Spain may have the best soccer team, but it lost control of its banking system. That’s good news: the success of the Eurozone summit is not about money, but about process. For the first . . . → Read More: Merkel is Summit Winner!
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File this under headlines you probably won't see in 2012.If you haven't already taken a look at Nicholas Shaxson's Vanity Fair article on the murkiness surrounding Mitt Romney's offshore finances, you can read it here. The article raises plenty of questions, but in the end it can't answer them because Mitt Romney refuses to disclose any of his tax returns before 2010.
Mitt Romney's secrecy is a problem. As Shaxson writes:
Come August, Romney, with an estimated net worth as high as $250 million (he won?t reveal the exact amount), will be one of the richest people ever to be nominated for president. Given his reticence to discuss his wealth, it?s only natural to wonder how he got it, how he invests it, and if he pays all his taxes on it.Romney's answer comes down to "take my word for it, there's nothing there." That shifts the burden of evidence to those who are asking the question, which would be reasonable if Mitt Romney were an ordinary person or this were a legal case, but he's not and this isn't. We're electing a president, and Romney must meet a higher standard. Shaxson is just the latest to raise important questions about Romney's finances, and Romney's refusal to adequately answer those questions is troubling.
He should follow his dad's lead and open the books?unless he's got something to hide, in which case he never should have run for president in the first place.
The Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina managed to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a pro-fracking bill late last night when a Democratic representative ... pushed the wrong voting button(!). The GOP leadership then blocked her attempt[...]
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Yet another legislative oversight in the crafting of the health care reform law. This one gives GOP-led states one more way to drag their feet on implementation. Brian Beutler explains.[...]
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The NYT on renowned climate scientist Lonnie Thompson and his cohort of researchers:Dr. Thompson, 64, is one of the most prominent of the generation of scientists who, in the latter decades of the 20th century, essentially discovered the problem of[...]
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As he promised, Bill O'Reilly offered an on-air apology for his "idiot" prediction of how the Supreme Court would rule on Obamacare. [...]
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SEN. KELLY AYOTTE gets the spotlight on the Fourth of July from Mitt Romney.
Ayotte will be the first vice presidential short-lister to appear publicly with the presumptive Republican nominee during his week-long vacation at his Lake Winnipesaukee retreat. Her appearance also gives Romney the chance to meet with Ayotte privately at his home. – ABC News
So, a qualified woman finally appears amid all the pasty white males considered on the short list, with many political insiders believing Sen. Marco Rubio’s baggage would be just too much for Team Mitt.
It’s becoming clear that Romney has decided to focus on the economy at the expense of everything else, even issues that could play to his political benefit. He’s avoided criticizing the administration’s handling of the botched Fast and Furious operation, even as it threatens to become a serious vulnerability for the president. He’s been silent in responding to Obama’s immigration executive order, not wanting to offend receptive Hispanics or appear like a flip-flopper. He appears more likely to tap a safe, bland running mate like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who won’t do him any harm but won’t benefit him much either. If the economy continues to sputter, that safe strategy might be enough. If not, his options are limited. – National Journal
Obviously, her politics aren’t mine, as I could never vote for a woman who’s against my own individual freedoms and right to self-determination, but then I’m a liberal, not a religious conservative.
It is important to see women in the conversation with the usual male suspects for the presidency every four years from now on. It’s the only way we’ll ever get a female president, which is important if you want the United States to stand next to Liberia, with the African continent more progressive on this score than the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the American electorate, who should demand it.
Conservative women have been silent on the importance of getting past Sarah Palin’s disastrous vice presidential run. It’s one of the least reported and written about realities of the 2012 race, with the only one I know having mentioned it regularly being yours truly.
Among the myriad Republican myths about taxes, the most pernicious and demonstrably false - that "tax cuts pay for themselves" - is the mostly deeply held by the GOP faithful. As President George W. Bush famously (and erroneously) put it, "You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase." Now, a survey of leading economists conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business is just the latest shovelful of evidence to bury Arthur Laffer's zombie lie.
Earlier this year, as Congressional Republicans learned the hard way three weeks ago from CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf, another Chicago Booth poll revealed that "80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise." (As Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee, ""Only 4 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. That is a distinct minority.")
Now, the U of C is back with a new two-part survey on the Laffer Curve. In the first question, 35 percent agreed and another 35 percent were unsure that "a cut in federal income tax rates in the US right now would lead to higher GDP within five years than without the tax cut." (That response is unsurprising, given that one definition states that GDP equals consumption plus investment plus government plus net exports minus taxes.) But far more interesting are the results on the question that gets to the heart of Arthur Laffer's supply-side snake oil which has been Republican orthodoxy ever since Jude Wanniski sketched Laffer's curve on a cocktail napkin. In a nutshell, not a single one of the economists surveyed agreed that "a cut in federal income tax rates in the US right now would raise taxable income enough so that the annual total tax revenue would be higher within five years than without the tax cut."
In his comments, David Autor of MIT pointed out, "Not aware of any evidence in recent history where tax cuts actually raise revenue. Sorry, Laffer." Former Obama administration economist and current University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee put it this way:
Moon landing was real. Evolution exists. Tax cuts lose revenue. The research has shown this a thousand times. Enough already.
Of course, you don't have to take Goolsbee's word for it. Your own eyes will suffice.
After Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt with his supply-side tax cuts, George W. Bush doubled it again with his own. (Reagan's performance would have been much worse, had he not raised taxes 11 times to help make up the shocking shortfall.) This chart shows just how dire the tax revenue drought has become. For those Republicans who claim "tax cuts pay themselves," it's worth noting that federal revenue did not return to its pre-Bush tax cut level until 2006. (While this graph shows current dollars, the dynamic is unchanged measured in inflation-adjusted, constant 2005 dollars.)
But that picture tells only part of the story. Measuring taxes and spending as a percentage of the total U.S. economy reveals revenue at historical lows. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded last year, "Revenues would be just under 15 percent of GDP; levels that low have not been seen since 1950."
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure, and if made permanent, over the next decade would cost the U.S. Treasury more than Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, TARP and the stimulus - combined.
It's no wonder that, three decades after he concluded "the supply-siders have gone too far," former Arthur Laffer and Reagan OMB chief David Stockman lamented that "[The] debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party's embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don't matter if they result from tax cuts."
Nevertheless, two years ago future House Speaker John Boehner denied the obvious:
"It's not the marginal tax rates ... that's not what led to the budget deficit. The revenue problem we have today is a result of what happened in the economic collapse some 18 months ago."
"We've seen over the last 30 years that lower marginal tax rates have led to a growing economy, more employment and more people paying taxes."
And as the Republican Party waged its all-out attack in 2010 to preserve the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the GOP's number two man in the Senate provided the talking point to help sell the $70 billion annual giveaway to America's rich. "You should never," Arizona's Jon Kyl declared, "have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans." For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rushed to defend Kyl's fuzzy math:
"There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."
That tax cut increase revenue may be the view of virtually every Republican. It just happens to be, as the University of Chicago's panel of economists reminded Americans, laughably wrong.
The only people The Amazing Spider-Man is remotely necessary to is Columbia Pictures, which decided to reboot the franchise shortly after Tobey Maguire finished up his run in the webslinger’s unitard in order to hold on to its rights to the character. It’s a by-the-numbers execution of the formula that worked so well in the prior trilogy, from Spider-Man’s skills as an exaggeration of the physical changes of adolescence, to the luminous, leggy girlfriend, to the scientist who falls too deeply in love with his creation who’s restored to himself by Spider-Man’s intervention. As formulas go, though, this is a pleasant one, and The Amazing Spider-Man is a charming, good-looking way to spend an afternoon, particularly give the chemistry between its co-stars, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and a typically fun performance by Dennis Leary as NYPD Chief George Stacy.
