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Abolish property tax exemptions for rich nonprofits

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Dom Sub Invoc S Hedwigis
Dom Sub Invoc S Hedwigis.

David M. Simon elaborates on a point I’ve made before: wealthy non-profits like churches and universities shouldn’t be tax exempt.

Illinois is the land of special favors for those with lobbyists, connections or clout. Just look at the state’s property tax laws and the exemptions for rich nonprofits.

Retired homeowners living on fixed incomes pay hefty property taxes, despite the so-called “senior exemption.”

On the other hand, real estate owned by many rich nonprofits is completely exempt from property taxes. This includes private university campuses and their sports facilities, the gleaming skyscrapers of qualifying private hospitals and magnificent church cathedrals. And lots of other expensive real estate owned by other qualifying nonprofits. All completely exempt — and unfair.

Wealthy nonprofits with expensive real estate use and benefit from the same law enforcement, fire protection and other basic services as other property owners. These nonprofits may not principally use their real estate to make money, but neither do most families.

This system also dumps the hefty shares of the tax burden that these nonprofits should pay on the rest of us.

(click here to continue reading Abolish property tax exemptions for rich nonprofits – Chicago Tribune.)

Jesus Is A Hoarder
Jesus Is A Hoarder

What are these organizations doing for our society? Is it justified for them to be takers on the basis of whatever their so-called mission is? For instance, Scientology? Or college and professional sports stadiums? Not if I had a vote.

I had a 3 A.M. thought. Mayor Daley the Younger was bad for the city in a lot of ways but inarguably there was one aspect he was better at than the current administration: keeping the city gleaming, especially downtown, but everywhere really. Today, in many nooks and crannies of the city, there are mounds of McDonald’s wrappers, Starbucks coffee cups, cigarette butts, puddles of stale urine that haven’t been touched in years. Rain washes some of this detritus off the streets and sidewalks, but then it accumulates in stairways, alleys, and other locations. Nobody is power-washing the sidewalk, nobody is picking up the garbage that doesn’t make it into a garbage can.

What if in exchange for tax-exempt status, a non-profit had to adopt a city block and keep it clean? There could be some formula based on the annual financial report of the organization and the total number of city blocks. So the Heritage Foundation would be required to keep clean 5 blocks on the South Side somewhere near the Koch Brothers coal dust repository, while Northwestern Memorial Hospital would be responsible for 23 blocks in a cluster near Garfield Park. Or however the math works. 

Impractical, unlikely, and unwieldily, like most 3 AM thoughts…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 12th, 2017 at 9:27 am

Posted in government,politics,religion

Tagged with ,

When right-winger blather killed

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A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…

I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.

But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?

In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey. 

And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.

(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)

 

and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:

A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.

Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.

So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”

Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.

Laura Miller adds:

The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.

These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!

Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.

(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 8:40 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with , ,

Triumph of Crony Capitalism: Export-Import Bank to be Renewed (probably)

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  Presidential Towers with a Benjamin

Presidential Benjamins

We’ve mentioned the Ex-Im Bank before, at least once, with my solution being to limit tax-payer subsidized loans to businesses who have annual gross income less than $1,000,000, with the thought that perhaps mega-corporations like Boeing and GE could get loans on their own, without involving the Ex-Im Bank. Unfortunately, Corporate Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer are as happy with the idea of crony capitalism as his counterparts among the Republicans, and it looks like the bank is going to continue business as usual. Money triumphs over common sense, again…

The U.S. Congress probably will reauthorize the Export-Import Bank before its charter expires in two months, adding tools to crack down on misconduct by employees, a Republican House committee chairman said.

“It’s an important agency, but it clearly has corruption problems,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa of California said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

The 80-year-old bank is facing its toughest test as it seeks reauthorization before its financing powers end Sept. 30. Manufacturers such as Boeing Corp. as well as Wall Street banks back the lender, while the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth, oppose the bank as “crony capitalism.”

(click here to continue reading Export-Import Bank to Win Renewal, With Changes, Republican Says – Bloomberg.)

Golden Plowshares
Golden Plowshares

David Sirota writes:

In politics, as the old saying goes, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies – there are only permanent interests. Few policy debates prove that truism as well as the one now brewing over the Export-Import Bank — a government agency providing taxpayer subsidized loans to multinational corporations.

