Tim Pawlenty's resignation as co-chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign comes less than seven weeks before Election Day and during a bad stretch for the candidate.
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By Waymon Hudson for Huff Post.
With the often bloody and hard struggles to win and protect voting, it is amazing, yet perhaps not surprising, given our history, that a new move to roll back these hard-won rights is underway in many states around the country.
The numbers are staggering. At least 180 restrictive bills have been introduced in 41 states since the beginning of 2011. There are 27 restrictive bills currently pending in six states. Twenty-five laws and two executive actions have passed in 19 states since the beginning of 2011. Seventeen states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to affect the 2012 election; these states account for 218 electoral votes, or nearly 80 percent of the total needed to win the presidency. These GOP-led efforts impose a series of new restrictions on voting: strict, new voter-ID laws, limits on voter-registration drives, and closing early-voting windows, which creates fewer voting precincts and longer lines.
By Travis Waldron for ThinkProgress.org
Microsoft used subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to dodge billions of dollars in American taxes over the last three years, according to a memo from the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations.
by STEVE VOGEL, Washington Post
Legislation to create a Veterans Job Corps suffered a major defeat Wednesday afternoon after Republicans successfully blocked the bill’s advance with a budgetary point of order.
The Senate voted 58 to 40 largely on party lines in favor of waiving the procedural objection, short of the three-fifths majority needed. Republicans said the bill was in violation of the Budget Control Act, prohibiting new programs that would add to the deficit....
...Several Republicans, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, joined Democrats in supporting the motion to waive the budgetary objections....
...Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee who raised the budget point of order, said the action simply requires the veterans committee to come back with a bill that does not add to the deficit.... [MORE]
Via Michael Charney
by JOE KLEIN, Time Magazine
On Aug. 31, the night after the Clint Eastwood empty-chair colloquy at the Republican Convention, Jon Stewart identified the radioactive ingredient that would provide the fuel for Mitt Romney's September meltdown. The Republicans, he noted on The Daily Show, were suffering from "cognitive dissonance." Like Eastwood, they were campaigning against a Barack Obama who was a figment of their imagination. "There is a President Obama that only Republicans can see," he said. That Obama--the Muslim socialist foreigner--was "bent on our wholesale destruction." The mad fact is, Stewart was only scratching the surface. We now know that Romney has been running not only against an imaginary President but against an imaginary electorate as well. This is an electorate in which 47% are looking for handouts, don't pay income taxes and won't "take responsibility...for their lives."
How utterly insulting to the legions of hospital workers, restaurant (and country club) employees and security guards who work their butts off servicing the plutocrats Romney was addressing at his now infamous fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. These workers barely get by, but they are helped a bit by benefits--like the earned-income and child tax credits invented by Republicans--that limit their exposure to income taxes (although they continue to kick in payroll taxes and pay a host of state and local levies). The great irony is that the vast majority of Romney's 47% would be shocked to learn that they're among the freeloaders, which is why this incident might not, in the end, have all that much impact on the presidential campaign. Romney was right about the larger picture in Boca: this election will be decided by a sliver of middle-class independents, the 6% who can't decide which of these candidates they disdain more.
by ANNIE LOWREY, New York Times
Mother Jones has published a video of Mitt Romney at a private fund-raiser making incendiary remarks about Obama voters – and, well, about half of the electorate.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Mr. Romney said. “There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it, that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”
“These are people who pay no income tax,” he added.
I’ll address just that last part in this post.
Mr. Romney is absolutely correct that about half of American households do not pay federal income tax. (He is also tapping into a now long-running vein of conservative anger at those households.) But he is missing some crucial context on why they do not pay federal income tax.
The nonpartisan and highly respected Tax Policy Center derived the 47 percent number – it is actually 46 percent, as of 2011 – and published an excellent analysis of it last summer.
It found that about half of the households that do not pay federal income tax do not pay it because they are simply too poor. The Tax Policy Center gives as an example a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 a year: The household would pay no federal income tax because its standard deduction and other exemptions would simply erase its liability.
