Obama, are you listening?[...]
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This is the world we live in now, folks. One where conservatives think students borrowing money from the government is an "entitlement." Back in the days when people were sane, we used to believe paying for our young people to be educated was an obligation of a healthy democracy. Now, it's all up to kids who are expected not only to pay for their college educations, but to bury themselves deep in debt to do it. Listen to George Will's arrogant pronouncement:
TAPPER: And, George, you and I were talking about this earlier. You think that we're witnessing the birth of a new entitlement, with the president's push on -- on student loans.
WILL: Well, look what happened. It's a slow-motion, almost absentminded creation of a new entitlement, exactly at the moment when the entitlement state is buckling under the weight of its already existing commitments. Five years ago, Congress says, well, let's cut in half the interest rate on certain student loans, from 6.8 to 3.4.
Wow, no brownie points to Jake Tapper for just repeating that nonsense without so much as a raised eyebrow. Entitlement? Really?
From the time our kids are in kindergarten, parents, teachers and society alike hammer home the value of their education. By the time they're freshmen in high school, they're expected to know what they want their career to be and forge a pathway to college. If they want to get into something other than a community college, they're told to stress out for the next four years, take all the AP or IB classes they can, volunteer in their communities, participate in extracurricular activities, work a part-time job, and make sure they maintain their straight As in the process.
Those who actually manage to do these things are then rewarded with acceptances to the colleges of their choice and immediately presented with a bill for anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per year. If they're really lucky, they might win one of the few scholarships available to shave some of the pain off that bottom line, but there are no guarantees.
If they're not, they're told they can borrow around $5,000 per year from the government, and if their parents qualify, mom and dad can borrow about $25,000 from the government to send them to that school. Here's what happens: Those kids who we pushed to achieve and qualify for those public and sometimes private university educations land in community college for a couple of years while they try to save enough money to go to a 4-year university and not go broke in the process.
If they choose the 4-year university/tuition loan route, they leave school with debt, hazy job prospects, and the sense that everything they just worked toward was a farce. Which it will be, if Will has his way.
TAPPER: 6.8 to 3.4, yeah.
WILL: We'll do it, they said, temporarily. Well, now we're coming up against the expiration of that, and they're saying, well, let's temporarily move it on yet again.
TAPPER: But Romney supports that, as well.
WILL: I understand that. And that's why this is a bipartisan example of how entitlements -- because once you do this, once you extend it again, you'll never go back to 3.4 percent.
SMILEY: But when -- but when -- but when student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, and we want to label that an entitlement, we don't call corporate welfare an entitlement. I just -- I don't see...
WILL: Of the two-thirds of the people who graduate from college with debt, the average debt is something under $30,000 total. That is just about the one-year difference in earnings between a college graduate and a high school graduate. We're talking about a pittance a month (ph).
SMILEY: But, George -- but if we give interest-free loans to bankers, why not interest-free loans to students, George?
WILL: Let's not give interest-free loans to anyone.
At last! Something I agree with George Will about. Truly, let's not give interest-free loans to the banks, and let's not make students and their struggling middle class parents break under the weight of student loans. Instead, let's recognize that this country has always believed that educating our children is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy, and start paying for it again the way we have in the past.
The reason Will and his ilk argue against student loan interest rate breaks is simple: They want to control which students have access to a college education. Their preferred flavor of student is a conservative one. They truly believe educating those librul ingrates who show up at Occupy protests or dare to question the status quo are unworthy of an education. If conservatives could choose which students got a college education, they'd be the very compliant sons and daughters of fine, upstanding, churchgoing types. The ones who qualify for Koch scholarships.
The ones like people in my family who protested the Vietnam war, went to college in the days when the University of California was tuition-free, and then dedicated themselves to public service for their entire career? They need not apply if their voter registration says "Democrat."
I'm completely serious about the need to return to the values that made this country great, and those values include assuming the costs for educating our young people and making sure they have the finest education possible in order to innovate, create, and shape a new, better, more equal world. Enough of the philosophy of educating only caretakers for the oligarchs.
Not only should there be no interest charged on student loans, there should be no student loans. It's as simple as that.
I remember back in the day when I was a youngster trying to work my way into the A-merry-can political scene. I wasn't so much of an ideologue back then. My mind was pretty much still open to new ideas and ways of doing things politically.