This tale starts 15 years ago when my old boss, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, was trying to construct a left-right coalition to reform the bank. While a few libertarians were willing to voice free-market criticism of the bank, the impetus for reform was primarily among Democrats and the left. Indeed, Sanders’ failed 2002 amendment proposing to restrict the bank’s subsidies garnered only 22 Republican votes but had 111 Democratic backers — mostly progressive legislators who, in the words of Sanders, saw the Ex-Im Bank program as “one of the most egregious forms of corporate welfare.”    

…By 2008, the progressive-themed criticism of the bank had become so central to Democrats’ agenda that Barack Obama used a presidential campaign speech in 2008 to lambast the bank as “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”

Fast forward to the last few years. In 2012, Democrats rammed a bill reauthorizing the bank through the Senate, and Obama held a public ceremony to sign the reauthorization bill into law. At the same time, Republicans provided most of the congressional votes against the bank. And now, in the last few weeks, the GOP’s new House majority leader is threatening to block the next authorization bill and thus completely shut the bank down.

This tale is not just another “I was for it before I was against” anecdote. It is also a bigger parable providing a two-pronged lesson: Partisan politics can abruptly shift; yet money politics almost never changes.

(click here to continue reading Corporate Welfare’s Quiet Enablers: How Democrats Pander to Big Business | Alternet.)

More Spare Change
More Spare Change

A little back-story from a David Dayen report in Salon:

But pre-Internet liberals might want to get out their back issues of the Nation and Mother Jones at this point to jog their memory, for they will see article after article condemning the 80-year-old institution as a slush fund that allows the government to fund a series of nasty activities. Here’s one from 1981 (“The Ex-Im helps sell nuclear reactors to dictatorships like the Philippines”). Here’s another from 1992, about the Reagan administration using Ex-Im to funnel loans to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during their war with Iran. Even more recently, in 2011, Mother Jones reported on how Ex-Im loan guarantees helped build one of the largest coal plants in the world, in South Africa. (Ex-Im subsequently announced it would stop facilitating coal plant production – but only in December of last year.)

Ex-Im wasn’t just a minor annoyance, but a lefty cause célébre. Here’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, back when he served in the House, eviscerating Ex-Im on the floor in 2002, when it came up for reauthorization then. Sanders asked why American taxpayers would provide “huge subsidies and loans to the largest multinational corporations in the world, who pay their CEOs huge salaries … and companies take this money from the taxpayers and say, thank you very much, and oh by the way, we are laying you off because we are going to China and hiring somebody at 20 cents an hour.”

Sanders crafted bipartisan legislation to reform Ex-Im to better protect manufacturing workers, but the bill’s markup got canceled at the last minute. “My suspicion is that the moneyed interests who like the Export-Import Bank as it is right now sent down the word from the top that that markup never take place,” he told his House colleagues.

Back then, liberals highlighted how Enron, the failed energy giant, benefited from $675 million in Ex-Im loans. In 2002, Sanders also pointed out that Ex-Im gave an $18 million loan to a Chinese steel mill, which was later on accused of dumping steel into U.S. markets and hurting U.S. workers. And it was common just a decade or so ago for lefties to call Ex-Im the “Bank of Boeing,” because close to 60 percent of all Ex-Im loans facilitated their aircraft sales. Sanders in particular pointed out that Ex-Im aid for a Boeing sale to the Chinese military ended up displacing workers, as some manufacturing for the aircraft moved from Wichita to China. “The Export-Import Bank is helping General Electric ship jobs to Mexico … helping AT&T ship jobs to China. And on and on it goes,” Sanders concluded.

And Sanders certainly did not believe that financing for multinational trade deals would dry up without Ex-Im. He questioned the head of the bank in 2004, asking, “General Electric, which itself is one of the largest financial institutions in America, cannot get loans anyplace else but from the taxpayers and the workers of America? Are you going to tell me with a straight face that GE is a struggling small business, a minority business in the barrio of New York, and they just cannot find financing?”

(click here to continue reading Wingnuts and liberals’ bizarre role reversal: Why Export-Import Bank politics are so perverse – Salon.com.)

