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Each of those locations represents good paying jobs and livelihoods lost and replaced with subsistence salaries for the sole purpose of enriching a handful of people. It also represents a decline in American manufacturing as Walmart acquires its low priced merchandise from overseas instead of domestically.
By paying millions of workers less than a living wage, Walmart is a leech on the taxpayers as those same employees, often full-time, are forced to rely on public assistance to simply survive. The mantra of “well, they should just work somewhere else” rings especially false as Walmart routinely drives local businesses out of business. There’s a reason New York City will not allow Walmart to open any locations: it’s devastating to the local economy. Unsurprisingly, Republican and corporate whore, Mayor Bloomberg is fighting to let them in. I’m sure he’ll be the first in line to buy stuff there, right?
Of course, it’s the Republican fantasy of the free market that allows Walmart to make it’s billions while soaking the American public. By pretending that corporate welfare doesn’t exist and that only lazy (black) people live off of public assistance, Walmart can continue to pay its workers garbage while using every (illegal) tactic to keep fair wages and unions out. If the free market ACTUALLY worked, Walmart would not be able to crushingly exploit slave labor in third world countries to undermine local small businesses and rely on the government to keep its workforce fed and sheltered.
But let’s not talk about that. Walmart is having a huge price rollback! Let’s shop!!!
For more about the American Horror that is Walmart, in addition to reading up on it, I recommend ”Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price”
The door-to-door Whopper may soon be on the menu.
Burger King, the No. 2 burger chain, has quietly begun testing home delivery of its burgers, fries and other sandwiches since fall at four of its restaurants in the greater Washington, D.C., area, with an eye on expanding beyond that.
Should home delivery catch on for the burger giants — as it has for the pizza kingpins — it could be an industry changer. But it runs counter to long-held consumer perception that fast-food burgers and fries travel poorly — and don’t warm up well in the microwave. It also would require millions of hungry folks to change their at-home eating habits. “There are some real food-quality issues here,” says Ron Paul, president of research firm Technomic. “But there’s no question that consumer expectation for having things delivered has risen.”
In some markets, Amazon can deliver books the same day they’re ordered. Groceries are increasingly being delivered. And retail giants, including Sears and Target, even offered home delivery of fresh-cut Christmas trees.
In an electronic age of instant everything — when millions of consumers expect to get what they want at the click of a button — the logic may seem sound. But what about those soggy fries and limp burgers that folks fear go hand-in-hand with home delivery?
Well, Burger King has developed a “proprietary thermal packaging technology,” says Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer for Burger King, “which ensures the Whopper is delivered hot and fresh, and the french fries are delivered hot and crispy.”
There’s a $2 delivery fee. And depending on the store (three in Maryland and one in Virginia), minimum orders vary from $8 to $10.
The stores try to deliver within 30 minutes of the time a phone or online order is received. Delivery customers must live within a 10-minute drive of the store. All soft-drink orders are in bottles. And breakfast items are not delivered. Delivery times are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
McDonald’s has two restaurants in Manhattan that offer delivery only to businesses. But there are no plans to expand the service, spokeswoman Ashlee Yingling says.
And Domino’s, whose business is 70% delivery, is watching — with a smile. “We wish them luck,” spokesman Tim McIntyre says. “There is a reason that not all pizza places deliver: It isn’t easy.”
[…] Yet if King could see America now, I believe that he would be disappointed, and feel that his work was nowhere near done. He dreamed of a nation in which his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But what we actually became is a nation that judges people not by the color of their skin — or at least not as much as in the past — but by the size of their paychecks. And in America, more than in most other wealthy nations, the size of your paycheck is strongly correlated with the size of your father’s paycheck.
Goodbye Jim Crow, hello class system.
Economic inequality isn’t inherently a racial issue, and rising inequality would be disturbing even if there weren’t a racial dimension. But American society being what it is, there are racial implications to the way our incomes have been pulling apart. And in any case, King — who was campaigning for higher wages when he was assassinated — would surely have considered soaring inequality an evil to be opposed.
So, about that racial dimension: In the 1960s it was widely assumed that ending overt discrimination would improve the economic as well as legal status of minority groups. And at first this seemed to be happening. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s substantial numbers of black families moved into the middle class, and even into the upper middle class; the percentage of black households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution nearly doubled.
But around 1980 the relative economic position of blacks in America stopped improving. Why? An important part of the answer, surely, is that circa 1980 income disparities in the United States began to widen dramatically, turning us into a society more unequal than at any time since the 1920s.
Think of the income distribution as a ladder, with different people on different rungs. Starting around 1980, the rungs began moving ever farther apart, adversely affecting black economic progress in two ways. First, because many blacks were still on the lower rungs, they were left behind as income at the top of the ladder soared while income near the bottom stagnated. Second, as the rungs moved farther apart, the ladder became harder to climb.
The Times recently reported on a well-established finding that still surprises many Americans when they hear about it: although we still see ourselves as the land of opportunity, we actually have less intergenerational economic mobility than other advanced nations. That is, the chances that someone born into a low-income family will end up with high income, or vice versa, are significantly lower here than in Canada or Europe.
And there’s every reason to believe that our low economic mobility has a lot to do with our high level of income inequality.
Last week Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, gave an important speech about income inequality, presenting a relationship he dubbed the “Great Gatsby Curve.” Highly unequal countries, he showed, have low mobility: the more unequal a society is, the greater the extent to which an individual’s economic status is determined by his or her parents’ status. And as Mr. Krueger pointed out, this relationship suggests that America in the year 2035 will have even less mobility than it has now, that it will be a place in which the economic prospects of children largely reflect the class into which they were born.
That is not a development we should meekly accept.
Mitt Romney says that we should discuss income inequality, if at all, only in “quiet rooms.” There was a time when people said the same thing about racial inequality. Luckily, however, there were people like Martin Luther King who refused to stay quiet. And we should follow their example today. For the fact is that rising inequality threatens to make America a different and worse place — and we need to reverse that trend to preserve both our values and our dreams.
[…] [D]espite globalization and all that, the bulk of a consumer dollar spent in America falls on American-produced goods and services.
The reason this matters — or at least one reason it matters — is for discussion of austerity, stimulus, and all that. I often get comments along the lines of “Well, maybe stimulus worked back in the old days, but now it just means spending more on stuff from China”. In reality, that’s nowhere near true.
Why? For one thing, most consumer spending is on services, few of which are really tradable. For another, even if the thing you buy in WalMart says “Made in China”, the price includes a lot of US value-added in the form of transportation and retailing costs.
So we’re still a country where about 85 cents of your consumer dollar is spent at home, one way or another. And this means, among other things, that the rules of macroeconomics haven’t changed nearly as much as people imagine.
The Obama administration plans to establish new rules requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose the payments they make to doctors, according to the New York Times.
The new rules are being issued under the new health care law and will make pharmaceutical companies report money they have given to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment. The payment data will be made available to the public online.
Companies that fail to comply with the new rule could be subject to a penalty up to $10,000 for each payment they fail to report.
The close relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies has been a concern for years. Drug companies have paid doctors up to $400 an hour to act as key opinion leaders and some doctors earn more than $25,000 a year in advisory fees.
Critics say this encourages doctors to over-prescribe medication and harms public health.
Doctors who take money from pharmaceutical companies are more willing to prescribe medication despite potential risks, according to an analysis by the Times.
In addition, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found drugs that pharmaceutical companies marketed most aggressively to doctors tended to offer less benefits and more harm to patients.
“This is not a random occurrence, but rather a repeating, planned scenario in which drugs, discovered with good science for a specific set of patients, are marketed to a larger population as necessary, beneficial and safer than other alternatives,” Howard Brody, a professor and director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at UTMB Health and co-author of the study, explained.
Another study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Chicago failed to find evidence that atypical antipsychotic medication, a top-selling class of drugs, actually helped most patients. The study was published January 2011 in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.
[…] The real verdict on the future of Obama’s signature achievement will come in November — and the law’s supporters say a Republican sweep could pose a bigger threat to the law than the nine justices ever could.
The court is expected to hand down its decision at the end of its term in June. But most legal observers doubt that it will strike down the whole of the Affordable Care Act, even if it finds the mandate unconstitutional.
In contrast, the Republican candidates are all on record as promising to scrap the whole thing.
While a Republican president wouldn’t be able to hand out waivers for states to get out of all of the health law’s requirements, as some of the presidential contenders suggest, he’d be able to direct the new Health and Human Services secretary to slow-walk pivotal programs, dramatically relax the regulations and possibly defund the law.
Front-runner Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal the law, and his policy aides are figuring out just how much dismantling could be done through the White House and HHS, without congressional action.
“I do think the law itself is in jeopardy” if a Republican wins the White House, said Neera Tanden, who served as a senior adviser for health reform at HHS during the legislative debate and is now president of the Center for American Progress.
A new president and HHS secretary would have a lot of power during their first year in office. That’s when HHS will have to finalize all the regulatory details for the state or federal health insurance exchanges where many consumers will buy coverage after 2014.
The concern of the law’s backers is based in part on the unknown: It’s unclear exactly how far a Republican administration would go to slow down the law, especially if there is backlash over getting rid of its popular pieces.
And it’s unknown whether the Senate or House will be controlled by Democrats, who could stop legislative efforts to repeal or defund the law. Even if they lose control of the Senate, Democrats may still have enough votes to be able to slow down or block efforts to repeal the law signed by Obama nearly two years ago.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA and a strong supporter of the law, said the election is the “most important development for the future of health care that could take place this year.”
Pollack said he’d be even more concerned about a Republican winning the White House if the Senate and House are controlled by Republicans, too, allowing them to run the table on repealing the health law.
Joseph Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute who opposes the law, agreed that the election matters more than the Supreme Court — but he also said Republicans may have to compromise on repealing the whole law if they get public backlash over repealing its most popular provisions.
“I can’t see a Republican getting rid of guaranteed issue,” Antos said, referring to the provision that requires insurance companies to accept all applicants regardless of their medical history. “Certainly no Republican is going to change the provision that says children under 26 can sign on to their parents’ plans.”
John McDonough, who helped draft the health law as a senior adviser in the Senate and is now a professor at the Harvard University School of Public Health, sees the most extreme outcomes of Election Day like this: Republicans take the White House, and both chambers of Congress, allowing them to repeal significant pieces of the law through reconciliation. (That’s assuming there is little chance Republicans get a filibuster-proof majority — though if they did, they could repeal the law immediately.)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, appearing at a Martin Luther King holiday rally in South Carolina, warned on Monday that voting rights laws are still at risk and said aggressive enforcement of those laws is “a moral imperative.”
Weeks after his Justice Department blocked a South Carolina voter identification law it said would make it harder for tens of thousands of voters, mostly minorities, to cast a ballot, Holder said the principle of electoral equality was still endangered.
“The reality is that – in jurisdictions across the country – both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common,” Holder, who is black, told hundreds of people attending an annual rally to honor King, the slain civil rights leader, on the steps of the South Carolina state capitol.
“Protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed, not only as a legal issue – but as a moral imperative,” Holder said. “Ensuring that every eligible citizen has the right to vote must become our common cause.”
