A day after a front-page New York Times investigation highlighted the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as a “conservative nonprofit” that “acts as a stealth business lobbyist,” a good-government group announced it has filed an IRS complaint against the corporate front group.
ALEC, the “association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty,” has pushed an extreme legislative agenda in states across the country, pushing shoot-first” “stand your ground” laws and voter suppression efforts. In recent weeks, at least a dozen companies announced they would no longer fund ALEC — following pressure from a Color of Change national campaign — and ALEC announced it would refocus its efforts away from “non-economic issues.” Last week, the group’s Louisiana state chairman resigned from the group.
Now, Common Cause is asking the Internal Revenue Service to take action; the group is requesting the agency audit ALEC?s work, impose penalties, and compel payment of back taxes. Common Cause President Bob Edgar (a former Democratic U.S. Rep. from Pennsylvania) said the group is masquerading as a public charity.
As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt “charitable” organization, donations to the group are tax-deductible. But IRS rules state that (c)(3)s must “not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests” and “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities.”
ALEC claims its work is not lobbying. But, Edgar argues, ALEC’s mission “is to bring together corporations and state legislators to draft profit-driven, anti-public-interest legislation, and then help those elected officials pass the bills in statehouses from coast to coast. If that?s not lobbying, what is?” ALEC did not respond to Associated Press requests for comment and a spokesman has not yet responded to a ThinkProgress inquiry.
Businessman Wil Cardon, a Republican running for Senate in Arizona, wouldn’t say whether he thinks President Obama is a citizen of the U.S., the Arizona Republic newspaper reports. Cardon said he thinks that people running for office “ought to prove” their citizenship, but:
When asked if he was satisfied that Obama had met those qualifications, Cardon sidestepped the question.
“I haven’t been in the middle of that inspection,” Cardon said. “I’m running my own race right now, not worrying about Obama’s race.”
Cardon is running against Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in the GOP primary for the seat vacated by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who is retiring. Flake is the heavy favorite in the race, though Cardon is still viable. Whoever wins the Republican nomination will likely beat the Democratic nominee in November. Cardon has lent his campaign more than $1 million.
Flake has strongly condemned birthers, saying people who think Obama may not have been born in the U.S. need to “get off this kick” and “accept the reality.”
Awhile back, I wasted an evening watching the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre, something that every former lit major should avoid. I loved the novel for its depiction of the vivid, rich inner life of a proud introvert who is passionately engaged in her life despite the fact that she knows it to be outwardly pathetic. The movie, unable to reproduce the character's inner liveliness, reduced the story to a melodramatic and utterly unlikely romance between a poor orphan and an arrogant nobleman. I had wasted marital chits on a movie that I hated as much as my wife knew she would. (Sports movies, here we come. Sigh.)
Watching the movie sent me back to Jean Rhys?s astonishing Wide Sargasso Sea, which I remembered as an imagining of Bertha Rochester?s backstory, asking how, exactly, did the madwoman in the attic get there to begin with? I?ve lately been stripping my bookshelves, getting rid of novels I know I won?t read again, like Rhys?s earlier sharply drawn portraits of women I have no interest in reading about: alcoholics waiting for some man to save them and getting dumped over and over. But Wide Sargasso Sea will remain with me. I had forgotten?or did I never quite register??the fact that it?s a keen micro-portrait of what happened to the Dominican Republic after emancipation.
Americans forget, sometimes, that the British led the way on ending slavery, and did so without a war, despite tremendous costs to powerful British colonial merchants and landowners. After decades of moral debate, the British anti-slavery movement (led in part by crusading member of parliament William Wilberforce) ended the British slave trade in 1807; in 1833, Parliament passed an act to end all slavery in the British empire. They didn?t do it perfectly; slaveowners were partly compensated for their losses, while those who were freed got nothing for their years of forced labor, and ended up much as the American South?s freed slaves did: poor, barely paid, and abused. (Speaking of which, today's organization Free the Slaves is working hard to learn from that experience; when they free contemporary slaves in India or protect African children from being captured into slavery, they make sure they offer the education, capital, and services those people need to survive afterwards.)