Stay tuned, Congress is about to go on recess until September, I doubt this will be settled until then, at the earliest…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 29th, 2014 at 8:51 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with

Malcolm Gladwell – S.H.A.M.E. Profile

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Earlier today…

A confidential Philip Morris document from the mid-1990s named Malcolm Gladwell as one of the tobacco industry’s top covert media assets. This roster of “Third Party Advocates” was a who’s who list of known corporate shills, including Bush press secretary/Fox News anchor Tony Snow, Grover Norquist, Milton Friedman and Ed Feulner, head of the Heritage Foundation. In journalism terms, a “Third Party Advocate” means “fraud.”

Via:
Malcolm Gladwell – S.H.A.M.E. Profile
[automated]

Written by eggplant

January 12th, 2013 at 10:35 am

Posted in Links

Tagged with , ,

When right-wing blather killed

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Fingerlings from Kamehachi
Fingerling potatoes from Kamehachi

A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…

I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.

But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?

In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey. 

And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.

(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)

and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:

A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.

Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.

So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”

Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.

No Dumping Potatoes
No Dumping Potatoes

Laura Miller adds:

The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.

These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!

Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.

(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)

Steel cut Irish Oatmeal
Steel cut Irish Oatmeal

Written by Seth Anderson

November 26th, 2012 at 9:01 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with , ,

Severe Conservative Syndrome

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All Poems Are Accidents
All Poems Are Accidents

Mitt Romney’s entire campaign seems predicated upon running against an imaginary person that Romney calls Obama – though it isn’t anything like the real President, nor the real Obama’s record.

Paul Krugman writes:

But Mr. Romney is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and whatever his personal beliefs may really be — if, indeed, he believes anything other than that he should be president — he needs to win over primary voters who really are severely conservative in both his intended and unintended senses.

So he can’t run on his record in office. Nor was he trying very hard to run on his business career even before people began asking hard (and appropriate) questions about the nature of that career.

Instead, his stump speeches rely almost entirely on fantasies and fabrications designed to appeal to the delusions of the conservative base. No, President Obama isn’t someone who “began his presidency by apologizing for America,” as Mr. Romney declared, yet again, a week ago. But this “Four-Pinocchio Falsehood,” as the Washington Post Fact Checker puts it, is at the heart of the Romney campaign.

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.

The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game, and now they’re facing the blowback, a party that suffers from “severe” conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure.

(click here to continue reading Severe Conservative Syndrome – NYTimes.com.)

It was difficult to measure how much ground Mr. Romney has gained or lost, particularly given how the Republican Party has changed since 2008. He reminded the audience of his conservative record in a state that he called the most liberal in the country.

“I was a severely conservative Republican governor,” Mr. Romney said, adding “severely” to the text of his speech for emphasis. “I fought against long odds in a deep blue state.”

(click here to continue reading Romney’s Record as Governor Resumes Central Role in Nomination Fight – NYTimes.com.)

Just for fun, using the built-in OS X Lion dictionary, here are the top synonyms for “severe”:

  • severe injuries: acute, very bad, serious, grave, critical, dreadful, terrible, awful; dangerous, parlous, life-threatening; formal grievous. ANTONYMS minor, negligible.
  • severe storms: fierce, violent, strong, powerful, intense; tempestuous, turbulent. ANTONYMS gentle.
  • a severe winter: harsh, bitter, cold, bleak, freezing, icy, arctic, extreme; informal brutal. ANTONYMS mild.
  • a severe headache: excruciating, agonizing, intense, dreadful, awful, terrible, unbearable, intolerable; informal splitting, pounding, screaming. ANTONYMS slight.
  • a severe test of their stamina: difficult, demanding, tough, arduous, formidable, exacting, rigorous, punishing, onerous, grueling. ANTONYMS easy, simple.
  • severe criticism: harsh, scathing, sharp, strong, fierce, savage, scorching, devastating, trenchant, caustic, biting, withering. ANTONYMS mild.
  • severe tax penalties: extortionate, excessive, unreasonable, inordinate, outrageous, sky-high, harsh, stiff; punitive.
  • they received severe treatment: harsh, stern, hard, inflexible, uncompromising, unrelenting, merciless, pitiless, ruthless, draconian, oppressive, repressive, punitive; brutal, cruel, savage. ANTONYMS lenient, lax.
  • his severe expression: stern, dour, grim, forbidding, disapproving, unsmiling, unfriendly, somber, grave, serious, stony, steely; cold, frosty. ANTONYMS friendly, genial.
  • a severe style of architecture: plain, simple, austere, unadorned, unembellished, unornamented, stark, spartan, ascetic; clinical, uncluttered. ANTONYMS fancy, ornate.

