Naftali Bendavid writes in the Wall Street Journal that when Republicans take control of the House, they will be changing the name of the Education and Labor Committee to the Education and Workforce Committee. Apparently, Republicans so hate labor unions they cannot even abide the word “labor.”
This committee changes names every time control of Congress passes to the other party. It had been Education and Labor for a long time, but in 1994 the Newt Gingrich House changed the name to Economic and Educational Opportunities, thereby eliminating both work and labor. But no one liked that name, so later Republicans changed it to Education and Workforce. But when the Dems took Congress back in 2006, it became Education and Labor again. And round and round we go.
“Workforce” is a term employers are likely to use, while “labor” is more evocative of the union movement—after all, they call it the American Federation of Labor. … “Education and the Workforce was the name selected by Republicans more than a decade ago to reflect the committee’s broad jurisdiction over polices that affect American students, workers, and retirees,” explained Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for committee Republicans.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday that he hopes the Comedy Central host can persuade enough Republican senators to vote for a 9/11 health bill so it can head to the president’s desk.
“If there's the ability for that to sort of break through in our political environment, there's a good chance that he can help do that,” Gibbs said in his briefing. “I think he has put the awareness around this legislation. He's put that awareness into what you guys cover each day, and I think that's good. I hope he can convince two Republicans to support taking care of those that took care of so many on that awful day in our history.”
Friday, December 24, 2010
1) California's Vote on Legalizing Marijuana Inspires Worldwide Debate
Proposition 19, the initiative to control and tax marijuana in California, was arguably the highest profile voter initiative in the nation. It generated thousands of stories in the United States and around the world about the pros and cons of marijuana prohibition. Millions of people for the first time had serious conversations about whether we should continue to arrest and incarcerate people for marijuana or if we should take it out of the illicit market and regulate it. In the end, Prop. 19 received more than 46% of the vote, more votes that GOP Governor Candidate Meg Whitman. The take-away from California is not will marijuana ever be legal, but when.
2) President Obama Signed Historic Legislation Reducing Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity
In August, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, reforming the draconian disparity between crack and powder cocaine prison sentences. Before the change, a person with just five grams of crack received a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. That same person would have to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same punishment. This discrepancy, known as the 100-to-1 ratio, was enacted in the late 1980s and was based on myths about crack cocaine being more dangerous than powder cocaine. Unfortunately, the Democrats made serious comprises to get Republicans to support the Fair Sentencing Act. The original bill that would have completely eliminated the 100-to-1 disparity, but insteadthe compromise reduced the disparity to 18:1. Most troubling was that that the reform was not applied retroactively - which means that none of the tens of thousand of people unfairly languishing in cages will find any relief from the new law. That said, the reform of these laws is the first repeal of a mandatory minimum drug sentence since the 1970s.
3) Media Coverage is Fair, Balanced and Thoughtful
For the first time, the media consistently covered the marijuana debate seriously and without the jokes and giggle factor that accompanied stories in the past. For the first time they started including anti-prohibition voices that pointed out that much of the violence in the drug trade is due to prohibition and not the drug itself. There were cover stories in a range of outlets and magazines, including Time Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, and the Nation. The Associated Press deserves a Pulitzer Prize for its "Impact Series" on the Drug War. Back in May, AP dropped a bombshell on America's longest war and the headline said it all: The US Drug War Has Met None of its Goals. The extensive piece reviewed the last 40 years, starting with President Nixon's official launch of the War on Drugs all the way to President Obama's annual strategy released this year. The piece packed a punch from the start: "After 40 years, the United States' War on Drugs has cost $1 trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence more brutal and widespread."
4) Portugal Shows Us Decriminalization of Drugs Works
A new study, published in November in the British Journal of Criminology, shows that Portugal's decriminalization of drugs in 2001 has led to reductions in student drug use, prison overcrowding, drug related deaths and HIV/ AIDS. In July 2001, Portugal decriminalized the possession of up to ten days' supply of all types of illicit drugs. Before the law went into effect the pro-drug war zealots predicted that the sky would fall and chaos would reign if drug were decriminilazed. Nine years later, the sky hasn't fallen and having drug use addressed as a heath issue instead of a criminal issue has been proven to saves lives and money. Portugal shows us that drugs can be decriminalized in the real world, not only in theory.
5) Facebook Founders Fund Drug Policy Reform
While the Social Network movie about Facebook was the number one movie in the country, two former top Facebook executives featured in the film, Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker, both became major funders of drug policy reform by donating $50,000 and $100,000 to the California marijuana ballot initiative. The drug policy reform movement has greatly benefitted from the generous support of funders like George Soros, Peter Lewis and John Sperling. Mr. Moskovitz and Mr. Parker can also play a crucial role in supporting the reform movement.
6) California Makes Possession of Under One Ounce of Marijuana an Infraction -- Similar to a Speeding Ticket
In addition to the debate, coalition building, and public education that Prop. 19 generated, it also led to concrete victories:Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that will reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a non-arrestable infraction, like a traffic ticket. That's no small matter in a state where arrests for marijuana possession totaled 61,000 last year -- roughly triple the number in 1990. It's widely assumed that the principal reason the governor signed the bill, which had been introduced by a liberal state senator, Mark Leno, was to undermine one of the key arguments in favor of Prop 19.
