial.
Much of the funding came from Gingrich himself, in part because he had nowhere else to spend the proceeds of his 1995 book To Renew America. After Democrats cried foul over his decision to go on 25-city book tour hawking the book, Gingrich announced that he’d donate the receipts from the tour to Earning by Learning instead.
But EBL was also, as such charities tend to be, a magnet for activists and groups looking to curry favor with the GOP whip-turned speaker of the House. As Michelle Dally Johnson noted for MoJo, the list of donors was “heavy on conservative activists, elected officials, and party donors, but light on educators and people noted for volunteerism.” Some of them were also donors to GOPAC, Gingrich’s political action committee, which was itself the subject of multiple ethics investigations. The Houston Automobile Dealers Association, which helped sponsor that city’s EBL affiliate, admitted that the relationship gave them more access to Gingrich; the group’s president was later invited to testify before Congress about the luxury tax.
It was that overlap between political activism and private enterprise that ultimately led Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to formally request an ethics investigation into Gingrich and Earning by Learning in 1996.
House rules prohibit members from using their Congressional resources (such as office space) for personal endeavors. In 2010, for instance, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was censured by his colleagues for, among other things, using official House stationary to solicit funds for City College of New York, which was naming its school of public policy after him. Miller, at the behest of Ralph Nader’s Congressional Accountability Project, alleged that Gingrich had violated those standards through Earning by Learning.
The case concerned Donald Jones, a Wisconsin-based telecommunications entrepreneur—and a major donor to Gingrich’s political action committee—whom Gingrich had invited to work out of his congressional office three days a week in a voluntary capacity (through Gingrich, he’d even received a Congressional ID badge). Jones was there to help work out the wording of the major telecommunications bill that was signed into law the next year.
“That the Speaker would apparently allow a telecommunications executive to act as ‘Telecommunications director for Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’ in negotiations over telecommunications legislation—which may affect Jones’ own holdings directly—is cause for alarm,” Nader’s group wrote.
But Gingrich’s somewhat contradictory excuse, as explained to theAtlanta Journal-Constitution, was that Jones wasn’t working on telecommunications—he was in Washington on behalf of the speaker’s Earning by Learning program, for which he served as the president of the Wisconsin chapter. (His telecommunications company, US Cyber, provided the 800 number for EBL, which Gingrich helpfully plugged in floor speeches.) According to Gingrich, “95 percent” of Jones’ time at the Capitol was devoted to Earning by Learning.
But that explanation was also problematic. As the Congressional Accountability Project noted,”Earning By Learning is a non-profit organization with no official ties to the United States House of Representatives.” Granting office space and official resources would therefore violate House rules. Either Gingrich was using his education nonprofit as cover to allow a top donor to draft legislation directly affecting his own company, or he was using official resources to help out his private endeavor.
With Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), a Gingrich ally, in charge of the House ethics committee, the speaker got off with a slap on the wrist, in the form of a formal “letter of admonition” and no further sanctions.
But the controversy over Gingrich’s Earning by Learning program spoke to the larger issues at play in Gingrich’s dealings. Jones, in his role as an informal adviser, donor, and volunteer at EBL,was illustrative of just how interconnected Gingrich’s private and public ventures, collectively known as “Newt Inc.,” really were. (In another, related instance, Gingrich transferred money from a scholarship program he’d set up for inner-city students, known as the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Fund, to his political action committee, GOPAC.)
As he pursues the GOP nomination, Gingrich’s problem won’t be to convince voters that Earning by Learning is a model for America. Conservatives already buy his argument that the welfare state erodes work ethic. His larger problem will be in convincing voters that, given his long rap sheet of ethics complaints and allegations of crony capitalism, Earning by Learning won’t in fact be a model for how he runs his administration.
Senator Mark Kirk explains his opposition to extending the payroll tax cut that was originally passed last year:
The White House has redefined this as the payroll tax deduction. It’s not the payroll tax deduction — it’s contributions to Social Security. And when the American people hear that we have legislation moving forward to cut contributions to Social Security and drive the trust fund into the red, I think opposition would be fairly overwhelming.
Everybody gets to put their own spin on things, and this has become a common Republican meme over the past week or two. Unfortunately, it’s just factually false. Normally, a reduction in the payroll tax would indeed reduce contributions to the Social Security trust fund, but last year’s bill specifically made up for this loss from the general fund. The trust fund got every penny it normally would have, and all the proposals on the table this year do the same.