The South Carolina law required voters to show a state-issued photo identification card to cast a ballot in an election. Republican supporters said it would prevent voter fraud, but Democratic critics argued it would make it harder for those without driver’s licenses, many of them poor and black, to cast a ballot.
The Justice Department blocked the law after ruling it could hinder the right to vote of tens of thousands of people. It noted that just more than a third of the state’s minorities who are registered voters did not have a driver’s license. The state plans to fight the ruling in court.
South Carolina is one of six Republican-led states that tightened their laws last year to require a photo ID. Two other Republican-led states have similar laws in place, while 23 other states require voters to produce some form of identification.
Under the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, South Carolina is one of 16 largely Southern states that must seek approval from the Justice Department or the federal courts for changes made to state voting laws and boundaries for voting districts.
South Carolina holds its Republican presidential primary on Saturday. The Republican candidates have criticized the Justice Department’s ruling as an example of Washington’s bureaucratic intrusion on state rights under President Barack Obama.
[…] Throughout his life, Dr. King spoke often of the “fierce urgency of now.” When he saw injustice in the world, he felt a need to act – and to do so immediately, purposefully, and collaboratively. When he looked upon his nation, he saw – not only great challenges, but also extraordinary opportunities. He saw infinite possibilities. And he saw – clearly – that for every individual to be free, and for our founding ideals to be realized, our entire society had to be transformed.
Despite the odds against him, he was undeterred. Despite the obstacles before him, he kept his faith. And despite those who tried to stand in his way, he proved that – here in America – large-scale, sweeping, righteous change is not impossible. It is not too audacious. It is not too ambitious. And it is not the province of God alone. Dr. King proved that a single person, willing to act, has the power to improve the world. And I believe that each one of us has a responsibility to try to do exactly that.
Of course, this is not easy work. And history has shown us that our most noble pursuits may be inspired by frustration just as often as by faith. But one of the most important lessons that Dr. King left to us is that it is acceptable to be frustrated. It is fine to be impatient. And, when progress does not come quickly or fully, it is only natural to be dissatisfied. In fact, being frustrated, impatient and dissatisfied is fine – but only if those feelings compel us to take action.
As [NAACP] President Jealous and others have discussed today – despite our nation’s record of progress, and long tradition of extending voting rights – today, a growing number of citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions, and problems that Dr. King fought throughout his life to address and overcome. In recent months, in my travels across this country – and here in South Carolina – I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from citizens, who – often for the first time in their lives – now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble ideals; and that some of the achievements that defined the civil rights movement now hang in the balance.
Let me assure you: for today’s Department of Justice, our commitment to strengthening – and to fulfilling – our nation’s promise of equal opportunity and equal justice has never been stronger.
Nowhere is this clearer than in current efforts to expand access to, and prevent discrimination in, our election systems…
We need – and the American people deserve – election systems that are free from discrimination, free from partisan influence, and free from fraud. And we must do everything within our power to make certain that these systems are more, not less, accessible to the citizens of this country… But we can’t do it alone.
Protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed, not only as a legal issue – but as a moral imperative. And ensuring that every eligible citizen has the right to vote must become our common cause…
So let us seize this moment. Let us keep faith with Dr. King and rise to the challenges of our time. Let us act – with optimism and without delay; in honor of the men and women on whose shoulders we stand, and on behalf of the generations who will follow in our steps. And, in the spirit of Dr. King, let us signal to the world that – in America today – the pursuit of a more perfect union lives on, the march toward the Promised Land goes on, and the belief – not merely that we shall overcome, but that, as a nation, we will come together – continues to push us forward.
PROBLEM: No one is completely objective when they process information, especially on the Internet. But what accounts for our tendency to gravitate toward comments that confirm our preconceptions?
METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by KAIST Graduate School of Management’s Yeosun Yoon conducted four computer-based U.S. surveys to understand how we deal with information online. In one trial where a new mp3 player from a fictitious brand was the subject of discussion, 87 participants weighed in with their thoughts on the product as the scientists manipulated their mindset and the nature and volume of the other reviews they saw.
RESULTS: When the respondents felt overwhelmed by consumer feedback, they tended to rely on reviews that matched their induced mindset for their own evaluations. That is, if they were manipulated into a promotion orientation or made to feel hopeful, they became biased toward comments that discussed the absence or presence of positive features. When fewer remarks were provided and information load was low, however, they were able to take into account views that went against their mindset.
Interestingly, the authors found in another trial that brand names affect consumers’ outlooks as well. Favorable brands, such as Sony, activated a promotion state, while less-favorable brands triggered a prevention approach, or a bias for opinions that discussed negative outcomes.
CONCLUSION: Consumers’ reactions to online reviews are influenced by their mindsets and the volume of information presented.
SOURCE: The full study, “Effect of Regulatory Focus on Selective Information Processing,” is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Crooks and Liars:
Here we go again with Karl Rove’s favorite dance partner, David Gregory, carrying water for Republicans and their obstruction in the Senate. On this Sunday’s Meet the Press, while badgering Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about why President Obama and the Democrats haven’t done more to work with Republicans, Gregory repeats one Republican talking point after another to try to deflect just how impossible the GOP has been to work with.
We’ve seen this act before from Gregory. Here he was with the same routine on Morning Joe last October —David Gregory: McConnell’s Claim That ‘Obama Got Everything He Wanted and it Didn’t Work’ Resonated With Public.
I’m not going to rehash all of the points made in that post, but they’re all applicable here. Gregory is still pretending that the Democrats, to a fault haven’t tried to govern in a bipartisan manner and if they just were a little nicer to the Republicans or gave just an inch more, the GOP would start working with them, which he knows full well is never going to happen.
MR. GREGORY: I want to–you mentioned Senator McConnell promising to make the president a one-term president and I hope you don’t mind, but last week during the debate, I actually invoked your name to raise this question about how Washington works. This was the question that I posed to Newt Gingrich during the debate last week.
(Videotape, last Sunday)
MR. GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, if you become President Gingrich and the leader of the Democrats, Harry Reid, says he’s going to promise to make you a one-term president, how would you propose to work with someone like that in order to achieve results in Washington?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I think every president who works with the leader of every opposition knows they’re working with somebody who wants to make them a one-term president.
MR. GREGORY: Don’t you agree with that? I mean, you, you, you led the charge against President Bush. You were pleased when his approval ratings were knocked down. I mean, his–Gingrich is saying this is how it’s done in Washington.
SEN. REID: Listen, you can be against having someone re-elected, but not have that as your number one goal. That’s what’s the problem. We have had obstructionism on, I repeat, steroids. We need to work together. That’s the name of the game here. And it hasn’t happened. The only way you get things done is by cooperation, building consensus. And if we’re going to rebuild America, which I think is our number one program, we have to do that by creating jobs.
MR. GREGORY: Talk about who should have the most influence in this new year and Gallup has a poll that was very interesting. I’ll put it up on the screen. Forty-six percent said President Obama, but 42 percent said Republicans in Congress and this is after you and President Obama had been out there campaigning saying it’s all the Republicans’ fault. They’re standing in the way. They won’t get anything done, yet it’s pretty tight between who should have most influence, whether it should be the president or Republicans.
SEN. REID: We know that we have a unique form of government, a Constitution which I think has been the most defining document in the history of the world for having good government. We have three separate equal branches of government. And the only way you get things done is not having one dictate what happens, not, not the legislative branch, not the executive branch or the judiciary. It’s all a balance and that’s what I think that we have to look forward this coming year. We haven’t had that balance because we’ve had one arm of our bicameral legislature that has said we’re going to do nothing except go after Obama. That’s not the way we get things done.
MR. GREGORY: But you know what they’re saying. I mean, look, you run the Senate. Democrats haven’t put together a budget in a year. The Republicans in the House are doing that. So you can say that they’re, you know, holding the process hostage, but they’re actually getting things done. That’s the argument they’ve made. Are they wrong?
SEN. REID: David, David, you know, having been Washington a long time, how the Senate works. And the Senate works on consensus and we haven’t been able to get that because Republicans, I repeat for the third time, I want to make sure everyone understands this, obstructionism on steroids.
MR. GREGORY: No, I wrote that down.
SEN. REID: OK. So that’s been the problem. And I hope with what happened the last week of this last year in Congress that the Republicans have learned they can’t be guided by tea party because the tea party is putting them right over the cliff. You want to talk about polling, the–a recent poll shows that the American people favor Democrats in Congress by 40 percent to 22 percent for the Republicans. So polling–there are all kinds of polls. The point is, they don’t matter. We’re in a new year of this Congress and what I want to do is to work to get things done to rebuild this economy.
MR. GREGORY: We talk about the president and his approach to Congress because ultimately, you can talk about building consensus, it requires leadership on the part of both parties to actually achieve results. This was interesting, it caught my eye from the USA Today talking about the president’s approach. “In the wake of failed budget negotiations that nearly led to a government default last summer, Obama has largely given up on compromise. `He’s not giving up on moderation,’ said John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under Clinton who ran Obama’s transition team after the ’08 election. `He’s just giving up on the Republican leadership in the House and Senate.'” I’m listening to you this morning and you sound about the same. Have you given up on the prospect of real compromise this year?
SEN. REID: I think I’ve said clearly today that I think we need to work together. There are things we need to get done this year to continue the momentum the economy has. Does the economy have enough momentum? Of course not. But for 22 months we’ve built on private sector jobs, we have so much more that needs to be done. So I look at the glass as being half full, not half empty. I hope that the Republicans will understand, as I think they learned in the last week of last year, that they can’t be led over the cliff by this extremism that’s in the Republican Party.
MR. GREGORY: So the State of the Union address, what does the president say to the Congress and to the country that breaks this log jam? What can he say that gets Republicans, you know, off the sidelines as you, as you would put it, to actually start negotiating with Democrats?
SEN. REID: The president, to his credit, for two and a half years, bent over backwards to develop bipartisanship. He had people down at the White House, he–Republicans down at the White House, he came to Capitol Hill. No one can ever criticize the president for not reaching out to Republicans because he has done that. Since last September, we have been more directed in saying we have to–we’re going to have to do things without the Republicans and that’s what we’ve done. That’s what we did with his jobs bill. We, we kept bringing votes forward to move the American economy forward. Look at one of the things that we did that was so important. We thought it was wrong that we kept laying off police officers and firefighters and teachers around the country. So we said, well, I think that we have to have the whole American populous work together. And so we said the millionaires, people who make more than a million dollars a year, shouldn’t they contribute a little bit to keep the cops and the police on–cops and the firefighters and the teachers on the job? And so what we wanted to do and this is the legislation, we wanted to have millionaires, that is, people who make more than a million dollars a year, the second million, they would pay 1/2 of 1 percent surtax. Every Republican voted against that, every Republican.
MR. GREGORY: But Senator, you are talking about the fact that Democrats are dug in on the idea that the rich should pay more in taxes. We know Republicans feel the opposite is true, that taxes would hurt economic recovery. And I asked you, what can the president do to break this log jam? And your answer is, well, let’s just hope that they’ll do better and come to their senses and the president’s been trying so hard. I mean, there’s nothing here for people listening to this to say, oh, I can see something changing in Washington. The tone from you is not changing. You’re blaming the tea party, Republicans are blaming this president for not, you know, reaching out in a real way, not really trying to compromise. Is there anything that can be done that can really change the dynamic?