So when a friend of mine, who happens to be one of those rare black republicans, (Shout out to GG!) asked me if I wanted to go to their convention in New Orleans, I hesitated at first but still went for it.
Folks, I am here to tell you that there is a reason why the republican tent is so small. Trust me when I tell you that they kind of like it that way. I will give you that this was the late eighties, but still, if looks could kill I wouldn't be here today. I don't care how much progress wingnuts claim they have made, you will never catch my black ass at such an event again. Ever!
Anyway I gave you that little vignette because I want to talk about Richard Grenell for a minute. Mr. Grenell is one of these guys who believes that he can fit into that republican tent even though he is openly Gay. Sadly for Richard, he is under the illusion that just because he thinks like they do the [right] wingnuts will accept him. They will not. I saw that up close and personal as a black man walking around the Louisiana Superdome in 1988.
"Richard Grenell, whom Mitt Romney chose last month as his presidential campaign?s national security and foreign policy spokesman, stepped down from his post Tuesday, suggesting that the conservative backlash over his sexuality prevented him from being effective in his role.
In a statement provided to The Washington Post, Grenell, who is openly gay, said: ?While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama?s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.? He added: ?I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.? [Source]
Richard, don't blame the fact that you are getting the business for being Gay from your wingnut friends on the "presidential campaign". You might want to take a look at the people who are attacking you, personally. They are not liberals or democrats; they are your ideological soul-mates who are right there under the tent with you, and they want you out.
Remember that old joke that us black folks like to tell about a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders? Well you belong with us chickens.
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"This is one of the reasons President Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history."
-- GOP doodyhead Ed Gillespie
I know the country has decided that it's A-OK that every word out of the mouth of every right-winger is frothy, thuggish lie. By that standard, of course, the Right-eous rage prompted by the Obama campaign's suggestion that Willard Inc. wouldn't have taken out Osama bin-Laden, is perfectly justified. Who's better equipped to manage the triple feat of lying about what the president and the would-be president, and the former president said about Osama bin-Laden? Not to mention erasing their heroes' unbroken history of screaming jingoism -- most notably in the record of America's forgotten-but-not-gone ex-hero, Chimpy the Accomplished-Mission.
I like Joe Conason's take in his syndicated column "Why Obama's bin Laden Ad Drives Republicans Crazy":
Nothing aggravates Republicans like seeing nasty, effective tactics upon which they have so long relied being turned against one of their candidates. So when Barack Obama's re-election campaign aired an ad celebrating the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death -- and suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn't have achieved that objective -- the right exploded with outraged protests.Then Joe uncorks the Ed Gillespie corker I've put at the top of this post. Yup, it's Barack the Kenyan Milquetoast Moderate who's caused all that divisiveness, not thug-brained right-wingers.
Evidently, the feelings of longtime hatchet men like Bush-era party chair Ed Gillespie, ex-Bush flack Ari Fleischer and the editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal, to name a few, were really, really hurt ? because the Obama campaign exploited a moment of national unity for partisan advantage.
It began weeks after the 9/11 attacks, amid sincere pledges of patriotic cooperation from congressional Democrats, when Karl Rove told the Republican National Committee that their party would "go to the country on this issue" to win the midterm elections in 2002. They won a historic victory by sliming wounded Vietnam hero Max Cleland and former Air Force intelligence officer Tom Daschle as stooges of al-Qaida.
Bush's 2004 re-election campaign amplified the same themes, with advertising and pageantry at the Republican convention in New York City grossly exploiting 9/11, a series of conveniently timed terror "alerts" leading up to Election Day and repeated warnings by Vice President Dick Cheney that a Democratic victory would signal weakness to America's enemies.
And it persisted into the 2006 midterm, with Rove falsely portraying Democrats as limp-wristed "liberals" trying to "understand" Osama bin Laden.
Until that election, the rough Rovian style succeeded brilliantly -- despite the fact that Bush and Cheney had actually allowed bin Laden and Mullah Omar to escape at Tora Bora.
Not only did he say what the ad quotes, but he also said that he wouldn't go into Pakistan to get bin Laden, which is what the mission required. Had the president followed Romney's policy recommendation, bin Laden would almost certainly still be at large.
"Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order," scoffed Romney in response. But he shouldn't be so quick to denigrate the former Democratic president, who entered the Navy during World War II and then served as a submarine officer until his honorable discharge in 1953. Somebody may compare Carter's service with Romney's own military record, which doesn't exist -- and remind voters that he avoided the Vietnam draft with a pampered stint as a Mormon missionary, in France.
Americans really need to seriously sit down and re-think exactly what we want our prison system to accomplish -- rehabilitate crooks so that they can see the error of their ways and become productive members of society again? Or create thugs,[...]
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Last time we discussed technetium, and now we shall discuss the only other element with Z < 82 with no stable isotope, promethium (Z = 61). But there is more business than just that, and it has to do with a suggestion that commenter Wreck[...]
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While discussing the fact that the United States has been slow to recover from the recession, David Gregory parroted the Republicans' talking point that you can't claim the stimulus plan worked because it failed to keep unemployment below 8 percent as the administration claimed it would.
Gregory also ignores the record amount of obstruction the Democrats have had to deal with ever since President Obama took office with either blocking or watering down the stimulus package they did manage to get passed. As many have pointed out, one of the biggest drags on the economy right now has been the number of government jobs that have been lost, as opposed to the private sector which has been recovering more quickly.
As Vice President Biden pointed out, the economy was in a lot worse shape than they realized when that statement was made and no one can argue that putting more teachers and firefighters back to work is not going to improve the unemployment numbers. He also pointed out that Mitt Romney's record on job creation is not the best one either as a businessman or during his term as governor.
Transcript of their exchange below the fold.
DAVID GREGORY: But the bottom line is that you and President Obama have a record.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes.
DAVID GREGORY: And this recovery out of a steep recession has been much slower than in past recoveries after recessions. And this administration's done a lot between stimulus and health care and financial regulation. You stepped up to the plate, take-- taken some big swings. And yet, recovery is still very, very slow.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It isn?t --
DAVID GREGORY: The argument is, "Why not give somebody who's got-- a real background in business to try to turn it around?"
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, take a look at his background in business. When he was in business, how did he save companies? By piling debt on them. When he was governor, he ranked 47th out of 50 states in job creation. Look, look at what he's proposing. But let's go back to what we're proposing. In terms of recovery out of a financial recession this deep, unfortunately, this is not way off. This is not slower than a significant financial recession, which this is the greatest recession in the history of America short of a depression.
And if these guys would get out of the way-- for example, had they passed our jobs bill, all the experts said it would have created two million more jobs. Two million more jobs. These guys wouldn't even let us put back to work 400,000 teachers, firefighters and cops by a 0.5% tax on the first dollar after the first million you made. Come on, man.
DAVID GREGORY: But you can't guarantee jobs. I mean, it was--
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: No, no, but-- no--
DAVID GREGORY: It was this administration that said you could keep 8% unemployment if you passed the stimulus act. You can't go by those predictions.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: No, no, no, here's what you can go by. You can go by what the consensus among economists says was likely to happen if certain actions are taken. And by the way, the reason why that-- that was off, that-- that projection, at the time, that was stated by some of the economists. It was estimated that the economy the previous quarter had fallen 5%. It actually fell almost 9%. Nobody, including all the business models at the time, thought the devastation was as great as it turned out to be.
President Clinton speaks with North Carolina residents in the wake of Hurricane Floyd, Sept. 1999
(White House/Wikicommons)President William Jefferson Clinton is the latest, and arguably the most significant luminary, to lend his voice to the cause of stopping North Carolina's proposed Amendment One to ban gay marriage, civil unions and any legal recognition of any non-married relationships.
President Clinton (Clinton Foundation)The 42nd president of the United States has released a message of unequivocal condemnation that will be used by the Protect ALL NC Families campaign for automated voter calls.
The statement reads:
"Hello, this is President Bill Clinton. I?m calling to urge you to vote against Amendment One on Tuesday May 8. If it passes, it won?t change North Carolina?s law on marriage. What it will change is North Carolina?s ability to keep good businesses, attract new jobs, and attract and keep talented entrepreneurs. If it passes, your ability to keep those businesses, get those jobs, and get those talented entrepreneurs will be weakened. And losing even one job to Amendment One is too big of a risk. Its passage will also take away health insurance from children and could even take away domestic violence protections from women. So the real effect of the law is not to keep the traditional definition of marriage, you?ve already done that. The real effect of the law will be to hurt families and drive away jobs. North Carolina can do better. Again, this is Bill Clinton asking you to please vote against Amendment One. Thanks."You can listen to the recording here:
Amendment opponents have already unquestionable won the earned media war, and news of President Clinton's involvement can only help. He remains a very popular person in the state. The campaign estimates it will need an additional $25,000 to properly fund the distribution of this message.
Proponents of Amendment One have called the concern about the collateral damage to women and children "lies" although no credible sources have agreed with them, and many disagree. Clinton is a powerful validator for the essential message that Amendment One does nothing to change the status quo of gay marriage in North Carolina, but will visit real damage to the economy, children, families and all unmarried couples.
Like the Mississippi Personhood Amendment last year, conventional wisdom has decreed this amendment is destined to pass.
The vibe is very different on the ground, however.
(Continues after the fold.)
Well, sure, women are the richer sex, if by "richer" you mean "making less money." If you take some tiny demographic slices?single, childless college-educated women in major urban areas?those women make more than men their age. But enough of me blathering. Here's some stats:
National Women's Law Center
I wrote about this subject on Equal Pay Day, before I came across Bryce Covert's fabulous Nation post "How to Close the Gender Wage Gap In Just Seven Easy* Steps." (Do read it for serious policy ideas written with verve.) One of her steps: raise the minimum wage. See? Easy!
The Trinity Broadcasting Network is an untaxed empire…
The prosperity gospel preached by Paul and Janice Crouch, who built a single station into the world?s largest Christian television network, has worked out well for them.
Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch?s chauffeur.
Is it uncharitable to wonder why they can’t live in the same house? There are supposed to be checks and balances on businesses that abuse the tax exemption granted to religious groups and charities. But when a church owns a huge media mouthpiece and claims God’s endorsement politicians are timid…
Rusty Leonard, an independent tax expert and the leader of Wall Watchers, a charity watchdog group that has long criticized TBN for financial secrecy, said televangelists often escape penalties for extravagant spending because the definition of taxable ?excess benefits? is subjective, and authorities are reluctant to challenge religious groups.
Marcus S. Owens, a tax lawyer with Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, said that lavish spending by nonprofit organizations could raise red flags for tax officials. ?The law says that any compensation must be reasonable, and the value of a house is part of that,? he said. ?Dinner on the company every night could be an issue too.?
At the same time, Mr. Owens said, churches have considerable latitude under the First Amendment. Regarding the ordination of untrained workers, he said, ?absent clear fraud, the government is not going to touch that.?
Ordination has its uses, financial more than spiritual…
Ms. Koper and the two other former TBN employees also said that dozens of staff members, including Ms. Koper, chauffeurs, sound engineers and others had been ordained as ministers by TBN. This allowed the network to avoid paying Social Security taxes on their salaries and made it easier to justify providing family members with rent-free houses, sometimes called ?parsonages,? she said.
These ‘ministers’ had better trust that The Lord will create Prosperity. They’re going to get a rude awakening when it’s time to apply for Social Security and a hunk of their working years have nothing put in. The Crouches will have gone on to their reward by then, laughing all the way no doubt.
I’m not against tax exemptions for religious organizations, or non-profits, or charities– but there’s clearly too many loopholes when megalomaniacs who think God talks to them can buy houses for their dogs. That’s the kind of thing you expect from Donald Trump…
?Prosperity theology is a false theology,? said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Between its message and its reputation for high spending, Mr. Mohler said, ?TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades.?
Maybe some day Mr.Mohler will take time out from fighting the gay peril and voice a mild public reproof to TBN and other moneychangers in the temple. These people prey on the lonely and the needy, broadcasting to elderly and shut-ins. I see it all the time. The neighborhood church that might offer some real human contact is neglected in favor of the TV. But those widow’s mites add up when they’re funneled into a few greedy hands.
Christians, there’s plenty in the New Testament about money, scams and fakers. Feeding them only makes them bigger. Remember that Jesus said to give to the poor, he never said for the poor to give to the rich.