Ending slavery in the British colonies, early in the 19th century, was an unmitigated good. There is no defense whatsoever for owning human beings. But reading about a heroic movement?s struggles does not tell us what it was like for those involved. How does the shift from one way of life to another affect individual people, black, white, and Creole? Who profits and who is crushed by enormous historical transformations? What small and large cruelties can human beings inflict on one another, avenging themselves even on those personally innocent of historical crimes? In particular, what happens to a poor Creole girl whose family has been destroyed from the outside in and the inside out, who cannot go out to make her fortune, as a boy might?
That?s where great fiction comes in. Rhys?s sentences are like Picasso?s line drawings: perfectly drawn, every word implying far more than you?d imagine possible, making the white space between the sentences come deeply alive. Here the young and terrified Antoinette Cosway walks for the first time to a convent school, tormented by two black children who are preying gleefully on her family?s weakness, simply because they can:
The boy only said, ?One day I catch you alone, you wait, one day I catch you alone.? ? A long empty street stretched away to the convent, the convent wall and a wooden gate. I would have to ring before I could get in. The girl said, ?You don?t want to look at me, eh, I make you look at me.? She pushed me and the books I was carrying fell to the ground.
I stopped to pick them up and saw that a tall boy who was walking along the other side of the street had stopped and looked toward us?. As soon as they saw him, they turned and walked away?. I would have died sooner than run when they were there, but as soon as they had gone, I ran. I left one of my books on the ground and the tall boy came after me.
?You dropped this,? he said, and smiled. I knew who he was, his name was Sandi, Alexander Cosway?s son. Once I would have said ?my cousin Sandi? but Mr Mason?s lectures had made me shy about my coloured relatives. I muttered, ?Thank you.?
I am moving very slowly through the tiny book, because I want to reread every page, listening to what is not written there. I haven?t even met Mr. Rochester yet; I keep rereading the tormented beginning. Do read it. And don?t watch the movie.
Early voting is already under way here in North Carolina, but the Amendment One TV ad wars start up this week as the Protect All NC Families campaign launches their first two tv ads. They will run statewide this week (the pro-amendment forces start[...]
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I?ve spoken before about the constant torrent of dishonesty from the Romney campaign. From the small issues (tax returns) to the big ones (Obama?s ?apology tour?), Romney and his team have routinely lied to make a point or build a case. When it comes to the economy, for example, the Romney team takes every job lost in 2009, regardless of whether Obama?s policies were in effect or not, and attributes it to the president. It?s a distorted number?he claims two million lost jobs?designed to mislead voters with a false picture of the economy.
The Romney campaign has been criticized?repeatedly?for this misleading approach to economic numbers, but like a child that acts out in class, this has only encouraged their misbehavior. To wit, the Romney team now claims that the number of new business start-ups has declined by 100,000 as a result of Obama?s policies. As with the jobs number, this is only possible if you include the period of beginning in 2008 and ending in early 2009. If you take 2009 as your starting point, and end in 2011, there?s a decline of 12,000?a dramatic change from Romney?s claim. If you omit 2009?as the year when the recession ended?the number jumps to 29,000. Neither of these is good, but it?s far from the disaster that the Romney campaign describes.
Indeed, after debunking Romney?s numbers, the Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler goes to town on the campaign?s habitual dishonesty:
The bottom line is that experts at the agency that generated the data and the organization that analysed it, as well as the person who used it in congressional testimony, all say Romney is starting with the wrong date.
By using the 2008 numbers, Romney essentially is comparing pre-recession figures with post-recession figures, not data that reflects what happened under President Obama. Just as with job creation under this president, the results starting from 2009 are not great, showing a slight overall decline and then modest improvement once the recession ended.
