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[…] The House GOP budget would either cut millions of Americans off of food assistance or would substantially reduce the already-modest amount each family receives. The program, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) continues to argue, is unsustainable. In reality, the growth in SNAP was due almost entirely to the effects of the Great Recession. Its enrollment has dropped as the economy has improved, and it is scheduled to continue shrinking over the next 10 years.
Here is Romney lying about his own first name: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney lying about defense spending and falsely claiming Obama has made “huge” cuts in the defense budget: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney’s staff gloating about his TV ad lying about Obama and the economy:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney’s outrageous lie that Obama has increased the national debt more than all other presidents combined: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney’s lie about his plans to give huge tax cuts to people like himself:
Here is Romney’s infuriating lie about President Obama’s so-called “Apology Tour”:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney’s lie about his father and Martin Luther King: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney’s astonishing, brazen lie that President Obama is responsible for ALL the job losses in the recession: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney caught lying by Rachel Maddow about his “Obama made the recession worse” remarks: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney lying about the activities of his SuperPac in Iowa:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney’s shockingly brazen lie that President Obama’s objective is “equal outcomes” for all people: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here’s Romney in full, lying sociopath mode after his win in New Hampshire:
Here is Romney lying about his record on gay rights: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney lying about the President’s healthcare law:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney’s lie about the President’s so-called policy of “appeasement”:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is how Romney’s lies fit into a general pattern of sociopathy:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney lying right to David Corn’s face about something Romney said that Corn heard PERSONALLY: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney lying about President Obama’s trade policies:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Here is Romney lying about the “savings” that would come from repealing the healthcare law:http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/…
Now that Mitt Romney has finally effectively slain the Rick Santorum beast, it’s time to reconsider whether he’s totally doomed against President Obama, right? Sure, Sen. John McCain said on CNN Wednesday morning, “Mitt has a lot of ground to make up,” but it’s going to be “a very spirited campaign.” Sure,The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg says, Obama modeled Obamacare on Romneycare, but while “Romney might be inconsistent to attack Obamacare, at least on the mandate, but there’s no basis in reality to say he ‘can’t’ attack it nonetheless.” Fine, The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol admits, the 2012 campaign looks a little like 2004 or 1996, “But the good news is that Romney is cold-blooded and hardheaded. He didn’t put himself through all this to run a respectable losing general election race.”
Obama looked like toast a few months ago, and now that the economy is doing better, everyone thinks he’s going to win. As The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson writes, “Commentators tend to exaggerate current trends, so Obama is now generally viewed as invincible. But his Gallup approval remains south of 50 percent — a traditional indicator of vulnerability.” But compared to past presidents, he doesn’t look that vulnerable. The New York Times’ Nate Silver posts this nifty chart
showing that incumbent presidents who get reelected fit a surprisingly similar pattern: an approval rating in the high 80s to low 90s within their party, and a general approval rating around 50 percent. George W. Bush had a 91 percent approval rating among Republicans and a 52 percent approval rating among everyone; Bill Clinton had an 86 percent approval rating among Democrats and a 54 percent approval rating nationally; Richard Nixon had an 82 percent approval rating among Republicans and a 54 percent approval rating nationally. Obama’s approval rating was 84 percent among Democrats and 46 percent nationally last week. Other recent polls have showed a higher approval rating. Ipsos’s polling director Clifford Young gives Obama a chance of being reelected between 85 percent and 99 percent based on approval ratings and analysis of 187 elections in 35 countries.
On MSNBC Wednesday, Joe Scarborough had a far less hopeful tone than some of his fellow conservatives.“Let’s just be honest. Can we just say this for everybody at home? The Republican establishment — I’ve yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment who thinks Mitt Romney will win the general election this year…. I’ve yet to meet anybody in the Republican establishment that worked for George W. Bush, that works in the Republican Congress, that worked for Ronald Reagan that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election.” Former McCain adviser Dan Schnur told Bloomberg that Romney is “in a hole” after talking about immigration and women’s health issues during the primary; Rick Perry pollster Tony Fabrizio said Romney “starts the process at a disadvantage, because he came into this with having not a lot of I.D., but what he had was net-positive, and he will probably come out of it with more I.D. but it’s net-negative.” Even lobbyist Charlie Black, an “informal adviser” to Romney, told Bloomberg the campaign has to do some “cleaning up a little bit of any negative perceptions that were created in the primary.” But it’s not just that people don’t like Romney enough, it’s that they don’t dislike Obama enough, either.
Despite that, however, the real constraint on Romney will remain, now that he’s pivoting to the general election : The threat that conservative party actors could walk out on him, or less dramatically just sit on their hands, unless he continues to toe the right wing line on every litmus test issue. And there are plenty of those. Already, Romney has been forced to take potentially unpopular positions by embracing the House Republican budget and Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, by opposing popular tax increases on wealthy Americans, and by taking a hard line on immigration and cultural issues.
The truth is that Santorum and the nomination process only functioned, from Florida on, as a mechanism for forcing Romney to hew to Republican orthodoxy. That mechanism will be replaced, now, by more direct action and pressure on him by conservative party actors. Those actors will certainly ensure that Romney picks a trusted conservative as a running mate, and will police everything he says on every issue.
So on the one hand, Mitt Romney is now free from needing to worry about delegate counts, and free from having to schedule his ads and appearances based on the calendar of primaries and caucuses. But the real challenge facing Romney — whether conservatives will force him so far from the mainstream that it will cost him in November — will now get a serious test in the arena where it counts.
Mitt Romney’s struggles to win over the conservative wing of the GOP base have often been dismissed as a problem for the general election. Even if evangelicals and social conservatives in Alabama want to vote for Rick Santorum over Romney, they’re unlikely to turn around and cast their ballot for Barack Obama in November.
Still, enthusiasm plays a role in elections. On that mark, the Democrats are in the lead, at least for the moment. According to national numbers from Public Policy Polling, 57 percent of Democrats describe themselves as “very excited” to vote this year, compared with just 46 percent of Republicans. Back in January, there was just a three-point spread between the parties, but it’s grown steadily over the intervening months except for a momentary jump in excitement for both parties in March.
The biggest change has come on the Republican side. In January, 54 percent listed themselves as “very excited,” but as the primary continues to drag on, Republicans, much like the electorate at large, has soured on Romney.
This is why head-to-head polls between Obama and various GOP challengers were largely meaningless earlier this year. Republicans couldcheerily say they would vote for any candidate while secretly thinking of their idealized nominee, whereas Obama’s supporters weren’t yet mobilized against a coherent opposition. Now the voting bloc that turned out for Obama in 2008 is beginning to notice that despite his shortcomings, the president better represents their views than a candidate who would slash taxes on the wealthy, wants to shut down Planned Parenthood, and has endorsed the regressive cuts included in the Paul Ryan budget. Romney and Republicans have had months to delineate the differences between their party and Obama. The president is just getting started at marking his ground, so that enthusiasm gap might grow even wider as time wears on.
While a gap in excitement could have an impact on the presidential election, it will play a bigger role on down ballot elections. If Democrats are more enthused about voting for the top of the ticket, they’ll also be more likely to turn out and vote for their Democratic candidate in a Senate or House race. Obviously, a lot can change in the next six months, but it’s yet another sign that 2012 isn’t going to be the same kind of easy victory Republicans were envisioning several months ago.
On the day that Rick Santorum withdrew from the race, Mitt Romney’s turn toward the general election addressed one of his biggest vulnerabilities according to polls: a gender gap that shows women currently prefer President Obama by large margins.
Mr. Romney fought back on his preferred turf, jobs and the economy, making the case that women had faced heavy job losses since President Obama took office.
“There’s been some talk about the war on women,” he said, referring to claims by Democratic leaders that the Republican Party is hostile toward women with its positions on issues like abortion and health care. “The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration’s failure on the economy.”
He repeatedly cited the figure of 92.3 percent, which he said was women’s share of all the jobs lost since the president’s inauguration in January 2009.
“The president is so out of touch, I don’t think he knew that number,’’ Mr. Romney said here, at R.C. Fabricators, a company that makes steel girders for heavy construction, and whose chief executive is a woman, Becky Suppe.
“And if he did,” Mr. Romney continued, “he probably would have sad that his administration has been a great success. He says he’s not only done a good job, he says he’s done a great job even with 92.3 percent of the job losses being women. He thinks he’s done a great job. A historically great job. And he did not say that on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ ”
Mr. Romney’s figure of 92.3 percent is one his campaign began citing earlier in April. It is based on numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show a net loss of 740,000 nonfarm jobs since Mr. Obama’s inauguration. Women have lost 683,000 jobs in that time, or about 92 percent.
