Obama going straight for the jugular on health care reform: "The guy I'm running against tried this in Massachusetts and it's working just fine, even though he denies it." [...]
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The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force is an investigatory sham. Wall Street gets to keep the money and its reputation for brilliance. Pot smokers and guys carrying water to Occupy events should be so lucky.[...]
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While the media and the silly Romney campaign continues to argue about his Swiss bank accounts, his tax havens in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda and how the tens of millions of dollars he stashed abroad could have been used to invest or re-invest here at home to create jobs, his campaign is being funded by money coming from a Chinese prostitution racket. Organized crime kingpin Sheldon Adelson is the biggest single contributor to the Republican Party and to Romney's campaign and Romney refuses to return the tainted Chinese cash.
The Romney sideshow didn't distract President Obama yesterday when it came to China, though. He took the first steps towards instituting a suit against China with the WTO over China's cheating over auto exports. The President's point is that China unfairly imposed duties on the American exports, duties that violate international trade rules. Romney may make bellicose noises about China's trade policies but he's firmly in bed with Chinese industrialists. Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, made it clear that Obama's approach is the right one for American manufacturers and workers.
American workers and manufacturers strongly support President Obama?s decision to launch a trade enforcement action against China?s unfair auto tariffs. The deck in China is stacked against American automakers and workers, and this case will help to level the playing field.
Less than one percent of the estimated 18 million vehicles sold in China last year were made in America, despite the fact that the Detroit Three brands are growing more popular every day.
This Administration has a stellar record on enforcing America?s trade laws and has not hesitated to take action to defend American workers-- today?s announcement is further proof of that. But, there is more work to do.
Chinese auto parts are surging into America, aided by Chinese government subsidies. Unless strong steps are taken now to also defend American auto parts jobs, the efforts of the auto companies, unions, and the Administration to revitalize the American auto sector could be washed away in a matter of a few years.
Under WTO rules, countries are allowed to impose punitive tariffs to offset damage from both subsidies and dumping-- selling products at below market value-- but the U.S. contends that in this and other cases, China has used those remedy measures in an unfair and retaliatory way to hurt American exporters.
Last month, the U.S. successfully challenged Chinese tariffs imposed on American high-technology steel products and has also disputed tariffs levied on chicken products.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday that the Chinese duties cover more than 80 percent of U.S. auto exports to China and fall disproportionately on General Motors, or GM, and Chrysler because of the actions Obama took to support the auto industry during the financial crisis.
...China and the U.S. are at odds over a slew of trade issues. In March, the U.S., the European Union and Japan brought a trade case against China over its curtailment of exports of rare earth minerals over whose production China has a virtual monopoly. Those minerals are used to manufacture hybrid car batteries, flat-screen televisions and other high-tech goods. China says curbing rare earth exports is for environmental protection, not intended to help Chinese companies.
With American manufacturers still struggling to recover from the financial crisis, and unemployment running over 8 percent, the administration is keen to show it is getting tough on discriminatory trade practices by its chief economic rival-- also its main foreign creditor-- blamed by many in the U.S. for a loss of American manufacturing jobs.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney has accused Obama of being too soft on China. The Obama campaign has accused Romney of outsourcing jobs to China when he ran a private equity firm.
Asked about whether Thursday?s announcement was timed for political effect, Carney said the action ?has been in development for many, many months? and the timing was determined by the U.S. Trade Representative?s office.
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A well-respected judge who was appointed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Ronald Reagan says that he has become less conservative because of "crackpots" and "lunatics" in the Republican Party.
In an interview with NPR on Thursday Judge Richard Posner said that "right-wingers" were making a serious mistake by attacking Chief Justice John Roberts for siding with liberals and upholding President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
"Because if you put [yourself] in his position, what's he supposed to think?" Posner wondered. "That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press."
"What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, 'What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?' Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position."
He added: "I've become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy."
(h/t: Think Progress)
Military contractors are eager to promote the theory that cuts in military spending — and the resulting decrease in government contracts for their businesses — will slow the economic recovery. A large part of their strategy has focused on promoting statistics showing the oversized effect of cuts in military spending on economic growth.
But statistics about the role of military spending in the U.S. economy are often used to misrepresent the importance of military contractors. Yesterday, USA Today ran an article titled, “Defense Cuts Starting To Pinch Economy.” It said:
Military defense spending fell by about $12 billion, or 3%, from October through May compared with the same period in the previous federal budget year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis, which measures defense-related spending more broadly, said last week that weaker defense spending shaved half a percentage point off first-quarter growth. Instead of growing 2.4%, the economy grew 1.9%
Instead of turning to an objective source, USA Today turned to Lockheed Martin to interpret the data. “Already, defense contractors are feeling the effects. Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens said recently that his company’s workforce is 18% smaller than three years ago, and “‘the pace of our hiring has slowed considerably,’” the article says.
Indeed, war spending has gone down slightly as the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Iraq but the Pentagon’s core budget has actually gone up. Furthermore, the article fails to address the fact that had war funding not decreased, revenue would have to be raised through taxes, cutting other programs, or increasing the deficit. All three options would have negative effects on the economy.
But what goes unmentioned is that the Pentagon’s budget for contractors, like Lockheed, actually increased over those three years. Lockheed’s reduction in work force is far more easily explained by the company’s mismanagement of the Joint Strike Fighter program which has been delayed for five years and labeled “acquisition malpractice” by the Defense Department.
What military contractors fail to address is the fact that defense spending is not a jobs program. Defense spending “is a collective effort to address the facing the country, assure our national security, and secure our interests abroad,” write the Center for American Progress’ Lawrence J. Korb, Alex Rothman and Max Hoffman. “Therefore, the level of defense spending should be dictated by our national strategy and fiscal capacity, both of which point towards a drawdown.”