SEN. REID: I don’t think, David, anyone can question or they shouldn’t question our having reached out to the Republicans. I say Obama, I say me. We’ve done everything we could to work with them. We’re going to continue to do that. In spite of the obstructionism, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of good things during the last Congress, even someone as conservative as–Hornstein said it was the most productive Congress in the last 75 years. So we can’t talk about not having gotten anything done. In spite of the Republicans, we’ve gotten a lot of things done. We had the most productive Congress in the history of the country just last Congress. I think we can build upon that. This Congress isn’t over. All I ask is for the Republicans to understand what legislation is all about.
MR. GREGORY: Well…
SEN. REID: It’s the art of compromise and building a consensus.
I confess that I took the bait. A few days ago I saw a link in my Twitter stream that offered “Outrageous Claims as To What Went Wrong” with pop singer Katy Perry and comedian Russell Brand’s marriage. (Brand filed for divorce from Perry at the end of December, and entertainment journalists have been hyperventilating ever since.) I don’t particularly care about why they broke up, but as a rule, I’m entertained by outrageous claims, so I clicked.
Of course it ended up being a damn unbylined Huffington Post item that offered no original reporting or insight, but simply summarized and quoted various other media outlets. Par for the course for HuffPo, but I took pause at this line: “Hollywoodlife reports that Us Weekly is making the bold claim that Katy couldn’t cater to Russell’s sexual needs.”
In other words: The Huffington Post reports that Hollywood Life (to render its name properly) reports that Us Weekly is making the bold claim that Katy couldn’t cater to Russell’s sexual needs.
Or, now that you’re reading it in my column, perhaps it should be: Ad Age reports that HuffPo reports that Hollywood Life reports that Us Weekly is making the bold claim that Katy couldn’t cater to Russell’s sexual needs. And probably I should credit Twitter in there somewhere.
It appears that HuffPo relied on Hollywood Life’s account of Us Weekly’s report because Us Weekly doesn’t put everything from its print edition on its website. So a hard-working journalist at Hollywood Life apparently rolled up his or her shirtsleeves and actually paged through a copy of Us Weekly so as to quote from it.
Such investigative reporting is clearly too much for The Huffington Post Celebrity channel.
As it happens, I live near AOL/HuffPo headquarters in Manhattan’s East Village, so I can tell you that copies of Us Weekly are actually available within the building. Many of HuffPo’s staff bloggers are housed at 770 Broadway, a stately edifice that was once a Wanamaker’s department store. It’s mostly office space now, though there is a depressing Kmart with an entrance on the ground level. That Kmart is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Us Weekly is available at the checkouts.
But maybe the HuffPo blogger behind this Katy-and-Russell post was working very early or very late and was therefore unable to buy a copy of Us Weekly at Kmart? Well, within a two-block radius of HuffPo HQ, there are a couple of 24-hour newsstands that literally never close (not even on Christmas or Arianna Huffington’s birthday). Both stock Us Weekly.
But wait. Walking a couple of blocks to buy a copy of Us Weekly might qualify as old-school shoe-leather reporting, which was clearly too much to ask of The Huffington Post in this case.
The Raw Story:
A group of Occupy protesters from California, who were heading to Washington, DC to participate in the Occupy Congress protest on January 17, were kicked off their Greyhound bus on Saturday night and left stranded in Amarillo, Texas.
The driver, Donald Ainsworth, allegedly called the Occupiers “you people” and told them they were not welcome in Washington oranywhere else. It is not clear whether there had been any precipitating incident.
According to an account posted at Reddit by Road2CongressOSD, “Donald Ainsworth immediately began yelling at all passengers inthe lobby. Once he realized 13 passengers were with Occupy he began making personal and rude comments towards members when boarding with tickets. No one responded. Once the bus was boarded he began shouting ‘Sit down and shut up! Anyone standing is getting kicked off the bus.’ Several passengers, not just Occupants, began addressing the driver’s conduct. He left the bus, and locked all passengers within for over an hour. He made a lengthy phone call and before too long the police had arrived. The officer came on the bus and spoke with us, stating he knew Don’s attitude was poor but he had the right to remove us.”
The account goes on to say that the police offer and the driver then walked through the bus together “and Don asked every passenger ‘are you with Occupy?’ To the 13 of us who responded yes, the police ordered them to exit the bus. Then Don said ‘Anyone else support Occupy? You can get off too!’”
The Reddit post concludes by saying, “Also, a few random acts of pizza would be nice:)” According to Crooks and Liars, pizza did arrive from a local Papa John’s, and by Sunday morning the protesters were back on another bus and on their way. They say, however, that Greyhound has so far refused to offer any compensation for their inconvenience.
There does not yet appear to be any published explanation of the driver’s conduct or comment from Greyhound management. It is also not clear whether the driver would have been within his legal rights to order the protests removed without cause or whether his actions were in violation of anti-discrimination laws.
Greyhound’s own regulations specify that “carriers reserve the right to refuse to transport a person under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, or who is incapable of taking care of him/herself, or whose conduct is such or likely to be such as to make him or her objectionable to other passengers or prospective passengers, or who refuses to comply with any lawful rule or regulation of the carrier.” Nothing in what the occupiers have said indicates that they were in violation of any of these criteria.
This video was posted to Youtube on January 15, 2012 by occupy17.
You hear it everywhere. Democrats are disappointed in the president. Independents have soured even more. Republicans have worked themselves up into an apocalyptic fervor. And, yes, this is not exactly unusual.
A president in the last year of his first term will always get attacked mercilessly by his partisan opponents, and also, often, by the feistier members of his base. And when unemployment is at remarkably high levels, and with the national debt setting records, the criticism will—and should be—even fiercer. But this time, with this president, something different has happened. It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong.
A caveat: I write this as an unabashed supporter of Obama from early 2007 on. I did so not as a liberal, but as a conservative-minded independent appalled by the Bush administration’s record of war, debt, spending, and torture. I did not expect, or want, a messiah. I have one already, thank you very much. And there have been many times when I have disagreed with decisions Obama has made—to drop the Bowles-Simpson debt commission, to ignore the war crimes of the recent past, and to launch a war in Libya without Congress’s sanction, to cite three. But given the enormity of what he inherited, and given what he explicitly promised, it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama’s long game—and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008.
The right’s core case is that Obama has governed as a radical leftist attempting a “fundamental transformation” of the American way of life. Mitt Romney accuses the president of making the recession worse, of wanting to turn America into a European welfare state, of not believing in opportunity or free enterprise, of having no understanding of the real economy, and of apologizing for America and appeasing our enemies. According to Romney, Obama is a mortal threat to “the soul” of America and an empty suit who couldn’t run a business, let alone a country.
Leave aside the internal incoherence—how could such an incompetent be a threat to anyone? None of this is even faintly connected to reality—and the record proves it. On the economy, the facts are these. When Obama took office, the United States was losing around 750,000 jobs a month. The last quarter of 2008 saw an annualized drop in growth approaching 9 percent. This was the most serious downturn since the 1930s, there was a real chance of a systemic collapse of the entire global financial system, and unemployment and debt—lagging indicators—were about to soar even further. No fair person can blame Obama for the wreckage of the next 12 months, as the financial crisis cut a swath through employment. Economies take time to shift course.
But Obama did several things at once: he continued the bank bailout begun by George W. Bush, he initiated a bailout of the auto industry, and he worked to pass a huge stimulus package of $787 billion.
All these decisions deserve scrutiny. And in retrospect, they were far more successful than anyone has yet fully given Obama the credit for. The job collapse bottomed out at the beginning of 2010, as the stimulus took effect. Since then, the U.S. has added 2.4 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s far better than what Romney would have you believe, and more than the net jobs created under the entire Bush administration. In 2011 alone, 1.9 million private-sector jobs were created, while a net 280,000 government jobs were lost. Overall government employment has declined 2.6 percent over the past 3 years. (That compares with a drop of 2.2 percent during the early years of the Reagan administration.) To listen to current Republican rhetoric about Obama’s big-government socialist ways, you would imagine that the reverse was true. It isn’t.
Some people (like me, for instance) have argued at various times that President Obama has done a great job working with the political environment he inherited – and the current Republican Congress that we, progressive heroes that we are, gave him – but no more! For I have uncovered the most insidious and monstrously conceived conspiracy in the history of our republic, and Barack Obama is right at the center of it. Its accomplices are throughout the world, in every government, every academic center, every seemingly credible media outlet, and even in me. Yes, this is partly a confession of my role in the plot, and I’ve chosen to come clean now and be purged of my guilt. You see, it’s all part of a scheme called Operation Opposite, where the President achieves progressive results only as a cynical ploy to notachieve progressive results. It’s all very devious and diabolical, I think you’ll agree.
1. Ending the Iraq War.
As we’ve been often informed by heroic bloggers courageously plumbing the depths of this conspiracy, the Obama administration never actually intended to end the Iraq War – quite the contrary. They really intended never to leave Iraq, and to continue, if not escalate the Iraq War indefinitely in service to their masters in the military industrial complex. Every claim to be headed in the direction of withdrawal, and every practical move taken toward it, was rightly dismissed by these far-sighted Cassandras. But it appears the plot runs even deeper than they suspected, because the administration doubled-down on its lies about withdrawing by actually doing it.
But don’t be fooled – I was not. In fact, the moment I heard about it, I said “Ah ha!” because my deepest suspicions had been confirmed. What more devilishly clever way could there possibly be to continue the Iraq War but to end it? Barack Obama is a more sinister character than I’d ever imagined.
2. Twelve billion dollars in new funding to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Creating opportunities for the disabled is one of the hallmark altruistic objectives of the progressive agenda, so it should surprise no one that notable Cheneyite Barack Obama is trying to sabotage that objective by flooding it with new funding. The scheme goes like this: How can a disabled person learn if so much money is invested in educating them that schools have to spend all their time figuring out how to spend it? You wouldn’t call a guy compassionate for beating a child with cerebral palsy to death with a bag full of money, would you? Well, that’s exactly what the Obama administration has done here. His depravity sickens me!
And while we’re at it, the previous Congress run by Democrats – the one Serious PeopleTMinform us was totally useless, corrupt, and incapable of serving the public interest – was directly accomplice to this connivance via the 2009 stimulus bill. So, no hurry to put those evil bastards back in control of Congress!
3. Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, welcome gays into the military, and appointed more openly gay officials than any president in history.
You see, President Obama has no backbone when it comes to taking moral stands – he just knuckles under to wingnut religious sensibilities, and cedes the field to backward social impulses. As part of Operation Opposite, he proved this by extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, opening gay people to high office, and allowing them in the military, thus demonstrating that he either would take no action to stand up for the rights of gays, or that he is even secretly hostile to them. Such betrayal is hard to fathom, but it makes sense once you understand and accept that Obama is Evil and will do anything – even the opposite – to destroy America.
