Wisconsin’s recall elections this year give Wisconsinites a chance to vote and hold their elected officials accountable. But to Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), the recall efforts are the best example of “voter theft,” not democracy.
At a town hall last week, Ribble argued that a recall election is “trying to undo your vote:”
RIBBLE: Beyond the $9 million cost of holding another election, I want you to know that this is trying to undo your vote. This is trying to steal from you your vote. You talk about voter ID? This is true voter theft.
In fact, everyone who is registered to vote in Wisconsin is able to vote in a recall election, so it is no different than a regular election. If anything, the recall should only serve as an affirmation of one’s vote, not an affront to it.
The defense industry is known as a major lobbying power in Congress but the industry’s sharp uptick in campaign contributions, the majority of which are designated to Republicans, in the 2012 political cycle indicates that defense contractors are making a strong rightward shift in their political giving.
Defense industry contributions to individual candidates and PACs reached nearly $13 million earlier this month. That number, only $11 million short of the $24 million contributed in the 2008 political cycle, suggests that the defense industry will contribute more in this political cycle than in any previous election. And the increase in funds is matched by a dramatic partisan shift in the industry’s contributions.
In 2008, 51 percent of contributions went to Democrats while 49 percent were designated for Republicans. In 2010, that trend continued with 53 percent going to Democrats and 47 percent to Republicans. But the 2012 cycle appears to mark a shift in partisan bent as a whopping 60 percent of defense industry campaign dollars went to Republican campaigns.
When contacted by Politico, General Dynamic spokesman Kendell Pease explained that the Republican majority in Congress could explain the shift in campaign dollars toward the GOP:
Those are the folks that are here. Those are the folks that are making decisions now, today, and it?s very easy to figure out where they stand on issues that we feel are most important. We continue to support those folks, both House and Senate, who support those issues that we feel are most important.
Indeed, supporting Republicans has paid off. A budget proposal put forward by Mitt Romney would add $100 billion to the Pentagon’s budget by 2016, while imposing cuts on health care for the poor and disabled and reductions in funding for food inspection, border security and education. And a House Republican budget proposal calls for $554 billion in defense spending in 2013, a $29 billion increase over the White House’s proposal.
As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) has found himself the biggest recipient of defense industry dollars, taking in over $393,000 in the 2012 political cycle. The defense industry, apparently eager to repay McKeon for fearlessly defending the defense industry from budget cuts, has extended its largess to his wife, Patricia McKeon, who took in at least $19,200 in defense industry campaign contributions for her California State Assembly campaign (where national defense is not at issue). But McKeon denies the contributions were the result of arm twisting or repayment for his work in protecting the defense budget as budget cuts sweep across Washington. “She’s made lots of friends [in Washington],” McKeon told the Los Angeles Times. “When they found out she was running, they offered to help.”
It’s time to take back the narrative about clean energy.
Since the bankruptcy of a few high-profile clean energy companies, political opponents and media pundits have tried to label the entire industry a failure. This is a gross distortion of the on-the-ground reality ? and it shows how disconnected people are from what’s really happening in this sector.
The clean energy industry is extraordinarily diverse, ranging from small contractors to massive industrial manufacturers. Recognizing the local value these sectors provide, states around the country are putting policies in place to attract new businesses and large amounts of private capital. And it’s working.
Massachusetts is the perfect example. After signing the Green Communities Act into law in 2008, the commonwealth has seen an explosion of new companies. There are now 64,000 people employed in Massachusetts’ clean energy sector today.
I traveled to the commonwealth with Andrew Satter, our senior video producer at the Center for American Progress, and brought back this piece from the front lines of the clean energy economy:
This November, Californians will decide whether to outlaw the death penalty in their state. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office announced this morning that more than 800,000 people signed onto the SAFE California Act of 2012, which would ban the death penalty and set aside $100 million dollars to solve rape and murder crimes. If the ballot initiative is passed, those with death row sentences would be sentenced instead to life without parole. If California voters approve this ballot initiative, they would follow a national trend away from state-sponsored executions.
Social Security is going broke even faster than expected, according to a report from the program’s actuaries released yesterday. At least, that’s the narrative the national media presented to the American public.
Headlines from across the country — like the following from the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times — were quick to paint a grim picture of the program’s future finances, noting that “painful” changes would need to be made to ensure its solvency beyond 2033:
The headlines and stories that follow create the illusion that Social Security is fast going broke, even though it is fully funded for another two decades and could pay 75 percent of its benefits thereafter (imagine the shock the media would display, meanwhile, if transportation, food stamps, or other programs had two decades of guaranteed funding).
They also ignore an easy way to ensure the program’s long-term solvency without large changes or cuts to benefits. Payroll taxes that finance Social Security are only collected on income up to a certain level ($110,100 in 2012), creating a regressive system that puts an undue burden on low- and middle-income workers. Eliminating that cap would allow Social Security to pay full benefits for the next 75 years, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) introduced legislation that would raise the cap last year, but it has been ignored by Republicans and the media, who instead continue to feed the narrative that Social Security needs vast changes — including potential benefit cuts — to shore up its future. Americans of all political stripes oppose cuts to Social Security benefits, but as the Columbia Journalism Review noted earlier this month, media coverage has perpetuated the belief — particularly among young Americans — that Social Security is broken.
?The elite press repeatedly quotes the commentary of the devoted opponents of social insurance retirement programs,? Yale professor emeritus Theodore Marmor told CJR. ?But they appear unaware of how they are supporting a strategic attack on social insurance that has been going on for years.?
Court will once again be in session at Fort Meade in Maryland as the long and drawn-out pre-trial process for the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks resumes. The hearing is expected to take three days, with the bulk of[...]