The Amazing Spider-Man’s innovation is to give the absence of Peter Parker’s parents some context: after a break-in at the Parker family home, his parents deposit young Peter with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt Mae (Sally Field) and never return. Peter learns nothing about his family until years later when he discovers his father’s briefcase in the family’s flooding basement, and finds notes on a scientific project tucked in a secret project in the lining, which eventually lead him to his father’s former collaborator, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Ifans, who lost his right arm, presumably to one of the reptiles he studies, has been investigating the possibility of crossing human and animal genes: he dreams of “a world without weakness.” Peter seeks him out with disastrous consequences: his father’s notes help Connors perfect his formula, and under pressure to prove the project is viable because his company’s founder, Norman Osborn, is gravely ill, experiments on himself, and becomes a giant, clawed lizard-man in the process.
For all this is a repetition of previous Spider-Man iterations, it’s still an interesting variation from other superhero movies. Batman fights ideological absolutists, the X-Men debate differing approaches to the same problems, intensified by the fact that the disputants are the best of enemies, and the Avengers wrangle gods. Spider-Man’s opponents are good men with big dreams who become intoxicated by the things their mistakes turn them into. Connors was clearly a hugely accomplished scientist even with one arm, but with not just two working arms, but superhuman strength, his fantasy of a world without outcasts turns into a dream of transcending humanity altogether?and forcing everyone else to come along with him, permanently. It’s never quite clear what these movies are trying to say about science other than that hubris and need can be dangerous things, though here there’s a whiff of criticism for companies that pressure scientists to bypass proper trials. Normally such imprudence just kills people, but here, the consequences are more dire?but the movie cuts away before OsCorp itself experiences any of them.
The movie spends more time exploring another problem: what happens when the police get fixated on the wrong target? Peter Parker’s life is complicated enough when he first becomes Spider-Man, but things get worse when he discovers that the lovely girl he’s been dating is New York’s Police Chief George Stacy?and that Stacy has a particular vendetta against the web-slinger. “I wear a badge,” Stacy spits, contemptuous of a man who won’t stand publicly behind his actions. “He wears a mask.” It doesn’t help that he has a legitimate grievance: Parker, attempting to track down the man who killed Uncle Ben, disrupts a department operation to track a car thief that Stacy hoped would lead him to a larger operation. When Connors goes on a rampage, Stacy wastes time tracking down Spider-Man, and when Parker tries to warn him of the real danger, Stacy makes a show of not believing him. “Recently, he gave Gwen [an OsCorp intern] a glowing college recommendation. It was beautiful. When I read it, I cried,” Stacy snarks. “And you would have me believe he spends his free time running around dressed up like a giant dinosaur. Do I look like the mayor of Tokyo to you?” Leary’s born to play both the bitter and tough sides of New York law enforcement, and he does wonderful work here.
Stone is equally wonderful as Stacy, the kind of lovely girl who can defuse schoolyard fights and whip up an antidote to a biological weapon. She has a real sexual fizz with Garfield in a way Maguire and Kirsten Dunst never quite achieved as Peter Parker and Mary Jane. And Stone and Leary are a believably quibbling father-daughter pair. “I do not want cocoa,” she snaps irritably at him, concealing the fact that she’s cleaning Peter’s wounds and smooching him in her bedroom after he sneaked up her fire escape. “I remember someone saying last week that her fantasy was to live in a chocolate house,” her father reminds her. The competition between George and Peter for Gwen’s heart and loyalties is the best thing about the movie, though of course George inevitably surrenders. “Your boyfriend is a man of many masks,” he concedes. “I get it.” Aren’t they all?
For those veteran comic book fans who are curious how the movie handles the most famous Gwen Stacy and Spider-Man story, which I won’t spoil here, there are visual allusions galore. It’ll be interesting to see if they have the courage to carry it all the way through.
Voters in Washington will have the opportunity to affirm the state’s new same-sex marriage law by voting Yes on Referendum 74, but they will not have the opportunity to constitutionally ban the unions. Stephen Pidgeon, an anti-gay Republican candidate for state attorney general, had been collecting signatures for I-1192, a citizen initiative to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, but he failed to collect enough. In fact, he was more than 140,000 signatures short of what he needed to qualify for the ballot. Pidgeon blamed the conservatives who worked to put Referendum 74 on the ballot for “poisoning the well.”