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Cranky Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands Book Burning

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Nixon - Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure
Nixon – Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure

If you hadn’t heard, Craig Shirley has been making the rounds accusing historian Rick Perlstein of plagiarism. For the record, I purchased a copy of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan but haven’t started reading yet. Most non-partisan writers, and several partisan writers have disagreed: historians quite frequently paraphrase from their sources, it is how we are taught to write! Perlstein didn’t omit references, just made them available on-line instead of as footnotes or endnotes, nor did Perstein borrow more than a word or two at time. In other words, the accusation seems to be mostly without merit from where I slouch.

Mostly the accusations seem to stem from Perlstein’s lack of hero worship for Ronald Reagan, the so-called patron saint of the Republican Party1.

So if you are at all interested in history of American politics, you might want to purchase a copy of Mr. Perlstein’s book before the pitchfork brandishing hordes manage to storm the ramparts of Amazon.com’s warehouses and burn the books that dare present a nuanced portrait of anyone so holy as Ronald “Bombing Begins in Five Minutes” Reagan.

 

Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) - outtake
Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) – outtake

Some coverage that caught my eye includes:

Frank Rich reviews the book:

Next to the more apocalyptic spells of American history, the dismal span of 1973 to 1976 would seem a relative blip of national dyspepsia. A period that yielded the blandest of modern presidents, Gerald Ford — “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” as he circumspectly described himself — is not to be confused with cataclysmic eras like the Civil War, the Great Depression and the Vietnam ‘60s. The major mid-70s disruptions — the Watergate hearings and Richard Nixon’s abdication, Roe v. Wade, the frantic American evacuation of Saigon, stagflation, the dawn of the “energy crisis” (then a newly minted term) — were adulterated with a steady stream of manufactured crises and cheesy cultural phenomena. Americans suffered through the threat of killer bees, “Deep Throat,” the Symbionese Liberation Army, a national meat boycott, “The Exorcist,” Moonies and the punishing self-help racket est, to which a hustler named Werner Erhard (né Jack Rosenberg) attracted followers as diverse as the Yippie Jerry Rubin and the Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Even the hapless would-be presidential assassins of the Ford years, Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, were B-list villains by our national standards of infamy.

“I must say to you that the state of our Union is not good,” our unelected president told the nation in January 1975. That was true enough. America’s largest city was going bankrupt. Urban crime was metastasizing. The C.I.A. was exposed as a snake pit of lethal illegality. The nostalgic canonization of the Kennedy presidency, the perfect antidote to the Nixon stench, was befouled by the revelation of Jack Kennedy’s mob-moll paramour. Yet the mood of the union was not so much volatile as defeated, whiny and riddled by self-doubt. As Americans slouched toward the Bicentennial celebrations of July 4, 1976, pundits were wondering whether the country even deserved to throw itself a birthday party. “Everyone wanted to be somewhere else,” Rick Perlstein writes in “The Invisible Bridge.”

It says much about Perlstein’s gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan (as his subtitle has it) not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny. Perlstein knows how to sift through a culture’s detritus for the telling forgotten detail. Leave it to him to note that the WIN buttons peddled by Ford to promote a desperate “Whip Inflation Now” campaign were “designed by the same guy who invented the yellow ‘smiley face.’ ” Or to recall that the Republican Party tried to combat its dire post-Watergate poll numbers by producing “Republicans Are People Too!,” three fund-raising network television specials starring “everyday Republicans who want to tell why they have stuck with the G.O.P.” Competing against “M*A*S*H” in prime time, the second installment brought in $5,515. The third never ran.

(click here to continue reading ‘The Invisible Bridge,’ by Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Jesse Walker from Reason Magazine:

Craig Shirley, the author of two books on Ronald Reagan, has sicced his lawyer on Rick Perlstein, whose ’70s history The Invisible Bridge was published by Simon & Schuster this week. Shirley’s attorney is demanding that the publisher pulp Perlstein’s book, pay $25 million in damages, and take out ads apologizing to Shirley in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, and Salon.

What provoked these demands? Basically, the 810 pages of The Invisible Bridge include some information that can also be found in Shirley’s book Reagan’s Revolution, and in some places Perlstein paraphrases Shirley. Shirley thinks this constitutes copyright infringement. If you’d like to read the bill of particulars, Dave Weigel has posted the attorney’s letters and Simon & Schuster’s response at Slate, and Shirley himself has posted a litany of alleged thefts on his website.