What changes here isn’t the solvency of the trust fund. What changes is where the money comes from. Payroll taxes mainly come from the middle and working classes. The general fund is supported by income taxes, which mainly come from the well-off and the rich. So, generally speaking, a payroll tax cut that’s compensated for by transfers from the general fund reduces the taxes of the middle and working classes and raises the taxes of the well-off and the rich.
If Republicans object to this — and they do — they should say so. But it’s long past time to stop pretending that this has anything to do with the trust fund, and long past time for the media to stop passing along this claim unchallenged.
So what’s next in the payroll tax cut fight? Rosalind Helderman reports that GOP leaders are working overtime to persuade rank and file Republicans to support extending it, and are looking to package it with a vote on the controversial Canada-Gulf Coast pipeline. A vote in the House may take place next week.
GOP leaders — who very much want the tax cut extended, but not paid for with a millionaire surtax — have concluded that not supporting the extension could create serious political complications for the party. But Tea Party conservatives in their ranks have suddenly decided that temporary tax cuts are bad, because they’re not permanent, or something. Here’s the dilemma GOP leaders face, in a nutshell:
What might normally be a no-brainer for most congressional Republicans is being resisted by many tea-party-conscious members who oppose what they consider a short-term gimmick that would worsen the federal deficit and siphon money from Social Security.
Republican leaders fear that the party, which has spent the past year fighting Democrats’ proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy, cannot now allow the payroll tax to increase without handing Democrats a powerful election-year argument that the GOP supports lower taxes only for the rich.
Tea Partyers oppose temporary tax cuts, because they’ll worsen the deficit! Who knew? Where was this concern over permanence and the debt when they supported a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich?
Here’s another way to phrase the dilemma GOP leaders face: Conservative support for lower taxes on the rich, and not on workers, could allow Dems to portray the GOP as only supportive of lower taxes on the rich, and not on workers.
Mike Allen says Obama advisers are now officially preparing for the very real possibility that Gingrich may be the nominee, calculating that Newt may win because he speaks directly to GOP primary voters’ intense dislike of the President:
“Republicans want someone who can snarl at the president,” said a Democrat close to the White House. “Newt’s snarl is more genuine than Mitt’s.”
In a cycle where the Web video is becoming a daily means of communication, the labor-backed Americans United for Change is out with a new one imagining our future under a “Romney-Gekko” administration.
The video and accompanying web site envision Romney-Gekko bringing us a “morning on Wall Street” where any and all oversight and regulation is swept away forever, a sign of how heavily Dems will target Romney’s corporate past and link it to Wall Street’s lack of accountability.
Progressives had some fun last week with Frank Luntz, who told the Republican Governors’ Association that he was scared to death of the Occupy movement and recommended language to combat what the movement had achieved. But the progressive critics mostly just laughed, said his language wouldn’t work, and assumed that if Luntz was scared, everything was hunky-dory. Just keep on saying the words Luntz doesn’t like: capitalism, tax the rich, etc.
When Luntz says he is “scared to death,” he means that the Republicans who hire him are scared to death and he can profit from that fear by offering them new language. Luntz is clever. Yes, Republicans are scared. But there needs to be a serious discussion of both Luntz’s remarks and the progressive non-response.
What has been learned from the brain and cognitive sciences is that words are defined by fixed frames we use in thinking, frames come in hierarchical systems, and political frames are defined in moral terms, where “morality” is very different for conservatives and progressives. What lies behind the Occupy movement is moral view of democracy: Democracy is about citizens caring about each other and acting responsibly both socially and personally. This requires a robust Public empowering and protecting everyone equally. Both private success and personal freedom depend on such a Public. Every critique and proposal of the Occupy movement fits this moral view, which happens to be the progressive moral view.
What the Occupy movement can’t stand is the opposite “moral” view, that Democracy provides the freedom to seek one’s self-interest and ignore what is good for other Americans and others in the world. That view lies behind the Wall Street ethic of the Greedy Market, as opposed to a Market for All, a market that should maximize the well-being of most Americans. This view leads to a hierarchical view of society, where success is always deserved and lack of success is moral failure. The rich are the moral, and they not only deserve their wealth, they also deserve the power it brings. This is the view that Luntz is defending.
Referring to the rich as “hardworking taxpayers” ignores the fact that a great percentage of the rich do not get their wealth from making things, but rather from investments in other people’s labor, and that most of the 1% are managers, not people who make things or directly provide services. The hardworking taxpayers are the 99%. That is not the frame that Luntz wants activated.
But Luntz is not just addressing his remarks to Republicans. He is also looking to take Democrats for suckers. How? By choosing his frames carefully, and getting Democrats to do the opposite of what he tells Republicans. There is a basic truth about framing. If you accept the other guy’s frame, you lose.