7) Leaders from Around the World Call for Legalization Debate
Although President Obama and his Drug Czar have repeated said that legalization is not in their vocabulary, the L-word is being talked about like never before among leaders around the world. This year Mexico President Calderoncalled for a debate on drug legalisation to help reduce the bloody war in Mexico. Former Mexico President Vicente Fox has since gone further and called for an end to prohibition. Just last week, United Kingdom's Bob Ainsworth, the former drugs and defense minister, called for the legalisation and regulation of drugs. All of this follows a 2009 report by three former Latin American Presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, where they called the drug war a failure and emphasized the need to "break the taboo" on an open and honest discussion on international drug policy.
8) New and Powerful Voices Join Movement to End Failed Drug War
Prop. 19 inspired an unprecedented coalition in support of reforming our futile and wasteful marijuana laws. A diverse coalition from across the political spectrum came together to "Just Say No" to failed marijuana prohibition. Law enforcement, including the National Black Police Association and National Latino Officers Association, spoke out in support of Prop. 19. Moms spoke out powerfully for tax and regulate because if is safer for their children than prohibition. The California NAACP and the Latino Voters League endorsed Prop. 19, specifically citing the chilling racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws. Students for Sensible Drug Policy organized on campuses around the state. Finally, organized labor - from the Service Employees International Union to the longshoremen to food to communications workers -- for the first time offered endorsements because controlling and regulating marijuana will mean jobs and revenue that the state currently cedes to criminal cartels and the black market.
There's More Opportunities for Reform than Ever, But the War on Drugs Grinds On
For all the recent progress, drug policy reformers are under no illusion that the drug war will end any time soon. With the Democrats' "shellacking" in November, it is even more unclear how much change will be coming out of Washington in 2011 and beyond. We know that drug prohibition and our harsh drug laws - fueled by a prison-industrial complex that locks up 500,000 of our fellow Americans on drug-related offenses - are poised to continue for some time, wasting tens of billions of dollars and leading to thousands of deaths each year. But we are clearly moving in the right direction, toward a more rational drug policy based on compassion, health, science and human rights. We need people to continue to join the movement to end this unwinnable war. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Count this among the 10 things nobody ever expected to see in their lifetimes: 700 Club founder Pat Robertson, one of the cornerstone figures of America's Christian right movement, has come out in favor of legalizing marijuana.
Calling it getting "smart" on crime, Robertson aired a clip on a recent episode of his 700 Club television show that advocated the viewpoint of drug law reformers who run prison outreach ministries.
This video is from the 700 Club, broadcast by the CBN Network.
In this instance, even though he clearly expressed support for the reform of US marijuana laws, a spokesman for religious television station CBN walked back Robertson's comments, telling Raw Story on Thursday morning the Christian Coalition founder "did not call for the decriminalization of marijuana.""He was advocating that our government revisit the severity of the existing laws because mandatory drug sentences do harm to many young people who go to prison and come out as hardened criminals," CBN spokesman Chris Roslan wrote. "He was also pointing out that these mandatory sentences needlessly cost our government millions of dollars when there are better approaches available. Dr. Robertson's comments followed a CBN News story about a group of conservatives who have proven that faith-based rehabilitation for criminals has resulted in lower repeat offenders and saved the government millions of dollars. Dr. Robertson unequivocally stated that he is against the use of illegal drugs."
A Robertson flip-flop or a public relation cover-up?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
WATCH: Misinformer of the Year videoThis year, Palin stood out for her sheer ability to dominate our national conversation and draw the attention of the entire news media to her factually challenged claims and vicious attacks. She has blurred the line completely between media figure and political activist.
From spreading lies about "death panels" to cropping Obama's comments about "American exceptionalism," from her comfortable perch at Fox News to her self-promoting books and reality show, Palin has truly broken new ground in misinformation.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Alfred McCoy wants to know if the "demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines" in, 4 Scenarios for the Coming Collapse of the American Empire.
Andy Kroll wonders whether "creating a country of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich" is where the United States is headed when he asks, How the Oligarchs Took Over America.
Charlie Stross has a tongue-in-cheek, "working hypothesis ... Why do we feel so politically powerless? Why is the world so obviously going to hell in a handbasket?" in his "admittedly whimsical," Invader from Mars.
Paul Krugman differs with the views of Charlie Stross by pointing out that "what we call civilization has usually been a form of kleptocracy" in his article, The Conscience of a Liberal.
And to round off the opinions is Glenn Beck, who has been known to stoke fires of upheaval on his T.V. show. On Dec 9th, he silently wrote on his chalkboard, "The Revolution is NOW." According to Sarah Seltzer at AlterNet, Glenn warned viewers that "the chaos from WikiLeaks and "Operation Payback" would essentially lead to them being turned out of house and home by a band of bandanna-wearing, weapon-toting Marxist anarchists (I only exaggerate slightly)."
