Yesterday Frank Rich had everybody asking Who Will Stand Up To The Superrich? Looking at who financed Obama's electoral campaign, who runs his treasury department and economic team and who he appointed to be his first chief of staff, we can be sure who won't stand up to the superrich. And now that the superrich just bought the House of Representatives, anyone who thinks the Senate is about to make an historic u-turn and start standing up for regular working families has got to be delusional. The Supreme Court has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the superrich for decades. And that leaves...
America?s ever-widening income inequality was not an inevitable by-product of the modern megacorporation, or of globalization, or of the advent of the new tech-driven economy, or of a growing education gap. (Yes, the very rich often have fancy degrees, but so do those in many income levels below them.) Inequality is instead the result of specific policies, including tax policies, championed by Washington Democrats and Republicans alike as they conducted a bidding war for high-rolling donors in election after election.
...The G.O.P.?s arguments for extending the Bush tax cuts to this crowd, usually wrapped in laughably hypocritical whining about ?class warfare,? are easily batted down. The most constant refrain is that small-business owners who file in this bracket would be hit so hard they could no longer hire new employees. But the Tax Policy Center found in 2008, when checking out similar campaign claims by ?Joe the Plumber,? that only 2 percent of all Americans reporting small-business income, regardless of tax bracket, would see tax increases if Obama fulfilled his pledge to let the Bush tax cuts lapse for the top earners. The economist Dean Baker calculated that the yearly tax increase at the lower end of that bracket, for those with earnings between $200,000 and $500,000, would amount to $700-- which ?isn?t enough to hire anyone.?
Those in the higher reaches aren?t investing in creating new jobs even now, when the full Bush tax cuts remain in effect, so why would extending them change that equation? American companies seem intent on sitting on trillions in cash until the economy reboots. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office ranks the extension of any Bush tax cuts, let alone those to the wealthiest Americans, as the least effective of 11 possible policy options for increasing employment.
Nor are the superrich helping to further the traditional American business culture that inspires and encourages those with big ideas and drive to believe they can climb to the top. Robert Frank, the writer who chronicled the superrich in the book ?Richistan,? recently analyzed the new Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans for The Wall Street Journal and found a ?hardening of the plutocracy? and scant mobility. Only 16 of the 400 were newcomers-- as opposed to an average of 40 to 50 in recent years-- and they tended to be in industries like coal, natural gas, chemicals and casinos rather than forward-looking businesses involving the Green Economy, tech or biotechnology. This is ?not exactly the formula for America?s vaunted entrepreneurial wealth machine,? Frank wrote.
As ?Winner-Take-All Politics? documents, America has been busy ?building a bridge to the 19th century?-- that is, to a new Gilded Age. To dislodge the country from this stagnant rut will require all kinds of effort from Americans in and out of politics. That includes some patriotic selflessness from those at the very top who still might emulate Warren Buffett and the few others in the Forbes 400 who dare say publicly that it?s not in America?s best interests to stack the tax and regulatory decks in their favor.
Many of the countless tasks that need to be addressed to start rebuilding an equitable America are formidable, but surely few, if any, are easier than eliminating a tax break that was destined to expire anyway and that most Americans want to see expire. Two years ago, Obama campaigned on this issue far more strenuously than he did on, say, reforming health care. Now he and what remains of his Congressional caucus are poised to retreat from even this clear-cut battle. You know things are grim when you start wishing that the president might summon his inner Linda McMahon.
We?ve also recently heard a lot of talk in Washington about the manufacturing sector, but no action. Congress has yet to act on pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.
These agreements would level the playing field for American workers, farmers, and businesses and pave the way for creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs here at home.
Passing these free-trade agreements was a critical plank of the jobs plan that House Republican Whip Eric Cantor and I presented to President Obama last December.
Congress should approve these free trade agreements immediately.
Emanuel and DeLay had their hands full to pass the hated NAFTA legislation and there are plenty of legendary stories about nuts being cracked and congressmen being forced to sell out their own constituents. One, Robin Hayes (R-NC), actually broke down and wept like a little girl when DeLay told him he had to vote to destroy what was left of the Piedmont's once-booming textile industry. In the end, on that fateful day in November, 1993, 234 voted aye and only 200, overwhelmingly Democrats, of course, voted nay. Many of the corporate shills who cast their votes against American workers are still in public office-- or otherwise engaged in politics, like Tea Party organizer Dick Armey, and perpetual presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
Despite his failure to conclude a trade deal with South Korea this week, President Obama has put free trade at the top of his agenda. That?s in part because the White House and the newly empowered Republican leadership see it as one of the few places where they can work together.
But those expectations could be upset by an unexpected force: the Tea Party. Strangely, for a movement named after an 18th-century protest against import levies, Tea Partyers are largely skeptical about free trade?s benefits-- according to a recent poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, 61 percent of Tea Party sympathizers believe it has hurt the United States.
The movement has already forced the Republicans to alter their agenda in several policy areas. Should the same thing happen with free trade, America?s stance toward open markets and globalization could shift drastically.
At first glance, the Tea Party?s position may seem contradictory: its small-government, pro-business views usually go hand in hand with free trade. But if you consider the dominant themes underlying its agenda, it makes sense that the movement would be wary about free-trade policies. For starters, Tea Partyers are frustrated with Washington, and that includes its failure to make free trade work for America. Our trade deficit in manufactured goods was about $4.3 trillion during the last decade, and the country lost some 5.6 million manufacturing jobs.
And while the Tea Party supports market outcomes, its members appear to believe that the rest of the world is stacking the free-trade deck against us. They have a point: most policymakers agree that the Chinese currency is grossly and deliberately undervalued, that China fails to respect intellectual property rights and that it uses government subsidies to protect its own manufacturing base. Meanwhile, the movement says, the United States does virtually nothing in response.
The Republican establishment will argue that its trade agenda is consistent with Tea Party ideals, that its goal is to get government out of the way and allow American companies to thrive in competitive markets.
But Tea Partyers will ask, what good does it do to reduce the role of our government if foreign governments are free to rig the rules, attack American industries and take American jobs? As a result, the otherwise pro-market Tea Party may find its economic program far more at home with a nationalist trade policy that confronts foreign abuses and fights for American companies.
...Trade is an issue where Tea Party concerns about ?elites? thwarting the will of the voters will resonate.
In this case, the elites include both Democrats and Republicans. You would need a high-powered microscope to tell the difference between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush on the subject of trade. Even during this slow economic recovery, Mr. Obama is pushing for a new market-opening round of talks at the World Trade Organization.
Among Republicans, not one major elected figure expresses the skepticism toward free trade held by over three-fifths of Tea Partyers. In the face of soaring trade deficits and talk of American decline, the Tea Party may ask whether this is yet another area where the establishment has simply gotten it wrong.
In short, the apparent contradiction between the Tea Party?s fiscal conservatism and its skepticism about free trade may not be a contradiction at all. If the Tea Party continues to influence the Republican agenda, it may not only spell bad news for the South Korea free trade agreement-- it could also mean a fundamental reorientation of our country?s attitude toward trade and globalization.
Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, has stepped down from Liberty Central, the group dedicated to training Tea Party activists. Too little, too late.
This doesn't surprise me, nor do I think it has much to do with her inappropriate telephone call to Anita Hill. I think you will see many of these groups merge with the more mainstream groups now that the midterms are over.
"She'll take a back seat so that Liberty Central can continue with its mission without any of the distractions," Carroll said. "After discussing it with the board, Mrs. Thomas determined that it was best for the organization."
Carroll declined to elaborate, but a source not authorized to speak publicly about the details said Liberty Central would be merging with the Patrick Henry Center, a Manassas-based conservative organization founded by Gary Aldrich, the former FBI agent who wrote a tell-all book about life inside the Clinton White House.
It served its purpose, and now will be folded back to the larger group. By merging with the Patrick Henry Center, it will also avoid any ongoing conflicts with regard to funding and disclosure. Big surprise there. Mrs. Thomas, I'm sure, will continue her crusade for Tea Party principles and subversion of the independence of the US judiciary.
In an era saturated with absurd moments of anti-Muslim fear-mongering, mosques have become a touchstone for Islamophobia. Even unbuilt mosques have set off a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in Tennessee, Texas, California, and most notably, New York. Not to be outdone, the people of Pheonix, AZ were quick to call foul over the appearance of a dome-like structure along an interstate. But in the clamor over the impending Muslim takeover, these Arizonans missed one small detail — the building is not a Mosque, it’s a church:
A new dome-like structure near 19th Avenue along Interstate 10 in Phoenix is the Light of the World church, a nondenominational Christian church hoping to modernize traditional worship services, a church spokesman said
Since the distinctive dome shape went up, church leaders said they have received phone calls from concerned neighbors who’ve mistaken the building for an Islamic mosque.
On Wednesday, church officials hung a sign reminding people they’re Christian congregation. “We’re trying to let people know that we’re Christian and our churches are modern,” said Uzieo Martinez.
Watch a report from KPNX-TV:
“It is unfortunate that people are so intolerant to differences that they aren’t willing to see that the place of worship is not a mosque,” said Tayyibah Amatullah of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter. But with so many high-profile figures selling unfounded, anti-Muslim fear to the public, is it any wonder that all many Americans can see in Islam is a phantom menace?
Check these numbers out from CNN's latest national survey (1,014 adults, Nov. 11-14, MoE +/- 3%):
(1) Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?
(2) (IF DISAPPROVE) Do you disapprove because you think his policies and actions since he became president have been too liberal, or because you think his policies and actions have not been liberal enough?
Disapprove, too liberal: 38%
Disapprove, not liberal enough: 9%
Disapprove, unsure: 3%
The top-line numbers show that Obama's approval rating is at 48% approve, 50% disapprove. But beyond the top-lines lurks an important part of the story.
Yes, most people who disapprove of President Obama's performance think he's too liberal. But a substantial share of his criticism is coming from the left: one-fifth of those who disapprove of President Obama don't think he's liberal enough.
For the most part, mainstream political discourse treats those who disapprove of President Obama as being monolithic in their attitudes, but these numbers put the lie to that conventional analysis. In fact, there's a much more complex story going on here and suggesting that there is a 48/50 split in public attitudes is simply incorrect.
Instead, what you have is a situation where 9% disapprove of Obama because he isn't liberal enough, 48% approve, and 38% disapprove because he's too liberal. That means less than four in ten adults think President Obama is too liberal. And purely on a political level, unless there's some magical way to win over some of those in the "too liberal" camp without pushing others into the "not liberal enough" camp, it's far from obvious that President Obama's re-election strategy should involve moving to the right.
To head back to the Mountaintop.Sad to say, but by no means unexpectedly, lol, The Forces Of Ignorance have prevailed yet again.Weenie Liberals and unevolved Republicans have thwarted the last real chance to save the Planet.....politically.All that is[...]
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I guess some deadbeats are more equal than other deadbeats.[...]
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Today brings a new well-crafted action alert from Social Security Works. Two things in[...]
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After a protracted public fight over an across-the-board ban on earmarks proposed by Jim DeMint (R-SC), and scheduled for a secret vote when the Republican Conference meets tomorrow, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has flip-flopped:
The top Republican in the Senate has reversed course and endorsed a moratorium on pork-barrel projects known as "earmarks." [...]
Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell says he's heeding the message voters sent in elections that swept Democrats from power in the House.
Comedy. A week ago McConnell said of the proposed, non-binding resolution;
The problem is it doesn’t save any money ... This debate doesn’t save any money, which is why it’s kind of exasperating to some of us who really want to cut spending and get the federal government’s discretionary accounts under control.
... and today he's heeding the message of the voters. Assuming the voters are named DeMint and have been waging jihad over less than 1% of the federal budget in what many see as a power move against the current Senate Minority Leader. And look who blinked.
The House ethics committee has found that "no material fact is in dispute" in Rep. Charlie Rangel's ethics case, and the committee has gone back into executive session to decide whether Rangel did indeed break ethics law.
The finding means that the committee accepts the facts of the case -- that Rangel (D-NY) raised money for an educational center using Congressional letterhead, that he filed inaccurate tax returns and financial disclosures, that he used a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office -- as true. Chairman Zoe Lofgren announced the decision in a brief statement before the committee returned to executive session.
Now that the committee members have agreed that there are no questions of fact in the case, the committee must now decide on the questions of law. In other words, they must decide if Rangel is guilty of any of the 13 ethics violations he is accused of. They are deliberating that in a private session now.
An angry Rangel declared this morning that the committee had violated his due process rights and prevented him from getting a lawyer. After the committee denied his request to delay the hearing so he can hire counsel, Rangel left, leaving himself defenseless.
He then released a statement further excoriating the committee.
"The process that the Committee has decided to take against me violates the most basic rights of due process that is guaranteed to every person under the Constitution," he said. "The Committee has deprived me of the fundamental right to counsel and has chosen to proceed as if it is fair and impartial and operating according to rules, when in reality they are depriving me of my rights."
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Not A Care In The World? Charlie Rangel's Birthday Celebration]
If the committee finds Rangel guilty on any of the charges, it will recommend a punishment that can range from admonishment to expulsion. That recommendation will then be voted on by the full House.
In his statement, Rangel implored his colleagues to be on his side.
"I hope that my colleagues in Congress, friends, constituents and anyone paying attention will consider my statement and how the Committee has been unfair to me. They can do what they will with me because they have the power and I have no real chance of fighting back," he said.
Rangel was re-elected two weeks ago with 80 percent of the vote.
Hello. Me again. Remember what I said about Republicans not caring about poor people and all that truth stuff I like to write about, in hopes of it waking you all up out of the slumber? Yeah, well it didn't work. So, we all suffer now - except the rich.
Still don't believe me? Well, I will let someone else do the explaining, specifically with our state's Medicaid.
The state's Medicaid program is projected to cost $228 million more than lawmakers budgeted to spend on it this fiscal year. And the shortfall at the state Department of Health and Human Services is just a preview of the budget crisis awaiting the state in July. That is when the $1 billion in federal stimulus cash that's propping up this year's $5 billion spending plan runs out.
So what happens next? Lawmakers said they will have to find some way to balance the books after they return to session in January, cutting unnamed programs and services to keep the Department of Health and Human Services afloat.
"The reality check of this whole thing is, what can the taxpayers afford?" McConnell, R-Charleston, said. "We've got demands in education, law enforcement and other core areas of government. This program is growing faster than the ability of the people of South Carolina to pay for it."
The only way the state can control costs at this point is with provider rates, and he said health care professionals already have been squeezed by the economy. The state can only lower their rates so much before doctors would stop accepting Medicaid patients because it would no longer be cost effective for them to treat them, he said.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, says, "It's ridiculous the straitjacket the federal law places on the state."