The other half, the Tax Policy Center found, consists of households taking advantage of tax credits and other provisions, mostly support for senior citizens and low-income working families.
Put bluntly, these are not households shirking their tax liabilities. The pool consists mostly of the poor, of relatively low-income working families and of old people. The tax code is specifically designed to reduce the burden on them. [MORE]
NOTE: This article, while balanced in its criticism of both major parties, is itself complicit in lie of omission that seems to suit both Republicans and Democrats. Comprehensive Immigration Reform rankles fear-based Republicans and makes risk-averse Democrats quake in their boots, but when we come together as a nation and achieve an immigration policy that meets the labor demands of a GROWING economy, the long-term fiscal challenges mentioned below will be helped tremendously by a booming GDP, and, having our ratio of workers-to-retirees increase instead of decrease — the ratio is decreasing over the next 15 years as the Baby Boomers retire. We need to adjust our policies so that our working-age population increases rapidly (immigration). We can't declare a baby-making holiday (as Russia has done) and wait 18 years. We don't have time for that. Social Security and Medicare will be in much better shape when we decide as a nation that our fear of demographic shift is less important than the long term fiscal solvency and economic growth of our nation. —Eric Byler
by SOLOMON KLEINSMITH, It's a Free Country
Ideology is a dangerous thing. For people who believe in an ideology deeply, plain to see facts don't hold a candle to fundamental tenets. You can see this in all forms of ideology, cultural, religious or political.
There are enough of these persistent myths that you could write a small library of books about them, but one of the most dangerous is this idea that tax cuts magically pay for themselves. Many on the right believe this fairy tale with a great deal of zeal. It would be amazing if it were true, and in perfect political propagandistic form... those that benefit from widespread belief in this myth repeat it over and over and over, knowing that there is a segment of the population that will eat it up.
But it doesn't hold up to scrutiny when you actually look back at how it has played out in the past. The latest illustration comes from a report from the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service, which found very little to connect lower tax rates to higher economic growth:
"Advocates of lower tax rates argue that reduced rates would increase economic growth, increase saving and investment, and boost productivity (increase the economic pie)... There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."
I had a fantastic conversation related to this a few days ago, with an entrepreneur who's startup I am likely to be doing some work with. As a business owner, he said he'd like to see lower taxes, but wasn't under the illusion that they magically paid for themselves by huge economic growth spikes following them. He went on to talk about how the tax cuts during the Reagan years were so successful because of how they solved the issue of a severe lack of investment capital - something that isn't even close to the case today.
In fact, the world market is awash in cheap cash that is looking for something to invest in. What is sorely needed are investments that have value, and unmet and growing demand. Cutting taxes on the wealthy solves none of this. What it would do, as the study mentioned above states, is put more capital into the hands of those who already have the most, and it in the mean time it make the debt and deficit issues that are facing the next few generations even more unfair, selfish and hard to tackle.
The Democrats have their own fairy tales. Most relevant to this conversation being the idea that we can have a skyrocketing retired population, keep Social Security and Medicare spending roughly as is and balance the budget without huge tax increases on the middle class like you see in the tax rates in Europe. Both sides want to have their cake and eat it too, and are going out of their way to make the only people who actually end up bearing the costs be future generations, most of whom aren't even born yet. [MORE]
by MICHAEL STAFFORD, The Cagle Post
As Americans go to the polls in a few months to select our next president, one issue -- the economy -- will be foremost in voters' minds. Environmental concerns are taking a back seat this election cycle.
That's a shame. One hundred years from now, historians will be writing about what we did, or didn't do, to combat climate change and secure the environment, not about the federal deficit or the latest employment numbers.
The reason for this is simple -- we've run out of time to take action to reduce the carbon emissions driving climate change across our planet. As author Alan Weisman has observed, "by tapping the Carboniferous Formation and spewing it up into the sky, (humanity has) become a volcano that hasn't stopped erupting since t he 1700s." We have, quite literally, changed the very composition of the atmosphere.