4. Passed $789 billion in economic stimulus in 2009.
You see, that year – horror of horrors – we had evil, nasty, filthy Democratses in control of both Congress and the White House, so naturally the outcome was an attempt to destroy the economy by rebuilding it, make Americans poor by protecting their jobs and benefits, and further erode our infrastructure by adding to it with advanced new capabilities like high-speed rail. Fortunately, we see saw through the ruse and put Republicans in control of Congress in 2010, after which the results have been much better – no more sinister attempts to get us by doing the opposite. Only honest, straightforward, open attempts to get us.
5. Created more private sector jobs in 2010 than during all 8 of Bush’s years.
Well, what do you expect from a corporatist sellout? The only reason more jobs were created is so that The People would be even more closely controlled by Big Business. Plus, clearly the quality of the jobs created under Obama is lower than the quality of the jobs not created under Bush, so the logic all works out that Obama has a terrible economic record.
6. Voluntary disclosure of White House visitors for the first time in US history.
A blatant example of the secrecy and authoritarianism of this administration. They’ll disclose who visits the White House, but why won’t they disclose who visits CIA station chiefs in war zones? The answer is clear – Operation Opposite. Do what appears to be progressive things when it makes sense, only to empower them to do the direct opposite when it doesn’t. It’s fascism, plain and simple. Obama pulls these voluntary stunts, even though Congress has never come anywhere near to requiring it, because he’s trying to trick you into thinking he cares about transparency. And if you weren’t as informed as I am about his Real Motives, you might be fooled. He is a clever one, that snake!
7. Appointed first Latina to the US Supreme Court.
And therein lies proof that he is racist. See, the fact that it is first means he had never done it before, ans what is his excuse for that? That he wasn’t President before? We see through the ruse, Mr. President – you can stop pretending. We know it was because you hate Hispanics and want to exclude them from American civil life.
8. Promoted social responsibility through creation of serve.gov, a national database of volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer opportunities! The euphemisms of a fascist dictatorship are always the same – volunteer, serve, country, it’s all so transparent. The only reason he wants to facilitate Americans working toward the betterment of their communities and country is so that he won’t have to do any of it himself! Operation Opposite has many tentacles.
9. Reversed ‘global gag rule’, allowing US aid to go to organizations regardless of whether they provide abortions.
He’s anti-abortion. You can see that, right? RIGHT? Or have they gotten to you too?
10. Signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco for the first time.
If the tobacco industry is regulated, they’ll have an interest in contributing to his campaign in order to get special treatment. So you see, any attempt by the Obama administration to regulate business is actually just a shakedown – i.e., an attempt to NOT regulate them because they’re already morally on board with corruption and lawlessness. We would be better off with the open, flagrant, totally batshit feudal medievalism of the Republicans than this tangled web of highly credible conspiracies.
11. Signed New START Treaty – nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia.
The neocon evil is alive and well in the Obama administration. Bush was walking away from treaties all over the place and pursuing new nuclear weapons programs, and Obama is signing nuclear arms reduction treaties. It’s as if they were separated at birth! I don’t know how, but somehow this guy is going to blow up the world with all the nukes he’s decommissioning and notbuilding. If you don’t think he can do it, you’re underestimating the inventiveness of his villainy.
12. Increased average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg to 35.5mpg, starting in 2016.
Why not now? Why not the first minute of his presidency? Why not before his presidency began? And why 35.5 mpg? Why not 35.6? Or 40? Or 70? Or 7,000? Or infinity? Why not infinite mpg retroactive to the beginning of time? I’ll tell you why. Because he’s in the pockets of the oil industry. They would much rather have 35.5 mph in 2016 than infinite mpg at the beginning of time. Exxon might as well have written this policy.
13. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers.
Blatant attempt to enforce patriarchy. He basically said to women, “You need a man to swoop in and save your paycheck, and force employers to pay you fairly.” Isn’t that just plain offensive? If he really was in favor of fairness, he would have been a woman himself.
14. Provided travel expenses to families of fallen soldiers to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB.
Oh, how thoughtful of him to pay for families to grieve instead of ending wars so they wouldn’t have to…oh wait…don’t look at #1 above. Really, don’t look at it! Dammit, you bastard, I told you not to look at it and you did, didn’t you? Well, just don’t think about pilotless drones while the subject of reducing US military casualties is still being mooted, okay? Fighting against Operation Opposite is going to take a group effort, and we need your cooperation not to think of all the ways the President is doing the right thing – if you do, the terrorists win. And by terrorists, I mean Obama. And by Obama, I mean the fictional character portrayed by Paulite CT-spouting editorialists.
15. Reversed the policy of barring media coverage during the return of fallen soldiers to Dover Air Force Base.
As I’ve said, this administration is against government transparency and media freedom. Every policy facilitating media coverage in one place is just a clever attempt to ensure they’re distracted from coverage elsewhere. And if they ever come to a point where they are as open as can be, well then we better be very, VERY afraid, because that means the Zero Hour has come and their checkmate move is imminent! We’re through the Looking Glass here people...
16. Launched recovery.gov to track spending from the Recovery Act, providing transparency and allowing the public to report fraud, waste, or abuse.
Why would he do that if he was already being honest with the American people? Only a wanton concealer of truth would make a big show of openness and public information. The only justification for such a website is that people don’t alreadyknow the information it contains, and why is it they don’t know? Because Obama hasn’t told them! And thus by his own serpentine connivances, his true nature is revealed.
17. Provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America’s Veterans.
Wouldn’t it be better to spend that money ensuring there is no need for anyone in the future to be a veteran than to care for those who already are? The fact that Obama doesn’t understand this can mean only one thing – he hates veterans, and hates America. Oh, and he’s a warmonger, rewarding people for waging war by trying to help their families and treat their injuries and psychological conditions. Harry Truman would never have done shit like that.
18. Signed the (2009) Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which provides health care to 11 million kids — 4 million of whom were previously uninsured.
Of course he and the then-Democratic Congress wanted to give children health care – so they can grow up to die fighting as pilots of UAV drones…err, wait, go back and strike that. Obama wants them to vote for him when they grow up, after his term limits have expired…wait, wait, I’m doing this wrong. He’s trying to enable NAMBLA by giving them healthy victims…shit, I just can’t seem to come up with the angle here. Oh well, I’m sure it’s there. It’s just not possible he does what he can, when he can to give people health care.
19. Issued executive order to repeal Bush era restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cell research might some day benefit Alzheimer’s research. Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s. Enough said.
20. Signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis
Aww, he signed it, did he? So courageous of him to pick up a pen and write his name. He might as well have written it in blood on the backs of all the disabled people all across the world who he has totally failed to do anything to help. And since he won’t help them, he’s actually hurting them. He hates them. He plans to euthanize them. He plans to sell their bodies to dog food companies, and then use the proceeds to deceive more disabled people into thinking he cares about them!
All factual claims are courtesy of whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar. I should note these aren’t prioritized or cherry-picked accomplishments, just randomly selected ones from an apparently quite deep well of them. But just to show I’m not being unfair, I’ll address at least the most legitimate criticism currently floating around:
21. Signed NDAA.
Well, he signed a bill that codified the status quo, and contrary to so many seemingly unkillable zombie memes out there, does not allow indefinite detention of Americans: I personally read that section of the bill, so don’t bother arguing with me on this unless you intend to claim the language I read wasn’t what was in the bill as passed. Outrage-driven zeitgeist editorials are not more credible to me than my “lyin’ eyes.” Anyway, one would have to believe in Operation Opposite to claim thePresident refused to sign the original, far worse bill, and then made a signing statement interpreting the revised one the way I describe it to be, because he doesn’trespect the Bill of Rights and wants the power to detain Americans indefinitely. I can accept critical interpretations of his signing the bill – i.e., that he didn’t think it worthy of political capital to hold back over status quo detention provisions, or the very real possibility that a Republican president in the future would unlawfully cite it in detaining Americans – but not outright bigoted interpretations based on fantasies of a power-hungry Bushian figure merely pretending to be what he appears, a liberal President who regards issues dispassionately in context.
As long as every last positive thing this President accomplishes elicits a blizzard of “Yeahbuts” and Opposite Day interpretations implying that even when he’s right, he’s wrong, I’m going to post meta diaries like this. Please limit your criticism to things that are actually worthy of it, like NDAA, and please limit those criticisms to what was actually done in those cases, not what some echo-chamber meme merely asserts.
[…] To begin with, this comparison is dangerous ground for Romney. In stark contrast to President Obama’s gutsy, make-or-break decision, Romney advocated for a completely different approach to the floundering American automakers: let them go bankrupt, apparently with no concern for the workers at those companies themselves or all other smaller businesses that supplied them. This stark contrast in policies and values will be a key contrast for the president to use against Romney. Romney’s defense is hypocritical first and foremost because he is comparing his actions at Bain Capital to policies that by his own admission he would not have engaged in. But more to the point, it’s also a defense that makes him completely disqualified to be president of the United States. Romney’s supposition that his actions at Bain Capital have any relation to those of the president toward American automakers shows a complete lack of understanding of the relative purposes of the private sector and the public sector. It shows a total lack of understanding about the role of the working class in any other capacity than people who can make money for him. And it shows the difference in ethnics and perspective between a vulture capitalist and a community organizer from Chicago.
The very idea that being a leveraged buyout kingpin makes one qualified to run the largest economy in the world is the result of a disease in American thinking: if we only ran the country more like a business, we as a nation would be more successful.Clearly, the truth is far more complex. In a private business, reducing employee salaries can result in increased profits, but in a national economy, those salary reductions will have a cascading effect as the economic output of those same workers is reduced. But even then, that idea was tolerable back when “running a business” was more associated with the antiquated notion of having a strategy for long-term growth. From that perspective, making investments in employees for the sake of improving productivity or attracting top talent would have been considered as sensible as a government making long-term investments in education to improve the quality and productivity of its future workforce. […]
From a moral point of view, this should be a deal-breaker for the American people. Not because being part of the .1 percent of American incomes automatically disqualifies him—so, too, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his time—but because being the president of an entire nation requires a sense of empathy for the working class that is fundamentally incompatible with being a successful vulture capitalist.
But even if Romney’s supporters could make the case that he has the type of empathy and moral judgment that would be required of him to lead this country successfully, the larger question is whether he would even understand how to go about it. When Romney described President Obama’s rescue of the American auto industry, he said that President Obama did it to”save the business.” That perspective shows an absolute lack of understanding of the motivations a president must have when making decisions on whether to intervene. President Obama did not do it to save a business; he did it to save an economy. Romney speaks of the rescue as he might about an investor of last resort baling out a struggling company in the hopes of a long-term rate of return should the company return to health, as if the decision could be so simply boiled down. Romney does even seem to have the perspective that it’s not about the individual business: it’s about all the businesses that depend on that business. It’s about all the workers who make money at that business. It’s about all the goods and services that those workers purchase with that money, and about what those providers purchase in turn. It’s not just a business; it’s not even just an industry. It’s about the entire local economies that are dependent on that industry—economies that, if Mitt Romney had had his way, would have become hollowed-out shells that would always reminisce about days long gone by.
In the general election, voters will face a crucial choice. It will be a choice between a candidate who understands that an economy needs to work for everybody, and a candidate who can’t see past whether his fellow investors make or lose money on the deal.