But the number drew a skeptical response from the fact-checking Web site PolitiFact, which pointed out that historically in recessions, men are the first to lose jobs in industries like construction, and women’s layoffs — in fields like education and government — follow. The statistic, which appears to be a talking point Mr. Romney intends to use regularly, was rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact.
There’s one last nugget from the ABC News/Washington Post poll that I wanted to mention. In the poll, they ask voters for their thoughts on the “biggest problem facing the country,” and offer a choice—“unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy, or over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity.” By a large margin, 52 to 37, voters said that unfairness was the biggest problem facing the country. I’m not a believer in the power of the bully pulpit, but this seems to lend credence to the view that—after more than six months of populist rhetoric and attacks on “you’re on your own” economics—Obama has pulled both the public and the economic narrative in his direction.
Combine this with the fact that Obama is winning independents, and you have a result which cuts through the most recent survey from centrist group Third Way. According to Third Way, the president’s populist rhetoric is hurting him with self-described “swingindependents,” another name for voters who lack strong feelings in either direction. There are good reasons to doubt the utility of this poll. As Ed Kilgore points out, it fits the Third Way MO—Democrats should abandon aggressive rhetoric, and push an agenda of inoffensive deficit reduction. What’s more, we don’t know the partisan composition of the swing independents; it’s possible, as JonathanBernstein notes, that the sample contains a fair number of disaffected Republicans who will return to the fold.
Finally, Third Way’s results run counter to what we’ve observed over the last six months. Obama has grown increasingly combative in his rhetoric, and it’s been met with wide approval from liberals and Democrats. At the same time, unemployment has embarked on a steady decline from its highs last summer. Taken together, the president has improved his standing with both party stalwarts and regular voters. Outside of Third Way’s polling, there is no evidence that Obama has been hurt by his rhetoric, and plenty to suggest the opposite.
One last thing. In his post on the poll, Bernstein makes an important point about interpreting results:
Third Way’s conclusion that “Swing Independents think we should fix the deficit over reducing income inequality” promises a lot more than it can deliver. After all, most people have no idea what “fix the deficit” really means, other than it’s generally thought to be a Good Thing. Which is, in fact, all that the survey is telling us. Whether any actual votes would switch if Barack Obama talked more about the deficit, let alone actually proposed something that would slash the deficit (which, of course, requires either raising taxes or cutting popular spending programs or both), is another story altogether.
This was my problem with Third Way’s previous study on the existence of independent voters (as opposed to weak partisans who call themselves independent). Flawed methodology aside, Third Way made an assertion—Democrats should further moderate their language and positions—unsupported by the data. That a poll result moves in a particular direction doesn’t actually imply anything about how a political party should proceed. At best, it gives a sense of where parties and individuals stand in the court of public opinion.
[…] Obama’s top pollster, Joel Benenson, told TPM at a policy breakfast hosted by Third Way that one of the biggest changes in recent presidential elections has been a constant stream of news via cable, news sites and social media, that’s saturating the public with information and allowing them to form opinions of candidates long before the party conventions.
“Romney didn’t just get to 50 percent unfavorability,” he said. “People are clearly picking up something.”
The result, Benenson says: There’s no “grand gesture” Romney can use, like a big nomination speech, to introduce himself to swing voters since most of them will already be well-acquainted with his campaign. And any sign of movement to the center will be judged against a his shift to the right during the primary, and for a well-established reputation for shifting his positions.
Mitt Romney versus reality
Get ready for well-funded, sophisticated, well-executed ads by none other than Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the super PAC that’s about to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence voters. Or as I like to call it, lie.
Rove’s track record includes such golden oldies as statements and ads featuring President Clinton, in which they edited separate statements he made in order to change the meaning of his words to come across as something completely different.
American Crossroads, the shadowy political committee co-founded by Bush strategist Karl Rove is about to unleash a $200 million dollar ad campaign to smear President Obama.
Willard M. Romney is such a poor excuse for a presidential candidate that Rove feels an urgency to jump in early to spread lies and smears about the president, hoping that those who can’t stand Romney will hate President Obama even more by the time he’s done with him.
It’s all they’ve got. Well, that and voter suppression.
And this is why, despite encouraging poll numbers, we can’t afford to be complacent.
Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL), who is running for the Senate, strongly criticized the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) this weekend.
At a Tea Party forum in Orlando, Mack explained why he didn’t vote on the Ryan budget. “I was here in Florida campaigning,” Mack said. “You know that budget was a joke, doesn’t balance the budget for years.”
His campaign is already trying to walk back the claim, saying Mack was merely criticizing the budget process, not the budget’s substance. “He supports they Ryan plan but the process is a joke when the GOP House continues to do the right things and the liberal Senate….continues to kill fiscally responsible measures,” spokesman David James said. But that seems very difficult to square with what Mack actually said.
And while the Florida congressman will likely be pilloried by fellow Republicans, as presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was when he called Ryan’s budget “right-wing social engineering” last year, Mack is right. The GOP budget doesn’t actually balance the budget. In fact, it makes the debt worse. “[D]eficits would never drop below 4.4 percent of GDP, and would rise to more than 5 percent of GDP by 2022,” Center for American Progress Tax and Budget Policy Director Michael Linden noted.
[…] In particular, the officials highlighted the impact the Republican budget would have on domestic programs that disproportionately benefit women — including its call to repeal the controversial health care law.
Assuming the GOP’s proposed cuts to discretionary spending are distributed evenly, noted one of the officials, “1.8 million pregnant and post-partem women would lose their benefits. One-hundred thousand would lose their support from food. Something like education: $2.7 billion cut, that would cause the loss of jobs of 38,000 teachers and their aides, disproportionately women.”
In the area of the three major entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the story’s much the same. “Women represent the majority of Medicare beneficiaries. Fifty-six percent of Medicare beneficiaries are women. So anything bad you do to Medicare is going to disproportionately hurt women,” the official said. “Taking an unbalanced approach to Social Security will disproportionately hurt women because they live two years longer, because they benefit from the progressive benefit formula that gives you a proportionately larger benefit if you’re lower-wage.”
And despite polls indicating the health care law remains a political loser for Democrats, the White House won’t shy away from touting its benefits for women.
“One of the things that’s outlawed under the Affordable Care Act is the practice of women being charged more on premiums — up to 130 percent,” said another official. “[Repealing] it would be devastating for women.”
Great hypothetical from Dean Baker for how to think about the House Republican budget, as written by Paul Ryan:
Let’s imagine the equivalent on the opposite side. Suppose that we proposed to increase Social Security benefits for the bottom two income quintiles of retirees. Suppose that we also proposed increased spending on infrastructure, research and development, and education.
Suppose the left-wing Ryan budget wrote down that these spending increases would be offset by unspecified reductions in government waste. We then told the Congressional Budget Office to score it accordingly. Is this a good starting point for further discussion?
What’s more: Would anyone who read such a budget foolishly claim that it was “serious”? Of course not. It would immediately be seen for what it was: an attempt to raise spending on Democratic priorities using a fig leaf of phony deficit reduction to cover the expense. That’s exactly what appears to be happening with Paul Ryan, the House Republicans and taxes. Lots of specifics about where they’re going to cut taxes, lots of hand-waving about paying for it (via Scott Lemieux, who has more).
Meanwhile, there’s an argument about whether Barack Obama’s criticisms of the spending cuts Ryan’s budget would produce in the first 10 years are fair or not. The problem is that those cuts are unspecified within broad categories, allowing Ryan to say that any particular specific program would be protected. And, as far as that goes, fair enough — Ryan has never said that he’d cut equally across the board. On the other hand, as Ezra Klein points out, you can’t cut spending without, you know, cutting spending.
But as far as I can tell, the argument is a silly one. That’s because, as you should recall, Ryan’s budget — which is now the House Republican budget — entirely wipes out the federal government in the longer run. By 2050, assuming that military spending holds at current levels (and Ryan and especially Mitt Romney are against any cuts), there won’t be any room remaining within Ryan’s budget for anything other than Social Security and health-care entitlements. Zero. No FBI, no FEMA, no spending on veterans … nothing. Which makes the whole idea of fighting over what would happen in the first 10 years just a sideshow.
The point is that there’s simply nothing serious about Paul Ryan’s approach to budgeting. We have no way of knowing, from the documents that Ryan presents, whether he really wants to sneak in lots of massively unpopular things (raising middle class taxes by eliminating popular deductions, shutting down programs for veterans), or whether that’s all just for show and the real Ryan budget would explode the deficit. As Baker says about the Ryan budget: “[P]eople who believe in arithmetic” will “call it what it is: a piece of trash.”