Thursday, December 9, 2010
What if African-Americans called for open insurrection, showed up armed at rallies and said they wished death on the President? Probably they wouldn't be hailed as patriots deeply concerned about the state of the country and future of their grandchildren.
In the video below, inspired by the Tim Wise essay, rapper Jasiri X asks "What if the tea party was black, Holding guns like the Black Panther Party was back?"
WATCH: What if the Tea Party was Black?
Robert Reich explains in definitive terms, "Why the Tax Deal Confirms the Republican Worldview."
Republican worldview is to shrink the government
Apart from its extraordinary cost and regressive tilt, the tax deal negotiated between the President and the Republicans has another fatal flaw.
It confirms the Republican worldview.
Americans want to know what happened to the economy and how to fix it. At least Republicans have a story – the same one they’ve been flogging for thirty years. The bad economy is big government’s fault and the solution is to shrink government.
Economic growth and the middle class
Here’s the real story. For three decades, an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth have gone to the top 1 percent. Thirty years ago, the top got 9 percent of total income. Not they take in almost a quarter. Meanwhile, the earnings of the typical worker have barely budged.
The vast middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going. (The rich spend a much lower portion of their incomes.) The crisis was averted before now only because middle-class families found ways to keep spending more than they took in – by women going into paid work, by working longer hours, and finally by using their homes as collateral to borrow. But when the housing bubble burst, the game was up.
Reorganize the economy
The solution is to reorganize the economy so the benefits of growth are more widely shared. Exempt the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes, and apply payroll taxes to incomes over $250,000. Extend Medicare to all. Extend the Earned Income Tax Credit all the way up through families earning $50,000. Make higher education free to families that now can’t afford it. Rehire teachers. Repair and rebuild our infrastructure. Create a new WPA to put the unemployed back to work.
Pay for this by raising marginal income taxes on millionaires (under Eisenhower, the highest marginal rate was 91 percent, and the economy flourished). A millionaire marginal tax of 70 percent would eliminate the nation’s future budget deficit. In addition, impose a small tax on all financial transactions (even a tiny one — one half of one percent — would bring in $200 billion a year, enough to rehire every teacher who’s been laid off as well as provide universal pre-school for all toddlers). Promote unions for low-wage workers.
Money and bribery
But here’s the obstacle. As income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political power. Money is being used to bribe politicians and fill the airwaves with misleading ads that block all of this.
The midterm elections offered dramatic evidence. NBC news reported shortly after Election Day, for example, that Crossroads GPS, one of the biggest Republican secret-money organizations, got “a substantial portion” of its loot from a group of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity managers. Why would they sink so much money into the midterms? Because they’ve been so strongly opposed to a proposal by congressional Democrats to treat the earnings of hedge fund and private equity managers as ordinary income rather than capital gains (subject to only a 15 percent rate).
Big government isn't the problem
In other words, the problem isn’t big government. It’s power and privilege at the top.
So another part of the solution is to limit the impact of big money on politics. This requires, for example, publicly-financed campaigns, disclosure of all sources of political spending, and resurrection of the fairness doctrine for broadcasters.
It’s the same power and privilege that got the Bush tax cuts in the first place, and claimed the lion’s share of its benefits. The same power and privilege that got the estate tax phased out.
Tax cuts for the rich won't help
Get it? By agreeing to another round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, the President confirms the Republican story. Cutting taxes on the rich while freezing discretionary spending (which he’s also agreed to do) affirms that the underlying problem is big government, and the solution is to shrink government and expect the extra wealth at the top to trickle down to everyone else.Obama’s new tax compromise is not only bad economics; it’s also disastrous from the standpoint of educating the public about what has happened and what needs to happen in the future. It reinforces the Republican story and makes mincemeat out of the truthful one Democrats should be telling.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
During the debate over health care reform, Obama did not stand strong in support of the public option. He basically gave up that point before discussions even began. Then, on November 29th, he proposed a two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal workers. And he has not taken a strong position on letting the tax extension of the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich. Frank Rich expresses a good point in his article, All the President's Captors.
Those desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ “good side” and develop psychological characteristics to please them — “dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.”
This dynamic was acted out — yet again — in President Obama’s latest and perhaps most humiliating attempt to placate his Republican captors in Washington. No sooner did he invite the G.O.P.’s Congressional leaders to a post-election White House summit meeting than they countered his hospitality with a slap — postponing the date for two weeks because of “scheduling conflicts.” But they were kind enough to reschedule, and that was enough to get Obama to concentrate once more on his captors’ “good side.”
And so, as the big bipartisan event finally arrived last week, he handed them an unexpected gift, a freeze on federal salaries. Then he made a hostage video hailing the White House meeting as “a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together.” Hardly had this staged effusion of happy talk been disseminated than we learned of Mitch McConnell’s letter vowing to hold not just the president but the entire government hostage by blocking all legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts were extended for the top 2 percent of American households.
The captors will win this battle, if they haven’t already by the time you read this, because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think. That pay freeze made as little sense intellectually as it did politically. It will save the government a scant $5 billion over two years and will actually cost the recovery at least as much, since much of that $5 billion would have been spent on goods and services by federal workers with an average yearly income of $75,000. By contrast, the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the $250,000-plus income bracket will add $80 billion to the deficit in two years, much of which will just be banked by the wealthier beneficiaries.
Obama didn’t even point out this discrepancy — as he might have, had he chosen to make a stirring call for shared sacrifice rather than just hand the Republicans a fiscal olive branch that they could then use as a stick to beat him. He was too busy tending to his other announcement of the week: dispatching Timothy Geithner to lead “negotiations” with the Republicans on the tax cuts. This presidency has been one long blur of such “negotiations” — starting with the not-on-C-Span horse-trading that allowed corporate players to blunt health care and financial regulatory reform. Next up is a “negotiation” with the United States Chamber of Commerce, which has spent well over $100 million trying to shoot down Obama’s policies over the last two years. It’s enough to arouse nostalgia for the “beer summit” with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge cop, which at least was transparent and did no damage to the public interest.
The cliché criticisms of Obama are (from the left) that he is a naïve centrist, not the audacious liberal that Democrats thought they were getting, and (from the right) that he is a socialist out to impose government on every corner of American life. But the real problem is that he’s so indistinct no one across the entire political spectrum knows who he is. A chief executive who repeatedly presents himself as a conciliator, forever searching for the “good side” of all adversaries and convening summits, in the end comes across as weightless, if not AWOL. A Rorschach test may make for a fine presidential candidate — when everyone projects their hopes on the guy. But it doesn’t work in the Oval Office: These days everyone is projecting their fears on Obama instead.
I don’t agree with almost anything Chris Christie, the new Republican governor of New Jersey, has to say. But the popularity of his leadership right now is instructive. New Jersey has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992, with Obama carrying the state by a landslide margin of almost 15 percentage points. Yet Christie now has a higher approval number (51 percent) in the latest Quinnipiac state poll than either Obama or New Jersey’s two senators, both Democrats.
Christie’s popularity among national right-wing activists and bloggers has been stoked by a viral YouTube video where he dresses down a constituent in a manner that recalls Ralph Kramden sending Alice “to the moon.” But the core of Christie’s appeal at home is that he explains passionately held views in concrete, plain-spoken detail. Voters know what he stands for and sometimes respect him for his forthrightness even when they reject the stands themselves. This extends to his signature issue — his fiscal and rhetorical blows against public education. He’s New Jersey’s most popular statewide politician despite the fact that a 59 percent majority in the state thinks public schools deserve more taxpayer money, not less.
G.O.P. propagandists notwithstanding, Christie’s appeal does not prove that New Jersey (and therefore the country) has “turned to the right.” It does prove that people want a leader with a strong voice, even if only to argue with it.
No one expects Obama to imitate Christie’s in-your-face, bull-in-the-china-shop shtick. But they have waited in vain for him to stand firm on what matters to him and to the country rather than forever attempting to turn non-argumentative reasonableness into its own virtuous reward. It’s clear now the shellacking was not the hoped-for wake-up call. For starters, Obama might have robustly challenged the election story line pushed by the G.O.P. both before and after Nov. 2 — that deficit eradication and tax cuts for all are voters’ No. 1 priority. Repeating it constantly — as McConnell and John Boehner do, brilliantly — does not make it true. But the myth becomes reality if there’s no leader to trumpet the counternarrative.
In the summer before the election, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (of June 21) found that only 15 percent of respondents thought the deficit should be the government’s top priority (behind jobs and economic growth, at 33 percent); the Washington Post/ABC News survey just a week before Election Day found that only 7 percent chose the deficit as the most important issue influencing their vote (again well behind the economy, at 37 percent). After constant G.O.P. fear-mongering about the budget — some of it echoed, rather than countered, by Obama — deficit reduction did jump to first place in Nov. 2 exit polls as voters’ highest priority for the next Congress. The disciplined Republican message had turned the deficit into a catchall synonym for America’s entire economic health. But at 40 percent, deficit reduction still was neck and neck with “spending to create jobs” (37 percent). Cutting taxes was chosen by only 18 percent.
We’re now at the brink of a new economic disaster that will eventually yank a chicken out of every pot. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that the extended Bush-era tax cuts will contribute by far the largest share to the next decade’s deficits — ahead of the recession’s drain on tax revenues, Iraq and Afghanistan war spending, TARP and Obama’s stimulus. The new Congress’s plan to block any governmental intervention on behalf of 15 million-plus jobless Americans guarantees that the unemployment rate, back up to 9.8 percent as of Friday, will remain intractable too.