The Political Carnival:
Yesterday I posted about the Occupy movement’s potential effect on campaign finance reform and thehorrendous Citizens United ruling. Today the L.A. Times posted an editorial called “Hunted by the ‘super PACs’” which goes into “how delicious it is that the impact of Citizens United in the current presidential campaign has been to cut down one Republican candidate and to turn on a second.”
It’s been encouraging to see the media finally giving more attention to the repercussions of that case, including Stephen Colbert’s own super PAC, and how, in about five minutes, he was able to point out the lunacy of Citizens United and how undisclosed political donors can shape elections.
It didn’t have to be this way. In deciding Citizens United, the court could have confined its ruling to the facts before it. Instead, it swung for the fences (let’s hear it for “conservative judicial activism”) and set out to make sweeping new constitutional law. It achieved that, and unleashed this new torrent of money in politics. […]
A ruling by a conservative-dominated Supreme Court and cheered by Republicans has funded attacks on two prominent GOP candidates; those ads in one case were put together by former aides to the front-runner and in the other case paid for by a leading supporter of the challenger, though both candidates deny any connection to the work being done on their behalf. And the substance of the ads has been to accuse Gingrich of being unreliable as a politician and Romney of being unscrupulous in business. That’s Citizens United at work, and Republicans may be reminded to be careful what they wish for.
If there was one clear message from the Republican establishment this weekend, it was this: If Mitt Romney wins in South Carolina, he will be the nominee.
On Sunday, less than a week from the January 21 primary in South Carolina, Republicans were explicit in framing Saturday’s primary in the Palmetto State as the last chance for the other candidates to stop Romney’s momentum or concede defeat. They were also clear about one other thing: they want Romney to wrap up the nomination ASAP.
There was a time when Republicans wanted a primary more drawn-out than in previous years. They even tweaked their primary rules for allotting delegates so that the process would take a little bit longer, the goal being that the contest would draw attention and create momentum going into the general election. Not anymore. Now, they want the primary to wrap up quickly, and they’re using the South Carolina deadline to frame the race as in the home stretch.
Once Newt Gingrich and the super PAC behind him unleashed their anti-Bain attacks, and Rick Perry tagged along with comments about “vulture capitalism,” Republicans have re-evaluated their desire for a more protracted battle. As Dave Weigel has pointed out, it’s one thing for Democrats to give a liberal critique of Bain Capital-style capitalism, but it lends those critiques a whole new level of respectability when it comes out of the mouths of conservatives like Gingrich and Perry. For all the spin we usually see on TV, Republicans are pretty clear that this is a serious concern.
“If Romney is our nominee, there will be numbers of ads, many ads run by the President talking about what Republicans said about our own nominee,” Scott explained, “I think that’s just bad for the country because I think the country absolutely needs a new President.”
“This is our election to lose,” Graham said. “And the only way we’re going to lose it, if we go too long in time in terms of the primary, and our attacks go too far. We haven’t done that yet.”
It’s not just the forces coalescing around Romney who are calling South Carolina the deciding state. For days, Newt Gingrich has been saying South Carolina is make or break for him – a message that he hopes will bring out his supporters. “[T]o vote for anybody but Gingrich is, in fact, to help Romney win the nomination and to help him win the primary in South Carolina,” Gingrich told NBC’s David Gregory Sunday. “I think that’s the heart of the message for the next six days.”
Should Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney choose to release his tax returns, it likely will spur yet more debate about how much the rich should pay in taxes.
In particular, a lot of scrutiny may be given to how much tax Romney paid on the money he has made from Bain Capital, an investment firm he founded in 1984 and left in 1999.
That’s because the U.S. tax code lets fund managers of some investment firms pay a far lower tax rate on much of their compensation than they would if that money were treated as a salary or bonus.
The rule applies to managers of venture capital funds and private equity funds, both of which Bain runs.
The firm, which is a privately held investment partnership, uses money from outside investors to either invest in start-ups, buy out public companies, or invest capital in private ones, all in an attempt to boost their value and sell them at a profit.
Compensation for general partners — as Romney was at Bain — is typically based in part on the profits made on winning investments.
The partnership will set a minimum rate of return that the fund must achieve when it sells an asset, say 8%. And the general partners then get 20% of any profits above that. That compensation is called “carried interest.”
But rather than being taxed as regular income — rates on which go as high as 35% – carried interest is taxed at the much lower capital gains rate of 15%.
The case made for applying the capital gains rate is to encourage investment. But general partners are entitled to carried interest even if they have not invested their own money in the fund (although most do invest some).
That’s why many — including President Obama — have called for carried interest to be taxed as regular income that is paid in exchange for investment services.
General partners are also paid a fixed management fee, which is taxed as ordinary income. Typically that fee is worth about 2% of the fund’s assets.
Since 1999, Romney – whose personal fortune is estimated to be as high as $264 million — has continued to profit from Bain’s work thanks to the terms of his retirement package.
Those who support taxing carried interest as a capital gain make a few arguments.
First, they say, the “sweat equity” of the general partner is as valuable as the financial equity of fund investors.
Second, the partner gets paid carried interest only if the fund does well. And it’s potentially subject to a clawback if other asset sales don’t meet their minimum “hurdle” rates.
Last, they contend, if rates did go up, it would discourage investment and risk-taking.
“Carried interest is an important aspect of the capital gains tax system that is based on the uniquely American principle that we reward those who take entrepreneurial risk, whether that risk involves investing capital or other aspects of ownership that require years of time, effort, and vision,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the Private Equity Growth Capital Council.
Others aren’t convinced.
“It’s not going to change how people do business,” said Victor Fleischer, an associate professor of law specializing in venture capital and private equity taxation at the University of Colorado. That’s because the tax increase would only affect general partners, not the people who invest the bulk of money in private equity funds, he said.
Moreover, just because carried interest is dependent on good performance and may be clawed back isn’t reason to tax it more lightly than other income, Fleischer added.
“The fact that compensation is risky and not guaranteed doesn’t justify treating it as a capital gain.”
Since 2007, measures to tax carried interest as ordinary income have been included in various bills, often to help pay for the cost of other tax cuts or spending increases. Should the change ever pass, it’s not expected to swell federal coffers, raising less than $20 billion over 10 years.
Mitt Romney has indicated that he would be the first major party presidential candidate in modern history to refuse to release his tax returns. Romney hasn’t explained why, but it could be possible that Romney is attempting to cover-up hiding his fortune offshore.
While at Bain Capital, Romney utiziled offshore havens to shield Bain money from the government.
A 2007 report from theLos Angeles Timesrevealed that at Bain, Romney attracted multi-million dollar investments by creating shell corporations in the Cayman Islands. Romney then used these dummy corporations — often no more than a post office box — to attract foreign investment in Bain without subjecting investors to U.S. taxes.
Romney was still profiting from the offshore arrangment as the presidential campaign went on in 2007.
The failure to disclose his tax returns have led some to wonder if Romney took advantage of the same offshore tax loopholes that Bain investors used.
Offshore dealings like those of the Republican presidential candidate trouble many, but they’re legal.
[…] Romney has based his White House bid, in part, on the skills he learned as co-founder and chief of Bain Capital, one of the nation’s most successful private equity groups. His campaign cites his record while governor of Massachusetts of closing state tax loopholes; his involvement with foreign tax havens had not previously come to light.
In the Cayman Islands, Romney was listed as a general partner and personally invested in BCIP Associates III Cayman, a private equity fund that is registered at a post office box on Grand Cayman Island and that indirectly buys equity in U.S. companies. The arrangement shields foreign investors from U.S. taxes they would pay for investing in U.S. companies.
Romney still retains an investment in the Cayman fund through a trust. Campaign disclosure forms show the investment paid him more than $1 million last year in dividends, interest and capital gains.
In Bermuda, Romney served as president and sole shareholder for four years of Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. It funneled money into Bain Capital’s Sankaty family of hedge funds, which invest in bonds and other debt issued by corporations, as well as bank loans.
Like thousands of similar financial entities, Sankaty maintains no office or staff in Bermuda. Its only presence consists of a nameplate at a lawyer’s office in downtown Hamilton, capital of the British island territory.
“It’s just a mail drop, essentially,” said Marc B. Wolpow, who worked with Romney for nine years at Bain Capital and who set up Sankaty Ltd. in October 1997 without ever visiting Bermuda. “There’s no one doing any work down there other than lawyers.”
Investing through what’s known as a blocker corporation in Bermuda protects tax-exempt American institutions, such as pension plans, hospitals and university endowments, from paying a 35% tax on what the Internal Revenue Service calls “unrelated business income” from domestic hedge funds that invest in debt, experts say.
Kevin Madden, Romney’s campaign spokesman, said there was nothing improper about the Bermuda arrangement, or in Romney’s investment in the Cayman fund. In neither case, Madden said, did Romney gain the ability to defer or avoid paying U.S. taxes.
“I would disagree that these could be described as tax loopholes,” he said. “These are perfectly normal and perfectly legal arrangements that American companies put together to be successful in the market.”
The Cayman fund is registered at P.O. Box 908GT on Grand Cayman Island, corporate records show. Like the Bermuda company, it maintains no office or staff overseas.
Romney first purchased a 3.25% share of the Cayman fund, and was listed as a “general partner (passive)” before his retirement from Bain Capital in late 2001, records show. He put his financial assets into a blind trust in January 2003, when he took office as Massachusetts governor.
Brad Malt, who controls Romney’s financial trust, said Bain Capital organized the Cayman fund to attract money from foreign institutional investors.
“This is not Mitt trying to do something strange,” he said. “This is Bain trying to raise some number of billions from investors around the world.”
The privately held Cayman fund does not disclose its total investment pool. But Securities and Exchange Commission records show it has invested through a Delaware partnership in a California-based network of healthcare centers, a Texas real estate group, a New Jersey phosphate manufacturer and numerous other companies.
Romney is the wealthiest candidate running for president, with a personal fortune of up to $250 million, according to financial disclosure forms he filed in August. His financial trust retains investments in at least 32 Bain and Sankaty equity, hedge and debt funds, among other assets, the documents disclosed.
Under his retirement agreement, Romney retains a share of the profits at Bain Capital, as well as the right to make new investments in Bain funds through his trust, until February 2009.
Malt said he had repeatedly increased Romney’s stake in the Cayman fund since 2003. He said he was unaware of the specific figures, but added that he knew he “wrote a lot of checks,” and that it paid a return of 20% to 30% a year.
Malt said he was “pretty confident” that he had invested in additional offshore funds for Romney since taking over the trust. “I don’t care whether it’s the Caymans or Mars, if it’s organized in the Netherlands Antilles or the Jersey Islands,” he said. “That means nothing to me. All I care about is whether it’s a good fund or a bad fund. It doesn’t affect his taxes.”
Connections with offshore companies became a presidential campaign issue in April, when the Washington Post reported that Democratic candidate John Edwards had worked as a paid advisor to the Fortress Investment Group. Fortress incorporated hedge funds in the Cayman Islands, allowing its partners and foreign investors to avoid or defer paying U.S. taxes. The disclosure embarrassed Edwards, who has called for reducing financial inequalities in America and who had sharply criticized corporations that utilize offshore tax shelters.
