Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Last Call For Pissed Christie

Guess which US governor has the lowest approval ratings in the country right now?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a potential presidential candidate in 2016, on Monday placed blame on the media for his low approval ratings. 
During an interview with NJ101.5 radio's "Ask the Governor," Christie dismissed the hit he has taken in the polls since the Bridgegate scandal broke.

"If you're going to have relentlessly negative coverage from the media, it's going to affect your poll numbers," Christie said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer
Christie's approval ratings sunk to the lowest of any governor this year in an April Quinnipiac poll. Fifty-six percent of New Jersey voters said they disapproved of the job Christie is doing, while just 38 percent said they approved.

It's telling that Christie's usually reliable "blame the media for covering what I'm doing" plan is no longer working.  He's not even considered a serious 2016 candidate anymore, a long fall from where he was in 2014.  Bridgegate has finished the man, and at this point he's fighting not to become the next punchline of a GOP governor.

I'm betting he doesn't cross that bridge, because he may not be Governor for much longer.

David Wildstein, a former ally of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who ordered intentional traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge, is scheduled to plead guilty to criminal charges on Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. 
Wildstein is set to appear in federal court in Newark, where grand jurors have heard testimony in secret for months about gridlock over four mornings in Fort Lee, New Jersey, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the matter isn’t public. He would plead guilty to a charging document known as a criminal information, the person said. It was unclear what the specific charges would be. 
Wildstein lawyer Alan Zegas and Fishman spokesman Matthew Reilly didn’t immediately return e-mails and calls seeking comment on the scheduled plea. Zegas has said “evidence exists” that Christie knew of the traffic jams at the time.

Now, it's possible Wildstein is falling on his sword to take the blame for Christie, in which case, he might recover from this. But if this is a plea bargain for Wildstein to take a lesser charge in exchange for evidence against Christie, his 2016 run is done.

We'll see.

Never Bet Against The American People Being Dumb

Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza is shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to discover that Pew Research's annual reminder showing that Americans are a majority of low-information meatheads when it comes to politics is still showing Americans are low-information meatheads.

The Pew Research Center spent the last month collecting data on responses to its 12-question news quiz. And the results are, um, humbling for those of us who spend every day writing, talking and thinking about politics. 
The overriding message? People don't know so much about current affairs with political tinge. Here are two examples. 
1. The Senate 

Presented with four options about the current partisan makeup of the Senate, roughly half (52 percent) got the answer right. (It's option number 4 above. Duh.) 
Pretty good, right? Not so much. Consider that a straight-up guess would give you a 25 percent success rate since Pew provided four options for people to choose from. Given that, you'd (or maybe I'd) expect a lot more people to get it right. What did the 48 percent who got it wrong choose? One in five people (21 percent) said that Republicans controlled 61 seats while one in ten thought Democrats held the Senate majority (option #3). Six percent said the Senate was tied 50-50. 
2. Elizabeth Warren

Again, roughly half (51 percent) of those who participated in the news quiz knew that Warren was the woman pictured on the lower left above. Ok, so, yes, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (top right) does look a little bit like Warren. But, Nancy Pelosi (bottom right but you already knew that) looks nothing like Warren. And, even if you have no idea who Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) is (top left), she still looks NOTHING like Warren.

Your average American got 8 out of 12 right (you can take the quiz here) with older Americans doing slightly better than Millennials.  But after a midterm where only a third of voters bothered to even show up, why is Cillizza in any way shocked at these numbers?  Americans have tuned out politics for the last several years, and the "both sides do it" and "view from nowhere" style of political reporting that carefully assigns blame and fault to all politicians rather than the ones who are actually responsible has achieved the desired effect of making Americans completely apathetic about political issues.

Cillizza wants to know why so many Americans are ignorant about basic politics?

They probably read The Fix.

National Fiduciary League

You may have heard that the NFL is voluntarily giving up its sweet, sweet tax-exempt status.  Why is it doing so?  There has to be a monster of a catch.  Travis Waldron explains:

Under tax law, the NFL and other professional sports leagues have been able to organize as 501(c)(6) non-profit trade organizations. The NFL has done so since 1942, largely without much fanfare or scrutiny. But in recent years, especially as NFL revenues have ballooned to nearly $10 billion annually, the league’s tax-exempt status has come under scrutiny from sports fans, tax groups, and lawmakers from both parties. It is now, Goodell said in the letter, “a distraction” that isn’t worth keeping. 
NFL types might be fond of throwing the “distraction” label on things that don’t deserve it, but in this instance, Goodell is probably right. Relinquishing the tax exemption will almost certainly have little, if any, cost for the league or benefit to taxpayers, since the NFL operates as a pass-through entity. That is, the majority of the money the league takes in is either made by or passed on to teams and taxed at that level, where 31 of the 32 franchises are organized as private, tax-paying businesses (the publicly-owned Green Bay Packers are a nonprofit). 
Because of that, the cost of the exemption to taxpayers (or the benefit to the NFL) is relatively small. According to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who featured tax-exempt status for sports leagues in his annual “Waste Book,” those exemptions cost taxpayers as much as $91 million a year. But the NFL is only a part of that, and Citizens for Tax Justice has estimated that the exemption saves the league just $10 million annually, roughly the same calculation the Joint Committee on Taxation made when it estimated that revoking the exemption would increase federal revenues by $109 million over a decade.

But those benefits may not exist at all. Major League Baseball gave up its tax exemption in 2007 and has maintained that doing so had no effect on its finances. The NFL, according to some experts, may have to pay a small amount of taxes based on some revenue it takes in and the structure of a stadium loan program it used to run. But even accounting for that, other experts have in the past guessed that the league might be able to find more than enough write-offs in the tax code to offset what it could have to pay.

So yes, the bottom line is that our corporate tax code is so generous to businesses as large as NFL franchises that it actually may benefit the NFL in the long run.

And the best part is they can keep hustling cities and local governments for fat tax exemptions and stadium sweetheart deals that will keep them making huge profits at the expense of crumbling cities.

Nice work if you can get it.


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