According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, we’re “living under the Obama economy,” and each week he’s given a new reason to regret attributing it to him.
A new report from Bloomberg shows that consumer confidence is rebounding, reaching levels not seen since before the 2008 financial crisis. Furthermore, job growth in the first quarter of the year was the best since 2006.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index (COMFCOMF) rose to minus 31.4 in the period ended April 1, the best reading since March 2008, from minus 34.7 the prior week. Filings for jobless benefits dropped by 6,000 to 357,000 in the week ended March 31, the fewest since April 2008, the Labor Department said.
Employers probably took on more than 700,000 workers in the first three months of this year, the best quarter for job growth since 2006, a report tomorrow may show, while equities rallied the most since 1998. The improvements may support consumer spending in the face of rising gasoline prices.
“There’s a gradual acceleration underway in the economy,” said Michael Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colorado, and the second-most accurate forecaster of unemployment applications. “Today’s claims data and confidence reading put a positive spin going into tomorrow’s payroll report,” he said, projecting 210,000 jobs were created in March.
Like it or not, we are a consumer driven nation, and when consumers aren’t spending, the economy isn’t growing.
That also happens to be why the Republicans have been pushing austerity for the last year. When consumer spending bottoms out, the government has to step in to stimulate economic growth, and economic growth is bad news for Republican politicians while a Democrat occupies the White House.
SAN ONOFRE: Rate of tube wear at nuke plant ‘unprecedented,’ NRC says
Other U.S. nuclear plants have seen greater-than-expected wear after installing new steam generators, but what’s happened with the Unit 3 reactor at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has set a new mark, federal regulators say.
“It is accurate to say San Onofre’s demonstrated wear is unprecedented for the length of time the steam generators were used,” said Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a recent e-mail.
Plant operator Southern California and NRC inspectors are still working to determine exactly what has caused the problem.
Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said the utility “continues to treat the issue of unusual wear in the steam generators extremely seriously, which is why we are continuing very thorough inspection, testing and analysis protocols.”
“We will not return either unit back to service until we are satisfied it is safe to do so,” Manfre said in an email Wednesday.
The plant has been shut down since Jan. 31, when Edison announced it had detected a leak in one of two brand new steam generators that had been installed at Unit 3 in early 2011.
While investigating the cause of the leak, investigators determined that thin tubes inside the generators, which carry hot pressurized and radioactive reactor coolant, are thinning more rapidly than expected.
A special team of NRC inspectors has been working with Edison to determine what has caused the unexpected wear. The tubes appear to be vibrating against internal metal support structures or rubbing against each other, but why they’re exhibiting that behavior is still a mystery.
Similarly, a UN climate panel sounded the alarm from Geneva last week about the frequency and severity of extreme weather changes due to climate change — and about those who are hardest hit. (The video above is an overview.)
From the report, emphasis mine:
Economic disaster losses associated with weather, climate, and geophysical events are higher in developed countries. Fatality rates are higher in developing countries. From 1970 to 2008, more than 95% of deaths from natural disasters were in developing countries.
In other words? We pay the price in dollars, while those in developing countries pay in lives lost.
We all share collectively in the causes of climate change. But its costs fall heaviest on the most exposed, unprotected populations who are least equipped with the resources to respond and recover from natural disaster (as so many in Melissa’s hometown of New Orleans understand all too well). And whether it’s the environment — or housing, healthcare, food justice, or education — building good policy to address any of these issues might begin with consulting what Jesus would say: that whatever we do to the least among us, we also do to ourselves.
As it turns out, Americans walk far less than anyone else. And it’s not just those dinky European countries. We walk just half as much as car-loving Australia:
The United States walks the least of any industrialized nation. Studies employing pedometers have found that where the average Australian takes 9,695 steps per day . . . the average Japanese 7,168, and the average Swiss 9,650, the average American manages only 5,117 steps.
This wouldn’t be worrisome if walking didn’t have all sorts of beneficial health effects — from lowering blood pressure to reducing obesity rates. So why don’t Americans walk more? You’ll have to read Vanderbilt’s piece, but in short: “As with many forms of physical activity, walking has been engineered out of existence.”
[…] Republican lawmakers have tried to cut off funding to implement the healthcare law, at least until after the Supreme Court decides whether to strike it down. That ruling is expected by June, and oral arguments last week indicated the justices might well overturn at least the individual mandate, if not the whole law.
“While President Obama and his Senate allies continue to spend more tax dollars implementing an unpopular and unworkable law that may very well be struck down as unconstitutional in a matter of months, I’ll continue to stand with the American people who want to repeal this law and replace it with something that will actually address the cost of healthcare,” said Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee for healthcare and is in a closely contested Senate race this year.
The Obama administration has plowed ahead despite the legal and political challenges.
It has moved aggressively to get important policies in place. And, according to a review of budget documents and figures provided by congressional staff, the administration is also burning through implementation funding provided in the healthcare law.
The Washington Post has an apparent blockbuster story today. It reports that a new study finds that Obamacare will increase the budget deficit, not decrease it, as the Congressional Budget Office has found:
President Obama’s landmark health-care initiative, long touted as a means to control costs, will actually add more than $340 billion to the nation’s budget woes over the next decade, according to a new study by a Republican member of the board that oversees Medicare financing.
That sounds pretty legit, right?
Actually, no. It’s not even remotely legit.
The first thing to understand here is that this is not a study by a government agency. It’s a paper by Charles Blahous. Who is Charles Blahous? He’s a Republican policy guy. By tradition, the president appoints a member of each party to serve as a trustee of Medicare and Social Security. Blahous, who served under George W. Bush and was active in his attempt to introduce private accounts into Social Security, is the Republican trustee. But the other trustee, Robert Reischauer, has zero to do with his paper. It was published by the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded organization that produces some quality work as well as a fair amount of schlock that does not meet the standards of your typical university economics paper. This paper is an example of the latter.
The Affordable Care Act spends a bunch of money to cover people who are too poor or sick to afford their own health care. To pay for that, it raises some taxes and cuts a bunch of spending from Medicare. The new revenue and the spending cuts outweigh the cost of the new spending, which is why the Congressional Budget Office projected it to reduce the deficit. Projections always have a margin for error attached, but the CBO’s two year update actually bumped up the savings projections a bit.
You may wonder what methods Blahous used to obtain a more accurate measure of the bill’s cost. The answer is that he relies on a simple conceptual trick. Medicare Part A has a trust fund. By law, the trust fund can’t spend more than it takes in. So Blahous assumes that, when the trust fund reaches its expiration, it would automatically cut benefits.
The assumption is important because it forms the baseline against which he measures Obama’s health-care law. He’s assuming that Medicare’s deficits will automatically go away. Therefore, the roughly $500 billion in Medicare savings that Obama used to help cover the uninsured is money that Blahous assumes the government wouldn’t have spent anyway. Without the health-care law, in other words, we would have had Medicare cuts but no new spending on the uninsured. Now we have the Medicare cuts and new spending on the uninsured. Therefore, the new spending in the law counts toward increasing the deficit, but the spending cuts don’t count toward reducing it.
That is a completely bizarre assumption. It’s not an assumption that any scoring agency ever applies in other situations. We assume that, in the absence of action, Congress will keep paying Medicare benefits. That’s why we have all these projections of future deficits. If Blahous’s assumptions are right, then we don’t really have an entitlement problem at all. Medicare can’t exceed its trust fund, so problem solved! You know how Paul Ryan has been stalking the halls of Congress with disaster-movie music in the backdrop, warning that we’re about to become Greece? He should relax! (Also, Blahous’s methodology would show that Ryan’s budget looks way worse, too.)
Anyway, that’s the trick. Assume the Medicare savings don’t count because Medicare would have reduced its payments anyway, and boom — Obamacare now increases the deficit.
There actually is a bit more in the paper, but it’s even lesspersuasive. Blahous suggests that Congress might roll back some of the cost savings in the law. And yes, of course that’s a risk — Republicans are trying to repeal the entire law. If Congress repeals some of the cost savings, then they won’t save money.
That’s not a way of saying Obamacare will drive up the deficit, it’s a way of saying that future legislation will drive up the deficit. In 1993, Bill Clinton hiked taxes on the rich. You could have pointed out at the time that his plan raised less revenue than forecast because there was a chance that eventually people who hate taxes on the rich would take control of the government and roll back his tax hike. That is, in fact, what eventually happened. But it would be exceedingly odd to frame such an observation as “Clinton’s tax cut won’t raise as much revenue as we think.”