Eugene Steuerle, co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank, said he was troubled by the growing use of offshore jurisdictions, even for legitimate purposes.
“There’s clearly something wrong when you have to use post office boxes to conduct business,” he said. “You ideally want a world where setting up shell corporations wouldn’t be necessary.”
But offshore companies are now “part and parcel” of America’s booming private equity and hedge fund business, said Kurt Schacht, managing director of the Centre for Financial Market Integrity at the CFA Institute, which represents chartered financial accountants, in Charlottesville, Va. He defended the practice.
“I don’t think they’re loopholes,” he said. “It’s not like they’re trying to break the law. It’s just taking advantage of what’s available under current tax laws.”
As a presidential candidate, Romney regularly touts his successful business background. But he rarely describes his unusual experience in the rarefied world of international high finance.
After starting as a management consultant, Romney helped found Bain Capital in 1984. Initially launched as a venture capital fund to provide seed money to start-up companies, Bain Capital quickly evolved into a leveraged-buyout shop. Romney and his partners borrowed money to buy dozens of troubled companies, and then charged high fees to revamp management, consolidate operations and, in some cases, lay off workers. To cash out and pay the underlying debt, they resold the companies or took them public as quickly as possible.
Romney took a leave of absence from Bain Capital in February 1999 to take over the scandal-marred 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. By then, Bain Capital already had opened its first offshore entities.
According to a report by Fitch IBCA, a major credit-rating service, Bain Capital managed more than $5.5 billion in assets by mid-1999. The total included $2 billion managed by Sankaty Advisors, which included at least two Bermuda-based subsidiaries set up during Romney’s tenure.
Public documents do not disclose how much of the $2 billion was channeled through Bermuda. The Sankaty funds are named for a red-and-white lighthouse on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket.
Romney legally remained the top executive at Bain Capital during his leave of absence. On Feb. 20, 2001, a Bain filing to the SEC described Romney as “sole shareholder, a director and president of Sankaty Ltd. and thus . . . the controlling person of Sankaty Ltd.” The company, it added, was organized “under the laws of Bermuda.”
Today, Bain Capital manages $60 billion in assets, according to a spokesman. The total includes $23 billion in Sankaty debt and credit funds. Half a dozen Sankaty affiliates now are active in Bermuda, corporate registry records show.
The Sankaty debt hedge funds are organized as partnerships in Delaware that produce taxable business income by investing in fixed-income bonds and other debt instruments. Under tax law, even tax-exempt U.S. institutions may face a 35% tax if they invest directly in such hedge funds. By investing instead through a Bermuda corporation, the taxes are legally blocked, experts say.
In Congress, both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee held hearings in September that examined whether the use of such offshore blocker corporations allowed tax-exempt U.S. organizations to improperly engage in business.
“A lot of people are looking at this,” said a Senate investigator, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to deal with the media. “It grates that these people are only using these offshore arrangements to avoid paying taxes.”
Janne Gallagher, vice president and general counsel of the Council on Foundations, a nonprofit membership group of 2,100 charities and grant-making foundations, said the practice was “pretty prevalent” in her field as portfolio managers sought to spread riskthrough hedge funds.
“It’s a substantial tax, and that’s what generally has led people to invest in these offshore blockers,” she said. “I think everyone would prefer not to if they could avoid the consequence.”
Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) introduced legislation that would allow tax-exempt institutions to make such investments without going offshore. The bill passed the House but has drawn little support in the Senate.
As governor, Romney helped raise at least $300 million in much-needed state revenue by closing what he called tax loopholes. Critics called the strategy a backdoor way to raise taxes, and Romney failed in an effort to give state officials the authority to penalize corporations that lowered their tax bills by moving their profits out of state.
As a presidential candidate, Romney calls for lowering the corporate tax rate, lowering income taxes and eliminating taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for those earning less than $200,000. He does not discuss the use of offshore tax havens on his campaign website.
GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has so far refused to release his income tax returns, as is customary for presidential candidates of both parties. Rommey said that he has no plans to do so, even if he wins the nomination.
During tonight’s Fox News debate in South Carolina, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) reiterated his call for Romney to release his tax returns, eliciting a boisterous applause from the audience. “Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money,” Perry said. “We cannot fire out nominee in September, we need to know now.” Watch it:
Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have also called on Romney to release his tax returns. Gingrich will release his this week.
UPDATE: Later in the debate, Romney said he was “open” to “possibly” releasing them in April. “I feel like we’re showing a lot of exposure at this point,” he explained.
DAVID AXELROD TWEETS:
As we Tweet, you can be sure Mitt has an army of accountants sanitizing his 2011 returns. Bet you 10K he’ll release ’em.
New video from the DNC: “It’s all still true.” Montage of Huntsman saying mean things about Romney.
Future majority hinges on results of tight races in Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, and Virginia.
When one party has 23 Senate seats up for grabs and the other party has just 10, the side with more than twice as much exposure starts off with an enormous disadvantage. Nobody envies the predicament that Senate Democrats are in—clinging to a narrow 53-47 majority and defending seven open seats, while Republicans are defending just two. The Cook Political Report’s Senate expert, Jennifer Duffy, defines four critical races as “epic battles.” The outcome of this foursome will determine whether Senate Democrats will just have a bad night in November, holding their majority by the narrowest of margins, or a disastrous one, losing their majority before polls are even closed in some states.
The states that Duffy identifies as having contests likely to shatter their state records for Senate-race spending and remain very close through Election Day are: Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, and Virginia. Two of the four seats in those battles are currently held by Republicans, Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Dean Heller in Nevada. The two Democratic seats are Jon Tester’s in Montana and the one in Virginia that Jim Webb’s retirement leaves open.
In Massachusetts, Brown won a January 2010 special election to finish the remainder of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s term. Although Brown ran a good campaign and had a message that resonated with voters, Democrats lost this race largely due to the incompetence of their nominee, state Attorney General Martha Coakley. It’s a loss that still stings Democrats—after all, this was Kennedy’s longtime seat.
The presumptive Democratic nominee in the 2012 race is Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor who chaired the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. She was also charged with establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren is a first-tier recruit, but she is also a first-time candidate for public office, which is sometimes problematic. In the two years Brown has served, his voting record has been moderate by Republican standards.
Brown had a fundraising head start and finished the fourth quarter of 2011 with $12.8 million in the bank. Even so, Warren’s fundraising has also been impressive: She had about $6 million on hand as of Dec. 31. But, as in the contests in Montana, Nevada, and Virginia, money won’t be a deciding factor.
President Obama will win or carry Massachusetts easily. But if former Gov. Mitt Romney is at the top of the GOP ticket, it could mitigate the undertow that Republicans often have to face there. Fifty-four percent of the Bay State’s voters are registered as independents, and seven of its last 12 governors have been Republicans.
The Montana contest is essentially a race between two well-known, statewide elected officials. Democrat Tester won this seat in 2006, defeating GOP incumbent Conrad Burns, who was hampered by ethics issues and a bad case of foot-in-mouth syndrome. But the race was close: Tester won with 49 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Burns. The GOP nominee this time is at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg, who served a term as lieutenant governor before winning the state’s lone House seat in 2000.
This contest is likely to be viewed through the prism of each candidate’s record, since they have cast votes on the same legislation.
As for Nevada, there are few places with as complicated a political landscape as this transient state in which elected officials have to introduce themselves to tens of thousands of new residents each time they are on the ballot. It is also a state that is hurting economically, with both the highest home-foreclosure and unemployment rates in the nation. Barack Obama carried Nevada in 2008 with 55 percent of the vote.
Republican Heller was appointed to the seat in May after embattled Republican John Ensign resigned. Heller had served two terms as Nevada’s secretary of state before winning a seat in the U.S. House in 2006. His likely Democratic opponent is Rep. Shelley Berkley, who has represented the Clark County-based 1st Congressional District since 1998—making both candidates well known to voters.
Virginia was once seen as a solidly conservative Southern state, but it has come to resemble a more moderate mid-Atlantic state. Democrats did well there in 2006 and 2008, when Obama carried the state, but Republicans have fared better since then. The GOP won the governorship in 2009 and picked up three House seats in 2010, giving them eight of the state’s 11.
The presumptive Democratic nominee is former Gov. Tim Kaine, and the likely GOP standard-bearer is former Sen. George Allen. Each has his liabilities.
After Kaine left office, he became chairman of the Democratic National Committee and spent the better part of 18 months defending the Obama White House. Allen lost his bid to retain his seat in 2006 after calling the Democratic tracker who was following him “macaca”—widely perceived as a racial slur against the man, who is of Indian descent. Still, the race was close, with Allen losing to Democrat Webb by just a point, 49 percent to 50 percent.
[Please read original for massive links.]
This is just too hilarious!
Over the weekend religious activists met somewhere in Texas to try and agree upon a “conservative” non-Romney to coalesce behind in hopes of stopping the former Massachusetts Governor’s “inevitable” GOP nomination. After three ballots, reportedly, the group of some 150 religious activists finally agreed to throw their support behind Rick Santorum.
Or did they?
According to a supposedly “legitimate” rightwing news outlet today, the evangelical protestant backers of Newt Gingrich are now accusing the Catholic supporters of Santorum of election fraud and actual voter fraud!
If they did, it would hardly be the first instance of actual election fraud in the GOP camp to rear its ugly head during the Republican primary process to date…
A civil war is breaking out among evangelical leaders over allegations of a rigged election and ballot stuffing at a Saturday gathering of religious and social conservatives.
At the meeting about 150 religious conservative activists at the Benham, Texas, ranch of Nancy and Paul Pressler, Rick Santorum supporters claimed the former Pennsylvania senator was chosen on the third ballot as the consensus candidate to try to stop Mitt Romney’s march to the Republican presidential nomination.
The meeting was called to avoid a continued division within social conservatives’ ranks.
But in back-and-forth emails, Protestant fundamentalist leaders who attended – most of them backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be the anti-Romney candidate – are accusing Catholic participants of conniving to rig the vote.
They said they were conned into leaving after the second ballot on Saturday. They said pro-Santorum participants held a third ballot which Mr. Santorum won with more than 70 percent of the vote – far higher than the nine-vote margin he won on the first ballot.
“My view is that the vote was manipulated,” said a prominent social conservative who asked not to be named.
Now, a prominent evangelical political organizer is saying to others confidentially he has evidence that in a least one instance a participant was seen writing Mr. Santorum’s name on four separate ballots and putting them in the ballot box.
Golly, we can only wonder if these alleged fraudsters were required to show Photo ID before allegedly stuffing the ballot box for Santorum!
But perhaps it’s just karma, given Gingrich’s admission that his campaign submitted 1,500 fraudulent signatures in their failed attempt to get onto the Republican Primary ballot in Virginia.
(Please also note: To our knowledge, though Gingrich admitted on video tape that his campaign hired “one guy who frankly committed fraud” — massive fraud at that — the name of that “one guy” has neither been made public nor turned over to Virginia law enforcement as, say, ACORN always did whenever they discovered that a worker had been defrauding them by turning in fraudulent signatures on voter registration forms.)
