That the Republican Party refuses to give up on its fight to maintain the high-income Bush tax cuts shows that the party’s ideology is divorced from economic evidence, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) said Tuesday.
Despite the fact that the GOP’s trickle-down policies have led to stagnant wage growth and skyrocketing levels of inequality, ballooning debt, and weak job growth, Republicans cling to the belief that next time will be different, defending the Bush tax cuts from expiration at the end of the year and promising even larger unpaid-for tax cuts for the rich in the future.
Republicans ignore the failures of “trickle down economics,” Strickland said in an interview with ThinkProgress, because they are “wedded to an ideology that is divorced from the real world”:
WALDRON: Why is the Republican Party still attached to these policies even though we’re going on now three decades of evidence that they aren’t helping the middle class?
STRICKLAND: Well, I think it’s being wedded to an ideology that is divorced from the real world, quite frankly.”
Strickland’s view is backed up by 40 economists recently surveyed about the GOP’s economic plans, who found that the the party’s positions on recent economic policies were ignoring reality. Others have made similar observations: a group of professors told CNN Money earlier this year that the proposals presented by Republican presidential candidates couldn’t pass an Economics 101 class.
The divorce from reality, Strickland said, contributed to the abrupt retirement of Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette (R), who announced today that he would not seek re-election. LaTourette blamed, in part, polarization in Congress and his party’s move right, a point Strickland backed up. “I think what is says is there’s no place in the current Republican Party for moderate individuals,” Strickland said of LaTourette, who supported new revenues during last year’s debt fight and disavowed anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist. “If you are a moderate, even if you are a conservative but not a radical conservative, there’s no place for you in the Republican Party today.”
by Daniel J. Weiss and Jackie Weidman
Middle-class families may have gotten some relief in the second quarter of 2012 due to slightly lower gasoline prices compared to the first quarter of the year, but billions of dollars in big profits continue to pile up at the Big Oil companies. In the first half of 2012, the five biggest oil companies?BP plc, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corp., and Royal Dutch Shell Group?earned a combined $62.2 billion, or $341 million per day. This compares to an average dip in the average price of gas at the pump for American consumers of a mere 3 cents per gallon between the first and second quarters.
Despite slightly lower oil and gasoline prices over the past three months, these companies still made a combined $236,000 per minute this year. This income is more than what 96 percent of American households earn in an entire year.
Profits continued to grow for ExxonMobil and Chevron, while dropping slightly for ConocoPhillips and Shell compared to last year. ExxonMobil saw a 67 percent increase in profits while Chevron enjoyed an 11 percent increase. The New York Times reported that these slightly lower profits compared to the second quarter of 2011 were linked to ?international benchmark prices for oil [which] had declined by more than 7 percent in the second quarter, compared to the same period last year when turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East caused a spike in oil prices.
The underlying results were depressed by weaker oil and U.S. gas prices together with reductions in output due to extensive planned maintenance, particularly affecting high-margin production from the Gulf of Mexico.
Without BP, profits for the other big four companies are only 4 percent lower compared to the first quarter of 2012. Despite the 7 percent decline in oil prices, second-quarter 2012 gasoline prices were only 2 percent lower than the second quarter of 2011.
The huge earnings this quarter for four of the companies follow the big five companies? record profit of $137 billion in 2011?amounting to $375 million per day?thanks again to high oil and gasoline prices. ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips were the first-, second-, and 13th-most profitable public U.S. companies in 2011, respectively.
What are these companies doing with this treasure? Some of these funds provide their $72 billion in cash reserves. And these five companies used 31 percent of their 2012 profits to buy back their own stock, which enriches shareholders but doesn?t add to oil supplies or investments in alternative fuels or other new technologies. ExxonMobil spent 42 percent of their profits repurchasing their own stock. Even with these huge earnings and large cash reserves, however, these companies produced 6 percent less oil than one year ago. (see table)
What?s more, the big five oil companies continue to spend millions of dollars on lobbying and political donations. They have spent a combined $25.7 million lobbying Congress so far this year, and more than $91 million over the last 18 months. ExxonMobil alone spent $17 million lobbying for the past 18 months, making it the top spender in the oil and gas industry. Collectively, the oil and gas industry, including the big five companies and Koch Industries, has spent nearly $70 million on lobbying this year.
The oil and gas industry has been the largest beneficiary of the anti-environment votes in the House. Since the beginning of 2011, the House has voted 109 times for policies that enrich the oil and gas industry, including 45 votes to weaken environmental, public health, and safety requirements applicable to oil companies; [and] 38 votes to block or slow deployment of clean energy alternatives.