Take “capitalism.” It arises these days in socialist discourse, and is seen as the opposite of socialism. To attack “capitalism” in this frame is to accept “socialism.” Conservatives are trying to cast Progressives, who mostly have businesses or work for businesses or are looking for good business jobs, as socialists. If you take the Luntz bait, you will be sucked into sounding like a socialist. Whatever one thinks of socialism, most Americans falsely identify it with communism, and will reject it out of hand.
Luntz would love to get Democrats using the word “tax” in the conservative sense of taking money from the pockets of hardworking folks and wasting it on people who don’t deserve it. Luntz doesn’t want Democrats pointing out how private success depends on public investment – in infrastructure, education, health, transportation, research, economic stability, protections of all sorts, and so on. He doesn’t want progressives talking about “revenue” which is defined in a business frame to mean money needed for any institution to function and flourish. He doesn’t want Democrats talking about the rich paying their fair share for the massive amount they have gotten from prior investments in a robust Public. Luntz would love to lure progressives into talking about government “spending” rather investments in education, health, and infrastructure that will benefit most Americans.
He doesn’t want progressives pointing out that corporations govern our lives far more than any government does – and for their profit, not ours. He doesn’t want any discussion of corporate waste, or military waste, which is huge.
Luntz would love to have Democrats talking about “entrepreneurs,” which evokes a Republican view of the market as a tool for self-interest. His proposal to discuss “job creators” instead hides the fact that the business community has not been hiring despite record profits. He certainly does not want discussion of outsourcing and minimizing pay for work, which leads corporations to eliminate or downgrade jobs and hence keep wages low when profits are high.
Hidden behind his proposal to substitute “careers” for “jobs” is his attempt to appeal to young people just out of college and grad school who expect more – a profession – not just a mere “job.” But of course, corporations are downgrading positions away from professional careers and more toward interchangeable McJobs requiring minimal ability and with minimal pay and benefits.
Luntz is right about not saying “sacrifice.” He is right that most Americans are already hurting more than enough. They want a viable present and a future for themselves and their children and grandchildren. He is right to suggest “talking about how ‘we’re all in this together.’ We either succeed together or we fail together.” But that is the opposite of conservative morality. It is the progressive view of a moral democracy that all of Luntz’s conservative framings contradict. It is an attempt at co-opting the progressive moral system, because the Occupy movement is showing that it is an idea of Democracy that makes sense to most Americans. And it is an attempt to take Obama’s strongest moral appeal away from him.
Unfortunately, Luntz is still ahead of most progressives responding to him. Progressives need to learn how framing works. Bashing Luntz, bashing Fox News, bashing the right-wing pundits and leaders using their frames and arguing against their positions just keeps their frames in play.
Progressives have a basic morality, which is largely unspoken. It has to be spoken, over and over, in every corner of our country. Progressives need to be both thinking and talking about their view of a moral Democracy, about how a robust Pubic is necessary for private success, about all that the Public gives us, about the benefits of health, about a Market for All not a Greed Market, about regulation as protection, about revenue and investment, about corporations that keep wages low when profits are high, about how most of the rich earn a lot of their money without making anything or serving anyone, about how corporations govern your life for their profit not yours, about real food, about corporate and military waste, about the moral and social role of unions, about how global warming causes the increasingly monstrous effects of weather disasters, about how to save and preserve nature.
Karl Rove isn’t officially affiliated with any of the GOP candidates, but if you listen to him, it’s becoming increasingly clear he has a favorite. We’re not thefirst to notice, but Karl Rove seems firmly in the Mitt Romney camp. What’s more, he’s goes on TV a lot to lob attacks at just about every other candidate.
Rove has taken a stab at just about every candidate other than Romney, and on Tuesday it was Newt Gingrich’s turn. With multiple polls showing Newt Gingrich surging in Iowa, Rove took to Fox News, to undermined the former speaker:
“If in the polls newt is leading by 10 or 11 or 12 points going into the Iowa caucuses and doesn’t win by that margin people are going to say, well, he didn’t meet his mark. That is a challenge for somebody who has not built organization.”
Basically, Rove is framing the Iowa caucuses in such a way that, even if Newt wins, a victory by less than 10 points is interpreted as a loss. Rove’s point is that Gingrich has “momentum” but no “organization,” which means he is likely to underperform relative to his poll numbers, and thus that he’s all fluff. If Newt does win Iowa on January 3, expect Rove back on TV making the same argument.