Indeed, the whole argument is so bizarrely weak you have to wonder, “What is this doing on the front page of the Washington Post?” Here is what I think is going on. The author of the Post story, Lori Montgomery, is the author of a recent debt-negotiation narrative that seems to have been spoon-fed to her by John Boehner. Montgomery inserts a few cautionary notes into the story, but basically frames it the way Blahous would like.
Blahous is the Republican trustee for Medicare, so that title offers the hook for a paper he writes that, by adopting some mighty odd hypothetical scenarios, says that Obamacare will boost the deficit. Blahous’s government position gives the claim enough juice that it can be pitched as a “study” by a government official, as opposed to just another Republican-authored polemic, which would never receive such prominent or relatively credulous coverage. The next step is for conservatives to adopt Blahous’s figure as the “true” figure — but of course never to apply his strange assumptions to the GOP budget or to any other proposal — and browbeat the media into citing that alongside the CBO figure, for “balance.”
In a surprise announcement this afternoon, lawyers for George Zimmerman, the shooter in the Trayvon Martin shooting, said they no longer have contact with their client and are no longer representing him. Craig Sonner said:
“I still believe he was acting in self defense that night …. I just cannot stay representing a client who will not stay in contact with me.”
Sonner and Hal Uhrig said they had been told that Zimmerman had directly contacted the special prosecutor’s office that has been investigating the case since March 22. That’s not a contact a suspect should make, they said. And the special prosecutor’s office told him, they said, that nobody there would talk to him without counsel being present.
Both lawyers said they still believe Zimmerman acted in self defense. They said they would represent him still if he asked them. But for now, he remains without counsel as far as they know.
The lawyers indicated that they did not think Zimmerman would flee the country, but made clear that their former client was not in Florida.
Press Conference going on here.
[UPDATE]: Uhrig said he would be “very surprised” if Special Prosecutor Angela Corey gave hints about how she might decide on filing charges or not.
[UPDATE]: Uhrig tells reporters that Zimmerman is not a racist and has African American friends. There is no “evidence whatsoever from the time the earth cooled until right this minute” that Zimmerman is a racist.
2:18 PM PT: Uhrig takes “a shot at the press” for abetting the accusations of racism. He blasts the media for using photos of Trayvon Martin as a younger boy instead of ones of him at 17 while using a booking photo of George Zimmerman.
2:19 PM PT: Uhrig says the crime was “battery against George Zimmerman.”
Something good finally happened in Arizona:
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his onetime deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, were stripped of their law licenses today as a disciplinary panel handed down the toughest sanctions possible for ethical violations in a case that attracted national interest.
The panel also suspended Rachel Alexander, another Thomas deputy, from practicing law for six months and one day for her role in filing a federal civil racketeering lawsuit against judges and county officials.
What did they do to deserve this punishment? Just about everything possible:
They were Republican Arizona’s golden boys, the plain-spoken, get-tough sheriff and his legal and political foil, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and attorney Andrew Thomas. According to a post at Talking Points Memo, Thomas “might have had a bright career in Arizona politics,” but instead is today facing disbarment, criminal charges and professional disgrace.
In his six-year reign as Maricopa County’s top prosecutor, Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio went on a legal rampage against their perceived political enemies, drumming up and pursuing criminal charges that they knew were false, charges that rarely held up under scrutiny. As a result, say investigators, Thomas “undermined the public trust and inflicted great damage to the system of justice. The only way to restore that trust and to repair the damage to the system is to disbar Thomas.”
This is beyond bizarre. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court is hearing a challenge to Obamacare, but when a Justice Department lawyer began arguments this morning she was stopped short:
Appeals Court Judge Jerry Smith immediately interrupted, asking if DOJ agreed that the judiciary could strike down an unconstitutional law. The DOJ lawyer, Dana Lydia Kaersvang, answered yes — and mentioned Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that firmly established the principle of judicial review more than 200 years ago, according to the lawyer in the courtroom.
Smith then became “very stern,” the source said, telling the lawyers arguing the case it was not clear to “many of us” whether the president believes such a right exists….Smith, a Reagan appointee, went on to say that comments from the president and others in the Executive Branch indicate they believe judges don’t have the power to review laws and strike those that are unconstitutional, specifically referencing Mr. Obama’s comments yesterday about judges being an “unelected group of people.”
Despite the fact that Kaersvang immediately acknowledged that courts can indeed strike down laws, the panel ordered her to “submit a three-page, single-spaced letter by noon Thursday addressing whether the Executive Branch believes courts have such power.”
Seriously? These judges are acting like a middle school teacher handing out punishment to a student because of something her father said at a city council meeting the night before. I’m a little hard pressed to finish up this post on quite the right note of jaw-droppitude, but luckily an attorney friend from the South just emailed me about this. Here’s his take:
This is meant to embarrass the President. Full stop. Jesus, this is getting scary. It just seems like all out partisan war brought by the Republicans from all corners of the Government. They want to push it as far as they can. And then further. It’s incredibly destructive.
Somebody on the right needs to speak up about this. It’s an outrageous abuse of judicial power.
The Justice Department has quietly given up on a criminal case involving alleged death threats against Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, leaving in place a legal precedent that the department’s own lawyers predicted would have far-ranging repercussions by encouraging threats against political candidates and complicating the work of the Secret Service.
Earlier this month, the deadline passed for the Justice Department to seek Supreme Court review of a federal appeals court’s ruling last year throwing out convictions of La Mesa, Calif. resident Walter Bagdasarian over what the government charged were racist threats posted on an online financialbulletin board in October 2008.
“Re: Obama, fk the niggar, he will have a 50 cal in the head soon,” Bagdasarian wrote in one post. “Shoot the nig,” he said in another.
Bagdasarian didn’t dispute posting the remarks, but said he was drunk at the time. After a bench trial, a federal judge in San Diego convicted him of threatening to kill or do bodily harm to a major presidential candidate.
However, last July, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the convictions, saying Bagdasarian’s statements did not amount to “true threats” prohibited by law.Prosecutorsasked the Ninth Circuit to assign an 11-judge panel to rehear the case.
“The majority’s erroneous evaluation of the evidence in this case thus has far wider ramifications than the reversal of one isolated conviction,” prosecutors wrote, warning that the decision “will in future encourage anonymous threats of violence, chill the full political participation of worthy candidates – and make the job of protecting such candidates all the more difficult.”
Despite the grave warnings, after the Ninth Circuit turned down the rehearing request in December, the Justice Department did not ask the Supreme Court to take the case. As a result, the appeals court’s ruling is binding precedent in nine western states, which contain about 20% of the U.S. population—and could be looked to for guidance by courts in other states as well.
A Justice Department spokeswoman had no comment on the decision not to petition the Supreme Court to consider the case. Decisions about what cases to take to the justices are made by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.
A former prosecutor who helped oversee the prosecution of Bagdasarian said the Ninth Circuit ruling is a problem not only for those who protect candidates, but a danger to sitting presidents as well.
“The Secret Service takes threats against the president extremely seriously. They will do everything they can to be able to keep the president safe, but they have to follow the law,” John Owens, former chief of the criminal section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego and now a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles, said in an interview. “This opinion remaining on the books unchecked makes the Secret Service’s job more difficult.”
Legal experts said one result of the decision could be that a person who made arguably threatening remarks about the president or a presidential candidate while in the eastern or central United States could face arrest and prosecution, while someone making the exact same statements in the nine Ninth Circuit states might get off scot-free.
A Secret Service spokesman said his agency will continute to investigate all potential threats. “We follow up on all information that’s brought to our attention,” spokesman Ed Donovan said. He added charging decisions are made in consultation with prosecutors, who would be the ones to make judgements about the impact of court rulings.
Another former federal prosecutor said that, despite the government’s warning’s about the implications of leaving the appeals court ruling in place, the case simply wasn’t a good one to take to the Supreme Court. The justices usually only take cases where appeals courts have differed about the law (a so-called circuit split) or where the case itself is of extraordinary significance. The Ninth Circuit’s decision doesn’t really fit those categories because what the government mainly objected to was how the judges interpreted the facts, not their understanding of the law, said Daniel Saunders of Bingham McCutchen in Santa Monica, Calif.
“What you have here is basically a factual dispute” over whether Bagdasarian’s statements were threatening, Saunders said. “There’s really no new law, or little new law, that the opinion sets out.”
