The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is criticizing the House Republican budget for cutting various assistance programs for the poor, The Hill reported today. A letter to the House Agriculture Committee blasts the budget for cutting funding for food stamps and other programs that ?serve poor and vulnerable people.? ?Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment,” the letter said. “These cuts are unjustified and wrong.” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is Catholic, used the Church’s teaching to justify his budget last week despite the fact that it seems to ignore much of that teaching.
In a mass proceeding a Catholic men’s march this weekend, Bishop Daniel Jenky delivered a homily that appears better suited to an episode of the Glenn Beck Show than to a celebration of religious faith. As part of a lengthy historical lecture on past attacks on the Catholic church, Jenky claimed that President Obama is following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler:
The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate. . . .
Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama ? with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
For the record, Hitler tried to systematically exterminate the members of faiths that he did not approve of. Obama, by contrast, wants all working women to have access to contraception, regardless of whether they work for a religious employer. The very suggestion that Obama or his actions even vaguely resemble those of the Third Reich is deeply offensive and calls into question whether Bishop Jenky possesses the most basic understanding of the history of Nazi Germany.
Despite ALEC’s announcement this morning that they will shut down a task force focused on “non-economic” issues like voter suppression or “stand your ground” gun laws, another major corporation is leaving the right-wing organization. Today, Blue Cross Blue Shield became the 11th company to drop ALEC after pressure from progressive groups like Color of Change. See who the other 10 companies are here. Still, major corporations like AT&T and State Farm have yet to pull their support from the conservative group.
We need to recapture the energy of the 2011 Wisconsin budget protests (Justin Ormont/CC BY-SA 3.0)Thanks to last summer's state Senate recall elections in Wisconsin, the balance of power in the chamber shifted from 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats to a much tighter 17-16 edge for the GOP. That means, of course, that Democrats need to capture only one Republican-held seat to take control of the Senate. (Right now, there's one vacancy, so the split is temporarily 16-16.) And in our new batch of polling of this spring's second round of Senate recalls, there's one race which is looking quite promising.
Unfortunately, three others look to be in much tougher shape. But you never want to make final conclusions about a race on account of a single poll, and what's more, we're still seven weeks out from election day. That's enough preamble; here are the numbers, in order of smallest margin to widest. All polls were conducted by Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos, from April 13-15:
SD-21 (MoE: ±3.9%):
John Lehman (D): 46SD-23 (MoE: ±3.6%):
Van Wanggaard (R-inc): 48
Kristin Dexter (D): 41SD-29 (MoE: ±3.6%):
Terry Moulton (R-inc): 51
Donna Seidel (D): 37SD-13 (MoE: ±3.5%):
Jerry Petrowski (R): 51
Lori Compas (D): 40So what's the difference between these four seats? Why is SD-21 more competitive than the rest? It comes down to two "dems": demographics and Democrats. Lehman is doing a much better job of winning self-identified Democrats than two of the other three challengers, winning this group by an 83 percent margin, while Dexter only prevails among Democrats by 74 percent and Seidel by 64 percent. Meanwhile, the Republicans all perform very similarly with members of their own party, and independents are, for the most part, evenly split.
Scott Fitzgerald (R-inc): 54
Compas does as well among Democrats as Lehman, but she (along among the Democrats), trails with independents (in her case, by seven points). But that alone isn't the answer, and that's where demographics come in. The sample in the 21st is simply bluer than the other three districts, going by the proportion of respondents who identify as Democrats versus Republicans versus independents. Here's the breakdown:
SD-21: 29 D, 34 R, 37 IThe 13th was always the longest of shots, given that it's the fifth-reddest district in the entire state. But the other three districts voted pretty similarly at the presidential level (53 to 55 percent for Barack Obama), so it's interesting to see that the 21st only has a five-point Republican edge, while the 23rd and 29th are almost double that.
SD-23: 26 D, 35 R, 39 I
SD-29: 26 D, 37 R, 37 I
SD-13: 26 D, 38 R, 36 I
Of course, these numbers are not set in stone. Party breakdowns, as I've alluded, always measure self-identification, and people can and do change their minds about such things (unlike, say, their age or gender, which change much less often). What's more, generating excitement among your own party can move the needle, and that's exactly what's needed here. We not only need more Democrats to come out, but we need more of those who do to pull the lever for their own team.