This suggests that the millions of dollars Big Oil companies spent on lobbying are worthwhile investments. In 2011 the House of Representatives voted against three separate amendments that would have revoked a collection of oil company tax giveaways. In March the Senate voted 51-47 to end a debate and pass the Repeal Big Oil Subsidies Act, S. 2204, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Unfortunately, 60 ?aye? votes were necessary to break this filibuster, so the bill was blocked.
Big Oil?s successful lobbying cost $69 million to protect tax breaks worth at least $4 billion annually. They received $58 in tax breaks for every dollar spent on congressional pressure and lobbying. That is a rate of return that would make Warren Buffett envious.
In addition to high-pressure arm twisting, the oil and gas industry political action committees, individuals, and other donations provided more than $30.5 million in federal campaign contributions this election cycle as of July 9. Republican candidates received 88 percent of these funds. House of Representatives incumbents have already received more Big Oil campaign cash this year than incumbents in 2008 and 2010, and there are still more than four months until Election Day.
While these companies are spending freely on their own wealth and for political influence, they are paying relatively low tax rates. The big three U.S. publicly owned oil companies?Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil?paid relatively low federal effective tax rates in 2011. Reuters reports that their tax payments were ?a far cry from the 35 percent top corporate tax rate.? It reported that ConocoPhillips paid an effective federal tax rate of 18 percent last year. In addition, ExxonMobil paid 13 percent of its U.S. income in taxes after deductions and benefits in 2011, according to a Reuters calculation of securities filings. Chevron paid about 19 percent.
In addition to these relatively low federal income tax rates, these companies also benefit from tax breaks worth $24 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. These special preferences include one designed to keep manufacturing facilities in the United States, and another that was enacted way back in 1916, when it made economic sense to help the fledgling oil industry to grow, but little sense today for the big five companies that routinely earn multibillion-dollar profits.
These tax breaks serve no economic or fiscal function any longer, yet in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in June, Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources Inc., said that the United States must retain tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. His position ignores that the big five oil companies had lower oil production and fewer U.S. employees over the last half decade despite growing profits.
The House of Representatives-passed budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), would retain these tax breaks. Rep. Ryan claims that his budget would eliminate tax breaks in exchange for lower rates, but his plan didn?t specify a single tax break that it would eliminate. The Ryan budget lowers the top corporate income tax rate by nearly one third. A Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis estimates that the Ryan budget?s cut in the corporate tax rate could lower the big five oil companies? annual tax bill by $2.3 billion per year, based on an assessment of their 2011 financial statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
U.S. taxpayers should no longer foot the bill for antiquated tax breaks for Big Oil. The Energy Information Administration predicts that 2012 gasoline prices will average $3.49 per gallon, just 4 cents less than the record-setting $3.53 per gallon in 2011. If this prediction holds, 2012 will have the second-highest gasoline price in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1949. The next closest average annual price was $3.07 per gallon in 2008.
Since there are few fuel alternatives to gasoline for passenger vehicles, Americans are forced to spend more at the pump and less on other goods and services. High gasoline prices lead to a huge transfer of income from middle-class families to huge, wealthy oil companies and their mostly wealthy shareholders. Then there are the $2.4 billion in annual special tax breaks received by the big five oil companies, and essentially paid for by other taxpayers. This makes little sense when these companies? 2012 profits leave them flush with cash. And the proposed cut in the corporate tax rate by the Ryan budget plan would add an estimated $2.3 billion to this annual inequity.
After falling since April 6, U.S. gasoline prices rose by a dime per gallon in the past two weeks, according to CNN. As oil prices rise, so will the big five oil company profits. Yet they will continue to collect billions of dollars in existing tax breaks, while the House-passed budget would provide an additional $2.3 billion tax cut.
None of this makes sense when these five companies have made $66 billion in profits in the first half of 2012, while the federal budget faces steep automatic cuts due to the sequestration procedures included in the Budget Control Act of 2011. If Congress doesn?t address this soon, this law will likely lead to automatic cuts in discretionary spending, including funds for U.S. Marshals, food safety inspections, enforcement of pollution reductions, and multiple other vital government safeguards and services beginning in 2013.
Big Oil needs to lose its tax breaks as part of any compromise. Their second-quarter profits reinforce that need anew.
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress. Jackie Weidman is a Special Assistant for the Energy Opportunity Team at CAP.
Mitt Romney’s suggestion that Palestinians’ economic troubles can be attributed to an inferior culture and his decision to cancel a pre-scheduled meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas offended many in the region and opened the Republican presidential hopeful to international ridicule and charges of diplomatic incompetence.
