President Jimmy Carter’s latest book, “NIV Lessons from Life Bible” reflects his continued commitment to teaching Sunday School in a Baptist church. When he challenged Gerald Ford in 1976, Carter was considered the more religious candidate and won much of the Deep South. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Carter reiterated his Biblical support for marriage equality:
Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -? he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.
I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I?m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn?t require them to.
While the nation?s attention has been focused on ending one war (Afghanistan) and avoiding another (Iran), a different idea about national defense has been circulating among some of America?s thought leaders.
The idea is this: National defense isn?t only about containing foreign threats; it?s also about strengthening the fabric of society. In other words, sustainable development is a critical component of national security.
This isn?t a new thought, but new people are thinking it, including some whose job is to figure out how to prevent the foreign conflicts that end up costing U.S. lives and treasure.
A half-century ago, President Eisenhower, Congress and U.S. automakers defined ?strong? as an interstate highway system. Thirty years ago, Amory and Hunter Lovins defined ?strong? as moving away from ?brittle power? ? our dependence on fragile energy systems.
Last spring, two influential military officers published a paper called ?A National Strategic Narrative,? which boldly called for sustainable development to become central to America?s global strategy. Marine Corps Col. Mark Mykleby and Navy Capt. Wayne Porter wrote that to thrive in this century?s ?strategic ecology? the United States must move from a global posture of containment designed to preserve the status quo to a posture of sustainability designed to build our strength at home and our credible influence abroad. They wrote the paper while serving as senior strategic advisors to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Today, Mykleby, now retired from the military, is collaborating with Patrick Doherty of the nonpartisan New America Foundation and David Orr of Oberlin College on an idea called ?The Grand Strategy for Sustainability.” It?s an initiative to reshape economic policies so that market forces produce a more sustainable and secure United States.
As grand as the Grand Strategy is, it is rooted in the work of the nation?s traditional policy laboratories: sub-national regions, states and communities. In this regard, there was good news last week from the Pacific Northwest. Three governors and the Premier of British Columbia announced that they will collaborate on an action plan to make the region?s homes more energy efficient, its vehicles less dependent on oil, and its communities less vulnerable to the threat of global climate change.
In making the announcement, California Gov. Jerry Brown, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Washington State Gov. Christine Gregiore and B.C. Premier Christy Clark could have talked about the contribution they will make to North American security. Instead, they pointed to another set of important benefits ? economic activity and jobs.
According to the Center for Climate Strategies ? a group that helps states develop and estimate the impacts of climate and energy action plans ? the growth of the green economy in the Pacific Region could create more than 1 million net new jobs and up to $95 billion in net new economic growth between 2010 and 2020.
In a report commissioned by the Pacific Coast Collaborative and developed in partnership with GLOBE Advisors, the Center noted that the transition to a green economy is already underway along the West Coast, with nearly 510,000 full-time-equivalent jobs in 2010 related to clean energy, energy efficiency, low-carbon mobility and environmental protection.
What is especially interesting about the new action plan is the potential power of multi-state collaboration in building clean economies. For starters, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia will focus on energy efficiency retrofits and ?on bill? consumer financing for buildings, infrastructure to support electric vehicles, and community-based programs to reduce climate risks.
In practice, this could mean harmonizing their energy efficiency and environmental standards to create greater certainty for investors; combining their purchases of low-carbon vehicles; developing high-speed rail; creating regional emergency response plans to manage climate impacts; developing a robust market for recycling; and leveraging private sector support for innovative ways to finance green development.
The collaboration is not inconsequential. Taken together, the four jurisdictions constitute the world?s? sixth largest economy with a population of more than 50 million people and a domestic product of more than $2.5 trillion. According to the Center, their joint focus on green economic development is likely to make the Pacific Northwest a global hub for the services and products that will help the rest of the world build cleaner economies.