Obama should have pounded home the case against profligate tax cuts for the wealthiest before the Democrats lost the Senate. Even now Warren Buffett — not a socialist, by the way — is making the case with a Christie-esque directness that usually eludes the president. “The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll all go out and spend more, and then it will trickle down to the rest of you,” he told Christiane Amanpour on “This Week” last Sunday. “But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”
Everyone will have caught on by 2012, but that will be too late for many jobless Americans, let alone for Obama. As the economics commentator Jeff Madrick wrote in The Huffington Post, the unemployment rate has been above 7 percent only four times in a presidential election year since World War II — and in three of the four the incumbent lost (Ford, Carter, the first Bush). Reagan did win in 1984 with an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent, but the rate was falling rapidly (from a high of 10.8 two years earlier), and Reagan was as clear-cut in his leadership as Christie (only nicer).
But as Madrick adds, there has never been a sitting president over that period who has had to run with an unemployment rate as high as 8 percent — which is precisely where the Fed’s most recent forecasts predict the rate could be mired when Obama faces the voters again in 2012. You’d think he’d be one Stockholm Syndrome victim with every incentive to break out.
Monday, November 22, 2010
By Sam Pizzigati: A Do-It-Yourself Kit for Probing PlutocracyThe rich, many Americans have come to believe, rule. But how? The current hubbub over the federal budget deficit opens a welcome window to understanding just how our rich keep riding so high.
How can you tell whether you live in a plutocracy? Easy. Just conduct this simple test. First, identify a “pressing problem” that pundits are splashing over your nation’s op-ed pages. Then take a glance at the “solutions” to this national woe that pop up, on these same op-ed pages, as “politically possible.”
If you live in a plutocracy, not one of these “politically possible” proposals will ever do more than, at worst, inconvenience your nation’s super rich. READ MORE
Via Crooks and Liars: Financial Times' Ed Luce: Republicans Have Greater Hatred of Obama than Love of American National Security
While discussing Admiral Mike Mullen's interview on This Week, where he called a vote on the START treaty during the lame duck session of Congress "absolutely critical", The Financial Times' Ed Luce summed up very well just what's motivating Republicans to obstruct the treaty's passage: hatred of President Obama. READ MOREBy Mike Lillis and Russell Berman: Democrats vs. Republicans: Who wins the game of tax-cut chicken?With Democrats vowing to extend middle-class tax cuts without including higher incomes, the parties are poised to play a high-stakes game of chicken over the thorniest issue of the lame-duck session. READ MOREBy Jonathan Karl: A Hard Line on Debt: Tea Party Sen Says "No Way"At 39 years old, Senator-elect Mike Lee (R-UT) is about to become the youngest member of the United States. He may also be the most conservative. READ MORE
Via Think Progress: GOP Judges Write Senators Asking Them To Stop Obstructing President Obama's JudgesEarlier this week, seven Republican-appointed federal judges co-signed a letter warning of the consequences of the GOP’s systematic obstruction of President Obama’s judges. The letter from the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, which includes Republican appointees Alex Kozinski, Ralph Beistline, Vaughn Walker, Irma Gonzales, Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood, Richard Frank Cebull, Lonny Ray Suko, explains:
In order to do our work, and serve the public as Congress expects us to serve it, we need the resources to carry out our mission. While there are many areas of serious need, we write today to emphasize our desperate need for judges. Our need in that regard has been amply documented (See attached March 2009 Judicial Conference Recommendations for Additional Judgeships). Courts cannot do their work if authorized judicial positions remain vacant.
While we could certainly use more judges, and hope that Congress will soon approve the additional judgeships requested by the Judicial Conference, we would be greatly assisted if our judicial vacancies–some of which have been open for several years and declared “judicial emergencies”–were to be filled promptly. We respectfully request that the Senate act on judicial nominees without delay. READ MORE
There seems to be a pattern of Republican obstructionism for the sake of obstructing. The real interests of the American people are being trampled on by a few arrogant politicians. 'We The People' can change that in 2012. Vote out the obstructionists!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
This week's Sunday shows were all about ducks and pork. The fight over pork-barrel earmark spending is largely a matter of opinion, though, so the falsehoods were limited to the tax and spending fights expected in the lame duck session that starts this week.On Fox, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) repeated long-discredited talking points about "small businesses" and tax cuts, and exaggerated the tax rates American companies actually pay.
On NBC, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested keeping tax breaks for the rich would help the economy despite the evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile, Rand Paul (R-KY) and Newt Gingrich each claimed that government workers are overpaid because they make more on average than private sector workers, but neither man acknowledged that the pay gap reflects differences in skills and education levels between the two groups.
And on ABC, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he can't vote for the New START Treaty because of concerns about "modernization" and missile defense systems, even though President Obama upped the budget for modernizing our nuclear arsenal, and the general in charge of missile defense says the treaty will actually make his job easier.
The sound bites, talking points and spin that each of these politicians spewed out as fact ,was in reality far from the truth. Below is the 'CLAIM' and the 'FACT' of each talking point.
Fox News Sunday
CLAIM: Sen. DeMint Falsely Claimed That Restoring Top Tax Rates To Clinton-Era Levels Would "Raise Taxes On 750,000 Small Businesses"
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): I don't think there's any room to negotiate on raising taxes, particularly on small businesses. I hope we can get a permanent extension, but if the president wants to compromise on a two or three year extension...We'll work with him on that, but I hope he doesn't come back with the idea that, oh we're gonna raise taxes on 750,000 small businesses as, as he's been talking about, um, uh, I think if he can work on our side of the ledger, I think uh we might can work together.
FACT: DeMint's Definition Of "Small Businesses" Includes Industry-Leading Corporations Worth Tens Of Billions
To Arrive At 750,000 Claim, Republicans Define All "Pass-Through" Entities As Small Businesses. As reported by the Washington Post, "Republicans continually define pass-through entities of all sizes as small businesses..." [Washington Post, 9/17/10; emphasis added]
By Defining All "Pass-Through" Entities As "Small Businesses," Republicans Are Counting A Wall Street Firm Worth $54 Billion As "Small."Washington Post: As reported by the
The thing is, some of those businesses are not particularly small. In fact, they're quite large.
Among the firms Republicans want to protect from new taxes, according to research by House Democrats: The management team at Wall Street buyout firm Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR), which recently reported more than $54 billion in assets managed by 14 offices around the world. Auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, a household name with operations in more than 150 countries. And the Tribune Corp., which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun.
KKR, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Tribune, it turns out, are organized as "pass-through" entities - companies that typically avoid corporate taxes by reporting profits on the individual tax returns of their owners, managers or shareholders. [Washington Post, 9/17/10; emphasis added]
Bush Economist: Businesses Republicans Define As "Small" Are Actually "Very Large." According to the Washington Post: "Alan Viard, an economist in the Bush White House who is now at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed that many firms represented in the top tax brackets are hardly small. Economically, that doesn't matter, he said: Obama would still be raising taxes on a significant source of jobs and economic activity. Politically, however, it's a very different matter to raise taxes on a Wall Street hedge fund than it is to tax your neighborhood dry cleaner. Which is why Republicans continually define pass-through entities of all sizes as small businesses, a position Viard called a 'fallacy.' 'How can it be that 3 percent of owners are accounting for 50 percent of small business income? Those firms they're owning can't be all that small,' Viard said. 'And that's true. They're very large.'" [Washington Post, 9/17/10; emphasis added]
- Just 12 Percent Of Money Raised By Increasing Top Rates Comes From "Small Businesses With Actual Workers." As reported by Businessweek: "The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which analyzes issues for lawmakers, largely agreed with Obama in a Sept. 3 report that considered only taxpayers with employees. Its conclusion: Small businesses with actual workers would pay only about 12 percent of the higher taxes. 'Across-the-board tax cuts for high-income individuals are not efficiently targeted to small businesses,' wrote author Jane G. Gravelle." [Businessweek, 9/23/10; emphasis added]
Republican Definition Includes Athletes, Authors, And Other Non-Employer Tax Filers. According to Businessweek: "McConnell's 50-percent-of-income figure is based on a July 12 finding by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a House-Senate panel that analyzes tax issues, that half of about $1 trillion of business income in 2011 will be reported on some 750,000 personal tax returns filed by people who pay the top marginal rates. He calls those small businesses. Yet the report says the data 'do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered 'small.'' Almost 20,000 of those businesses, for example, had receipts of more than $50 million, it says. Besides Obama, McConnell's 50 percent figure includes authors, actors, athletes, and others who employ few if any workers, as well as hedge fund firms and major law partnerships most people wouldn't consider small. 'We are being over-inclusive in our use of small business income,' says Edward D. Kleinbard, a former staff director of the Joint Committee on Taxation who is now a University of Southern California law professor." [Businessweek, 9/23/10; emphasis added]
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): We don't have a taxing problem in this country. We already have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. We need to cut spending.
FACT: DeMint Ignored The Tax Rates U.S. Corporations ACTUALLY Pay, Which Are Much Lower
Effective Tax Rates Are Lower Than Statutory Rates. In its 2009 report on global taxation, the World Bank wrote: "The key point to recognise is that it is not simply the statutory rate of corporate income tax that is important here, but also the effective tax rate for current corporate income tax, taking into account all the additions and deductions to profit before tax that tax rules may require." ["Paying Taxes 2009: The Global Picture," World Bank, 11/10/08]
American Companies Pay Lower Effective Tax Rate Than German, Canadian, Chinese, Italian, And Other Companies. In its 2009 report on global taxation, the World Bank wrote:
As noted in Chapter 1, reducing the statutory rate of corporate income tax has been the most popular government tax reform in the period. However in most of the economies, the case study company does not pay corporate income tax at the statutory rate on its profit before tax, since the tax rules require adjustments to be made to this in order to calculate taxable profits. A common example is to substitute tax depreciation for commercial amortisation of assets.
The effective rate of current corporate income tax can be defined as the actual rate of corporate income tax paid as a percentage of profit before tax. Figure 2.7 compares this effective rate with the statutory rate of corporate income tax for the G8 and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, and shows that the two are often not the same...