That, however, is the crux of our difficulties, according to our pollster, Tom Jensen:
When we polled Wisconsin in February, we asked a question about whether Wisconsin voters generally think the state should have recall elections. Around 10% of voters who disapprove of Scott Walker also said that they don't believe in recall elections. That means for a politician to get recalled they have to be really unpopular?even if 51 or 52% of voters disapprove of you, there are enough that don't believe in recalls that you can still survive. I think Walker?and the state senators at risk?probably need to have somewhere in the range of 54-55% of voters unhappy with them to get removed from office. That's a tough bar for Democrats to reach.So we have a difficult task ahead of us, but we know exactly what our challenge is: getting Democrats pumped up again to take out Scott Walker and his enablers in the legislature. And we need to keep the heat up in all of these races to keep the playing field as broad as possible. And even if we only win one of the Senate recalls, like I say, the good news is, that's all we need.
We saw in almost all the recalls last summer?whether it was Democratic or Republican Senators being targeted?that most undecided voters moved against the recalls in the closing stretch.
One thing we saw in all these state senate polls is a much more GOP-friendly electorate than 2008. That suggests to me that Democratic voters are suffering from recall fatigue? this has been going on for so long and we are now so far removed from the protests in early 2011 that the passion Democratic voters have for coming out and removing these folks from office just isn't what it was a year ago. It's possible those folks could be reenergized by the campaign over the next couple months but right now Democratic interest in these elections isn't what it needs to be.
Happy tax day! Republicans are excited they beat back a nefarious attempt to ensure that people who make $1 million a year pay 30 percent in taxes, even though that idea is overwhelmingly popular, and even though the need is screamingly obvious:
In fact, "The 400 highest income filers paid an average tax rate of 16.6 percent in 2007 (before the Great Recession)" and "In 2011, the top 1 percent of households by cash income received 75.1 percent of the benefit from the preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends. The middle class, meanwhile, received only 3.9 percent of that benefit." No wonder that, while a plurality of Americans believe they pay too much income tax, far more believe the system benefits the rich. But it's not just the wealthy: Tax rates are lower even for average families and corporate tax revenues are a much smaller share of the economy than was historically the case.
All of this matters, because if the deficit continues to be fetishized and we let wealthy individuals and corporations pay less than their fair share, the only thing left on the table is massive cuts to programs we all care about. Programs that could be paid for by cutting tax deductions and loopholes, including first and foremost the low tax rates on investment income.
Just a little tax day reminder of some things Republican politicians are trying really hard to make us forget.
In what at first glance looks like a major concession, ALEC, the embattled right-wing legislation factory for state and local government, announced they would refocus their efforts solely on economic issues, and eliminate a task force they had devoted to[...]
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Throughout the broadcast media where most people get their "news," coverage of climate change is not exactly what you'd call extensive. There are plenty of reasons why this should not be the case. For instance, Congress is now brimful of climate-change "skeptics," a euphemism for "deniers." These folks are either so ignorant they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near public office or so glued to the lies of their Koch-contributors that they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near public office. Then there is, of course, the reality of climate change itself. Which hasn't gone away.
The president himself won't use the term in speeches even on something as relevant to the climate-change discussion as energy policy. But he, at least, has reasons. No doubt his advisors argue against bringing the issue up in an election year given that the percentage of Americans who worry about global warming is well below what it was a dozen years ago.
But the media have no excuse other than that their bosses, both overt and behind the scenes, don't care to enlighten readers and viewers on the subject.
As Media Matters points out in a new study, coverage of climate change has plunged recently. Not that it was all that great to begin with. Nightly news coverage fell 72 percent between 2009 and 2011. That is, nightly news coverage on NBC, ABC, CBS went from two hours in 2009 to just 27 minutes in 2010 and 38 minutes in 2011. (Fox has no nightly news program.)
Think about that for a moment. Coverage of the most important issue of our era on the most-watched broadcast news programs for three years amounted to just 185 minutes. And if you think that this is made up for by MSNBC and CNN, who do a better job, think again. Four times as many Americans get their news from the three broadcast networks as they do the cable channels. Including Fox.
And the Sunday shows? Even worse. In three years, 98 minutes total for four networks, including Fox. Only nine minutes in 2011. Over the entire period, CBS's Face the Nation spent four minutes on climate change. In 2011, Donald Trump got more coverage than climate change on all four networks.
As if this pathetic showing wasn't bad enough, those invited to speak during the paltry time allotted helped frame the issue on the "skeptical" side:
In total, 68% of the political figures interviewed or quoted by the Sunday shows were Republicans, and 32% were Democrats. In 2011, the only people interviewed or quoted about climate change on the Sunday shows were Republican politicians. Fox News Sunday was the most skewed, featuring eight Republicans and only two Democrats over the three years. [...]The agenda here is dead clear. And it seems to be working. Just one problem. Whether you are the president, a network CEO or just a spoon-fed viewer, ignoring climate change won't make it go away.