Score one for a clean economy. Score one for green jobs. And score one for national security. It?s time for us all to recognize we need plowshares as well as swords to make the world more secure. That reality, never more apparent than it is today, should be reflected in our foreign policy, the federal defense budget, our national effort to build a clean economy, and in the work of every locality.
In February 2002, George W. Bush adviser Kenneth Adelman infamously wrote that the invasion of Iraq would be a “cakewalk.” But wars come at a high financial cost and the Iraq war was no exception. Through FY2011, the war has required $806 billion in federal funding and and total costs have been estimated between $3 – $5 trillion. The humanitarian cost is even more striking. Of the 4,804 coalition military fatalities, the U.S. military suffered 4,486 deaths. The toll on Iraqi civilians has been even higher. Between 105,722 and 115,485 Iraqi civilian deaths have been recorded and 2.8 million Iraqis have found themselves internally displaced by the war.
While the withdrawal from Iraq means an end, or at least a decrease, in some of these costs, the end of the Iraq war permits the U.S. to turn to other security challenges such as: restoring U.S. military readiness; expanding options to deal with other military threats in the Middle East; reducing the financial burden of the U.S. caused by the war; freeing up military resources to fight the Al Qaeda network; and rebalancing overall U.S. national security strategy to deal with real security threats. The withdrawal reflects the administration’s efforts to refocus the country?s national security strategy on the long-term U.S. national security interests of countering nuclear proliferation, worldwide nuclear arsenal reductions and the security of regional partners in Asia and the Middle East.
Returning veterans, as well, find that the costs of war remain high even when their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have come to an end. Veterans face: growing economic inequalities; a struggling national economy; and a difficult job market. And, according to a whistleblower lawsuit, some of the nation’s biggest banks ?defrauded veterans and taxpayers out of hundreds of million of dollars by disguising illegal gees in veterans? home refinancing loans.?
Veterans also face attacks on their benefits such as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s proposal to privatize veterans benefits. ?The [Veterans of Foreign Wars] doesn?t support privatization of veterans health care,? VFW spokesperson Jerry Newberry told TPM. ?This is an issue that seems to come around every election cycle.?
Speaking today, Obama cited the sacrifices made by veterans and called on the country to support its veterans:
Now, our nation reaffirms our commitment to serve veterans of Iraq as well as they served us ? to uphold the sacred trust we share with all who have worn the uniform. Our future is brighter for their service, and today, we express our gratitude by saying once more: Welcome home.
A longer version of this post can be viewed in today’s Progress Report.
Radio-info.com reports that Cumulus Media/ESPN has distrubuted a list of 31 advertisers “who requested that their commercials not be scheduled in any Rush Limbaugh programs.” Cumulus, the second largest U.S. radio network, carries Limbaugh on 40 of its stations. The full list of 31 advertisers is unknown. The memo is seperate from a list of 96 advertisers who don’t want to advertise on Limbaugh which was reported exclusively last week by ThinkProgress. That memo was distributed by Limbaugh’s largest radio network, Premiere.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) pitched his last budget proposal as a way to rein in the federal budget, cut deficits and debt, and create jobs. While much of the focus on that budget fell on Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it, it also included substantial cuts to vital safety net programs.
One of the programs that would have been cut by Ryan’s budget was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). Ryan’s plan turned SNAP into a block grant to states, cutting 18 percent from a program that is credited with keeping 3.9 million Americans — including 1.7 million children — out of poverty in 2010. Had the Ryan budget been approved, that conversion would have had terrible implications for the program’s “ability to respond to rising need, forcing states during economic downturns to cut benefits or create waiting lists for needy families.” And according to a new study from the Center for American Progress, those cuts would have also destroyed more than 174,000 jobs:
In the so-called ?Ryan budget plan,? named after the principal author of the bill, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), he proposed a $127 billion cut to the program. A cut of that size would result in the loss of more than 174,000 jobs in the first year.