Interestingly, Romney’s father George received a far different reception when he ran for president forty-five years earlier and traveled to Israel in December of 1967. Like his son Mitt, George embarked on an international trip to bolster his foreign policy credentials, visiting France, Great Britain, West Germany, Poland, The Soviet Union, Israel, Jordan, Thailand, South Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore.
George Romney spent two days visiting Jerusalem and held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and other government officials, describing his conversations to reporters as “significant.” Then, he crossed over to Jordan and visited a refugee camp, demonstrating that he was far more willing to consider the challenges facing the Palestinian people on his trip abroad. “I have come here to listen, to look and to learn,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times on December 22, 1967:
As Hannah Gross at the Daily Beast said of Mitt Romney, “If Romney hopes to be viewed as a fair broker of peace between Israelis and Palestinians?a role he must play if he wants to establish a two-state solution?virtually ignoring Palestinians isn?t a strong first step.”
President Obama wants to try principal reduction as a way to help home owners and the economy, but the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which would be responsible for implementing a key part of this policy, doesn't like principal[...]
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No other non-presidential candidate has suffered more negative Super PAC attacks ads than Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. And the conventional wisdom is that he should be in serious trouble. He's a freshman legislator in his first reelection campaign?the point at which every elected official is most vulnerable. His politics are undoubtedly more progressive than his dead-even state should deliver. And he represents a state with relatively small non-white voting population, a demographic Democrats have supposedly lost.
So conservative billionaires have poured cash into deposing Brown, over $10.5 million as of three weeks ago. And what has that bought them?
Look at those trends above. Brown started the year with a polling composite of 46.7 percent. He's now at 45.2 percent. Meanwhile, his Republican opponent, Josh Mandel, has yet to get out of the 40s. In fact, the only pollster to show Mandel above 40 percent has been Rasmussen. Take him out, Brown moves just a blip, while Mandel is even further behind at 38.2 percent.
If you've ever longed for some glimmer of hope that the era of corporate-funded Super PACs won't completely overwhelm our democracy, this is it. If they can't blow Brown out of the water with an 8-figure ad blitz, it means that their ability to influence elections?while it exists!?isn't the be-all, end-all of politics.
Such negative campaign also does little to build up the challenger, as Mandel's only significant bump all year was the consolidation of the conservative vote after the GOP primary in March.
Now check out the presidential trends:
"His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son," Reid said, in reference to George Romney's standard-setting decision to turn over 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in the late 1960s.That's a pretty extraordinary allegation for someone to make, and given that there's no reason to believe Bain investors have any greater access to Mitt Romney's tax returns than anybody else, this probably falls into the realm of conjecture. Nonetheless, as long as Romney keeps his returns secret, what he's hiding is anybody's guess. Over the weekend, Romney said that 'so far as [he] can recall,' he has paid "a very substantial amount" of taxes every year, but he's offered no proof of that. Given that Romney has consistently said he believes releasing his returns would be politically damaging, it's safe to say that even if the Bain investor is wrong, and Romney has paid taxes, there's a fair bit of material in there that Romney doesn't want voters to find out about before the election. And that's exactly why it's so important he come clean and release his returns.
Saying he had "no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy," Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.
"Harry, he didn't pay any taxes for 10 years," Reid recounted the person as saying.
"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," said Reid. "But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?
Our regular featured content-On This Day In History July 31 by TheMomCatPunting the Pundits by TheMomCatThese featured articles-The American Police State by TheMomCatIt's worse than that Ezra by TheMomCatTwits by ek hornbeckThis special feature-XXX[...]
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I was wondering whether FHFA Acting Director Ed DeMarco would respond to that Wall Street Journal article today pressuring him to allow participation from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an Administration principal reduction program. Well, he has. DeMarco[...]
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Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele, testifying Tuesday during a state trial on the state's controversial voter ID law, said she wasn't sure about the details of the law, but stood by her unsupported claim that 99 percent of voters had valid identification.
"I don't know what the law says," Aichele said under questioning, according to CBS.
Aichele also couldn't provide any evidence that 99 percent of voters already have a valid form of ID, as the state has claimed. CBS reported that when lawyers cited testimony from a Department of State official calling the number likely inaccurate, Aichele responded "I disagree."
Aichele also said that ID cards issued by the state's Department of Transportation are the best choice for voters, though a lawyer seeking to block the law said other valid IDs may be easier to obtain.
The state official in charge of administering Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law, in court today: "I don't know what the law says."[...]
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