Our study finds that the Sunday shows consulted political and media figures on climate change, but left scientists out of the discussion. Of those hosted or interviewed on climate change, 50% were political figures?including elected officials, strategists and advisers?45% were media figures, and none were scientists. By comparison, 32% of those interviewed or quoted on the nightly news programs were political figures, and 20% were scientists.
Not like we didn't see this coming. It turns out, the only way House Republicans can figure out how to pay for the goodies in Paul Ryan's budget, like giving the Pentagon more money than it even wants and massive tax breaks to the rich, is to cut food stamps and let millions go hungry:
An average family of four would face an 11 percent cut in monthly benefits after Sept. 1 and, even more important, tighter enforcement of rules would require that households exhaust most of their liquid assets before qualifying for help. [...]It's the worst case scenario, cutting both benefits and eligibility, forcing families to "exhaust" their resources before they can qualify for less. Millions would be shut out of the program entirely.
In addition, $26 billion in longer-term savings are attributed to tougher eligibility rules affecting what assets a family can retain and the standard deduction allowed for utility costs.
That's your Republican, Romney-endorsed budget right there: let millions starve so the Pentagon will be happy and the rich can keep their taxes low.
After weeks of pressure, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) appears to be backing away from long-term efforts at creating barriers to voting (voter-ID laws) and pushing "Stand Your Ground" legislation. The latter allows those who feel threatened in public places to use force; Florida's version is currently at the center of the Trayvon Martin case. Giving in to public pressure, ALEC announced Tuesday that it was disbanding its Public Safety and Elections task force, which promoted such legislation and helped see it proliferate. The organization is now "reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy." ALEC's spokesperson did not respond to interview requests nor did Public Safety Task Force Chair Jerry Madden, a Texas state representative.
ALEC, which proudly calls itself "the nation's largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators," has operated as a largely secret arena in which corporate sponsors and conservative legislators share ideas. The group offers model legislation to its members, which has in the past simply been introduced in legislatures unchanged. While the group says its goals are job growth and economic development, it has actively promoted voter-ID legislation to make it harder to vote as well as anti-union measures and those to limit lawsuits. The group also pushes for law taxes and decreased regulation.
As controversy grew around the slaying of Trayvon Martin and Florida's Stand Your Ground laws, ALEC found itself on the ropes. The Martin shooting sparked widespread public outcry. Civil-rights group Color of Change helped lead public campaigns against ALEC and its affiliated companies for its support of such laws. In the face of growing grassroots pressure over the last few weeks, major ALEC corporate members like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have dropped membership, as have McDonald's, Kraft Food, Mars and others. Just Monday, a New York Times editorial slammed ALEC for its role in promoting Stand Your Ground legislation.
In the statement announcing the end of the Public Safety and Elections task force, the organization shifted its focus to "free-market, limited government, pro-growth policies."
But this hardly constitutes a victory. ALEC still has a variety of task forces: There's the Civil Justice Task Force, Education Task Force, and Health and Human Safety Task Force, all of which seem a bit removed from the group's ostensible goals. The Civil Justice Task Force's efforts appear largely focused on tort reform, as evidenced by the latest initiative "Expanding the Law Under New Restatement of Torts" and its latest publication, "The State Legislator's Guide: Tort Reform Boot Camp."
Then there's the disturbing impact on health care and education. As The Nation showed in its "ALEC Exposed" series, the group has lobbied all out against health-care reform, while its education task force, headed partially by an executive for the for-profit online education company Connections Academy, has pushed hard for vouchers and increased privatization in American public schools. Its latest publication, a report card on education, begins with by comparing the battle over education reform to the World War II, with teacher unions being?you guessed it?Germany and Japan.
In the end, the Public Safety and Elections task force has already had its success. Voter-ID laws have proliferated around the country, making voting harder for poor and minority Americans. And according to the Times, Stand Your Ground is already law in 24 states.
Color of Change and its boycott isn't likely to stop the pressure any time soon. In a statement responding to the news, executive director Rashad Robinson didn't mince words: "To simply say they are stopping non-economic work does not provide justice to the millions of Americas [sic] whose lives are impacted by these dangerous and discriminatory laws courtesy of ALEC and its corporate backers.
French election rules feature a runoff after a first round with multiple candidates. If the unpopular Sarkozy wins a small first round plurality because of a divided field, that isn't the end of the story. On May 6th the two candidates that did the best[...]
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