When a Mitt Romney adviser said that the campaign’s shift to the general election would be like shaking an Etch A Sketch, I predicted that it wouldn’t be a big deal for Romney, mostly because coating his campaign in a veneer of centrism is what the mainstream press desperately wants Romney to do. If Romney succeeds at that, journalists will feel they’re not being irresponsible by continuing to treat the Republican Party as a sane and dependable part of our national governing coalition, rather than as the sociopathic organization it’s become.
Well, the Etch A Sketch remark did get Romney in trouble, but the mainstream press still craves a centrist Mitt, and journalists will grasp at any straw as they endeavor to reassure themselves of his reasonableness. So we get Thomas Edsall, at the Campaign Stops blog ofThe New York Times, writing “Romney the Centrist Peeks Out”:
It was just one line slipped into the middle of a paragraph of Mitt Romney’s speech on April 3 celebrating his primary victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia: “And the most vulnerable have been hurt the most — over 30 percent of single moms are struggling in poverty.”
Seemingly unremarkable, these 19 words represent one of the many steps Romney will be taking as he treks back to the center in the aftermath of a primary campaign dominated by the hard right. It was only two months ago, after all, that Romney told CNN: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”
Without drawing attention to his rhetorical shift, Romney, in a speech on March 30 at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., abandoned his attack on President Obama’s “entitlement society,” faulting Obama’s “government-centered society” instead….
Wait — “government-centered society” is less rhetorically right-wing than “entitlement society”? Can someone please explain to me how that works? Do you know what other GOP presidential candidate used that expression in this campaign? This guy:
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Wednesday said his rival Mitt Romney would have to “deal with” the health care law he passed in Massachusetts, which Cain grouped with ObamaCare as “government-centered” health care.
Herman Cain is now a centrist?
Not long ago, we were mocking Rick Santorum — correctly, I might add — for saying, “Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools.” So “Government-run” is far-right rhetoric, but “government-centered” is centrist?
And, yes, it’s swell that Romney mentioned the fact that “over 30 percent of single moms are struggling in poverty.” But this isn’t the first time he’s said anything like this. In a December speech, he said, “More Americans have lost their homes and more Americans have slipped from the middle class into a world of poverty they never imagined.” In a speech last June, he said,
Unemployment is not just a statistic. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. President Obama has failed these good and decent Americans.
Sixteen million Americans are out of work or have stopped looking for work. Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy — a moral tragedy of epic proportion.
And guess what? Since those two speeches, he’s said all the cold, unfeeling things we’ve mocked him for. He’s consistently given us both kinds of talk. Was the June speech a sign of a new, compassionate Romney? Was the December speech? The primary campaign answers that question.
Sorry — you media pros really, really want Romney to be a changed man. He’s not a changed man.
But put that aside for a second, and let’s take Romney’s assertions at face value. Romney has invited the press corps to scrutinize how forthcoming Obama has been with his proposals. Similarly, in Obama’s discussion with the same group yesterday, he called on the media to stop seeing false equivalences between both sides.
So I propose we honor both of the candidates’ requests — particularly Romney’s. The GOP candidate’s speech today — and Obama’s speech laying out his proposals yesterday — provide an area where news oganizations can actually try to determine what is true or not, and who is right and who is wrong.
Romney says Obama has not been forthcoming with his proposals, and has asked the news media to expose this. So how about we make a real effort to objectively determine whether that’s true, and to make a call on which side’s proposals have been more detailed and more forthcoming? Obama’s plans, or the Romney/Ryan plans?
After all, Romney invited this himself with his comments today. How about it, then? Which candidate’s proposals are more detailed and more forthcoming about the choices and priorities they are asking voters to support?
It’s not just the programming. Conservatives are more likely to seek out outlets that affirm their views
What follows is the inaugural column of a person we are calling The Fox Mole—a long-standing, current employee of Fox News Channel who will be providing Gawker with regular dispatches from inside the organization.
[…] I work at Fox News Channel.
The final straw for me came last year. Oddly, it wasn’t anything on TV that turned me rogue, though plenty of things on our air had pushed me in that direction over the years. But what finally broke me was a story on The Fox Nation. If you’re not a frequenter of Fox Nation (and if you’re reading Gawker, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re not) I can describe it for you — it’s like an unholy mashup of the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post and a Klan meeting. Word around the office is that the site was actually the brainchild of Bill O’Reilly’s chief stalker (and Gawker pal) Jesse Watters.
The Nation aggregates news stories, gives them provocative headlines, and invites commenters to weigh in. The comments are fascinating actually, if you can detach yourself enough to view them as sort of the id of the conservative movement. Of course, if you can’t detach yourself, then you’re going to come away with a diminished view of human decency, because HOLY MOLY THESE PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE THE BLACK PRESIDENT. I’m not saying they dislike him BECAUSE he’s black, but a lot of the comments, unprompted, mention the fact that he is black, so what would you say, Dr. Freud?
The Fox Nation moderators, realizing that they had a problem on their hands, did the absolute bare minimum, hiring one or two college kids to comb the comments for the most egregiously racist postings, and putting in automatic text filters that blocked various key words. Of course the intrepid commenters quickly found ways around these filters using letter substitutions and spacings, which is why many comments complain about our “[email protected] president” and the “M u s l i m in the White House.”
So the site has become the seedy underbelly of the Fox News online empire. It’s surprising that we even have an online empire, considering that our fan base is mostly septuagenarian technophobes.
The United States on Wednesday announced charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of orchestrating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and four others accused of involvement in the plot.
“If convicted, the five accused could be sentenced to death,” the Defense Department said in a statement.
Along with Mohammed, the others are Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.
The charges allege that the five are “responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the killing of 2,976 people,” the statement said.
The convening authority, the Office of Military Commissions, referred charges to a capital military commission, the department said.
“Each of the five accused have been provided, in addition to their detailed defense counsel, learned counsel, possessing specialized knowledge and experience in death penalty cases, to assist them in their defense,” the Pentagon said.
The chief judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary will assign a military judge to the case, and the five will be arraigned at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within 30 days of service of the referred charges upon them.
Wednesday’s action is a refiling of charges against the accused conspirators. The military initially charged Mohammed in 2008, but President Barack Obama stopped the case as part of his effort to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
The right to vote is under attack all across our country. Conservative legislators are introducing and passing legislation that creates new barriers for those registering to vote, shortens the early voting period, imposes new requirements for already-registered voters, and rigs the Electoral College in select states. Conservatives fabricate reasons to enact these laws—voter fraud is exceedingly rare—in their efforts to disenfranchise as many potential votersamong certain groups, such as college students, low-income voters, and minorities, as possible. Rather than modernizing our democracy to ensure that all citizens have access to the ballot box, these laws hinder voting rights in a manner not seen since the era of Jim Crow laws enacted in the South to disenfranchise blacks after Reconstruction in the late 1800s.
Talk about turning back the clock! At its best, America has utilized the federal legislative process to augment voting rights. Constitutional amendments such as the 12th, 14th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 23rd, and 26th have steadily improved the system by which our elections take place while expanding the pool of Americans eligible to participate. Yet in 2011, more than 30 state legislatures considered legislation to make it harder for citizens to vote, with over a dozen of those states succeeding in passing these bills. Anti-voting legislation appears to be continuing unabated so far in 2012.
Unfortunately, the rapid spread of these proposals in states as different as Florida and Wisconsin is not occurring by accident. Instead, many of these laws are being drafted and spread through corporate-backed entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, as uncovered in a previous Center for American Progress investigative report.Detailed in that report, ALEC charges corporations such as Koch Industries Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and The Coca-Cola Co. a fee and gives them access to members of state legislatures. Under ALEC’s auspices, legislators, corporate representatives, and ALEC officials work together to draft model legislation. As ALEC spokesperson Michael Bowman toldNPR, this system is especially effective because “you have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters.”
The investigative report included for the first time a leaked copy of ALEC’s model Voter ID legislation, which was approved by the ALEC board of directors in late 2009. This model legislation prohibited certain forms of identification, such as student IDs, and has been cited as the legislative model from groups ranging from Tea Party organizations to legislators proposing the actual legislation such as Wisconsin’s Voter ID proposal from Republican state Rep. Stone and Republican state Sen. Joe Leibham.
Registering the poor “to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals.”
-Conservative columnist Matthew Vadum
Similar legislation had been proposed during the early 2000s in states such as Missouri, butthe legislation frequently failed to be passed. Seeking new avenues, the George W. Bush administration prioritized the conviction of voter fraud to the point where two U.S. attorneys were allegedly fired in 2004 for failing to pursue electoral fraud cases at the level required by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. In fact, three years after first prioritizing election fraud in 2002, Ashcroft’s efforts had produced only 95 defendants charged with election-fraud, compared to 80,424 criminal cases concluded in a given year.