Washington Times finishes their report with this [emphasis ours]…
Mr. Romney won Iowa’s caucuses by eight votes over Mr. Santorum, but won New Hampshire’s primary more handily. He holds a lead in the polls heading into next weekend’s South Carolina primary, though that lead could easily disappear if conservative voters here unified behind a single alternate candidate.
But it’s also not clear that Romney actual “won” the Iowa Caucuses at all! While he was named the unofficial winner on Election Night, January 3rd, by a slim 8 votes by the GOP which runs the caucuses and sets all of the rules for participants (no Photo ID required) and for registering and voting on the same day (no Photo ID required) and for casting votes (on hand-marked paper ballots) and tabulation (hand-counted in public, at the caucus site, with results announced right then and there before results are called into the GOP headquarters and before ballots are moved anywhere), the results as reported by the Iowa GOP on their website appear to be wrong.
Though the charge by Ron Paul supporter Edward True that Romney received just 2 votes, instead of 22, at the caucus where True was a vote counter has now beenconfirmed, Santorum had previously suggested he’d been told that a separate reporting error would cancel out that bookkeeping error thankfully uncovered by True.
Over the weekend, however, Santorum was singing a different tune at a campaign appearance in South Carolina where, according to Politico’s James Hohmann, he claimed “Iowa’s not done yet. They’re recounting those ballots right now.”
Hohmann went on to report: “Kim Lehman, the Republican National Committeewoman from Iowa — and a Santorum endorser — confirmed that a recount is under way and echoed the predictions that it might change the result.”
The certified totals are to be announced by the GOP in Iowa on Tuesday, after which we’ll be able to see who really won or lost. Given the superb example of transparent, fully-overseeable vote-counting the GOP allowed their voters to use in Iowa — which we previously described as a model for the nation — any changes made via additional secret recounts behind closed doors should be verifiable, or disproved, by the thousands who witnessed the actual results being counted before their eyes at their own caucuses.
Sadly — and hilariously — the same cannot be said of the apparently secret vote counting and voter fraud that is alleged to have taken place at the GOP religious activists’ pow-wow in Texas over the weekend.
For all of the fraud Republicans claim (without evidence to support the charge) that Democrats are carrying out in elections, they sure do seem to commit a whole lotta fraud in their own elections, eh? Just ask Indiana’s Republican Sec. of State and chief election official Charlie White, who is now facing 3 felony voter fraud charges and has now been ordered by a judge to be removed from office for it — or for that matter, just ask apparent voter fraud criminal Mitt Romney!
Then, of course, there is James O’Keefe’s apparent voter fraud conspiracy which he conveniently video-taped for us during the New Hampshire primary last week, leading to a call from the Republican Mayor of Manchester (and others) for him to be”arrested and prosecuted.”
Oh, the tangled webs…
Eventually the American economy will recover no matter how badly we screw things up. Ezra Klein explains what this could mean:
Because a recovery is likely within five years, whichever party wins the White House in 2012 is likely to get the credit, and so too will its policy agenda. You can see how this will work. If Romney wins the presidency and the economy begins to rebound, Republicans will argue, and America’s experience will seem to show, that they were right all along: The stimulus was useless and the regulatory uncertainty the Obama administration created with its health-care plan and its talk of cap-and-trade and all the rest kept businesses from investing.
This has been my particular political nightmare for the past year. Ronald Reagan didn’t really do much to fix the economy in the early 80s, after all, but in popular lore that doesn’t matter. Hewon the 1980 election, lowered taxes, radiated his famously sunny disposition throughout the land, and voila! It was morning in America. We’ve been living with the consequences ever since.
Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan, but it could happen again. Sadly, popular opinion has very little to do with actual boring facts.
Mitt Romney levels plenty of attacks at President Obama, but his claim in Monday night’s South Carolina debate that the White House “doesn’t have a jobs plan” is so blatantly misleading it really deserves a moment here.
President Obama has been pushing a bill called the American Jobs Act for months, a $447 billion package that includes billions in tax cuts, funding to prevent teacher layoffs, and investments in education and transportation infrastructure. You may remember it from the time he called a rare joint session of Congress in September to announce the legislation or from the many times the Senate debated its individual components throughout the rest of the year. By all indicators, it will play a central role in his re-election campaign. Disagree with it if you will, but it’s factually inaccurate to say he doesn’t have a plan.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt fired back at Romney over the line.
“Where is Romney’s jobs plan?” he told TPM. “Look through his economic plan – it’s more tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations, and letting Wall Street write its own rules again. Not a jobs plan.”
Thomas Edsell, NYT:
With the competitors for the Republican presidential nomination engaged in an intriguing and unexpected debate over the dangers of capitalism’s “creative destruction,” this is the appropriate moment to explore the question: What does the right get right?
What insights, principles, and analyses does this movement have to offer that liberals and Democrats might want to take into account?
I recently posed a question to conservative think tanks: If given a free hand, how would conservatives deal with the unemployed, those dependent on government benefits (food stamps, Medicaid), and, more generally, those who are losers in the new economy — those hurt by corporate restructuring, globalization and declining manufacturing employment?
The Heritage Foundation, rather than answer the question, sent me links to the following papers: “Extended Unemployment Insurance Payments Do Not Benefit the Economy,” “A Free Enterprise Prescription: Unleashing Entrepreneurs to Create Jobs,” “Confronting the Unsustainable Growth of Welfare Entitlements: Principles of Reform and the Next Steps,” and
A conservative policy intellectual from a different think tank sent me an email suggesting that I read Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise.”
All the answers evaded the question posed and, in my view, amounted to ideological pap.
I decided it might be better to ask liberals what they liked about conservatism. I submitted a new question to a small group of academics and activists on the left: what does the right get right?
The answers they gave describing the strengths the right has were illuminating and help to explain why the Republican Party has won seven of the last eleven presidential elections; controlled the Senate from 1981 to 1987 and from 1995 to 2007; and controlled the House from 1996 to 2006 and 2011 to 2013.
Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union (one of our era’s few highly successful labor organizations) and now a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Richman Center, made five points about conservatives in an email to me:
“They appreciate more instinctively the need for fiscal balance.”
“They understand people’s more innate belief in hard work and individual responsibility and see government as too often lacking that understanding.”
“They are more suspicious from a philosophical point of view of big government as an answer to many issues and are suspicious of Wall Street institutionally and not just their high salaries, and bad practices.”
“They respect the need for private sector economic growth (although their prescription is lacking).”
“They are more pro-small business.”
Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego, is the author of “A Divider, Not a Uniter,” a harsh critique of the presidency of George W. Bush, whom Jacobson treats as a conservative apostate. Genuine conservatism, in Jacobson’s view, has a number of strengths:
It recognizes “the importance of material incentives in shaping behavior, and the difficulty in keeping bureaucracies under control and responsive to citizens.”
It is skeptical of “the application of social science theories to real world problems” and cognizant of “human fallibility/corruptibility.”
It places a high value on “liberty/autonomy.”
It places a similarly high value on “good parenting.”
It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”
Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, is a liberal Democrat who has spent much of the past decade exploring the competitive strengths of conservatism. In his new book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” which will be published in March, Haidt makes several points. Conservatives, he argues, “are closer to traditional ideas of liberty” like “the right to be left alone, and they often resent liberal programs that use government to infringe on their liberties in order to protect the groups that liberals care most about.”
“Everyone gets angry when people take more than they deserve. But conservatives care more,” Haidt writes. And social conservatives favor a vision of society “in which the basic social unit is the family, rather than the individual, and in which order, hierarchy, and tradition are highly valued.”
What’s more, conservatives
detect threats to moral capital that liberals cannot perceive. They do not oppose change of all kinds (such as the Internet), but they fight back ferociously when they believe that change will damage the institutions and traditions that provide our moral exoskeletons (such as the family). Preserving those institutions and traditions is their most sacred value.
Haidt is sharply critical of some aspects of liberalism. Liberals’ determination to help victims often leads them “to push for changes that weaken groups, traditions, institutions, and moral capital.” For example, “the urge to help the inner-city poor led to welfare programs in the 1960s that reduced the value of marriage, increased out-of-wedlock births, and weakened African American families,” he suggests. “It’s as though liberals are trying to help a subset of bees (which really does need help) even if doing so damages the hive.”
Haidt, Jacobson and Stern described the positive or “flattering” view of conservatism; they were not asked about their opinions of conservatism’s shortcomings.
Much of the 2012 general election campaign will be taken up by the struggle between Obama and Romney — and, more broadly, between Democrats and Republicans — to define conservatism and the Republican Party in either favorable or hostile terms.
Two scholars, Philip E. Tetlock, professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Gregory Mitchell, a professor of law at the University of Virginia, have done provocative and useful work analyzing the pluses and minuses of liberalism and conservatism.
In “Liberal and Conservative Approaches to Justice: Conflicting Psychological Portraits,” Tetlock and Mitchell argue that the liabilities of conservatism include the following:
“Conservatives are too prone to engage in zero-sum thinking (either I keep my money or the government takes it). They fail to appreciate the possibility of positive sum solutions to social conflicts.”
Conservatives hold “the laissez-faire ‘minimal-state’ view that, although we have a moral obligation to refrain from hurting others, we have no obligation to help others. Conservatives cling to the comforting moral illusion that there is a sharp distinction between allowing people to suffer and making people suffer.”
“Conservatives fail to recognize that even if each transaction in a free market meets their standards of fairness (exchanges between competent adults who have not been coerced or tricked into contracts), the cumulative results could be colossally unfair.”
“Conservatives do not understand how prevalent situational constraints on achievement are and thus commit the fundamental attribution error when they hold the poor responsible for poverty.”
“Conservatives overgeneralize: From a few cases of poor persons who exploit the system, they draw sweeping conclusions about all poor persons.”
“Chance happenings play a much greater role in success or failure than conservatives realize. People often do not control their own destinies.”
The tensions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ conservatism have already surfaced in the controversy over the corporate acquisition practices of Bain Capital when Mitt Romney was C.E.O. Both Romney and the firm are proponents of capitalism’s “gale of creative destruction.” The question is, has Bain produced enough creation to justify the destruction?
The ideological war has begun in earnest, even a little early. It pits the right, seeking to depict a conservatism that is essentially good and a liberalism that is essentially bad, against a left attempting just the opposite. Looked at another way, the two sides are fighting over what the role of government in redistributing resources from the affluent to the needy should and shouldn’t be.
While neither Romney nor Obama fits comfortably into the role of doctrinaire standard bearer, they have both been shaped by political and economic pressures that have forced them into philosophical confrontation. Political campaigns, especially re-election campaigns, are highly ideological, and this one will be no exception as the nominees try to determine the direction the country will take over the next decade.
A new poll from Fox News finds Republicans are tepid in support of likely nominee Mitt Romney. The results from the conservative network find that only 33% of those backing Romney are “for” him while 58% support him simply to oppose Obama.
Among Obama backers, most of them are “for” Obama to the tune of 74% support.
The poll echoes the 2004 election, when much of the support for Democratic nominee John Kerry was not “for” him but “against” incumbent President George W. Bush. President Bush won re-election that year.
