GOP officials and the Mitt Romney campaign have cut a deal with Texas Rep. Ron Paul's campaign to allow some of Paul's delegates to be seated at the Republican National Convention.
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by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
There has been lots of talk that Paul Ryan’s nomination ensures that we’ll now have a “real” debate about the role of government. That’s actually funny. The bar for this campaign is so low that we celebrate the fact that it might include a serious debate about one of the four great issues of the day, though even that is not clear yet. And even if Ryan’s entry does spark a meaningful debate about one of the great issues facing America — the nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements — there is little sign that we’ll seriously debate our other three major challenges: how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet our energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are here illegally humanely, while opening America to the world’s most talented immigrants, whom we need to remain the world’s most innovative economy.
But what’s even more troubling is that we need more than debates. That’s all we’ve been having. We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base. America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century “conservative” opposition to President Obama, and we don’t have that, even though the voices are out there... [MORE]
Via Michael Charney
There are literally thousands of organizations using the tax-exempt status known as 501(c)3. The IRS is very specific about the provisions and yet many well-known oright wing groups consistently violate these rules. Religious organizations that engage in campaigning or even supporting particular candidates, for example, do os at the risk of their tax exemption.
By Matt Miller of the Washington Post.
How do they ignore all but the wealthy?...
Wealthy political candidates are nothing new, of course. But we’ve never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while raising taxes on everyone else — even as they propose to slash programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create chances for the lowly born to rise.
By David Edwards, The Raw Story
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol on Monday admitted that it was "kinda weird" that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's tax rate was only around 13 percent when most middle-class people paid significantly more.
"The custom over the last 20-30 years, I suppose, has been to release at least a couple years of tax returns," the neoconservative pundit told C-SPAN. "If you know you’re running for president anyway, I think it’s just part of the price of running. ... Obama did so Romney probably should do it."
"Look, it's an interesting debate about what tax rates people should pay, how progressive the tax code should be," he continued. "I personally, if I were designing the tax code, would have a tax code in which Mitt Romney paid more than 13 percent, I would say, given what I know about the kind of investments he made money from."
"I'm just not a believer that he needed - that there would have been any economic determent to paying more, and I think it just seems kinda weird that he pays a lower rate than an awful lot of middle-class people."
Kristol has previously called Romney "crazy" for not making more tax returns avaiable.
"He should release the tax returns tomorrow," Kristol told Fox News' Brit Hume in July. "It's crazy. You've got to release six, eight, ten years back tax returns. ... He has to give a big speech in defense of capitalism, and that will elevate, I think, this race above this tactical back in forth, which I do think he’s on the margin of losing."
by PAUL KANE, Washington Post
The Republican political establishment drew closer to a confrontation with some in the party’s Christian conservative wing Tuesday as Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri chose defiance over surrender, refusing to step aside as the GOP nominee for Senate.
Akin, whose controversial comments Sunday about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy set off a firestorm inside the party, said he intends to rally conservatives to a campaign focused on abortion, an issue he said was being ignored by the leadership of both major parties.
The escalation came as GOP leaders met in Tampa ahead of next week’s presidential nominating convention. They adopted a broad antiabortion position that was silent on whether exceptions should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, the issues that set off the Akin controversy.
Missouri’s Republican Senate primary already served to pit several conservative constituencies against one another, as Christian evangelical leaders backed Akin and hard-line anti-spending conservatives supported his opponents.
Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer, joined a broad chorus of Republicans urging Akin to step aside for the good of his party. “Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong, and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country,” Romney said.
But after two days of apologizing, Akin grew angry Tuesday, allowing a deadline to pass on an easier way to withdraw from the contest. The congressman made clear that he would not apologize for his belief that abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape.
“I misspoke one word in one sentence in one day,” he said on a radio talk show hosted by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. “I haven’t done anything that’s morally and ethically wrong.”
Tuesday evening, Akin tweeted: “I am #stillstanding. Will you stand with me?” He included a link to an online donation site. [MORE]
by ANNABEL PARK, SPARK SENSE
Note: I am speaking here as a private citizen, not for the Coffee Party. I stepped down from the Coffee Party Board of Directors in January of 2012. The Coffee Party will not be endorsing any candidate.