These efforts were dismal in terms of effectiveness and convictions, but news reports from 2007 pointed out that simply “pursuing an investigation can be just as effective as a conviction in providing that ammunition and creating an impression with the public that some sort of electoral reform is necessary.”
With this groundwork laid, ALEC today is spearheading these efforts anew. These new antivoting laws are being challenged legally by a variety of nonpartisan organizations ranging from Rock the Vote to the League of Women Voters to the Public Interest Research Group. Additionally, the Department of Justice is reviewing some of the new state laws for possible violations of the Voting Rights Act, which freezes changes in election practices or procedures in nine southern states due to their history of voter suppression in the past.
This issue brief focuses on both the current status of various antivoter measures throughout our country as well as the legal challenges they face. Readers will learn how conservatives want to return to past practices of voter suppression to preserve their political power, and looks at several instances where progressives are fighting back successfully.
Let’s begin with voter registration restrictions. In a handful of states, legislators aren’t just making it more difficult to vote; they’re making it more difficult for citizens even to register in the first place. Lawmakers in half a dozen states made a variety of changes to the registration process in 2011. These include limiting when citizens can register, restricting who is permitted to help them, and implementing tougher bureaucratic requirements to register.
Nowhere has the war on registration been more controversial than the state of Maine. Since 1973, Mainers have been permitted to register to vote at the ballot box. For nearly 40 years, the system worked smoothly—separate lines for registering and voting are used to prevent congestion—and just two instances of voter fraud were found in the entire span.
Nevertheless, when an unusually conservative group of lawmakers took over both statehouse chambers and the governorship in 2010, one of their primary orders of business was to repeal the state’s law permitting citizens to register on Election Day. Fortunately, in the ensuing weeks citizens of the state rallied to collect tens of thousands of signatures and force a vote on the matter. In November 2011, 61 percent of Mainers rebuked the legislature and voted to restore Election Day registration in their state.
“I don’t want everybody to vote.”
-Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich
Alas, voting rights proponents in other states have not been as successful. In Florida andTexas, for example, lawmakers succeeded in placing onerous new restrictions on nonprofit organizations that help register new voters. Voter registration drives by groups such as the League of Women Voters have been a staple of our democracy for years, helping thousands of citizens to register, regardless of their political affiliation.
In the Sunshine State, however, those may now be a thing of the past. Last July, the League of Women Voters announced it would no longer operate in Florida because of new antivoter legislation—including complicated new filing requirements and a mandate to submitcompleted registration forms within 48 hours of completion or face a hefty fine—made it nearly impossible for them to continue their work.
The Lone Star State also placed unnecessary new requirements on groups and individuals interested in helping register others. Texas lawmakers in May passed legislation requiring that people who help register voters, known as volunteer deputy registrars, must also be eligible Texas voters themselves. The new law has a number of unintended consequences. For instance, legal permanent residents who are in the process of obtaining their citizenship would be barred from learning the political process by helping register others. Many such immigrants are currently employed as deputy registrars; this new law would likely result in their firing.
What’s more, disabled Texans who are considered full guardians of the state and ineligible to vote would be shut out as well. One disabled gentleman had carried voter registration forms in his wheelchair for years, eager to register others for a democratic process he himself could not participate in. Under the new law, it would be illegal for him to continue registering new voters. As of February 2012, Texas’s new law remains not in effect while the Justice Department determines whether it complies with the Voting Rights Act.
Kansas, Alabama, and Tennessee took a slightly different route, augmenting the required documentation necessary to register to vote. Each passed laws requiring residents to prove their citizenship before registering, either by presenting a birth certificate or passport. Less than a third of Americans currently own a passport, and citizens who don’t have access to their birth certificate would be forced to pay for one in order to vote—an almost certain violation of the 24th Amendment’s ban on poll taxes. The problem is not small; at least 7 percent of Americans don’t have easy access to a birth certificate or similar citizenship document.
Arizona and Georgia also passed similar legislation prior to 2011. The Justice Department is currently reviewing Georgia and Alabama’s changes for compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and Arizona’s law is being challenged in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Another avenue where conservatives are proposing to limit voting rights is tightening the residency requirements. The intended effect of these measures is to make it difficult, if not impossible, for out-of-state college students to vote where they attend school.
In Maine, young voters are being targeted even more brazenly. In September 2011 Maine’s secretary of state sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in the state, implying that many of them were in violation of election law and suggesting they correct this by unregistering in Maine. The list of college students targeted for this letter came directly from the Maine Republican Party Chairman, underscoring just how partisan the voter suppression effort in Maine has become. New Hampshire is now considering stricter residency requirements for Granite State voters as well.
All of this is especially surprising given the Supreme Court’s decision in Symm v. United States, where it upheld a lower court decision establishing that states cannot place obstacles unique to college students between those students and their right to vote.
Limiting early voting
Following widespread voting problems in the 2000 election that had nothing to do with voter fraud—from extraordinarily long lines to hanging chads—many states moved to ease the burden on clerks and citizens by allowing people to vote prior to Election Day. Ohio and Florida were the epicenter of these problems, and both states moved to prevent similar problems in the future by allowing early voting.
Among conservatives, then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was a major proponent of such reforms, calling them a “wonderful” way to “provide access to the polls.” As a result, over half of Sunshine State voters cast their ballot before Election Day in 2008.
Yet three years later, lawmakers in the state moved to limit the availability of early voting. In Florida voters had previously been permitted two weeks of early voting prior to the election; lawmakers rolled that back to eight days. Ohio lawmakers went even further, reducing the state’s early voting period from 35 days to just 11. Ari Berman also notes in Rolling Stone that “both states banned voting on the Sunday before the election—a day when black churches historically mobilize their constituents.”
Other states have successfully rolled back their early voting periods as well. Georgia reduced early voting from 45 to 21 days, Wisconsin shortened their period by 16 days, West Virginia by five days, and Tennessee by two.
In one bright spot, voting rights proponents in the Buckeye State are fighting back against the new changes. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans signed a petition to hold a referendum on the voting changes, suspending the law until voters decide its fate in November 2012.
Voter ID laws
The chief sponsor of Georgia’s voter ID legislation, Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta), told the Justice Department the bill would keep more African Americans from voting, which was fine with her since “if there are fewer black voters because of this bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud.”
The most common type of voter-related legislation in 2011 was the mandate that individuals must show certain kinds of government-issued photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote. To date, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin have all passed such laws, and similar measures have been proposed by 24 more.
But with more than 1 in 10 voters (over 21 million Americans) currently lacking these photo IDs, it’s clear that such laws could have a disastrous effect. Voter ID laws have the potential to exclude millions of Americans, especially seniors, students, minorities, and people in rural areas. One example is Osceola, Wisconsin: A small town in the northwestern part of the state with a population of under 3,000 people. The town is 30 minutes away from the nearest DMV offices and both are rarely open.
Defenders of these laws claim they are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In reality they are a solution in search of a problem. There’s virtually no such fraud in American elections— and it’s not even remotely close to being the epidemic that some elected officials have made it out to be. In the 2004 election, for example, about 3 million votes were cast in Wisconsin—only seven were declared invalid—all of which were cast by felons who had finished their sentences and didn’t realize they were still barred from voting. As a result, Wisconsin’s overall fraud rate came in at a whopping 0.00023 percent.
The only kind of voter fraud that is supposed to be prevented by these laws is one voter impersonating another. Not only would impersonating other voters one-by-one be an absurd strategy for stealing an entire election, but the already-existing penalties—five years in prison and a $10,000 fine—are doing an effective job at preventing such fraud.
Yet, while these laws would prevent few if any actual cases of voter fraud, they could disenfranchise millions of ID-less voters. And they are clearly illegal under longstanding voting rights law. The Voting Rights Act not only forbids laws that are passed specifically to target minority voters but also strikes down state laws that have a greater impact on minority voters than on others. Because Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise minorities, they clearly fit within the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition.
Gaming the Electoral College
This story has been updated.
Add another name to the list of corporations who’ve ditched theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council: McDonald’s.
The fast food giant tells Mother Jones that it recently decided to cut ties with ALEC, thecorporate-backed group that drafts pro-free-market legislation for state lawmakers around the country. “While [we] were a member of ALEC in 2011, we evaluate all professional memberships annually and made the business decision not to renew in 2012,” Ashlee Yingling, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email. Yingling didn’t mention any specific campaign or outside pressure as playing a role in the company’s decision to leave ALEC.