Amusingly, most do seem to apply to the Republican Party, actually, whether “Dog Mittens” Romney intended them or not. And many of the antonyms are fairly accurate descriptions of Romney! minor, negligible, slight, simple, fancy, and so on…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 14th, 2012 at 9:12 am

Posted in humor,politics

Tagged with ,

Ten Reasons Ronald Reagan Ain’t All That

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Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?

Ronald Reagan was never a hero of mine – he was the President right as I became interested in politics, and his genial, fact-free hatred of everything liberal still irks me. Even worse is how the conservatives worship him as a god, conveniently omitting mention of all of deeds that don’t conform to the Reagan myth.

Tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth, and all week, conservatives have been trying to outdo each others’ remembrances of the great conservative icon. Senate Republicans spent much of Thursday singing Reagan’s praise from the Senate floor, while conservative publications have been running non-stop commemorations. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich are hoping to make a few bucks off the Gipper’s centennial.

But Reagan was not the man conservatives claim he was. This image of Reagan as a conservative superhero is myth, created to untie the various factions of the right behind a common leader. In reality, Reagan was no conservative ideologue or flawless commander-in-chief. Reagan regularly strayed from conservative dogma — he raised taxes eleven times as president while tripling the deficit — and he often ended up on the wrong side of history, like when he vetoed an Anti-Apartheid bill.

ThinkProgress has compiled a list of the top 10 things conservatives rarely mention when talking about President Reagan:

Conservatives seem to be in such denial about the less flattering aspects of Reagan; it sometimes appears as if they genuinely don’t know the truth of his legacy. Yesterday, when liberal activist Mike Stark challenged hate radio host Rush Limbaugh on why Reagan remains a conservative hero despite raising taxes so many times, Limbaugh flew into a tirade and demanded, “Where did you get this silly notion that Reagan raised taxes?

(click here to continue reading ThinkProgress » 10 Things Conservatives Don’t Want You To Know About Ronald Reagan.)

Especially humorous is Ronnie’s record re raising taxes:

1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser. As governor of California, Reagan “signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then.” Meanwhile, state spending nearly doubled. As president, Reagan “raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office,” including four times in just two years. As former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who called Reagan “a dear friend,” told NPR, “Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration — I was there.” “Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s memoir. Reagan the anti-tax zealot is “false mythology,” Brinkley said.

Some counter-programming:

 

The Ronald Reagan who won the cold war, cut taxes, shrank the government, saved the economy, and was the most beloved president since FDR is a myth, Bunch says. The cold war fizzled out primarily because of Soviet economic collapse. Reagan cut taxes just once, in 1991, and thereafter raised them yearly. He vastly expanded the government and burdened the economy with enormous deficits. Moreover, his approval ratings were just average, reflecting his divisiveness as a political figure. Bunch also shows that however tough-talking, Reagan was a negotiator who achieved nuclear arms reductions by talking with Soviet leader Gorbachev and got into the Iran-Contra mess because he wouldn’t send combat troops abroad. In practice, especially of foreign policy, he was a pragmatist, not an ideologue. The truculent jingoist of the myth was concocted after Alzheimer’s silenced the man and the would-be juggernaut launched by the GOP’s 1994 election triumph crashed and burned before a Democratic president who shrank government and the deficit, balanced the budget, and even racked up surpluses. Bunch names the leading, venal mythmakers and shames the myth exploiters, too. Anyone interested in America’s immediate future should read this book.

And a bit of historical perspective from Peter Dreier:

During his two terms in the White House (1981–89), Reagan presided over a widening gap between the rich and everyone else, declining wages and living standards for working families, an assault on labor unions as a vehicle to lift Americans into the middle class, a dramatic increase in poverty and homelessness, and the consolidation and deregulation of the financial industry that led to the current mortgage meltdown, foreclosure epidemic and lingering recession.

These trends were not caused by inevitable social and economic forces. They resulted from Reagan’s policy and political choices based on an underlying “you’re on your own” ideology.

Reagan is often lauded as “the great communicator,” but what he often communicated were lies and distortions. For example, during his stump speeches, while dutifully promising to roll back welfare, Reagan often told the story of a so-called “welfare queen” in Chicago who drove a Cadillac and had ripped off $150,000 from the government using eighty aliases, thirty addresses, a dozen Social Security cards and four fictional dead husbands. Journalists searched for this “welfare cheat” in the hopes of interviewing her and discovered that she didn’t exist. But this phony imagery of “welfare cheats” persisted and helped lay the groundwork for cuts to programs that help the poor, including children.