In the first item on the latter list, the two books do sound alike: Describing the red-light district in Kansas City, Perlstein echoes not just the info in Shirley’s text but Shirley’s words “festooned” and “smut peddlers.” After that, though, we essentially get a list of places where the two writers cited the same facts. Facts are not copyrightable, and one pair of similar sentences does not an infringement make. I don’t see a dollar’s worth of damages here, let alone 25 million

(click here to continue reading Copyright Absurdity: Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands $25 Million – Hit & Run : Reason.com.)

Dave Weigel from Slate:

This just isn’t what happens when Rick Perlstein releases a book. The first in his series, 2001’s Before the Storm, was praised by William F. Buckley. George Will called it “the best book yet on the social ferments that produced Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy”—in a largely positive review of Perlstein’s second book, Nixonland, which became a best-seller. What changed? This time Perlstein is writing about Ronald Reagan.

Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan—Perlstein has moved from covering a minor saint, to a martyr, to God. Thirteen years ago, when Perlstein profiled Goldwater’s movement, there had been only one recent biography of the Arizonan. There will be at least half a dozen new Reagan books this year alone, everything from a deep dive into the 1986 Reykjavik summit to a collection of leadership tips. Perlstein is challenging an image of the 40th president that is built on many such books, celebrated at Republican county dinners, and quoted by everyone from Ted Cruz (in his arguments for conservative revival) to Joe Scarborough (in his argument that no one should listen to Cruz).

Yes, technically, The Invisible Bridge is a history of January 1973 to August 1976, and Reagan’s own presidential campaign does not start until Page 546 (of 810). But in Perlstein’s telling, Reagan was the essential figure who understood that Americans wanted to revise their history in real time. The Invisible Bridge starts with Operation Homecoming, the negotiated release of Vietnam POWs that was preceded by years of patriotic kitsch. Perlstein recreates the mood by quoting copiously from letters to the editor, from columnists, POW speeches and TV broadcasts. He recalls that it was future right-wing Rep. Bob Dornan who came up with yellow armbands as trinkets of POW solidarity, and recovers forgotten tidbits about them, like how “a Wimbledon champ said that one cured his tennis elbow.”

(click here to continue reading Rick Perlstein’s book on Reagan: The Invisible Bridge, reviewed..)

3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan
3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters:

Right-wing publicist and author Craig Shirley doesn’t like a new book about Ronald Reagan written by award-winning (and liberal) historian Rick Perlstein. So the conservative publicist has threatened to sue for $25 million in damages and has asked for all copies of the book to be “destroyed,” claiming that with Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Richard Nixon And The Rise of Ronald Reagan, Perlstein’s guilty of plagiarism for paraphrasing facts Shirley had previously reported in his own book about Reagan.

But of course, paraphrasing is not the basis for copyright infringement and that’s certainly not what constitutes plagiarism.

Meanwhile, for a best-selling author himself, Shirley seems to have little understanding of copyright law.

He seems to think that because he wrote a detailed book on a chapter of Reagan’s political life (his failed 1976 presidential campaign), every writer who subsequently treads that same ground must credit Shirley because he was there first. But that’s not how it works. “Any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement,” wrote attorney Elizabeth McNarama, responding on behalf of Perlstein and his publisher.

McNamara stressed:

Your client’s claim rests on the misguided notion that chroniclers of history, like Mr. Shirley, somehow acquire ownership and control over the facts and events they may uncover. This premise collides directly with the most basic principles of copyright law and is contrary to the very fundamentals of historical reporting.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering suggests Shirley’s plagiarism claim doesn’t represent a serious pursuit. Instead it’s a way for Shirley to draw attention to his own work and to make life difficult for an esteemed liberal writer chronicling a conservative icon.

(click here to continue reading Ann Coulter’s Publicist Launches “Offensive” Against Historian Rick Perlstein | Blog | Media Matters for America.)

Paul Krugman weighs in, speaking from personal experience:

OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.