If job creation is the desired outcome, as outspoken proponents military spending now argue, then far better returns can be enjoyed from funding domestic priorities such as education health care and clean energy. Those sectors create at least 50 percent more jobs per dollar of public spending.
I can’t even bring myself to embed it here: some trogolodytes have created a game that lets players beat up Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist video blogger who’s been subject to an unremitting campaign of harassment since she created a Kickstarter to support a project to explore tropes of female characters in video games. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anyone who thinks that feminists who push back hard against online harassment are being oversensitive needs to understand that we’re all trying to keep ourselves from becoming Anita Sarkeesians. No matter how strong you are, and no matter how much support you have, this kind of concentrated campaign of harassment affects the targets of it. And the goal of these campaigns is to terrorize people into silence. It’s not disagreement. It’s not creative trolling. It’s deployment of a weapon.
And even though it’s frightening, ugly stuff, the campaign waged against Sarkeesian illustrates the fundamental cowardice and weakness of the people attacking her. If you so lack confidence in your ideas, if you’re so uncomfortable defending your appreciation for problematic things (which, by the way, is tricky but not that tricky) that you can’t even put your hands over your ears and sing loudly and ignore them, that you have to actually go out and try to prevent anyone from from saying anything that could make you remotely uneasy, you are a coward. That’s cold comfort to folks like Sarkeesian who have to go through this now. But it’s why, long-term, angry, petty sexists are going to lose, and why it’s important to throw up bulwarks against trolls who try to venture out of their holes and take over mainstream conversations. These ideas don’t stand-up to discussion and debate. And sexist trolls can’t shut down all of those debates, no matter how hard they try.
In a victory for pro-choice advocates, a proposed ballot measure to block federal funding for abortion services in Oregon is not going to make it onto the state’s ballot this year. According to an email from the measure’s sponsor, “With just two days left to deliver signed petitions to the Secretary of State, we’ve got only about 70,000 signatures in hand ? less than half of our 150,000 signature goal.” Anti-choice groups have chosen not to focus their time or money on Oregon, and without outside funding the measure could not get off the ground. This shows a growing trend of voters rejecting extreme anti-abortion laws — much like the rejection of so-called personhood initiatives across the country.
The National Organization for Marriage is still clinging to its “Dump Starbucks” boycott, objecting to the company’s support for marriage equality. Earlier this week, they tried to claim they’d found a “neutral” coffee alternative in Jitters & Bliss, a small coffee company that proceeded to censor pro-equality comments on its Facebook wall. (J&B’s Facebook page has remained inactive since Tuesday.) Even though DumpStarbucks’ momentum plateaued many weeks ago, the anti-gay group continues to boast petition signature numbers on Twitter:
Compare these numbers to the 640,000 people who thanked Starbucks in a counter-campaign back at the beginning of April. Even though the “Thank You Starbucks” campaign essentially ended then, the numbers still climbed to over 650,000. And Starbucks’ stock has only benefited from its support of marriage, reaching its highest value ever during the height of NOM’s boycott in late March and April.
NOM is now applying this same failed strategy to General Mills. A week after NOM launched “Dump General Mills,” the food company boosted its dividend by 8 percent. Its stock remains unfazed by the week of protests.
The strategy of boycotting pro-equality companies seems an odd choice for NOM. They complain when LGBT groups threaten to protest anti-equality businesses, claiming victimhood and religious oppression, yet seem to have no problem employing the same tactic. They are obviously inconsistent ? and thus devoid of integrity ? in regards to their targets, ignoring companies like Microsoft, Google, and Nike whose products aren’t pourable. And this notion that they side with “neutral” businesses is a blatant farce, because any company that agrees to treat the LGBT community as invisible or unwelcome is anything but “neutral.”
For as large as NOM has grown in the mere five years of its existence, it’s compelling that they would now invest so heavily in doomed campaigns in a desperate attempt for media relevance. These failed boycotts exemplify how out of touch NOM is with the swift national momentum toward equality and justice for same-sex couples and their families.
The House of Representatives’ latest version of the farm bill — crafted as a “compromise” between House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) — would cut $35 billion in spending, including $16.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — known as SNAP or, informally, food stamps.
45 percent of the proposed cuts in the bill come from SNAP, mostly through eliminating what is known as “categorical eligibility.” Categorical eligibility kicks in when a family’s assets (such as a car) push it barely above the line to qualify for assistance, but it is still living on poverty-level disposable income. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities projects that the cuts will kick between two and three million people off of food assistance:
The bill would terminate SNAP eligibility to several million people. By eliminating categorical eligibility, which over 40 states have adopted, the bill would cut 2 to 3 million low-income people off food assistance.
Several hundred thousand low-income children would lose access to free school meals. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 280,000 children in low-income families whose eligibility for free school meals is tied to their receipt of SNAP would lose free meals when their families lost SNAP benefits.
Some working families would lose access to SNAP because they own a modest car, which they often need to commute to their jobs. Eliminating categorical eligibility would cause some low-income working households to lose benefits simply because of the value of a modest car they own. These families would be forced to choose between owning a reliable car and receiving food assistance to help feed their families.
In 2010, only 1.5 percent of SNAP recipients qualified under the categorical eligibility. While Republicans have done their best to frame food assistance as wasteful spending, it is not at all — at its very highest, the program was only .52 percent of the United States’ GDP. Plus, accessibility of food stamps affects peoples’ lives. Food stamps kept five million people out of poverty in 2010, and the program reduced the number of children living in extreme poverty by half.
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