Reagan’s most famous statement—“Government is not a solution to our problem. Government is the problem”—has become the unofficial slogan for the recent resurgence of right-wing extremism. The rants of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, the lunacy of Tea Party, the policy ideas promulgated by propaganda outfits like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation masquerading as think tanks and the takeover of the Republican Party by its most conservative wing were all incubated during the Reagan years. Indeed, they all claim to be carrying out the Reagan Revolution.

What did that revolution bring us?

Many Americans credit Reagan with reducing the size of government. In reality, he increased government spending, cut taxes and turned the United States from a creditor to a debtor nation. During his presidency, Reagan escalated the military budget while slashing funds for domestic programs that assisted working-class Americans and protected consumers and the environment. Not surprisingly, both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush followed in Reagan’s footsteps.

(click here to continue reading Reagan’s Real Legacy | The Nation.)

Rockefeller and Reagan

Greg Mitchell interviewed Eugene Jarecki about the upcoming HBO film about Reagan, which truth be told, I probably don’t have the intestinal fortitude to sit through.

An orgy of Ronald Reagan worship, including at the Super Bowl, will roll out today to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.  For those who can stand to wait another day for a more evenhanded, though often critical, assessment, HBO will be airing Eugene Jarecki’s documentary, fresh from Sundance, titled Reagan, on Monday night at nine. Jarecki (left) is best known as the director of the acclaimed docs, Why We Fight and The Trials of Henry Kissinger (and, more recently Freakonomics).  Reagan is  an extremely well-made film, featuring some expected and some surprising talking heads, plus occasional spurts of fun provided by a Daily Show clip, Phil Hartman’s famous SNL skit portraying two faces of Reagan (public bumbler, private strongman),  and even a Simpsons moment.

Reagan’s two sons take center stage.  That would be the rightwing radio talk show ranter Michael Reagan (who was adopted) and the much more liberal Ron Reagan.   Others interviewed include familiar Reaganites such as George Schultz, James Baker and Grover Norquist, and what Jarecki calls ‘honest brokers” including Tom Frank, Andrew Bacevich, Will Bunch, Frances Fitzgerald, James Mann and Simon Johnson.

At Sundance, Jarecki admitted he had “an axe to grind,” but not so much to expose Reagan as a bad guy but to dispel various “myths” that absurdly enlarge — or diminish – him.  He also revealed that he had received a fair amount of criticism from some who feel the film is too kind to Reagan.  Indeed, its first half paints a largely favorable picture of the man’s early life and rise to the governor’s mansion in California, but the second half, on his presidency and fallout from it, proves largely critical.   What that means is that viewers who like the first half are more likely to stick around and learn something in the latter sections.

“The Reagan sales pitch has been going on a long time,” Jarecki told me in an interview this week.  “If people see the real Reagan they may learn a lot.  What’s amazing is how much we are told about Reagan today is only half true,” if that.

(click here to continue reading “Reagan” Comes to HBO: An Interview With Director Eugene Jarecki | The Nation.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 6th, 2011 at 11:32 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

House GOP Slicing Federal Budget

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Variations on a Theme

I haven’t read the bill, and of course, it probably won’t be passed in quite this form, but why is defense spending not part of the budget cuts? There is zero money for Amtrak, zero. Assholes.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, will unveil the bill in a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday morning.

Jordan’s bill, which will have a companion bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, would impose deep and broad cuts across the federal government. It includes both budget-wide cuts on non-defense discretionary spending back to 2006 levels and proposes the elimination or drastic reduction of more than 50 government programs.

Jordan’s “Spending Reduction Act” would eliminate such things as the U.S. Agency for International Development and its $1.39 billion annual budget, the $445 million annual subsidy for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the $1.5 billion annual subsidy for Amtrak, $2.5 billion in high speed rail grants, the $150 million subsidy for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and it would cut in half to $7.5 billion the federal travel budget.

But the program eliminations and reductions would account for only $330 billion of the $2.5 trillion in cuts. The bulk of the cuts would come from returning non-defense discretionary spending – which is currently $670 billion out of a $3.8 trillion budget for the 2011 fiscal year – to the 2006 level of $496.7 billion, through 2021.