Add Tuesday’s appearance to a long list of attacks against everyone but Mitt that TPM has been tracking for months now. As each candidate rises and falls, Rove is there to swat them away.
Since Newt’s rise, Rove has dedicated the last week or so to naming Newt’s flaws. Way back in October, and well before the infamous Libya flub, he questioned whether Herman Cain was “up to the task.” And when Rick Perry was considered a serious threat to Romney, Rove was quick to point out that Perry’s position on Social Security, which he called a Ponzi scheme, was politically “toxic.” (Rove would know, seeing as he was an adviser to Bush when he tried to privatize Social Security, but that’s beside the point). Perry was up-and-coming, and Rove tried to scare supporters away.
It’s one thing for Donald Trump to play Republican king-maker, but Rove’s approval comes with a lot of cash. Rove is a key player in the PAC American Crossroads, whose political director is a board member with Romney’s own super PAC, Restore Our Future — a connection that both Crossroads and Romney’s camp has say isn’t meaningful. Either way, the Rove primary is an important one to win, and while Gingrich may be surging in Iowa and South Carolina, it seems he’s got a long way to go on this one.
GOP strategist Rick Wilson recently asked a focus group of Republican voters whether they would rather “kill Obamacare” or have killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden:
If Democrats suffered through “Bush Derangement Syndrome” during the last decade, Republican primary voters view the current president with near-contempt, thanks to the lousy economy and a liberal governing agenda. Obama’s unpopular health care law still is driving much of that anger. Wilson said he recently conducted a focus group where Republicans were asked whether, if they had a choice, they would rather “kill Obamacare” or have killed Osama bin Laden.
“They would have killed Obamacare and waited for the actuarial tables [to] play out for bin Laden,” Wilson said.
The American Prospect:
[…] New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is a leading exemplar of the species. Frustrated by the failure of Congress and the president to reach a deficit deal last summer, Friedman called for support of a third party of the “radical center,” Americans Elect, which is running an online primary to choose candidates for a ticket that will go on the ballot in all 50 states. “The only rule,” Friedman noted, “is that a Democrat must run with a Republican or independent, and a Republican with a Democrat or independent.”
Evenhandedness is the characteristic pose of centrist zealotry. Democrats and Republicans, we are told, are equally to blame for seemingly intractable national ills such as the federal deficit. But, um, wasn’t the United States running a surplus before the Bush tax cuts in 2001? Didn’t President Barack Obama last summer offer a grand bargain with major concessions on Social Security and Medicare that the House Republicans turned down? And didn’t a third-party candidate in 2000 tilt the election to the Republicans, who created the fiscal crisis in the first place and whose determination not to raise revenue virtually guarantees either deeply unpopular policies or a perpetual crisis?
The fanatics of the center wave away such concerns. They believe so deeply in the spirit of compromise that their commitment to it is uncompromising. Every time Republicans move to the right, Democrats are supposed to be willing to find common ground by moving further to the right, too. Civic virtue positively requires it.
The history of climate policy and health-care reform is instructive. On climate policy, moderates in recent decades urged Democrats to support a market-oriented approach known as cap-and-trade in the interests of compromise. On health-care reform, they also urged Democrats to accept a market-oriented approach—private health-insurance exchanges and an individual mandate—for the sake of bipartisanship. But when Democrats adopted these approaches, Republicans abandoned them and insisted that they were tantamount to socialism. In the past year, one Republican candidate for president after another has done backward somersaults, repudiating earlier endorsements of cap-and-trade and the health-insurance mandate. Instead of winning over conservative support, compromise has done nothing to discourage Republicans from moving to the right—and nothing to prevent the fanatics of the center from saying that Democrats are equally responsible for political gridlock because they haven’t compromised more.
“I don’t think you go to the middle,” Newt Gingrich recently told Fox’s Sean Hannity. “You bring the middle to you.” That’s not only good strategy; it also describes what conservative Republicans have succeeded in doing over the past 30 years. If Democrats are to reverse the political momentum on the right, they need to bring the middle to them. There is a season for compromise and negotiation. There is also a season for staking out positions and taking the issues to the public, which is why we have elections. The solution to all public issues is not the “spirit of compromise.” The solution is first to establish the grounds on which compromises may be struck, and that requires a spirit of determination to prevail in the great struggle over the future of American politics.
Though Newt Gingrich seems to be styling himself as the inevitable nominee, a look back at the polling in during the Republican primary race in late 2007 suggests that Gingrich’s camp should not get too confident yet.
In December 2007, no polls seemed to show McCain as the frontrunner. Instead, Giuliani and a fast-rising Mike Huckabee tended to dominate in polling.