["Paying Taxes 2009: The Global Picture," World Bank, 11/10/08; in-text citation removed for clarity]
CBPP: U.S. Corporations Pay Lower Taxes Than Average For Developed Economies. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: "The U.S. corporate tax burden is smaller than average for developed countries. Corporations in 19 of the member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development paid 16.1 percent of their profits in taxes between 2000 and 2005, on average, while corporations in the United States paid 13.4 percent." [CBPP.org, 10/27/08; in-text citation removed for clarity]
2009: General Electric Earned A $1.1 Billion Tax CREDIT Despite $10.3 BILLION In Pre-Tax Income. According to Forbes: "As you work on your taxes this month, here's something to raise your hackles: Some of the world's biggest, most profitable corporations enjoy a far lower tax rate than you do--that is, if they pay taxes at all. The most egregious example is General Electric. Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion. Avoiding taxes is nothing new for General Electric. In 2008 its effective tax rate was 5.3%; in 2007 it was 15%. The marginal U.S. corporate rate is 35%." [Forbes, 4/1/10; emphasis added]
Meet the Press
CLAIM: Sen. McCain Suggested That Continuing Tax Breaks For The Wealthy Will Help The Economy
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): We're in the midst of the greatest recession in the history of this country since the Great Depression. It is not the time to raise anyone's taxes.
FACT: Cutting Taxes For The Wealthy Does Little To Stimulate The Economy
Bloomberg News: "Give The Wealthiest Americans A Tax Cut And History Suggests They Will Save The Money Rather Than Spend It." According to Bloomberg News: "Give the wealthiest Americans a tax cut and history suggests they will save the money rather than spend it. Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody's Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell. The findings may weaken arguments by Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who say allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to lapse will prompt them to reduce their spending, harming the economy. President Barack Obama wants to extend the cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000 while ending them for those who earn more." [Bloomberg News, 9/14/10]
New York Times: "Research Suggests That Tax Cuts... Have Limited Ability To Bolster The Flagging Economy." According to the New York Times: "The concept of lower taxes is so appealing to voters that many embrace them as an economic cure-all. But economic research suggests that tax cuts, though difficult for politicians to resist in election season, have limited ability to bolster the flagging economy because they are essentially a supply-side remedy for a problem caused by lack of demand. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office this year analyzed the short-term effects of 11 policy options and found that extending the tax cuts would be the least effective way to spur the economy and reduce unemployment. The report added that tax cuts for high earners would have the smallest 'bang for the buck,' because wealthy Americans were more likely to save their money than spend it." [New York Times, 9/11/10]
CBO: Among Eleven Proposals To Spur Economic Growth, Cutting Income Taxes Ranks Last. Below is a chart created by the Congressional Budget Office to show the "cumulative effects of policy options on employment in 2010 and 2011":
[Congressional Budget Office, 2/23/10]
CLAIM: Newt Gingrich Claimed Government Worker Earnings Are Out Of Proportion With Private-Sector Pay
NEWT GINGRICH: The only place I worry about in terms of the kind of riots you were showing is not Americans in general. I believe the scale of change coming to government workers is gonna be so great that you may well see in places like Sacramento or Albany, New York, very serious unrest by union members who are offended at the idea that they should actually earn in proportion to the taxpayer, and not be the new, uh, special class in America, which is what they've become over the last 20 years. [Meet the Press, 11/14/10]
CLAIM: Sen.-Elect Rand Paul Claimed Government Worker Compensation Is Almost Double That Of Private Sector Workers
RAND PAUL (R-KY): Really I think you should shrink the federal workforce, and you should make their pay more comparable. Right now the total compensation for government workers versus private workers is almost two to one. [Face the Nation, 11/14/10]
In Some Professions, Government Pay Lower Than Private Sector Pay. As reported by PolitiFact.com: "When we checked individual jobs using the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data (from 2008), we found many federal salaries were indeed higher, but some were lower. Higher: A government-employed nurse makes about $74,460 on average, while someone in the same position working for the private sector makes about $65,130. A cashier working for the government makes on average $34,470 while a cashier working in a store only makes a mean of $18,880 annually. And a public-relations manager working for the government makes about $132,410 a year compared to $101,220 in the private sector. Lower: Petroleum engineers working for the government earn an average of $93,140; in the private sector, they make an average of $119,140. An editor working for the government only makes $42,210, compared to an average of $57,180 in the private sector." [PolitiFact.com, 1/31/10]
PolitiFact: Federal Pay Claim "False" Because "It Is Not An Apples-To-Apples Comparison." PolitiFact investigated a similar claim by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in January 2010:
Secondly, it's important to understand that a big reason for the disparity is the different mix of jobs in the federal work force. It has more higher-paying white-collar jobs, experts told us, while there are more lower-paying, blue-collar jobs in the private sector that bring the average down. So it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Finally, we found it's a mixed bag when comparing individual private and public sector occupations -- the "private counterparts" he spoke of. Some public jobs pay more, some pay less. And the public ones that pay more are not consistently double as he claimed.
So he's wrong to say it's double and wrong to suggest that it's always the case when comparing specific jobs. We rate his claim False.