Today, these changes are accelerating in ominous ways. At the same time, we have gained new awareness of the potential consequences for humanity -- which range from bad, to worse, to completely catastrophic.
Of the two major political parties in the United States, one- the GOP-- lives in a state of climate denial. In this topsy-turvy world, the broad scientific consensus on climate change is a hoax, denialist researchers more adept at publishing newspaper opinion pieces than peer-review journal articles are considered experts, and the claims of think-tanks funded by the coal and oil industries count for more than the views of NOAA and the National Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile, over the past two years, Congressional Republicans have been gripped by an unprecedented ecocidal fervor, launching repeated attacks on the EPA (including on its attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions) as well as attempts to roll back a litany of environmental protections.
The national GOP has essentially erased any mention of climate change from the party platform; local Republican legislators in places like North Carolina have tried banishing it by legislative fiat instead.
Today, the energy industry is pouring political contributions into conservative PACs and Republican coffers. This is in addition to the huge sums they already spend in their ongoing disinformation campaign designed to confuse Americans about the science of climate change. Muddying the waters, and the minds, has never been so expensive.
Throughout the Republican primary, Mitt Romney took great pains to parrot conventional "movement conservative" (read "energy industry approved") views on environmental policy and climate change. He's stated that he "would get the EPA out of its effort to manage carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and trucks," and opposes heightened fuel efficiency standards set to take effect in 2025. His energy plan adopts a "drill, Baby, drill" approach sure to please oil, gas, and coal industry executives.
During his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in Tampa, he dismissively quipped: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."
Romney's comments reflect a false dichotomy between prosperity and protecting the environment -- a meme often advanced by the GOP. In reality, securing our ecological future is critical for the long-term health of our nation. [MORE]
by William Yeomans, BillMoyers.com
The following cases are examples of the Supreme Court’s empowerment of the one percent in recent years.
Each was enormously consequential and each was decided by a 5-4 vote, illustrating the crucial importance of elections to the direction of the nation’s fundamental law.
BUSH V. GORE (2000)
CITIZENS UNITED V. FEC, (2010)
ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB’S FREEDOM PAC V. BENNETT (2011)
Uses scholarship, public education, and legal action to find solutions to problems in the areas of democracy, justice, liberty and national security.
At least 180 restrictive bills introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states.
27 restrictive bills currently pending in 6 states.
One of the most important stories in American politics--a story that many people are uncomfortable talking about--is the extent to which our two main political parties are dividing along racial lines.
The Republican party is overwhelmingly white--87%, according to a recent Pew survey.
The Democratic party, meanwhile, is much more diverse: Only 55% white.
The country as a whole, meanwhile, is now about 66% white (excluding white Hispanics). [MORE]
Last month, a Pennsylvania trial judge upheld that state’s Voter ID law, in an opinion that relied at least in part on Nineteenth Century precedent which claimed that vote suppressing laws may be permissible to protect against ‘rogues,’ ‘strumpets,’...
In his new book, The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind, author David Cay Johnston examines the fees that companies have added over the years that have made bills incrementally larger.
On additional fees in phone bills
"The phone companies, first of all, have begun adding all these additional fees. If you got a single bill and they raised the price, you'll tend to notice. But if there are lots of little fees built into the bill, and they raise this one this month, and another one two months from now, and then they raise another one two months after that — you tend not to notice this.
"One of the items on the phone bill, one that's more than doubled in real terms in price, is often referred to as 'FCC line charge.' Now, that sounds like the Federal Communications Commission is imposing a fee on you — presumably to finance the FCC. In fact, that is the charge paid to connect to the long-distance system: It goes entirely to the phone companies; it doesn't go to the government. And the FCC has something called 'a requirement for plain English language,' so people can understand their phone bills. And here is a perfect example of the misuse of language to confuse people and not have them understand what they're really paying for."
