Friday, October 14, 2011

Last Call

Steve Benen argues that by changing the national conversation, President Obama and the Democrats (with a major assist from Occupy Wall Street) now have the upper hand.

For the better part of 2011, the battle lines were drawn in a way that Republicans loved. The only topics of conversation that were permitted dealt with debt reduction, entitlement “reforms,” spending cuts, and austerity. The question wasn’t whether Washington would impose pain on an already-suffering populace, but how much.

The discourse is now a very different place, because the White House had the sense to take a conversational detour. Thanks in part to a concerted p.r. campaign from President Obama, and with some pushes from Occupy Wall Street, the topics that now dominate are about job creation, financial industry responsibility, and tax fairness. What’s more, while the president’s approval rating hasn’t changed much, polls do show a striking shift in Obama’s direction when it comes to who voters trust to lower unemployment: “Obama has made big gains over Republicans on the specific question of who is more trusted to handle jobs. Obama has a 15 point edge on the issue, 49-34, up from a tie of 40-40 in early September.”

Clearly (and tragically) the policy needle isn’t moving, at least not yet, but the austerity agenda is no longer at center stage, in large part because the president put the power of the White House into pushing it out of the spotlight. It’s a start.

It is a start, but that's all it is, and it's long past time for mere conversations.  We're seeing some inklings of something here, but much more is needed.  Of course, that won't happen until the Republicans blocking everything are put out to pasture in the private sector next November.  That's the goal...if it's not too late by then.

Papers, Please In Alabama, Part 2

Looks like a federal court in Atlanta has blocked enforcement of two of the more odious provisions in Alabama's immigration law.

A U.S. appeals court temporarily halted enforcement of Alabama laws making it a crime for unregistered immigrants to not have proper documentation and forcing schools in the state to track students’ immigration status.
The Atlanta-based court today temporarily blocked enforcement of those provisions, contained in legislation signed by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in June. The court let stand the other immigration-law measures that the U.S. had also challenged.

Considering the school tracking provision was causing mass walkouts and terrified students, I can see why somebody might have wanted to reconsider the effect enforcement might have on families.

Meanwhile, the measures that continue to be enforced are doing a bang up job of wrecking the state's economy, costing thousands of jobs, and driving up food prices, which was pretty much what everyone opposed to the law said would happen if it passed.

Republicans apparently are very, very fond of job-killing regulations.  Go figure. Still, the Atlanta appeals court made a strong statement.  And this week a mass protest walkout in Alabama's poultry plants shuttered operations on Wednesday and called attention to the law.

The work stoppage was aimed at demonstrating the economic contribution of Alabama's Hispanic immigrants. It was unclear exactly how widespread the protests were, but a poultry company spokesman said officials were reporting unusually high absences at plants in northeast Alabama, where much of the state's chicken industry is based.
In the northeast Alabama town of Albertville, numerous Hispanic-owned businesses along Main Street had the lights off and signs that said they wouldn't be open. Mexican restaurants, a bank that caters to Hispanics, small grocery stores and supermarkets were all shuttered.
Jose Contreras owns a restaurant and store on Main Street. He said he was losing about $2,500 in revenue by shutting down.
"We closed because we need to open the eyes of the people who are operating this state," said Contreras, originally from the Dominican Republic and a U.S. citizen. "It's an example of if the law pushes too much, what will happen."

Hello, consequences.  How are you doing today?

McCain's Billions And Billions And Zero Plan

As Greg Sargent points out there's literally no amount of compromise that President Obama can make that will be acceptable to Republicans short of his resignation from office, and Sen. John McCain is at the head of that particular train of sore loser goalpost-shifters.  McCain on FOX yesterday introducing his new "jobs bill":

We have a plan and we’ll have almost all of the Republican Senators behind it. And if [Obama] wants to bring up a piece of his proposed plan, we’ll bring up a piece of ours.
We’d love to see, for example, a vote in the United States Senate on a moratorium on Federal regulations, which are coming out by the thousands, costing businesses billions and billions of jobs. We’d love to see a vote on that. But it will be interesting to see if the Majority Leader will allow it.