The overall results of the Fox poll show the election as a toss up between Obama and Romney.
In 2004, Democrats like myself made the assumption that we simply needed to get a warm body to be the Democratic nominee and through sheer force of will our sentiment that George W. Bush was ruining the country would be enough to win. And it almost worked. If Ohio had gone to Kerry (he lost it by 2%), Bush would have been a one term president. Alas, Kerry lost Ohio.
Kerry was good enough, but his backers weren’t committed enough. He would have been far better than Bush, but very few people were passionate about him. Bush supporters, especially in 2004, were very passionate about their candidate. They viewed any dissent from him as the beginning of a death spiral into socialism. For them, standing up for George W. Bush was what stood between them and the decline of America. But they were for Bush as much as they were against Kerry and what he (to them) stood for. Kerry supporters were largely anti-Bush, but tepidly pro-Kerry. He was… okay.
Contrast this with 2008, where the roles were almost completely reversed. Democrats were passionate in their support of Obama and his vision for the country. Sure, we were revolted by what Bush had done to the country, but we were also gung ho about what Obama represented. Republicans, however, had McCain. McCain did have some strong supporters, but they weren’t the majority of Republican voters. Republicans were dutifully supporting McCain but they weren’t passionate. It was a repeat of Kerry and a repeat of Bob Dole.
This is a recipe for failure in American presidential politics. I believe to win, being an “anti” can get you to maybe the opposing 5 yard line, but it isn’t enough to get you into the endzone. Looking at the Republican field, there are a lot of candidates good enough to be backed by the anti-sentiment but not one who inspires the sort of dedication required to win this thing.
The only person on the Republican side who appears to have a vote that is “for” them is Sarah Palin, but for numerous reasons that I’ve previously documented she cannot win a general election. It is a bit of a pickle. The GOP’s best fit for what would be a winner has a fatal flaw.
Even with the headwinds facing him, the core Democratic vote in 2012 will be there for Obama. It is a vote for him, and against the agenda the Republicans represent. The Republican vote, so far, appears to be largely an anti-Obama endeavor. Not good enough to win.
- Newt overwhelmingly seen as strongest candidate on foreign policy in both SC and FL. Wrong cycle for him
- Rubio’s numbers with D’s and I’s in Florida aren’t great, but star power with GOP base is unmistakable
- 40% more likely to vote for Rubio endorsed candidate. 30% for Jeb Bush, 16% for Tebow, 12% for Rick Scott
- Big story in both our FL and SC polling is the extent to which Romney has neutralized social conservatives
- Romney winning Evangelicals and Tea Party in FL, rates as most trusted candidate on social issues
- The head to head numbers in FL make it clear Romney’s lead isn’t just function of splintered opposition
- 12% of Florida Republicans more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Rick Scott, 41% less likely
[…] A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows a new high — 84 percent of Americans — disapproving of the job Congress is doing, with almost two-thirds saying they “disapprove strongly.” Just 13 percent of Americans approve of how things are going after the 112th Congress’s first year of action, solidifying an unprecedented level of public disgust that has both sides worried about their positions less than 10 months before voters decide their fates.
A snub-nosed monkey crouches in a mountain jungle in northern Myanmar (Burma) this past spring in one of several pictures of the species released this week. The photos are said to be the first ever of live snub-nosed monkeys.
Discovered two years ago, the species—nicknamed “snubby”—was previously known only from dead specimens. So conservation group Flora & Fauna International (FFI) set up camera traps to try to catch the elusive animals on film.
“I did not expect us to get anything,” said FFI wildlife photographer Jeremy Holden.
But the fourth camera Holden and his team checked contained a blurry picture of a monkey—and a camera set higher in the jungle captured the above image.
“Most people are disappointed in the quality” of the photograph, a detail of which is shown above. “But in my mind, the monkey looking like a small gargoyle in the corner of the frame is one of the best pictures I’ve ever got,” Holden said.
“It hints at the fragile nature of this species.”
A recent full-page ad in many of the national daily newspapers pictures the newly deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and his youngest son, who replaced him as supreme ruler, Kim Jong-un. Both are deep in concentration, as if they are planning something grotesquely stupid or painful to perpetrate upon their people.
But the ad isn’t about the North Korean evil empire. It’s about the oppression supposedly felt by American workers in labor unions because they don’t have the right to vote to recertify the union every 3 years, something that the ad sponsors hope to rectify with the proposed Employee Rights Act, a piece of rightwing anti-union legislation percolating in Congress. The ad conflates the lack of real change in political leadership in North Korea with a so-called lack of union rights. The theme line of the ad is “It’s a new labor day.”
The ad talks neither about the rights of workers to organize, nor about the right to negotiate on even terms with management that unionization gains for workers. Nothing is mentioned about the right to make more money and better benefits, which exists only theoretically for most non-unionized nonprofessionals. The only right in which the ad is interested is the right to dismantle an existing union.
The ad sends us to a website called employeerightsact.com which details the anti-union provisions of the Employee Rights Act, all of which make it harder to organize and easier to decertify a union. The information is all presented in terms of benefits to the working stiff.
As with the American Petroleum Institute’s Vote4Energy website, employeerightsact.com makes it easy for those to act in favor of its proposed legislative change. The primary call to action in both cases is the same: write an elected official, in this case, your Congressional representative to tell her/him to support the proposed Employee Rights Act. Both websites also have a slew of information, most of it half-baked assertions and carefully-chiseled semi-facts.
But one thing separates these two websites: The American Petroleum Institute tells us what it is and who is supporting it.
By contrast, employeerightsact.com says that it is a project of the “Center for Union Facts” and sends us to its website.
The Center for Union Facts never really gets around to giving us a formal mission statement, but it seems hell-bent on doing anything to hurt unions. Some of its favorite hobby horses are the aforementioned anti-employee Employee Rights Act and an obsession with union corruption and political influence. It claims that it wants to get the word out to union employees about their rights, but the only right mentioned is the right to decertify.
And who runs Center for Union Facts, you might ask? Here’s all the website says:“The Center for Union Facts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by foundations, businesses, union members, and the general public.”
I tooled around the Internet looking for information about the organization and discovered that it is operated by a Washington, D.C.-based public relations agency called Berman & Company. Here’s a direct quote about who funds Berman’s efforts from a Sourcewatch article:
United Press International noted that “the group’s spokesman refused to release the names of its donors or say where its funding came from.” Berman told Bloomberg reporter Kim Bowman that he had raised “about $2.5 million from companies, trade organizations and individuals, whom he declined to identify.” Sarah Longwell, a spokeswoman for the Center for Union Facts, echoed Berman’s groups standard claim for secrecy on who funds their front groups. “The reason we don’t disclose supporters is because unions have a long history of targeting anyone who opposes them, whether it be in a threatening way or by lodging campaigns against them,” she told Detroit Free Press. The paper reported that while Wal-Mart Stores denied funding the group it stated that “it has a relationship in which it exchanges union information with Berman, the group’s head.
As it turns out, Berman & Company runs a number of pro-business websites, none of which ever identifies which organizations and individuals are putting up the money. Here is a partial list of other Berman-run organizations, compiled by”Berman Exposed,” a website dedicated to revealing the deceptive tricks of the company and its founder, Rick Berman:
- The Center for Consumer Freedom, which attacks anyone who criticizes smoking, fast food or alcohol
- The Employment Policies Institute, which opposes increasing the minimum wage
- The American Beverage Institute, which fights laws designed to curb drunk driving
- First Jobs Institute, which promotes personal finance advice to young people from a pro-business perspective
We’ve gone through a bit of a maze, so let’s review: One or more companies and individuals pay Berman to create a “front” organization to advocate against regulations and laws that constrain business, including laws against drunk driving and smoking. I call the organization a front because it represents companies and individuals who don’t want their names associated with the work of the front. In the case of anti-union activity, Berman’s front creates another front. The front to the front then launches a misleading advertising campaign meant to draw people to the website. And through it all, we never know who it is who is really pulling the strings.
[…] As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, we rightfully note how much progress we’ve made in this country, but we cannot forget that the Department of Justice recently had to “nullify” a South Carolina law because it would disproportionately disenfranchise black voters. Since the 2011 legislative year began, 34 Republican state legislatures have introduced bills designed to deny the vote to people who cannot produce specific types of state issued ID. If all of thesebills passed, roughly 21 million voters would lose their right to vote. The authors of these bills claim that they are trying to protect the integrity of our elections, but they’re lying. They are using the fear of a virtually nonexistent problem, voter fraud, to purposively disenfranchise blacks, Latinos, students, and the elderly poor. They’re doing this for purely partisan advantage. A vote that is wrongly denied distorts an election equally to a vote wrongly cast, yet the Republicans have introduced laws to deny 21 million citizens their vote in order to prevent “a handful of substantiated cases of individual ineligible voters attempting to defraud the election system.” As the Brennan Center for Justice explains, there’s a good reason that intentional voter fraud is exceedingly rare:
In part, this is because fraud by individual voters is a singularly foolish and ineffective way to attempt to win an election. Each act of voter fraud in connection with a federal election risks five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, in addition to any state penalties. In return, it yields at most one incremental vote. That single extra vote is simply not worth the price.
This push to lower turnout and to lower it among Democratic constituencies, is a perpetuation of some of the worst and most shameful elements of our common history.
During Dr. King’s speech, he called for leadership from the federal government, the moderate Southerners, and the black community. He also called for leadership from liberals, by whom he meant “Northern white” liberals.
…there is need for strong leadership…from the white northern liberals. There is a dire need today for a liberalism which is truly liberal. What we are witnessing today in so many northern communities is a sort of quasi-liberalism which is based on the principle of looking sympathetically at all sides. It is a liberalism so bent on seeing all sides, that it fails to become committed to either side. It is a liberalism that is so objectively analytical that it is not subjectively committed. It is a liberalism which is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. (All right) We call for a liberalism from the North which will be thoroughly committed to the ideal of racial justice and will not be deterred by the propaganda and subtle words of those who say: “Slow up for a while; you’re pushing too fast.”
Fifty-four years later, we have no need to talk about Northerners and Southerners, or white liberals vs. black liberals. But liberals and progressives of all races and regions cannot stand back and act as if the Voter ID movement has a point. They don’t have a point. They are trying to screw millions of people out of their inalienable right to vote just so they can win elections without appealing to the true electorate.
The Voter Access Protection Act and the Same Day Registration Act will:
– Ensure that no American citizen is denied the right to vote because they don’t have a photo ID on Election Day
– Ensure that all Americans will be able to register to vote on the same day they cast their ballot
Give your support to those two bills and then you can do something even cooler. On Monday Jan. 23rd at 8:00PM EST Democracy for America will host a Telephone Town Hall with Rep. Keith Ellison to discuss the Republican attack on voting rights and what you can do about it. You can be on that call. Just sign-up and they’ll phone you and put you directly on with the Congressman.
The right to vote is fundamental, which is why Martin Luther King Jr. focused on the ballot when he rallied that day for the government to make good on the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. He’s dead now. It’s up to us to protect the modern-day assault on the ballot.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can be free only if I am free. ~~Clarence Darrow