According to the study, each $1 billion cut from SNAP results in more than 13,700 lost jobs, and a 10 percent cut to the program would kill roughly 96,000 jobs that have depended on the program during the recession. The losses would particularly impact food-related industries, which would lose 11,000 jobs if the program was cut by 10 percent.
It’s unclear whether Ryan’s budget, set to be released tomorrow, will include cuts to SNAP similar to last year’s. If it does, however, it’s important for Ryan to know that such cuts wouldn’t only increase the spread of poverty and hunger, they would kill jobs too.
Health insurers and supporters of the Obama administration’s health-care reform law are currently in the midst of drawing up possible contingency plans in case the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
The insurance industry argues that premiums are likely to skyrocket without the individual mandate in place to aid in pushing millions of new enrollees into the marketplace, as healthy people will be less likely to buy insurance, while insurers will still be required to sell policies to all applicants. In fact, a repeal of the individual mandate would increase insurance premiums by 25 percent, according to a study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“The insurance reforms would have to change if the mandate were struck,” said Justine Handelman, vice president of legislative and regulatory policy for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association trade group.
Health-insurance officials say that if the mandate is repealed, “their first priority would be persuading members of Congress to repeal two of the law’s major insurance changes: a requirement to cover everyone regardless of his or her medical history, and limits on how much insurers can vary premiums based on age.” Their next step would be to “set rewards for people who purchase insurance voluntarily and sanction those who don’t.”
Other possible alternatives to the individual mandate that insurers are weighing:
- Penalize those who enroll outside of short annual windows; deny treatment for specific conditions, especially right after a policy is purchased
- Reward certain insurance buyers, such as offering much lower premiums for younger and healthier people
- Expand employers’ role in automatically enrolling employees for health insurance
- Urge credit-rating firms to use health-insurance status as a factor in determining individuals’ ratings
Although the mandate has been upheld in two appeals courts, it was struck down in a third. The Supreme Court hearings are scheduled to begin March 26, and an official ruling is expected to be delivered in June.
Actor Alec Baldwin, the narrator of the new documentary Frozen Planet, is excoriating Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) on Twitter as an “oil whore.” “I attack Inhofe because he is a climate change denier,” Baldwin tweeted. His series of tweets criticizes BP, Exxon, and conservatives who don’t admit “US war policy and US energy policy are often one.” (HT Get Energy Smart Now)
Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey responds: “These kind of outrageous statements made recently on Twitter by Robert Kennedy Jr. and Alec Baldwin stand in stark contrast to the civil debate Senator Inhofe had with Rachel Maddow last week. In truth, the far left and Hollywood elites have lost on their pet cause of global warming. The only way to get attention these days is to make outlandish and irresponsible comments on Twitter.?
As Greg Sargent, Steve Benen, and others have amply demonstrated, Mitt Romney has a problem with the truth. Throughout his campaign, he has openly lied about his previous positions, his beliefs, and the records of his opponents, Republican or otherwise. In a speech today on economic freedom at the University of Chicago, Romney continued the trend, building a mostly substanceless case against President Obama on the basis of half-truths and falsehoods. You can read the whole speech if you?d like. For now, I?d like to highlight a few passages that sum up Romney?s case against Obama in fact-free aplomb. First, there?s this:
For three years, President Obama has expanded government instead of empowering the American people. He?s put us deeper in debt. He?s slowed the recovery and harmed our economy.
There are a few things missing from this account. First is the fact that the Great Recession began in 2008, and was already on its way to reach its nadir by the time Obama took office. By the time the stimulus began to take effect, the economy was well on its way to the bottom, and independent analyses agree that the administration?s policies kept the country out of a depression, even if it wasn?t enough to juice the recovery.
What?s more, neither the stimulus nor the administration?s later policies were responsible for the deficit explosion of 2009 and 2010. The recession?and the drastically reduced tax revenues it produced?was responsible for a good portion of the deficit. The rest was the result of Bush-era policies like tax cuts, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As economist Mark Thomas points out, government spending under Obama has increased at a lower rate than either Reagan, George H.W. Bush, or George W. Bush. The only president to have a lower rate of spending was, you guessed it, Bill Clinton.