As the president well knows, that uncertain result has made for a challenging reelection campaign. But Romney has goosed his figure so much that it has little credibility. [Emphasis added]
To a large degree, as Paul Krugman points out, Mitt Romney?s bid for the presidency depends on the collective amnesia of the American public. More than fifty percent of voters have to forget that Republicans were both responsible for this mess and refused to cooperate when it came time to clean it up. The Romney team knows this, and so they?re muddying the waters in order to obfuscate the degree to which the former Massachusetts governor hopes to repeat the performance of his GOP predecessor.
Here's an inconvenient fact for Mitt Romney and the Republicans: Obamacare will save for $200 billion for the Medicare by 2016 and $208 billion for Medicare patients by 2020.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services actuary reports:
"We have achieved significant tangible savings that have been passed on to beneficiaries," said Jonathan Blum, director of the Center for Medicare. "There's a tremendous opportunity for even greater savings." [...]Here's a breakdown of savings from the actuary report.
The new numbers are based on savings so far: 32.5 million people used preventive services last year with no costs to themselves, senior citizens saved $3.2 billion for prescription drugs that fall in the "doughnut hole" in 2010 and 2011, and the government recovered $4.1 billion in 2011 in anti-fraud efforts.
CMS also projected savings based on portions of the health care law that will be enacted soon, such as penalties for hospitals for readmitting patients for the same health episode, and paying providers based on quality standards.
Of course, this could all be moot if the Supreme Court goes as radical as the March hearings seemed to indicate, and decides to overturn the whole law.
But this report makes the Romney/Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it a much harder sell on the merits of making changes to the program, especially to seniors whom they say will be better off with vouchers. Good luck selling that one now, Mitt.
My family and I have been tracking speculative bubbles and busts for 80 years.
We’ve personally witnessed 12 recessions, two depressions, five stock market crashes, three real estate busts, three bank failure epidemics, and two of the most vicious inflationary spirals of all time.
But nothing has prepared us for what … [visit site to read . . . → Read More: The Deadliest Vicious Cycle We?ve Ever Seen
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REPORT SHOWS LOWER COSTS IN MEDICARE DUE TO THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Through 2016, Medicare will save over $200 billion; traditional Medicare beneficiaries will see nearly $60 billion in lower costs
The Medicare Program will save over $200 billion through 2016 due to the Affordable Care Act, and beneficiaries in traditional Medicare will enjoy $59.4 billion in lower costs, according to a report released today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). According to estimates from the CMS Office of the Actuary, the over $200 billion in short-term savings to the Medicare program come from ending excessive payments to private insurers who offer Medicare Advantage plans, implementing anti-fraud measures, and changing provider payment policies to reflect improvements in productivity. In addition, according to the HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, seniors and people with disabilities in traditional Medicare will see lower cost-sharing and premiums as a result of the Affordable Care Act, totaling $59.4 billion through 2016 and $208 billion through 2021.
?The Affordable Care Act is the key to lowering health care costs in a way that improves care for beneficiaries, instead of cutting services,? said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. ?In the short term, both taxpayers and beneficiaries will save billions thanks to the health care law. Over the long run, the Affordable Care Act will allow us to invest in new models of providing care that will save money and deliver higher quality care.?
The report also details the significant number of reforms to the health care delivery system that CMS is implementing under the Affordable Care Act. These reforms have the potential to transform the way in which health care is delivered ? through reducing unnecessary readmissions, improving patient safety, rewarding doctors for better coordinating care, and reducing duplicative tests. These efforts will improve the quality of patients? care and reduce costs to make Medicare more sustainable over the long run.
Among other efforts, these delivery system reforms will:
· Strengthen the role of primary care providers;
· Reward better-coordinated care through a new model called Accountable Care Organizations;
· Bundle payments for each episode-of-care that a patient receives to promote better coordination;
· Improve the quality and coordination of care for those enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, who tend to have greater health care needs; and
· Pay for the quality of care provided to patients, not just the quantity of services or tests that are done.
To view the report, please visit: http://www.cms.gov/apps/files/
The big theme of the week for the Obama campaign is winning younger voters. It's an open question whether Obama can replicate his overwhelming success in 2008 with this segment of the electorate. Benjy Sarlin has our report.[...]
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