This is the bottom-line on the 2012 election for me: Don't vote for Obama if you're okay with handing over our federal government to Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. If you want to avoid that, vote for Obama.
If we want systemic change (and I am desperate for it), we know we're not going to get it just by having Obama in office for another four years. I believe we need a long-term (about 30 years), multifaceted, strategic plan for real systemic change. More on this later on this weekend.
We've lost too much ground to think we can reverse everything in one election with one person leading the way. I'm afraid that the right-wing extremist movement thinks of politics as a war that requires a war plan. The rest of us still think or want to believe it's a democracy.
There is one caveat. If and when there is another financial collapse (and it could be any day now), we must seize the opportunity to demand systemic change. We missed that opportunity in 2008-2009 because we weren't prepared or organized. We're more prepared and more organized now. We can't miss it again. Let's step up the organizing from the outside to put pressure on whoever is inside the White House and Congress.
Religion is a political force with real impact on elections. Recently the Catholic Church released a short video suggesting that Catholics should vote for candidates with certain views on marriage and faith, otherwise God will judge them. Is this the role we want religion to play in 21st century America? What about abroad?
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Excerpt from column by PAUL KRUGMAN, NY Times
Let’s talk about what’s actually in the Ryan plan, and let’s distinguish in particular between actual, specific policy proposals and unsupported assertions. To focus things a bit more, let’s talk — as most budget discussions do — about what’s supposed to happen over the next 10 years.
On the tax side, Mr. Ryan proposes big cuts in tax rates on top income brackets and corporations. He has tried to dodge the normal process in which tax proposals are “scored” by independent auditors, but the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math, and the revenue loss from these cuts comes to $4.3 trillion over the next decade.
On the spending side, Mr. Ryan proposes huge cuts in Medicaid, turning it over to the states while sharply reducing funding relative to projections under current policy. That saves around $800 billion. He proposes similar harsh cuts in food stamps, saving a further $130 billion or so, plus a grab-bag of other cuts, such as reduced aid to college students. Let’s be generous and say that all these cuts would save $1 trillion.
On top of this, Mr. Ryan includes the $716 billion in Medicare savings that are part of Obamacare, even though he wants to scrap everything else in that act. Despite this, Mr. Ryan has now joined Mr. Romney in denouncing President Obama for “cutting Medicare”; more on that in a minute.
So if we add up Mr. Ryan’s specific proposals, we have $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, partially offset by around $1.7 trillion in spending cuts — with the tax cuts, surprise, disproportionately benefiting the top 1 percent, while the spending cuts would primarily come at the expense of low-income families. Over all, the effect would be to increase the deficit by around two and a half trillion dollars.
Yet Mr. Ryan claims to be a deficit hawk. What’s the basis for that claim?
Well, he says that he would offset his tax cuts by “base broadening,” eliminating enough tax deductions to make up the lost revenue. Which deductions would he eliminate? He refuses to say — and realistically, revenue gain on the scale he claims would be virtually impossible.
At the same time, he asserts that he would make huge further cuts in spending. What would he cut? He refuses to say.
What Mr. Ryan actually offers, then, are specific proposals that would sharply increase the deficit, plus an assertion that he has secret tax and spending plans that he refuses to share with us, but which will turn his overall plan into deficit reduction.
If this sounds like a joke, that’s because it is. Yet Mr. Ryan’s “plan” has been treated with great respect in Washington. He even received an award for fiscal responsibility from three of the leading deficit-scold pressure groups. What’s going on?
The answer, basically, is a triumph of style over substance. Over the longer term, the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it — and in Washington, “fiscal responsibility” is often equated with willingness to slash Medicare and Social Security, even if the purported savings would be used to cut taxes on the rich rather than to reduce deficits. Also, self-proclaimed centrists are always looking for conservatives they can praise to showcase their centrism, and Mr. Ryan has skillfully played into that weakness, talking a good game even if his numbers don’t add up.
The question now is whether Mr. Ryan’s undeserved reputation for honesty and fiscal responsibility can survive his participation in a deeply dishonest and irresponsible presidential campaign.