On to the next passage, which is brazen in its disregard for the truth:
President Obama has proposed raising the marginal tax rate from 35% to 40%. He has proposed special breaks for his favorite industries, further increases for businesses he dislikes, and endless credits and subsidies intended to shape our behavior in this society. [?]
If you invest your savings in a new business and are one of the fortunate few who see success ? and make a profit ? President Obama wants to take 40% of it.
President Obama wants to restore marginal tax rates on the rich to where they were before George W. Bush took office. And while the American public might not understand marginal tax rates, it?s almost certainly true that Mitt Romney has a handle on the concept. Which means that the former Massachusetts governor is lying to his audience when he says that ?President Obama wants to take 40 percent? of your income. An increase in marginal tax rates, or even a millionaire?s surtax, would only apply to income over a certain point. If the Bush tax cuts were repealed, and the top marginal rate went up to Clinton-era levels for income over $250,000, then it?s only the $250,001st dollar that would be affected.
Beyond that, the claim that Obama has proposed tax increases for ?businesses he dislikes??that only makes sense if you include policies designed to lower rates and broaden the tax base. ?You could portray the president?s call to remove subsidies for oil and gas companies that way, and also his call to end the carried interest loophole which benefits hedge funds and investment companies,? says Michael Linden, director for tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress. You might disagree with those policies, but Obama isn?t playing favoritism.
On that note, here is how Romney concludes his speech:
But, now, after spending three years attacking business, President Obama hopes to erase his record with a speech. In a recent address, he said that, ?We are inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We are the Wright Brothers. We are Bill Gates. We are Steve Jobs.?
The only thing that?s true here are the quotes from Obama. The rest? False. Here are some excerpts from speeches the president has given over the last three years (all emphasis mine).
All across America, even today, on a Saturday, millions of Americans are hard at work?They are the more than half of all Americans who work at a small business, or own a small business. And they embody the spirit of possibility, the relentless work ethic, and the hope for something better that is at the heart of the American Dream.
Government can?t guarantee success, but it can knock down barriers that keep entrepreneurs from opening or expanding. [?] This is as American as apple pie. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are central to our identity as a nation. They are going to lead this recovery. The folks standing beside me are going to lead this recovery.
As part of the bipartisan tax deal we negotiated, with the support of the Chamber, businesses can immediately expense 100 percent of their capital investments. And as all of you know, it?s investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working will mean more sales for your companies. It will mean more demand for your products and services. It will mean higher profits for your companies. We can create a virtuous circle.
[I]f you?re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you?re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making your products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.
The point is simply to say that the only Barack Obama who has spent his presidency criticizing business is the Barack Obama that exists in Mitt Romney?s head. Indeed, the same goes for this speech, and his entire campaign?Romney is running against policies that haven?t happened, and an Obama that doesn?t exist. Exaggeration is normal in politics, but this goes beyond garden variety embellishment?Romney?s speech, along with much of his rhetoric, is a remarkable work of staggering dishonesty. So far, he hasn?t really suffered for it.
Arizona's nutty Sheriff Joe Arpaoi wonders why the media is isn't all worked up over cliams about President Obama's birth place. This man and the rest of the birther crowd are in serious need of time on the couch. Especially Arpaio, who holds a position[...]
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Back in November, I laid out the case for a multi-year bull market in the U.S. dollar. At the time I shared several reasons, and most of them seem to be playing out. One of the key factors was my belief that interest rates in the U.S. would be hiked by the Fed before any hikes came about in Europe or Japan. This is important because interest rate support is a powerful driver for a currency.
Interestingly it is not the Federal Reserve that may be the driver of higher interest rates here, supporting the U.S. dollar. Instead it’s the breakdown in the Chinese growth model and their desperate need to refocus on their own consumer for . . . → Read More: How Global Rebalancing Could Send the Dollar Soaring!
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