Read The Full Article:
Social Security will run out of funds in 2033?sooner than forecast last year?according to a new government report. Medicare's hospital insurance fund will be gone by 2024. Together, the programs account for 35 percent of all federal spending, and if the trust funds?which are made up of the difference between the payroll taxes paid toward the programs and the benefits doled out?were depleted, benefits would be automatically cut by 25 percent. Social Security's disability insurance faces the soonest expiration?it is now scheduled to run out of money in 2016, two years earlier than projected last year. ?By almost any objective measure, the financial health of the Social Security system has entered a concerning decline," the two public trustees of the programs said yesterday in a statement.
These two programs have been resistent to a legislative overhaul thanks to their longstanding popularity, but the next generation to hit 65 might see far fewer benefits if the current system isn't fine-tuned. The recession and high unemployment numbers play a role in the pessimistic Social Security predictions, but so do the unprecedented number of citizens collecting benefits. In 2017, Social Security will pay out $1 trillion in benefits?$275 billion more than last year. In 2011, an average of 100,000 senior citizens joined Medicare every month.
Student loan debt ($867 billion) has leaped over credit card debt ($704 billion) and auto loans ($734 billion) as one of the most pressing financial woe facing Americans. But it's important to remember the context?more Americans are going to college, too, so although average debt is also rising, it's not as stark as the raw numbers alone would appear to show.
Raul Lemesoff, an Argentinian artist, has been driving around Buenos Aires in a huge tank he likes to call the Arma De Instruccion Masiva, or Weapon of Mass Instruction. The tank, full of thousands of books, will stop for anyone who flags him down, and all the books are free.
President Obama was prepared to spend his week contrasting himself with Republicans on students loans, but Mitt Romney deflated that argument yesterday afternoon. The 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act lowered the interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent for federal student loans, but comes with an expiration date: this July. A one-year extension would cost just $6 billion dollars, but would benefit over 7 million young people with student loans. The Obama campaign has highlighted the lack of action from congressional Republicans on the issue, and the president will speak at three college campuses today and tomorrow. He can?t use this against Romney, though, after the presumptive Republican nominee came out in support of the extension yesterday.
Romney?s pivot to the center doesn?t mean the issue is settled. This marks the first point of disagreement between Romney and his party since he cleared the primary competition. How congressional Republicans respond over the following weeks could hint at what a Romney presidency might look like. Behind all of the accusations that Romney lacks core convictions has been the insinuation that, as president, he would not have much to offer in terms of policy proposals. As the AP highlighted yesterday, Romney has yet to release anything more than vague overviews of what he might do. Instead, it seems likely that a Romney presidency will take its cues from John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, responding to the whims of congressional Republicans.
That theory will now be put to a test. Traditionally, a presidential nominee is seen as the leader of the party until he or she wins or loses the election, with partisans in Congress disinclined to take any actions that could harm their candidate. One might expect House Republicans to shift their tone and fall in line behind the new Romney-instituted platform on student loans. But I?m not so sure the Tea Party freshman will defer to Romney.
I'm going to annoy a few of my fellow lefties and say that we should stop getting bent out of shape when people respond to the Trustees report by saying that Social Security is "going bankrupt" or "running dry" or some similar formulation. There's a hyperlegalistic sense in which this isn't accurate, but honestly, it would be a helluva dramatic event if the trust fund ran out of money and Social Security suddenly had to slash benefits by 25% in 2033 (see chart above). Referring to this as "bankruptcy" isn't all that big a rhetorical stretch, and everyone on both left and right should put away their fainting couches, ditch all the tired excuses, and get to work on a fix that would involve ? say it in unison, folks! ? a very modest and phased-in cut in benefits combined with a very modest and phased-in increase in taxes.(Emphasis supplied.) Actually it is more than a "rhetorical stretch." It's a lie. And not for "hyperlegalistic" reasons.
Yes, bankruptcy and insolvency are "helluva dramatic event[s]." But sovereign nations who control their own currency don't go bankrupt or insolvent in the way the phrase is used with regard to Social Security.
What is Social Security? It's a program whereby the federal government pays benefits to persons who qualify based on formulas established by the Congress and the relevant executive branch agencies.
How is it funded? Through a dedicated tax on wages.
How would Social Security become "insolvent" or go "bankrupt"? It can't in the true sense of the word. It can't in the governmental sense of the word either.
What Drum describes are choices for the government. Choices the government has with EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM it runs. Oh, by the way, that includes the military. It includes Medicare. It includes funding for student loans for colleges. It includes enforcing the environmental laws.
It is as much a lie to say Social Security is "going bankrupt" or "insolvent" as it is to say the military is going bankrupt.
It treats government finances like household finances. It is stupid for anyone who claims to favor progressive approaches to government to accept this frame. Worse, it is accepting lies.
If the federal government does not want to slash Social Security benefits in 2033, assuming the Trust Fund runs out, then it does not have to. It can add funding from other sources. It can raise taxes. It can cut military spending. It can do any number of things.
The ability of the federal government to not cut Social Security benefits is obvious to anyone. Any insinuation to the contrary is a lie. And a malicious lie in my view.
Now, if Social Security is to be treated as a traditional pension fund, well then, let's be honest about THAT. But then let's also be honest about the deficits that tax cuts for the rich and military spending have caused. But no one talks about "bankruptcy" and "insolvency" when tax cuts and military spending are discussed. EVER.
Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) unveiled documents pertaining to the Royal Dutch Shell Oil 2008 Bodo oil pipeline spill that showed that 60 times the amount of oil Shell had originally reported[...]
Read The Full Article: