Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Last Call For The Clinton Cash Con

We live in an era where you can just make up a scandal and then dare actual news outlets to go and prove your assertions, which you yourself don't have any solid evidence about.  That's the scam behind the latest News Corporation attack on Hillary Clinton.

"Clinton Cash", a book by former Breitbrat Peter Schweizer. designed to keep the 18 months of Campaign 2016 interesting and to keep the haters tuned into FOX News, will be hitting the shelves next month.  But FOX News and the NY Times have cut deals to investigate the book's unproven allegations before the rest of the vultures can strike.  It's literally a manufactured, slickly packaged, and baseless scandal.

ThinkProgress obtained an advance copy of Clinton Cash, which will be released May 5. Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun, despite the media speculation. The book relies heavily on timing, stitching together the dates of donations to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s speaking fees with actions by the State Department. 
Schweizer explains he cannot prove the allegations, leaving that up to investigative journalists and possibly law enforcement. “Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don’t know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do,” he writes. Later, he concludes, “We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates.” 

Right there, the NY Times should have passed on it, but it didn't.

Though Schweizer is unable to provide direct evidence that State Department actions were influenced by Clinton Foundation donations, he does raise questions about unsavory donors and possible conflicts of interest, regardless of whether or not they dictated Clinton’s policy. 
The book alleges the Clinton Foundation has failed to disclose some of its donors, digging up Canadian tax records as evidence of a $2 million donation from the Fernwood Foundation that Schweizer says went unreported. He also says he found a $40,000 donation in the form of stocks from the Dattels Family Foundation that was listed on their website but not on the Clintons’ donor list.

Well, those are pretty specific allegations, so they should be easily proven or disproven, yes?

Another 18 months of this is going to be awesome.  Charles Pierce reminds us this stuff has a long, ugly history, and we're going to spend the next year plus getting very familiar with it.

Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't

The coming shortfall in Kansas's state budget is now official, and Gov. Brownback's tax cuts completely failed to create hundreds of millions in new revenue for the state as promised.  Now the plan to balance the state's budget will fall on the poor with a new hike in the state's sales tax.

"You've got policymakers at this point who are unable to embrace the fact that there was a mistake made," said Annie McKay, the executive director of the left-leaning Kansas Center for Economic Growth. The think tank in Topeka argues that the state's deficit can't be eliminated without reversing some of the income tax cuts Brownback made in 2012. 
Poor and working-class Kansans already carry a heavy burden under the state's tax system, compared to people of modest incomes in most other states. Among the fifth of the Kansas population with the lowest incomes, the average person pays 11.1 percent of what they make in state and local taxes, including sales taxes. Among the wealthiest one in every 100 Kansans, the average tax bill is just 3.6 percent of annual income, according to a recent report from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy

So the poorest Kansans have three times the tax burden as the wealthiest do, and that burden is about to be dramatically increased.

People who make less are more vulnerable to increases in sales and excises taxes, since they spend more of their money buying basic goods and services they need to get by. This is especially the case in Kansas, where food is subject to sales tax. Kansans can receive a tax rebate for their food purchases, but those who make nothing or too little, to owe income tax aren't eligible. The pay the sales tax on food in full. 
The defense of the plan to raise sales and excise taxes -- the sales tax would increase from 6.15 percent to 6.3 percent, under one proposal -- is that people should be taxed on what they spend, not what they make, so as not to penalize them for earning more but instead to encourage them to save and invest their money. 
"You're moving from taxing a productive activity to taxing a consumption activity," said Joseph Henchman of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. "Most economists will say that it is good for economic growth." 
In practice, though, people who don't have much money can't save or invest it. They have to spend it to get along. The more you make, the smaller the fraction of your income you have to spend to cover the basics. And wealthier households, which spend more on luxuries and entertainment, can always give up some of their purchases and keep the money in the bank if they don't want to pay the higher rate. 
As a result, raising the sales tax equally for everyone means asking poorer households to pay significantly more, relative what they earn.

And remember, this is what Kansas voters cast their ballots for.  Or, at least the ones that bothered to vote did, anyway.  Austerity economics is failing miserably in Kansas, and in 2016, the GOP plan is to bring it to all 50 states.

Might want to start giving a damn, then.

They Make Great Pets

As Steve M reminds us, in a post-Citizens United world, presidential candidates now have public oligarch support. Got the cash? You too can own your own GOP 2016 hopeful, like Norman Braman.

Braman, a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football franchise, is poised to occupy the sugar-daddy role for [Marco] Rubio....

The Miami businessman, Braman’s friends say, is considering spending anywhere from $10 million to $25 million -- and possibly even more -- on Rubio’s behalf, a cash stake that could potentially alter the course of the Republican race by enabling the Florida senator to wage a protracted fight for the nomination.

Or Robert Mercer.

Robert Mercer, a Wall Street hedge-fund magnate ... who started at I.B.M. and made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market, emerged this week as a key early bankroller of Mr. Cruz’s surprisingly fast campaign start. He is believed to be the main donor behind a network of four “super PACs” supporting Mr. Cruz that reported raising $31 million just a few weeks into his campaign.

Or the Koch brothers, who are wisely making it known who they back, but are saving their money for the general election and not the primary.

On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee....

Two people who attended the event said they heard Mr. Koch go even further, indicating that Mr. Walker should be the Republican nominee.

... Mr. Koch’s remark left little doubt among attendees of where his heart is, and could effectively end one of the most closely watched contests in the “invisible primary,” a period where candidates crisscross the country seeking not the support of voters but the blessing of their party’s biggest donors and fund-raisers.

As Steve says:

So (even though a Koch spokesman denied this report) here were the Kochs declaring Walker their boy without promising a dime to him -- but because they have so much money they could give him, he's owned.

And if he falters in the primaries, others will line up to be owned by the Kochs, even though they'll know that the Kochs would have preferred to own someone else.

Hey, I guess you could call this the Ownership Society. 

We live in an era where billionaires are openly doing battle for America by purchasing the White House, and it's 100% legal.  The Kochs have bought Scott Walker, and they will get what they want from him.

Republicans often rail about undocumented immigrants. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an expected GOP presidential candidate, took it a step further Monday by sounding some critical notes about the number of those who immigrate to the U.S. legally.

"In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying -- the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages. Because the more I’ve talked to folks, I’ve talked to [Alabama Sen. Jeff] Sessions and others out there -- but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today -- is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages. And we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward," Walker said in an interview with Glenn Beck, according to Breitbart News.

The Kochs want a nationalist, protectionist candidate. and Scott Walker has become that candidate, now far, far to the right of the rest of the GOP pack on immigration.

What the voters want is now 100% irrelevant.


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