And yes, he actually said Obama was costing America "billions and billions of jobs" and wants a complete moratorium on federal regulations (he can't even get his talking points straight.) In other words, McCain wants Obama to stop being President until further notice.  It doesn't matter what the President does for the economy, it doesn't matter what he proposes, it doesn't matter how many business roundtables or Silicon Valley town hall meetings he holds, Republicans are going to say he hates business and the proof is he won't give them 100% free reign to pillage the serfs like Republicans demand.

And yes, this means "centrist" McCain is now using the Rand Paul playbook.

Female Athlete Takes One For The Team

A female football player has been making headlines for her performance. She has played hard and well, and recently opted to sit out a game.  Why?  Because the team they were up against threatened to forfeit if she played.  Nice, huh?

As the Tidewater News reported, Johnson recorded four sacks in a recent game against Rocky Mount, and was gaining a reputation in the league as a standout junior varsity player. It all seemed to be going right for the eighth-grader -- until she suddenly decided to sit out her team's most recent game against Northeast.

Why? It wasn't due to injury. Rather, Johnson decided not to play in the game after the opposition threatened to forfeit if Johnson was allowed to play. Apparently, Northeast had a problem with its boys playing football against a girl. So instead of making a fuss about the whole situation, Johnson sat on the sidelines for her team's 60-0 victory.

"There is nothing in the rule books for junior varsity football in North Carolina or Virginia that says a girl can't play," the teen's mother, Mona Johnson, told the Tidewater News. "No one is breaking any rules by allowing her to play."

Northeast isn't the only upcoming opponent considering a forfeit if Johnson doesn't sit out. Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God Christian Academy is also reportedly considering a forfeit as well; the two schools are scheduled to play a game on Oct. 27.

Her team wore pink to support her while they delivered the 60-0 thrashing. I'm glad to see the people most important to her stood by and showed support. I still can't believe we are having this type of problem. Johnson did the right thing for her team, but she shouldn't have to face this decision at all.

Word of God, my ass. Every single person involved in the "give in or we will ruin it for everyone" should be ashamed.

Victory In The Fight Against Stupidity

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri prisoners have raised more than 50 tons of vegetables and fruit that have been given to food pantries around the state.

The Department of Corrections says this year's harvest was significantly higher than last year's, when the agency donated 29 tons of produce through its Restorative Justice Garden Program.

Under the program, all the seeds and plants are donated to the Corrections Department, which then donates all the resulting food to local pantries.

Everyone wins. Hungry people get a boost, and prisoners get a chance to contribute and do a good thing. This is the type of solution we should be looking for, where we take a resource not being used and give it a purpose that helps everyone involved.

Good job, guys.

Ross Douthat's Holodeck Problem

Via Sully, we see Ross Douthat warming up the holodeck for a "What if President McCain..." simulation where all the Dems are wearing goatees.
Overall, in a McCain presidency Democrats would have faced the same political incentives Republicans face now — where it’s easier to blame a terrible economy on the president than to find ways to cooperate with him — with two added reasons to fight rather than to deal: First, they could have easily pinned the whole of the economic crisis on the G.O.P. (“the Bush-McCain Depression,” etc.), and second, they would have had a potentially unbeatable Hillary Clinton rather than a suspect Mitt Romney waiting in the wings for 2012.
To win significant cooperation under those circumstances, I suspect that McCain would have had to essentially surrender to Democratic priorities, which in turn would have turned him into a kind of John Tyler figure — a president despised by his own party and a first-term lame duck. And whether you start from liberal or conservative premises, it’s hard to see that scenario playing out happily for the United States or the world.
Bullshit.  The Tea Party would still be there, they would be railing against McCain, threatening to primary the hell out of the entire Republican Party and they would have made big gains in 2010, but the major difference is we'd be at war with Iran right now, and that kind of throws the whole thing into a tizzy.  But the notion that the Dems would block legislation to improve the economy is laughable:  McCain's own party would disown him unless he played the Tea Party's games.  If anything, you'd have Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid putting up bills to do so and they would be rejected by Cantor and Boehner...hey, just like we have now.

The only other difference would of course be Vice President Moose Lady.  As amusing as that would be, we'd be pretty much even more fucked now, with more wars and more Palin no health care reform at all.  Joy.

"Democratic intransigence" would be on precisely nobody's radar, Ross.

9-9-9? More Like 9-1-1

Just how awful would Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan be for your average American?  Try doubling your overall tax burden while reducing taxes for the wealthiest Americans by over half.

Cain’s tax plan consists of three different 9 percent taxes — one on wage income (investment income is exempt), one on sales of goods and services (including food, housing, and medicine), and one on business income (investments and purchases from other businesses are deductible; wages, however, are not). But most Americans will end up paying all three of those taxes, for a combined tax rate of 27 percent of their income.
That’s because middle and low-income Americans get all, or nearly all, of their income from ordinary wages — all of which would be subject to Cain’s 9 percent wage tax — and then they spend all of their income, which means it would be taxed again by the 9 percent sales tax. Finally, the burden of the 9 percent business income tax would be passed on to them as well, either in the form of lower wages — since wages are not deductible — or in the form of higher prices for goods and services.
The bottom line is that most Americans will pay all three of Cain’s taxes, making their real federal tax rate 27 percent. Compare that to the current tax code, under which someone in the bottom quintile pays two percent of their income in federal taxes and someone in the middle quintile pays 15 percent. The fact is that pretty much everyone making up to around $100,000 a year would pay more under Cain’s plan than they do now.

So it will be a substantial tax increase for middle class Americans and a massive tax increase for the poorest Americans.  And how will the rich fare?

Because the 999 plan will operate, in practice, as a 9 percent tax on wages, and an 18 percent tax on goods and services, only a fraction of a wealthy household’s income will end up subject to these taxes. That’s because wealthy people get a lot of their income from capital gains — which are exempt from the wage tax — and they don’t spend all of their income, so anything they save won’t be subject to taxes either.

Today, someone in the richest 1 percent typically pays about 30 percent of his or her income in federal taxes. Since people at the top of the income ladder make about half of their income from capital gains, and only spend about half of their income in a given year, their tax rate would drop all the way down to 13.5 percent. That’s even lower than what middle-income people pay today.

It gets worse too:  even under the massive spending cuts that Paul Ryan and other House Republicans wanted, under Cain's plan we'd only have 14% of GDP as revenue each year, meaning we'd be running trillion dollar deficits for years even with major spending cuts.

In other words, 9-9-9 would destroy America's economy and the middle class overnight if it was ever enacted.  Shocking, I know.

Bloomberg Blinks Against OWS

The One Percent was trying to shut down Occupy Wall Street for good on Friday.

New York City officials ordered Wall Street protesters to clear their sleeping bags and tarps from the park where they started a movement that has spread around the globe and forced CEOs and presidential candidates to take notice. Demonstrators said they wouldn't be going anywhere Friday morning, setting the stage for a showdown with police.
The owner of the private park where the demonstrators have camped out for nearly a month said it has become trashed and unsanitary. Brookfield Office Properties planned to begin a section-by-section power-washing of Zuccotti Park at 7 a.m.
"They're going to use the cleanup to get us out of here," said Justin Wedes, a 25-year-old part-time public high school science teacher from Brooklyn. "It's a de facto eviction notice."

The OWS folks say they are ready for them.  I feared a swift, brutal, and near total victory for Bloomberg's goons today. But it seems that the Mayor has backed down this morning.

The scheduled cleanup of the park where hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters have camped for four weeks has been postponed, Mayor Michael Blooomberg’s office announced early Friday morning.

“Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park – Brookfield Properties – that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation,” Deputy New York City Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement issued at 6:30 am, a half hour before the cleanup was to get underway.

OWS is setting up a non-violent eviction defense just in case.

Occupy Wall Street is committed to keeping the park clean and safe — we even have a Sanitation Working Group whose purpose this is. We are organizing major cleaning operations today and will do so regularly.

If Bloomberg truly cares about sanitation here he should support the installation of portopans and dumpsters. #OWS allies have been working to secure these things to support our efforts.

We know where the real dirt is: on Wall Street. Billionaire Bloomberg is beholden to bankers.

We won't allow Bloomberg and the NYPD to foreclose our occupation. This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic.

Take note as to what happens here, folks. Bloomberg blinked.


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