[PolitiFact.com, 1/31/10; emphasis added]
Disparity In "Average" Compensation Arises Because Federal Workforce Is More Educated, Skilled Than Private Sector Workforce. According to PolitiFact.com:
The first is that there's an imbalance in the types of jobs that make up the federal workforce compared to the private-sector workforce. The federal workforce is disproportionately composed of employees with higher educational attainment. Think of all the low-wage burger-flippers, gas station attendants and domestic workers in the private-sector economy. The federal government has some of these types of employees but proportionately far fewer -- especially after nearly two decades of aggressive contracting-out of duties that need not be handled by salaried federal employees. This has further expanded the federal government's disproportionately large numbers of lawyers, scientists and other highly skilled professionals.
If the federal sector today is hiring a lot of people with specialized expertise and the private sector is hiring a lot of people with skills that don't require a college, or even a high school, degree, then it's no surprise that the average salary levels in each sector are going to be at odds. [PolitiFact.com, 11/7/10; emphasis added]
CLAIM: Sen. Graham (R-SC) Claimed The New START Treaty Would Harm Efforts To Maintain Our Nuclear Arsenal
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm very open-minded about the treaty...You got two impediments. Modernization. Not only do we need a START treaty, we need to modernize our nuclear force, the weapons that are left, to make sure they uh, continue to be a deterrent.
FACT: President Obama Has Requested 10% Boost In Funding For Missile Maintenance
President Obama's 2011 Budget Requests 10% Increase In Funding For Organization That Maintains Our Nuclear Stockpile. According to the Arms Control Association: "For Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, the Obama administration is requesting $7 billion, a 10 percent increase, in funding for weapons activities in the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the U.S. nuclear stockpile and production complex. The administration plans to spend an additional $5 billion on NNSA nuclear weapons activities over the next five years." [Arms Control Association, 4/27/10]
We Are Constantly Modernizing Our Weapons Arsenal. As the Brookings Institution's Stephen Pifer explained, "We [the US] take a missile frame and we modernize it, and we refurbish it, whereas the Russian practice is to take a missile, they use it for 15 years and then they replace it completely. So you'll see new numbers coming up on the Russian side and you may think that, gosh, the Americans are still deploying these 1970s missiles. I suspect when they retire the last Minuteman III in 2030, it may have three of the original bolts on it from 1970 but it's going to be a very different missile." [Arms Control Association, 12/9/09, emphasis added]
- US Presently Has 5,113 Nuclear Warheads. As the Financial TimesFinancial Times, 5/4/10] reported, "In an announcement timed to coincide with the opening of the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation conference in New York, the Pentagon said it had a nuclear stockpile of 5,113 warheads as of September 30 2009." [
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm very open-minded about the treaty...You got two impediments. Modernization. Not only do we need a START treaty, we need to modernize our nuclear force, the weapons that are left, to make sure they uh, continue to be a deterrent. And we need to make sure that we can employ— deploy missile defense systems that are apart from START. So you got two stumbling blocks. The modernization program, and how uh, missile defense works apart from the treaty.
FACT: General In Charge Of Missile Defense Says START Will Help, Not Hinder, Missile Defense Efforts
Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly: "The New START Treaty Has No Constraints On...The Ballistic Missile Defense System." In testimony before the House Armed Forces Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said: "The New START Treaty has no constraints on current and future components of the BMDS development or deployment. Article V, Section 3 of the treaty prohibits the conversion of ICBM or SLBM launchers to missile defense launchers, and vice versa, while "grandfathering" the five former ICBM silos at Vandenberg AFB already converted for Ground Based Interceptors. MDA never had a plan to convert additional ICBM silos at Vandenberg and intends to hedge against increased BMDS requirements by completing construction of Missile Field 2 at Fort Greely. Moreover, we determined that if more interceptors were to be added at Vandenberg AFB, it would be less expensive to build a new GBI missile field (which is not prohibited by the treaty). Regarding SLBM launchers, some time ago we examined the concept of launching missile defense interceptors from submarines and found it an unattractive and extremely expensive option." [Gen. O'Reilly Testimony, 4/15/10]
Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly: New START Treaty "Actually Reduces Constraints On The Development Of The Missile Defense Program." In testimony before the House Armed Forces Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said: "Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program. Unless they have New-START accountable first stages (which we do not plan to use), our targets will no longer be subject to START constraints, which limited our use of air-to-surface and waterborne launches of targets which are essential for the cost-effective testing of missile defense interceptors against MRBM and IRBM targets in the Pacific area. In addition, under New START, we will no longer be limited to five space launch facilities for target launches." [Gen. O'Reilly Testimony, 4/15/10]
- Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly Serves As Director Of The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency. According to his biography on the Missile Defense Agency website: "Lieutenant General Patrick J. O'Reilly is the Director for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Office of the Secretary of Defense, Pentagon, Washington, DC. In this capacity, he oversees MDA's worldwide mission to develop a capability to defend deployed forces, the United States, Allies, and friends against ballistic missile attacks." [MDA.mil, accessed 11/14/10]