On how a city built its own municipal electrical system
"They created a municipal electric system. Well, they also built a municipal Internet, and it is so high-powered and so fast that a lot of the work done for the Pixar animated movies is done not in Hollywood, but in Lafayette, La. Well, the response from AT&T, Verizon, Cox, Time Warner and the other cable and telephone companies has been to go to legislatures and say, 'We want a law passed that either blocks or makes [it] virtually impossible to build municipal systems. That's competing with our business interests.' And that's part of the whole strategy they have: 'We want to be monopolies without competition, we want to run the system in our interests, to maximize our profits,' with no regard for the overall economy of the United States."
Frances Moore Lappé is the author or co-author of 18 books including the three-million copy Diet for a Small Planet. Our starting point will be her latest work, EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want.
LUNCH WITH LOUDEN, Thursdays,12 Noon Pacific
(3 PM Eastern)
646-929-2495 to listen live or talk to Francis Moore Lappe
Click here to stream live or listen to the recorded program
Via J'nene Solidarity Kay, Michael Charney
Mitt Romney is being a bad conservative, say conservatives. Since the Romney tapes have hit the mainstream, writers on the right are just flabbergasted....
...So Mitt Romney's belief system isn't what conservatives actually believe? That's interesting, since that's what a lot of people believe conservatives believe. And how do you explain the conservatives who have come out to defend Romney's disdain for half of America?
This all falls right in line with the GOP brand in 2012. So to all of you conservatives who are bothered by your representation via the GOP presidential candidate: Maybe if you didn't let your party and its message get hijacked by dangerously misinformed pundits and ignorant politicians.... [MORE]
Via Michael Charney
A new Pew poll suggests Americans are paying attention to 2012 campaigns, and that Election Day will see high numbers of voters cast their ballots. Gwen Ifill talks to Pew Research Center's Andy Kohut and the Huffington Post's Mark Blumenthal for what the latest polls say about the mood of U.S. voters.
by David Corn, Mother Jones
At the private fundraiser held May 17 where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney candidly spoke about political strategy—noting that he saw half of the American electorate as freeloaders and "victims" who do not believe in personal responsibility—he discussed various foreign policy positions, sharing views that he does not express in public, including his belief that peace in the Middle East is not possible and a Palestinian state is not feasible.
Mother Jones has obtained video of Romney at this intimate dinner and has confirmed its authenticity. The event was held at the home of controversial private equity manager Marc Leder in Boca Raton, Florida, with tickets costing $50,000 a plate. During the freewheeling conversation, a donor asked Romney how the "Palestinian problem" can be solved. Romney immediately launched into a detailed reply, asserting that the Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."
Romney spoke of "the Palestinians" as a united bloc of one mindset, and he said: "I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there's just no way." [MORE]
by DAVID BROOKS, NY Times
In 1980, about 30 percent of Americans received some form of government benefits. Today, as Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute has pointed out, about 49 percent do.
In 1960, government transfers to individuals totaled $24 billion. By 2010, that total was 100 times as large. Even after adjusting for inflation, entitlement transfers to individuals have grown by more than 700 percent over the last 50 years. This spending surge, Eberstadt notes, has increased faster under Republican administrations than Democratic ones.
There are sensible conclusions to be drawn from these facts. You could say that the entitlement state is growing at an unsustainable rate and will bankrupt the country. You could also say that America is spending way too much on health care for the elderly and way too little on young families and investments in the future.
But these are not the sensible arguments that Mitt Romney made at a fund-raiser earlier this year. Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?
It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.
The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.
Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.
The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.
The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.
But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills.
People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear. [MORE]
The Moyers & Company team visited the Occupy Wall Street site several times between October and December in 2011 — visits that reveal real faces, real people, and a true common cause. In this premiere Bill Moyers Essay, Bill talks about their anger — not at the concept of wealth itself, but at the crony capitalists who resort to tricks, loopholes, and hard, cold cash for politicians to make sure insiders prosper… and then pull up the ladder behind them. [WATCH]