Other cuts in the Jordan proposal include putting the $45 billion remaining in the stimulus toward deficit reduction, eliminating federal control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the tune of $30 billion in savings, and clawing back $16 billion currently scheduled to go toward helping state governments pay for Medicaid recipients.

There are clear cut significant costs to such a proposal. Getting rid of the $6 billion or so in stimulus that is reserved for state governments in the upcoming fiscal year, along with the $16 billion in state Medicaid payments, would compound what is already set to be the worst year of fiscal problems yet in this economic downturn for state governments. They face their biggest deficits of the recession already because stimulus money has for the most part run out, and are in the process now of figuring out what services they will have to cut.

But Jordan said Wednesday that the nation must endure short term pain of its own choosing to avoid long term pain that it is far more serious and beyond its control.

(click to continue reading House GOP conservatives set to unveil $2.5 trillion in deep spending cuts | The Daily Caller – Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment.)

So America, are you ready for some pain? Get ready as your newly elected Rethuglicans gut every domestic program in their quest to return us to the Robber Baron era. You know, child labor, no pollution controls, mandatory 70 hour work weeks, etc. A good time to be a banker, an insurance CEO, or an industrialist, not so good for the rest of us.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 20th, 2011 at 11:01 am

Tea Party at the Supreme Court

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Virginia Thomas has proudly lent her name to the anti-patriotic, anti-American, anti-progressive Tea Party movement.

Rites of a Spring

As Virginia Thomas tells it in her soft-spoken, Midwestern cadence, the story of her involvement in the “tea party” movement is the tale of an average citizen in action.

“I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Neb., who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you,” she said at a recent panel discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. Thomas went on to count herself among those energized into action by President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.”

But Thomas is no ordinary activist.

She is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she has launched a tea-party-linked group that could test the traditional notions of political impartiality for the court.

In January, Virginia Thomas created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative “core principles,” she said.

The group plans to issue score cards for Congress members and be involved in the November election, although Thomas would not specify how. She said it would accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court.

[From Justice’s wife launches ‘tea party’ group – latimes.com]

I cannot recall a similar public declaration of intent from the spouse of any Supreme Court Justice in our nation’s history. Can you? The equivalent would be if the wife of Justice Thurgood Marshall joined the John Birchers, or William Rehnquist’s wife started a local chapter of Sandinista National Liberation Front, or Justice John Marshall’s wife decided to hold a Friends of French Liberty soirée in her salon. None of these other things happened, but rules are always different for Rovian Republicans, aren’t they?

Under judicial rules, judges must curb political activity, but a spouse is free to engage.

Really, this could be grounds for impeachment – Clarence Thomas is no friend to liberty, no friend to America, no friend to the Constitution if you want to get down to it. Justice Thomas has often skirted close to the edge of impropriety, and doesn’t believe in the concept of conflict of interest, or recusal. Recusal wasn’t mentioned in the 4,543 words comprising the Constitution of the United States after all, so why would a strict constitutionalist like Justice Thomas believe in it?

Virginia Thomas has long been a passionate voice for conservative views. She has worked for former Republican Rep. Dick Armey of Texas and for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with strong ties to the GOP.

In 2000, while at the Heritage Foundation, she was recruiting staff for a possible George W. Bush administration as her husband was hearing the case that would decide the election. When journalists reported her work, Thomas said she saw no conflict of interest and that she rarely discussed court matters with her husband.

Transcended by Tea

and of course, the rules of political engagement have recently changed:

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Liberty Central can raise unlimited amounts of corporate money and largely avoid disclosing its donors.

Because of a recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the group may also spend corporate money freely to advocate for or against candidates for office.

Justice Thomas was part of the 5-4 majority in that case.

Written by swanksalot

March 14th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Texas Conservatives Vote To Join Taliban

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The Christian Taliban, that is.

Garfield Dino Dali

AUSTIN, Tex. — After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it.

The board, whose members are elected, has influence beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks. In the digital age, however, that influence has diminished as technological advances have made it possible for publishers to tailor books to individual states.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a panel of teachers.

[Click to continue reading Texas Conservatives Win Vote on Textbook Standards – NYTimes.com]

For all of the charms of Texas, the power of the Christian Taliban over Texas politics is certainly in my top five reasons for moving away. There are just too many of these anti-21st century, anti-intellectual, anti-free thinking radicals in positions of authority. The Texas Board of Education is an elected position, and the Texas Board of Education believes in a 6,000 year old Earth, hence the majority of voters in Texas also believe that humans rode around on dinosaurs. Scary, scary people.

George W. Bush was an honorary member, at the least, but the current Governor of Texas is a founding member of the Texas Flat Earth Party of the Christian Taliban. And Governor Good Hair is about to be elected for a third term. The will of the people indeed, just not people I wish to affiliate with.

Dinosaur Invasion

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

They also included a plank to ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”

Even the course on world history did not escape the board’s scalpel.Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

Evolutionary Moment

I wouldn’t be sad if Texas actually did secede, as long as there is a bullet train that goes to Austin so I can visit family.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 13th, 2010 at 10:31 am

Obstructionists As the World Burns

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Jeff Goodell wrote, back in January, 2010

Motion is Life

Our collective response to the emerging catastrophe verges on suicidal. World leaders have been talking about tackling climate change for nearly 20 years now — yet carbon emissions keep going up and up. “We are in a race against time,” says Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington who has fought for sharp reductions in planet-warming pollution. “Mother Nature isn’t sitting around waiting for us to get our political act together.” In fact, our failure to confront global warming is more than simply political incompetence. Over the past year, the corporations and special interests most responsible for climate change waged an all-out war to prevent Congress from cracking down on carbon pollution in time for Copenhagen. The oil and coal industries deployed an unprecedented army of lobbyists, spent millions on misleading studies and engaged in outright deception to derail climate legislation. “It was the most aggressive and corrupt lobbying campaign I’ve ever seen,” says Paul Begala, a veteran Democratic consultant.

[well, until the banking lobby got ramped up]

By preventing meaningful action in Copenhagen, the battle to kill the climate bill provided the world’s biggest polluters with a lucrative victory — one that comes at the rest of the world’s expense. “In the long term, the fossil-fuel industry is going to lose this war,” says Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But in the short term, they are doing everything they can to delay the revolution. For them, what this fight is really about is buying precious time to maximize profits from carbon sources. It’s really no more complicated than that.”

[Click to continue reading As the World Burns : Rolling Stone]

and by focusing more energy on healthcare reform, the climate bill didn’t get passed either. What will happen in 2010? The U.S. Senate has dozens of high profile bills sitting on its agenda, bills that passed the US House, but the Senators seem more interested in cheap showmanship and posturing. I guess that isn’t new, but it is frustrating.

The Republican Party is slurping up energy lobby dollars of course, and predictably are opposed to any change to the status quo.

Tales of the Towering Dead

The most credible analysis of the bill, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, found that the measure would cost most families no more than $175 a year — the equivalent of “about a postage stamp a day,” Markey says. But the Heritage Foundation is nothing if not a big, well-greased disinformation machine. “We noticed that every time a constituent came in to talk to us about the bill, they would be quoting the same numbers,” says one congressional staffer. “We knew they were a lie, but they were everywhere.”

Energy lobbyists found a willing ally in the Republican Party, which had decided to deny any legislative victory to President Obama — even if it meant cooking the planet in the process. Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas who had been replaced by Waxman as chair of the House energy committee, pledged to launch “crafty” attacks on the climate bill, comparing the GOP’s battle plan to “guerrilla warfare.”

Gah, we need a new political party, one that believes in science, in civil liberties, and the will of the people. Not going to happen in my lifetime unfortunately, and not unless there are drastic changes to how elections are paid for.

Shrieks and Secrets

While Big Oil and Big Coal worked to whip up public hysteria, their Republican allies moved to block the climate bill in the Senate. The most unexpected and influential voice proved to be John McCain, who had long been a champion of climate legislation. The Arizona senator was highly respected by environmental and business leaders for his grasp of both the science and economics of global warming. Even while he was busy selling his soul to the far right during the presidential campaign, he called climate change “a test of foresight, of political courage and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next.” But when the opportunity to show some political courage of his own arrived, McCain executed a bizarre about-face. The industry-friendly bill passed by the House, he now declared — a measure modeled on the cap-and-trade bill he had co-sponsored with Joe Lieberman — was “the worst example of legislation I’ve seen in a long time.”