The first sign of trouble has already surfaced over the issue of Medicare. Mr. Romney, in an attempt to repeat the G.O.P.’s successful “death panels” strategy of the 2010 midterms, has been busily attacking the president for the same Medicare savings that are part of the Ryan plan. And Mr. Ryan’s response when this was pointed out was incredibly lame: he only included those cuts, he says, because the president put them “in the baseline,” whatever that means. Of course, whatever Mr. Ryan’s excuse, the fact is that without those savings his budget becomes even more of a plan to increase, not reduce, the deficit.
So will the choice of Mr. Ryan mean a serious campaign? No, because Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV. [Read full article]
By Erich Schwartzel / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If Janet McIntyre needs to shower and can't drive the 11 miles to her son's house, she steps outside and undresses. Her husband puts on a rain poncho and pours three gallons of water over her as she hides behind a shower curtain hanging between two cars that sit in their yard.
Before Kim McEvoy watched her home value plummet and moved to one with public water, she went behind rhododendron plants to urinate. Her fiance used bushes along the other side of the house -- the "men's room."
And when the time comes to refill the tank that provides clean water to her home, Barb Romito waits to see if her anonymous donor has pulled through once again and paid the $125 fee needed twice a month to keep her faucets flowing.
These and other lifestyle adjustments started in the Woodlands neighborhood about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh after January 2011, when residents started calling each other with the same story: Water from their wells was running brown or black with floating pieces of solid material in it, and it smelled awful. When they showered, they got rashes. When they drank, they threw up. The farm show rabbits Russ Kelly keeps behind his house even stopped drinking the water.
It was a major disruption in a quiet neighborhood. The community of homes sits several miles off the main drag of Zelienople in Butler County, a grouping of trailers and ranch houses that share bumpy, dirt roads and large yards that sometimes look more like campsites.
Gas drilling had begun near the Woodlands, though some originally thought the tall rigs built to access Marcellus Shale gas thousands of feet below the ground were cell phone towers. They called Rex Energy, the gas company that had drilled at least 15 new wells in the Zelienople area from July to December 2010, and they called the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
"Next thing you know, the water buffaloes are sprouting up like mushrooms" across the neighborhood, said Ms. McEvoy's fiance, Peter Sowatsky.
If a resident contacts a gas company with suspicions of water contamination, it is typically company practice that an alternate source of water -- usually in the form of a large tank called a "buffalo" -- must be provided within 48 hours. Many residents used the water buffaloes provided by Rex, replacing the private wells they'd depended on for decades, while Rex and the DEP conducted tests.
But when both test results came back, the Woodlands neighborhood residents who'd noticed unmistakable changes in the look and taste of their water were told nothing was wrong.
Commentary by Mary Sanchez, The Kansas City Star
What the public needs right now is context interpretation of the data that’s thrown at us by the news media — analysis that steps back from conventional wisdom and soberly considers the origin of the stress so many of us feel about where our nation is going.
The text we should be reading is “The Betrayal of the American Dream,” by the reporting team of Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. Published this month, the book is a nuanced and well-researched report on the crisis of the American middle class. That is the crisis of our time, and if we’re lucky, it is the issue on which this year’s elections will turn.
The media love to cover politics as a horse race, and part of that is slicing and dicing the electorate into constituencies. Lost in this blather is the fact that the middle class is America’s largest voting bloc.
Not long ago, Karl Rove seemed toxic: the brains of a disastrous presidency, tarred by scandal. Today, as the mastermind of a billion-dollar war chest—and with surrogates in place in the Romney campaign—he’s the de facto leader of the Republican Party. But in Rove’s long game, 2012 may be just the beginning.
by CRAIG UNGER, Vanity Fair | Illustration by André Carrilho.
On Wednesday, April 21, 2010, about two dozen Republican power brokers gathered at Karl Rove’s Federal-style town house on Weaver Terrace in northwest Washington, D.C., to strategize about the fall midterm elections.