An ALEC spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
McDonald’s sought to clarify its relationship with ALEC after a coalition of progressive groups with members in all 50 states, includingCommon Cause and Color of Change, announced plans on Tuesday to target McDonald’s for its ongoing membership in ALEC. Rashad Robinson, Color ofChange’s executive director, said groups in the coalition were “flooding” McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, and State Farm with phone calls demanding they stop backing ALEC. “Major corporations like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Kraft understand that supporting voter suppression efforts and dangerous ‘Stand Your Ground’ legislation puts their brands at great risk in the black community,” Robinson said. “We hope that McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, and State Farm also get that message. Today, our members are flooding these companies with phone calls to demand that they stop supporting ALEC.”
“Clearly, some of these companies—Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s—realize that it doesn’t make good business sense to be part of ALEC when ALEC has come under increased scrutiny,” said Mary Boyle, Common Cause’s vice president of communications, when told of the company’s departure from the group.
The news of McDonald’s leaving ALEC comes amidst several other high-profile departures by big-name corporations. Last week, Coca-Cola said it had decided to leave ALEC after taking heat from Color of Change and other progressive groups. Soon after, Kraft, Pepsi, and Intuit (which makes Quicken personal finance software) followed suit by ending their memberships with ALEC.
Activists have singled out ALEC’s so-called voter ID bills in their campaign against the 38-year-old organization cofounded by conservative leaders Paul Weyrich and Lou Barnett. Color of Change has slammed voter ID legislation, which claims to crack down on voter fraud, as “discriminatory” against blacks and Hispanics. “No longer is the black vote suppressed through violence, intimidation and literary tests,” Color of Change has said in a statement. “It’s now suppressed through laws that make it burdensome and difficult for many black folks to vote.”
Color of Change launched its broader anti-ALEC campaign last December. But it’s not the only group to take aim at ALEC. As Mother Jones reported, in February occupiers around the country protested ALEC as part of a campaign against corporations’ power in politics. “We are rejecting a society that does not allow us to control our future,” read the website for Shut Down the Corporations, the website for the Occupy movement’s ALEC protests.
UPDATE: The Huffington Post reports that, in a February 29 letter to Color of Change, a McDonald’s official said the company remained a member of ALEC. The letter, which raises questions about McDonald’s claim to have left ALEC, appears to be written by Pat Harris, whose title is global chief diversity officer. We’ve updated the headline of our story to make it clear that it was a McDonald’s spokeswoman who says the company has left ALEC.
America has core values. Those core values include helping others in need, caring for the sick, making sure that everyone is equal under the law, fairness, and making sure everyone has the right to privacy and personal liberty. This country has worked hard to advance these values over the last 230 years, but in recent years, Republicans have sought to destroy the values we hold most dear. They seek to force Americans to adhere to what they call conservative values. Well, here are 40 great examples of the conservative values Republicans seek to enslave us with.
1. “Our nation needs to stop doing for people what they can and should do for themselves. Self reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”
~Michele Bachmann, saying the unemployed should starve.
2. “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. [Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen…This is special and it needs to be seen as special.”
~Rick Santorum, opposing contraception and frighteningly suggesting that he would make pre-marital sex illegal.
3. “You don’t have a right to a house, you don’t have a right to a job, you don’t have a right to medical care.”
~Ron Paul, saying that Americans have no right to have jobs and health care.
4. If we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely.”
~Michele Bachmann, advocating for slave wages.
5. ”I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn their money and provide for themselves and their families. The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling.”
~Rick Santorum, saying that he has no interest in helping the African-American community.
6. “Now, we don’t get rid of it in round one because we don’t think that that’s politically smart, and we don’t think that’s the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it’s going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it — voluntarily.”
~Newt Gingrich, admitting that while they won’t kill Medicare outright, Republicans will try to make it wither on the vine and die.
7. “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.”
~Mitch McConnell, saying Republicans would take America hostage to get their own way.
8. “Capital punishment is our way of demonstrating the sanctity of life.”
~Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, declaring that executing people is pro-life.
9. “I’m not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there, if we need to repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who are struggling, and I’ll continue to take that message across the country.”
~Mitt Romney, admitting he doesn’t care about the poor.
10. ￼￼￼“That’s part of the problem, the overkill. And when they make it complicated, they make it expensive and so then you can no longer stay in business.”
~Michele Bachmann, telling reporters that food needs to be less regulated in the midst of food borne illnesses and the pink slime outrage.
11. “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
~Mitt Romney, advocating for the end of the American auto industry.
12. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.”
~Mitch McConnell, admitting what the only priority Republicans have had since 2008.
13. ￼￼￼“If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.”
~Eric Cantor, denying aid to victims of natural disasters.
14. “I love that we are one of the least unionized states in the country…We don’t have unions in South Carolina because we don’t need unions in South Carolina…And we’ll make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted, and not welcome.”
~Nikki Haley, attacking labor unions that protect American jobs and worker rights.
15. ￼￼”Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying and I’ve been saying this for six months.”
~Mike Lee, in response to Chris Matthews who asked Lee “You want the Democratic Senate, by a two-thirds vote, to pass a constitutional amendment or you want the house to come down?”
16. “They can get married. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man… there are no special rights for people based upon your sex practices. There’s no special rights based upon what you do in your sex life. You’re an American citizen first and foremost and that’s it.”
~Michele Bachmann, on whether homosexuals can get married.
George W. Bush talks about his legacy:
“I wish they weren’t called the Bush tax cuts,” the former president said as he kicked off the Bush Institute Conference on Taxes and Economic Growth in New York City. “If they’re called some other body’s tax cuts, they’re probably less likely to be raised.”
He added: “If you raise taxes, you’re taking money out of the pockets of consumers.”
So there you have it. Bush finally expresses some remorse for something, but it turns out it’s not over his stupid tax cuts wrecking the budget, ballooning the deficit, and generally prepping America for its uncomfortable handbasket ride to the netherworld. No, it’s because the Bush family name sucks so bad (for some unknown reason that he cannot possibly fathom) that things associated with it are less popular than they really ought to be.
You young ‘uns might not remember it, since all of this nation’s past political history was lost in a freak accident sometime during 2008 (all that remains is some vague recollection of Ronald Reagan saying things, that one time), but I remember during the 2000 campaign when Al Gore was campaigning on the notion that maybe we ought to practice a little fiscal responsibility (he was derided for it, because years ago all of Washington punditry decided that just getting really, really effing drunk for a few decades and phoning shit in would get them just as far as giving a flying damn), and George W. Bush prattled on about how we shouldn’t be paying down the deficit because that was “yer” money, not the “gubbermint’s” money, and ideas like investing in the nation’s infrastructure, or the nation’s people, or even, yes, just paying down the deficit was ridiculous drivel not to be taken seriously. He was going to be the CEO president, you see, and run America like a business.
As it turned out, that meant downsizing the crap out of us, funneling the profits to the executive class, and rewritin’ some laws to make being rich and crooked a bit more legal, which is pretty much exactly what you’d expect of a “CEO president”—so you can’t say he didn’t warn us. Oh, and back then we all had onions tied to our belts, which was the style at the time.
Where was I? Ah, right. Reminiscing about the before-times with America’s Worst President. Well, he’s got an Institute now, which seems damn appropriate, but he’s using it to talk about Taxes and Economic Growth, which strikes me as only a little more insane than expecting a taxidermied lemur teach you how to do algebra. I have a lovely conspiracy theory about this, which is that Mitt Romney is secretly pressuring George W. Bush to give more public speeches just so Mitt can look better bycomparison (hey, Republicans, at least I’m not this guy, amiright? Now vote for me, dammit!), but the margins of this post are too small to contain it
Call it the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” election.
Running President Bush’s campaigns, Karl Rove became famous for taking his opponent’s single biggest strength and turning it into his biggest weakness. Mitt Romney is laying out another approach: taking his own top vulnerabilities and projecting them onto his opponent.
As Romney begins to settle into the role of presumptive nominee, he is deploying the strategy more and more. On Wednesday, Romney addressed the Newspaper Association of America in Washington, D.C. only a day after President Obama spoke there, delivering his his toughest speech yet. Obama targeted Romney and the House GOP with a slew of attacks that will likely help define the general election.
The contrast between the two speeches was striking. Name an accusation Obama and Democrats have used against Romney, and chances are you heard the same charge leveled against Obama in Romney’s speech.
Live Long and Prosper!