How do we know that they’re spurious? The people making the charges — almost all of whom have, surprise, movement conservative connections — aren’t pointing to any actual passages that, you know, were lifted from some other book. Instead, they’re claiming that Perlstein paraphrased what other people said. Um, what? Unless there’s a very close match, telling more or less the same story someone else has told before is perfectly ordinary — in fact, it would be distressing if history books didn’t correspond on some things.

(click here to continue reading Sliming Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Vote Reagan - Division Blue Line 1995
Vote Reagan – Division Blue Line 1995

David Dayen at Salon:

Simon & Schuster responded to the letters here, by arguing that “any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement.” In fact, it’s self-evident that facts should remain similar over the course of histories of the same time period. Perlstein believes he merely built upon the historical record that Shirley helped register in his work.  “He doesn’t like the way I do history,” Perlstein told Salon. “He thinks that if he digs up facts by the sweat of his brow that nobody else can use them. In fact, courts have used that exact phrase, ‘sweat of the brow,’ to say that there’s no copyright protection for such facts.”

In many cases, Simon & Schuster notes, Shirley alleges copyright infringement based on third-party quotes found in other sources. For example, Shirley claims that Perlstein stole a quote of Nancy Reagan’s from him without attribution, even though the quote appears differently in the two books. In Shirley’s, Nancy says “That’s what I like to hear”; in Perlstein’s, she says “Now that is the kind of talk I like to hear.” The quotes differ because Perlstein got it from a different book called “PR as in President” by Victor Gold, which is whom he cited in his source notes.

In another allegation, about a hotel manager threatening to throw out the Pennsylvania delegation at the 1976 GOP convention, Perlstein’s source is Time magazine, not Shirley (although he gives secondary attribution to Shirley anyway). Shirley even tries to claim copyright on a CBS News report of the number of delegates that Gerald Ford had attained near the end of the 1976 primaries.

A final claim of Shirley’s reveals too much. Shirley says Perlstein stole his line about Reagan watching the chaotic last night of the 1976 convention on television, “dissolved in laughter” (which is cited). But Shirley doesn’t add the line in “The Invisible Bridge” that comes afterward: “Then, he saw a televised image of himself on television watching it on television – that doesn’t look good – and his smile disappeared.” This additional insight, building on previous work and incorporating this cunning quality to Reagan, also came from a contemporaneous report in the Atlanta Daily World. As Dave Weigel writes, “In Shirley’s version of the story, Reagan was underrated once again; in Perlstein’s, he is underrated but calculating.”

So Shirley, who as a right-wing operative and professional Reagan biographer is naturally protective of Reagan’s legacy, and doesn’t want a book to rise to prominence that calls him into question for any reason, has basically thrown every allegation up against the wall to see if something sticks. He claims plagiarism over inconsequential, ordinary short phrases. He claims plagiarism over quotes that other people said. He claims plagiarism on passages where Perlstein specifically attributes Shirley’s book.

(click here to continue reading The right’s “plagiarism” scam: How low it will stoop to protect Reagan’s legacy – Salon.com.)

and after the New York Times published a “he said, he said” article about the ginned-up controversy, the NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in, concluding:

My take: There’s a problem here. An article about polarized reaction to a high-profile book is, of course, fair game. But the attention given to the plagiarism accusation is not.

Yes, the claim was “out there” but so are smears of all kinds as well as claims that the earth is flat and that climate change is unfounded. This one comes from the author of a book on the same subject with an opposing political orientation. By taking it seriously, The Times conferred a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had.

And while it is true that Mr. Perlstein and his publisher were given plenty of opportunity to respond, that doesn’t help much. It’s as if The Times is saying: “Here’s an accusation; here’s a denial; and, heck, we don’t really know. We’re staying out of it.” Readers frequently complain to me about this he said, she said false equivalency — and for good reason.

So I’m with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader. The standard has to be higher.

(click here to continue reading Was an Accusation of Plagiarism Really a Political Attack? – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. despite his oft-stated differences with the policies of the current bunch of Tea-Bagger jokers who chant Reagan’s name like it will ward off evil liberals, communists, and immigrants []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 13th, 2014 at 6:58 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with ,

Bruce Rauner channeled part of fortune to Cayman Islands To Avoid Paying Taxes

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A Mere Hint of Evidence
A Mere Hint of Evidence

Illinois Democratic governor Pat Quinn, the incumbent, is not someone to get excited about, but his opponent in the upcoming election is a non-Mormon clone of Mitt Romney, down to the off-shore tax havens. Bruce Rauner won’t release his tax returns either, basically thumbing his nose at the electorate.

Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner has channeled at least part of his fortune into the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean paradise long criticized as a tax haven for American investors, the Chicago Sun-Times has confirmed.

A Rauner spokesman insisted that the former private equity investor has met his legal tax obligations and properly disclosed to the federal government information regarding at least five investments by him or his firm in a country that has no income tax and a financial system cloaked in secrecy.

Rauner’s campaign has refused so far to release a full set of his most recent tax returns to corroborate that and perhaps show the extent and value of those investments in offshore companies. No one has suggested Rauner has done anything illegal. In fact, offshore investments among the wealthy have been a common practice in recent years.

(click here to continue reading Bruce Rauner channeled part of fortune to Cayman Islands | Early & Often.)

Seem Never Satisfied
Seem Never Satisfied

Are people really going to vote for this plutocrat who is too good, too powerful, too rich to pay his fair share of taxes to a near bankrupt state? If you planned to run for political office, why would you do this? And worse, once news of Rauner’s lack of patriotism was exposed, he doubled down on it.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner funneled part of his wealth to a Caribbean territory long considered a tax haven, a business practice he defended yesterday, stressing there was no impact on his personal tax rate.

A central part of Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election bid has been scrutinizing how the multimillionaire Rauner made his money, and the Chicago Democrat’s campaign has alleged Rauner “stashed” money to avoid paying taxes. “I’d think someone who anticipates being in the public eye wouldn’t be in the Cayman Islands because the question to be asked is, ‘Why would you have invested there?'” Richard L. Kaplan, a University of Illinois law professor told the newspaper. “

AT NO POINT HAVE I TRIED TO AVOID TAXES’

Rauner dismissed the notion yesterday after speaking to Asian leaders in Chinatown.

“At no point have I tried to avoid taxes or done these things that they’re trying to spin,” he said…

“GTCR has its own structure for just a couple of investments. When they invest in overseas companies, they set up that particular structure. It doesn’t impact our personal tax rate whatsoever.”

Cayman, a British territory, is considered one of the world’s largest financial centers and a haven for mutual funds and private equity. International companies and ultra-rich investors have long taken advantage of offshore financial centers there, drawn by regulations and legal systems making it easy to move capital internationally. 

(click here to continue reading Rauner defends Cayman Islands money move – Government News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)

Not A Republican
Not A Republican

and as Aaron Cynic of the Chicagost writes, this isn’t trivial amounts of money, but most likely millions of dollars:

While Rauner might be in full legal compliance, the practice itself allows major corporations and other wealthy individuals to skip out on paying taxes in the United States. According to a June report from the group Citizens for Tax Justice, U.S. based multinational corporations booking profits in tax shelters like the Cayman’s has allowed them to skip out on an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes. For someone trying to save the Illinois economy with a tax plan that targets professional and business services – many of which are smaller businesses – sheltering profits from a company boasting a $10 billion investment portfolio seems somewhat duplicitous, at best.

(click here to continue reading Rauner Defends Dumping Dollars Into Off-Shore Accounts: Chicagoist.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2014 at 8:13 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

The Ridiculous Required White House Response on Marijuana

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Nancy Reagan - Just Say Yo
Nancy Reagan – Just Say Yo

When we talk about how dysfunctional American politics is, here is a prime example. Talk about ridiculous “make-work” jobs, sheesh, thanks President Clinton, and Reagan, and Nixon…

When the White House issued a statement last night saying that marijuana should remain illegal — responding to our pro-legalization editorial series — officials there weren’t just expressing an opinion. They were following the law. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is required by statute to oppose all efforts to legalize any banned drug.

It’s one of the most anti-scientific, know-nothing provisions in any federal law, but it remains an active imposition on every White House. The “drug czar,” as the director of the drug control policy office is informally known, must “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” that’s listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and has no “approved” medical use.