Senate veterans were stunned. “McCain is still licking his wounds from the election,” says one insider who recently met with the senator. “He may eventually do something on this, but he wants Obama to come to him and ask for help.”

As they had in the House, Republicans in the Senate decided to obstruct the climate bill at every turn. Leading the charge was Sen. James Inhofe, the former chair of the Senate environment committee, who has not let the fact that the Arctic is melting before our very eyes stop him from continuing to proclaim that global warming is a “hoax.” When Boxer, the committee’s new chair, tried to advance the climate bill, Inhofe launched a number of procedural maneuvers designed to stall the bill, such as calling for more analysis from the EPA. “We all knew it was a game,” says one Senate staffer. When Boxer finally forced a vote on the bill in November, Inhofe and his fellow Republicans on the committee didn’t even bother to show up.

Democrats from energy-producing states — including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jim Webb of Virginia and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — also tried to put the brakes on climate legislation, siding with Republicans who demanded that the bill earn a 60-vote supermajority for passage. By last fall, the Obama administration was forced to acknowledge that the battle was lost. “Obviously, we’d like to be through the process,” Browner, the new climate czar, conceded in October. “But that’s not going to happen. We will go to Copenhagen with whatever we have.” Inhofe put it even more bluntly. “We won, you lost,” he boasted to Boxer’s face. “Get a life.”

The Senate’s failure to act helped torpedo the talks in Copenhagen, which not only failed to produce a binding treaty but postponed meaningful action until 2015. It has also left Obama with no clear strategy of how to move forward.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 23rd, 2010 at 8:08 am

Bookmarks for November 30th through December 2nd

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A few interesting links for November 30th through December 2nd:

  • Media Matters – Wash. Times and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review publish false Heritage Foundation claims about autoworker compensation – " In recent days, The Washington Times and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published op-eds by members of the Heritage Foundation containing the false claim that union autoworkers earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits. In fact, according to General Motors, these claims are based not only on current workers' hourly wages and benefits, such as health care and retirement, but also retirement and health-care benefits that U.S. automakers are providing for current retirees."
  • NBC and McCaffrey's coordinated responses to the NYT story – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com – General Barry McCaffrey has been corrupt for a long time (he was the drug Czar, remember?), and NBC was quite happy employing him in his role as defense contractor shill.
    More here
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/12/01/mccaffrey/index.html
  • Daily Kos: Who Rules Mark Halperin's World? – "Number of references on Mark Halperin's website, thepage.time.com, for each of the following, according to Google:

    Rush Limbaugh: 113
    Sean Hannity: 77
    Matt Drudge: 56
    Bill O'Reilly: 34
    Huffington (Post or Arianna): 23
    Keith Olbermann: 14
    Rachel Maddow: 9
    Daily Kos: 0"

  • Daily Kos: Defending The Media From Halperin's Tin-Foil Attack – " I assembled a list of 92 articles published by the NYT in 2007 and 2008 (see below). As you can see, none of thes articles show any signs of "extreme bias" or "extreme pro-Obama coverage."

    I'm not saying the articles prove any sort of systematic anti-Obama bias. But they do invalidate Halperin's claim about the NYT, in the process exposing his claim that coverage of the 2008 campaign represents "the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war" as totally unsubstantiated.

    Given Halperin's utter lack of specifics to support his claim, the real question is this: why did he choose to throw the media under Rush Limbaugh's bus?"

  • Bargain gifts for the culture vulture – 2008 Gift Guide – Salon.com – ". On the leading edge of an incoming tsunami of art-house-flavored releases is the first-ever batch of Blu-rays from the Criterion Collection, available for preorder now and pre-Christmas delivery. It's an eclectic and intriguing blend, from Nicolas Roeg's deliciously culty "The Man Who Fell to Earth"($27.95), starring the 1976 androgynous version of David Bowie, to Carol Reed's sinister, black-and-white Vienna Brit-noir "The Third Man"($28.99), Wong Kar-wai's winsome 1994 romance "Chungking Express" ($27.95) and Wes Anderson's debut indie heist caper "Bottle Rocket" ($27.95). (Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" ($23.99), exactly the kind of eye-popping spectacle you'd expect to see in a new format, will be along in January.) No telling yet whether technophiles will kvetch or kvell about the hi-def transfers, but to you and me they'll look stupendous."

Written by swanksalot

December 2nd, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Links