A CNN poll released December 10 showed McCain at 13%, while Giuliani and Huckabee were at 24% and 22%, respectively.
A CBS poll released that same day had even worse news for McCain: 7% of the nationwide Republican primary vote. Meanwhile, Giuliani and Huckabee were cruising at 22% and 21%, respectively.
The Florida primary was a huge step for McCain toward the Republican nomination, but, in early December 2007, he was an also-ran. Polls showed him between twenty and thirty points behind frontrunner Giuliani. As December went on, Huckabee climbed, but McCain remained mired in the low teens.
The dynamic of this cycle has differed from the 2007-2008 primary race in a lot of ways, so this isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. But the fact remains that neither Mike Huckabee nor Rudy Giuliani made it on to the 2008 GOP ticket. The history of presidential politics is filled with candidates who presumed to inevitability after a surge in the polls only to find themselves not quite so inevitable after all (just ask Rick Perry, who seemed on the verge of having a lock on the nomination in the early fall). The GOP primary race is still very much alive.
Many independents — 29 percent of them, according to a new Pew Research poll — are souring on the Republican Party as they watch the “frustrating” battle for the presidential nomination play out in a series of gaffes and scandals. Only 10 percent of independents say their impression of the GOP field is getting better as the campaign drags on through debate after debate. A small majority of independents — 55 percent — say their views have been unaffected. Still, these independent voters will be crucial to a GOP victory over President Obama in 2012. Will this turn-off of a Republican race dampen the prospects of the eventual nominee?
Yes. And it may be Herman Cain’s fault: A key reason for rising doubts about the GOP field is all the “recent coverage of Herman Cain’s demise as a presidential contender,” says Jon Cohen at The Washington Post. Among voters who say they heard a lot about Cain last week, a whopping 41 percent said their views of the GOP field are getting worse.
“GOP contest sparks deteriorating views of party’s candidates”
Yes. The process has become a circus: The “seemingly endless” polls and debates, says Paul Begala at The Daily Beast, “have produced a series of frontrunners who, as LBJ said of his Republicans of his day, couldn’t pour pee out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel.” And the GOP’s new primary system will make matters worse, awarding early-primary delegates proportionally, rather than winner-take-all, and thus keeping alive even the most unelectable “right-wing candidates” well into the spring. That’s not a recipe for winning swing voters.
“The GOP’s voting rules may empower the party’s ideologues”
Hold on. The Pew poll wasn’t great for Obama either: Sure, the GOP has given itself a “self-inflicted wound,” says Kyle Leighton at Talking Points Memo. But there’s some “collateral damage,” too. Twenty percent of independents say the GOP campaign has made them more critical of the president, compared to just 14 percent who say they like the president more because of the GOP race. The president is obviously vulnerable, and “a good Republican candidate would do very well against Obama.” The problem?”That candidate might not exist.”
Below you’ll find the YouTube video likely to be making the rounds on Twitter and elsewhere today.
In it, an eight-year-old boy confronts Michele Bachmann at a South Carolina book signing about her views on gays and lesbians. At the urging of his mother, the boy, identified only as Elijah, whispers to the GOP hopeful: “My mom is gay and she doesn’t need fixing.”
The clip, posted online by the boy’s mother and picked up by Chicago Now, ends with the boy walking away and Bachmann with what can safely be described as a bit of a stunned look on her face. The Minnesota Republican didn’t respond directly to the boy’s comments, saying only “OK, bye-bye” after he begins to walk away.
The woman who filmed the clip (presumably a friend of the boy’s mother) tells Chicago Now that — despite what a large chunk of YouTube commenters suspect — Elijah was the one who was adamant about confronting Bachmann, not his mother, who was in town for an Occupy Myrtle Beach event:
I was standing in line with Elijah and his mom. His mom was going to say something to her, but she got nervous and told me she wanted to leave. We were about to step out of the line but Elijah cried out, “Nooo!” He grabbed onto her coat and pulled her back in the line, saying he wanted to talk to her.
When we got up to Michele, he got a little stage fright. His mom just didn’t want him to not say it because he was afraid, because she knew he would regret it if he didn’t. I used to do ballet as a child, and before performances, I’d want to no do it– my mom pushed me to perform. Afterwards, I’d run to her and tell her how happy I was. How is this any different? If we were shown a video of a child before a school play, or a recital, being pushed to perform and not give into stage fright, would we get the same reaction? My gut says no.
Here’s the video, you be the judge:
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Countdown to Xmas: BAD, bad videos
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. ~~ Abraham Lincoln