With the general-election campaign beginning to take shape, President Obama holds clear advantages over Mitt Romney on personal attributes and a number of key issues, but remains vulnerable to discontent with the pace of the economic recovery, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Obama has double-digit leads over the likely Republican presidential nominee on who would do a better job of protecting the middle class, addressing women’s issues, handling international affairs and dealing with health care.
On personal traits, the president’s edge is even bigger: He has a better than 2-to-1 advantage as the more friendly and likable of the two, and nearly that margin as “more inspiring.”
Romney faces a huge deficit among female voters, one that more than negates his advantage among men and represents one of the biggest challenges he and his advisers face as they turn toward the November election. Obama’s edge among women gives him a clear lead among all registered voters in a matchup with Romney.
But on the two most pressing issues of the campaign — the economy and jobs — the contest is considerably more competitive, with about as many trusting Romney on the issues as Obama. Despite positive economic indicators, Americans remain deeply pessimistic about the overall direction of the country and largely consider the economy still mired in a recession. The Romney campaign is hoping to take advantage by making the contest about Obama’s performance on these key concerns.
Obama’s overall approval rating stands at 50 percent, but he draws negative marks on how he has dealt with the economy and the recent increase in gasoline prices. Nearly half of all Americans say his handling of the economy is a major reason to oppose his reelection; far fewer see it as a big reason to support his bid.
Romney holds a double-digit lead over Obama on just one issue tested in the poll: who would better deal with the federal budget deficit.
In the Republican primary race, Romney holds a commanding lead over his rivals — formersenator Rick Santorum (Pa.), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.).
Conducted after Romney’s wins last week in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, the poll shows 44 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning independent voters saying they would like Romney to be the nominee and 25 percent choosing Santorum, with the others well behind.
In what may be a sign that Republicans are accepting that Romney is likely to be the nominee, a majority of those backing one of his rivals prefer Romney to a late entrant into the race.
Nonetheless, a slim majority of all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say Santorum, who has been the surprise challenger, should keep running. Much of that support comes from evangelical Christians, who have been his most significant backers through the primary contests. In contrast, sizable majorities say Gingrich and Paul should quit the race.
Most Republicans think Romney has been strengthened for the general election by the nomination contest, but pluralities of Democrats and independents say the opposite.
If a Romney-Obama matchup were held today, registered voters would divide 51 percent for the president to 44 percent for the former Massachusetts governor. That is similar to the edge Obama held in a Post-ABC poll in February; the two were more evenly matched in March.
A wide gender gap underlies the current state of the race. Romney is up eight percentage points among male voters but trails by 19 among women. Among independent voters, one of the most watched groups in the electorate, the two men are closely paired, with 48 percent supporting Romney and 46 percent backing Obama.
In addition to his big lead among women — Obama won that demographic by 13 points in 2008 — the president is moving to secure other key elements of his winning coalition. As he did four years ago, he has overwhelming support from African Americans — 90 percent backhis reelection effort — and he has a big lead among those ages 18 to 29. As ever, one issue will be how many of these young adults register to vote and turn out.
Obama continues to trail Romney by a big margin among white voters without college degrees, and he loses white men with college degrees by double digits, 57 to 39 percent. He counters with a big lead over Romney among white women who have a college degree or more education.
Obama has argued that the economy is recovering, if slowly, but pessimism remains pervasive nearly four years after the economic collapse. An overwhelming majority of Americans — 76 percent — say the economy is still in recession, an assessment that is shared across partisan, ideological, racial, income and gender lines.
Moreover, as many Americans say their local economy is not even starting to get better as say the situation is improving.
The cost of gas continues to sting: More than six in 10 call rising pump prices a financial hardship, with a similar proportion disapproving of how Obama is handling the matter. Although fewer blame the Obama administration for gas prices than single out U.S. oil companies or other oil-producing countries, the issue adds to Romney’s opening to mount an economic challenge to Obama in the fall campaign.
So far, Romney has not convinced Americans that he better understands the economic problems they are facing; Obama has a 12-point lead on this question. As in January, more Americans consider unfairness in the economic system a bigger problem than over-regulation interfering with growth and prosperity.
This poll was conducted April 5 to 8 among a random national sample of 1,103 adults. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Americans by and large are still pessimistic about the economy, but their opinion of President Obama’s handling of the issue is improving, while they still view the President as someone who understands the concerns of normal citizens.
New numbers from ABC News and the Washington Post show President Obama with a seven point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. and likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among registered voters nationally. The lead is mainly built on a large gender gap among women, with female voters breaking strongly toward to the President after the debate over contraception took hold in Washington and the national media during the first part of the year.
But the poll also shows how Americans’ view Obama’s competence on key economic issues, revealing that despite general fustration with the situation and his performance generally, they see him as sympathetic to their plight and equipped to address issues facing the middle class, numbers that will be important all the way to the election.
The President’s approval rating in the new ABC/WaPo poll is at a positive 50 – 45 split. But a large majority of Americans, 76 percent, still say that the economy is in a recession, and therefore a majority are dissatisfied with Obama’s job performance on the issue — 54 percent, with 44 approving. That’s an improvement from their March poll, when Obama was way down on his economic rating at 38 – 59.
Where the President does better is on the specific issues of economic performance, where Americans are not completely sold on the idea that a Romney administration would do much better. Romney holds a four point advantage on who would better handle the economy. But Obama leads over the former governor when Americans are asked who would be better at “Protecting the middle class,” “Creating jobs,” “Supporting small business,” and “Handling taxes,” usually an issue that Republicans do very well on. Romney leads on handling the federal budget deficit and energy policy.
On the electoral divide, the Post pointed to the gender gap as the chief reason for the Obama lead nationally, along with a bump from pulling together his base. From the paper:
Romney is up eight percentage points among male voters but trails by 19 among women. Among independent voters, one of the most watched groups in the electorate, the two men are closely paired, with 48 percent supporting Romney and 46 percent backing Obama.
In addition to his big lead among women — Obama won that demographic by 13 points in 2008 — the president is moving to secure other key elements of his winning coalition. As he did four years ago, he has overwhelming support from African Americans — 90 percent back his reelection effort — and he has a big lead among those ages 18 to 29. As ever, one issue will be how many of these young adults register to vote and turn out.
The ABC/WaPo poll used 1,103 live telephone interviews with Americans conducted April 5th to 8th, along with a sub-sample of 875 registered voters from that group. The poll has a sampling error of 3.5 percent for adults and 4 percent for registered voters.
An Ipsos forecasting model finds that if President Obama’s approval rating stays at 47%, there is an 85% chance he wins reelection, Paul Bedard reports.
Should Obama’s approval rise to 50% or better, he stands a 99% chance of winning.
Said pollster Clifford Young: “Obama is the odds-on favorite barring some unforeseen random event. As such, we really should not be asking who will win the presidency but instead who will hold the House and Senate and will Obama be able to govern?”
[…] The parallels between the child labor issue and the health care issue are remarkable. In both cases, the legislation in question was the product of a decades-long struggle. Universal health care has famously been a goal of American liberals since Theodore Roosevelt proposed it in 1912. The movement to abolish child labor, for its part, stretches back to the first years after the Civil War: When the Knights of Labor was founded in 1869, its constitution included a provision calling for abolition of child labor, and a similar position was adopted by the American Federation of Labor when it was created in 1886. The National Child Labor Committee was organized in 1904, and the first federal law was introduced in 1906. For his part, Roosevelt supported a national study of the problem.
Think Chief Justice John Roberts might be the fifth vote to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care law? History says: think again.
Roberts has never joined with the four liberal justices in a case that pitted them against the court’s entire conservative wing, according to Kedar Bhatia, an Emory University law student who tracks the justices’ voting patterns for Scotusblog.
And only once has Roberts made a five-judge majority with the liberals, a 2006 case called Jones v. Flowers, about the notice required before a home was sold to satisfy a tax lien. (Opinions here.) Roberts did write the majority opinion in that case, which was decided 5-to-3, with Justice Samuel Alito recused.
Roberts is known to prefer that the court issue consensus opinions, but history shows that when he fails at that, he tends to side with his conservative brethren and almost never with the court’s liberal wing.
WAR ON WOMEN
Perfectly mainstream, respectable, perceived as compatible with the Bible.
“Controversial,” only marginally acceptable, perceived as disrespectful of the Bible
And there you have it.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
13 Simple Steps To Get You Through A Rough Day [Worked for me!]
Step 1: Print this picture and hang it over your desk.
Step 2: Be uplifted by this inspiring corgi cross stitch.
Step 6: Remember that these dogs are on your side.
Step 8: Be happy that you aren’t one of these people.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. -Lucille Ball