Rove, then 59, had hosted this kind of event many times before. Six years earlier, he’d held weekly breakfasts for high-level G.O.P. operatives to plan for the 2004 fall elections. Back then, as senior adviser to President George W. Bush, Rove oversaw Bush’s re-election campaign. More important, he was attempting to implement a master plan to build a permanent majority through which Republicans would maintain a stranglehold on all three branches of government for the foreseeable future. This was not simply about winning elections. It represented a far more grandiose vision—the forging of a historic re-alignment of America’s political landscape, the transformation of America into effectively a one-party state.
But now Rove was no longer in the White House. He had been one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States, but, to many Republicans, his greatest achievement—engineering the presidency of George W. Bush—had become an ugly stain on the party’s reputation. [MORE]
As super PACs carpet bomb the airwaves with negative ads, Republicans hold the financial advantage.
by RACHAEL MARCUS, Center for Public Integrity
Conservative super PACs dominated their Democratic rivals in the latest round of fundraising, according to reports from the Federal Election Commission filed Monday.
Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, brought in $7.5 million in July, finishing with an imposing $20.5 million in the bank. Top contributors include Texas homebuilder and super donor Bob Perry, who gave another $2 million.
Perry was already top donor to the group and the latest donation pushes his total to a whopping $8 million. Another major donor was the Renco Group, a family-owned investment company associated with billionaire investor Ira Rennert, which gave $1 million.
Conservative super PAC American Crossroads brought in $7.1 million finishing the month with $29.5 million in the bank. Texas mega-donor and billionaire Robert Rowling’s TRT Holdings, a private holding company that includes Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym, gave $1 million. TRT also gave $1 million to American Crossroads in February. Rowling personally gave $1 million to the super PAC in May and another $1 million in July.
Meanwhile, the Democratic super PACs didn’t fare quite as well.
Priorities USA Action, which supports President Barack Obama, brought in $4.8 million in July, a hefty total but well short of the pro-Romney group. It finished the month with $4.2 million on hand, about a fifth as much as the Restore Our Future juggernaut. [MORE]
Our guest blogger is Melissa Boteach, director of Poverty to Prosperity at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
To distract the public from their plans to funnel additional tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — the GOP’s presidential ticket — are engaging in one of the oldest and most cynical forms of class warfare: using a manufactured welfare fight as an wedge issue to foster resentment among voters.
the Romney/Ryan campaign appears to have made the calculation that rather than have a debate on the merits about how to expand economic opportunity for our most vulnerable citizens, they would be better served by using false welfare ads as a distraction from the fact that the policies championed by the ticket would provide greater tax cuts to the top 1 percent while slamming the middle-class and increasing poverty.
How our tax dollars subsidize exorbitant executive pay...
by Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Scott Klinger, Sam Pizzigati, of Institute for Policy Studies
Nationwide, budget cuts have axed 627,000 public service jobs just since June 2009. Schools, health clinics, fire stations, parks, and recreation facilities—virtually no public service has gone unsqueezed. Tax dollars haven’t seemed this scarce in generations.
Yet tens of billions of these scarce tax dollars are getting diverted. These tax dollars are flowing from average Americans who depend on public services to the kingpins of America’s private sector. They’re subsidizing, directly and indirectly, the mega-million paychecks that go to the top executives at our nation’s biggest banks and corporations.
Exorbitant CEO pay packages have, of course, been outraging Americans for quite some time now. Every new annual CEO pay report seems to bring a rash of predictably angry editorials and calls for reform. But little overall has changed. Wages for average Americans continue to stagnate. Pay for top executives continues to soar.
One key reason why: Our nation’s tax code has become a powerful enabler of bloated CEO pay. Some tax rules on the books today essentially encourage corporations to compensate their executives at unconscionably higher multiples of what their average workers are paid.
Other rules let executives who run major corporations routinely reduce their corporate tax bills. The fewer dollars these corporations pay in taxes, the more robust their eventual earnings and the higher the “performance-based” pay for the CEOs who produce them.
In effect, we’re rewarding corporate executives for gaming the tax system. Our tax code is helping the CEOs of our nation’s most prosperous corporations pick Uncle Sam’s pocket.
In this latest Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess annual report, our 19th consecutive, we take a close look at the most lucrative tax incentives and subsidies behind bloated CEO pay and highlight those executives who have reaped the highest rewards from tax code provisions that actively encourage outrageously disproportionate executive pay. [MORE]