Marijuana fits that description, as do heroin and LSD. But unlike those far more dangerous drugs, marijuana has medical benefits that are widely known and are now officially recognized in 35 states. The drug czar, though, isn’t allowed to recognize them, and whenever any member of Congress tries to change that, the White House office is required to stand up and block the effort. It cannot allow any federal study that might demonstrate the rapidly changing medical consensus on marijuana’s benefits and its relative lack of harm compared to alcohol and tobacco.

(click here to continue reading The Required White House Response on Marijuana – NYTimes.com.)

via the always interesting and informative DrugWarRant.com

Ballin'
Ballin’

and more history of cannabis prohibition from the NYT Editorial Board:

The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on in current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that is it almost impervious to reason.

The cannabis plant, also known as hemp, was widely grown in the United States for use in fabric during the mid-19th century. The practice of smoking it appeared in Texas border towns around 1900, brought by Mexican immigrants who cultivated cannabis as an intoxicant and for medicinal purposes as they had done at home.

Within 15 years or so, it was plentiful along the Texas border and was advertised openly at grocery markets and drugstores, some of which shipped small packets by mail to customers in other states.

The law enforcement view of marijuana was indelibly shaped by the fact that it was initially connected to brown people from Mexico and subsequently with black and poor communities in this country. Police in Texas border towns demonized the plant in racial terms as the drug of “immoral” populations who were promptly labeled “fiends.”

(click here to continue reading The Federal Marijuana Ban Is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia – NYTimes.com.)

National Library of Medicine

Miarihuana – Weed With Roots In Hell! – An ad for the 1930s film “Marihuana.” Credit National Library of Medicine

Fascinating stuff, yet disheartening that decades of policy was built on xenophobia and intentional, malicious misinformation. You should click the link and read the rest of this overview.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 30th, 2014 at 9:13 am

Durbin bill to target corporate inversions

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Financial Blues Brothers
Financial Blues Brothers

As we mentioned, the anti-moocher bill is finally going to be announced by Senator Durbin, though the odds of it passing through the House are slim, unfortunately…

Sen. Dick Durbin said he and other Democrats today will unveil a bill aimed at curbing corporate tax inversions. No federal contracts would go to businesses that engage in corporate inversions (moving headquarters overseas to lower tax bills), the Illinois Democrat said.

The measure is called the No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act.

The bill would mean no federal contracts would go to businesses that incorporate overseas, are at least 50 percent owned by U.S. shareholders and do not have substantial business opportunities in the foreign country in which they are incorporating. The law now defines a company as being “inverted” if it is at least 80 percent owned by U.S. shareholders after it reincorporates overseas, according to Durbin.

Drugmaker AbbVie of North Chicago is among the corporations that recently have announced they are “moving their mailbox overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” according to a statement from Durbin and the other Democrats. Deerfield-based Walgreen Co. also is considering such a move.

The others legislators involved are Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Lloyd Doggett of Texas, who are to appear today with Durbin at the news conference.

The White House estimates that nearly $20 billion in corporate taxes could be lost over the next 10 years because of the corporate merger deals known as inversions.

 

(click here to continue reading Durbin bill to target corporate inversions – chicagotribune.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 29th, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Business,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

Hospitals See Troubles In Red States That Snubbed Obamacare’s Medicaid Deal

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St Mary Nazareth Hospital
St Mary Nazareth Hospital

Go figure…

While record numbers of Americans sign up for the larger Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, financial issues are emerging for medical care providers in the two dozen states that didn’t go along with the expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Reports out in the last week indicate the gap between those with health care coverage is widening between states that agreed to go along with the health law’s Medicaid expansion and those generally led by Republican legislatures and GOP governors that are balking at the expansion.

The moves against expansion are “beginning to hurt hospitals in states that opted out,” a report last week from Fitch Ratings said. The U.S. Department of Health and Human services has said Medicaid enrollment in the 26 states and the District of Columbia that agreed to go along with and implemented the expansion by the end of May “rose by 17 percent, while states that have not expanded reported only a 3 percent increase,” HHS said in an enrollment update for the Medicaid program.

“We expect providers in states that have chosen not to participate in expanded Medicaid eligibility to face increasing financial challenges in 2014 and beyond,” Fitch said in its July 16 report. “Nonprofit hospitals and healthcare systems in states that have expanded their Medicaid coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have begun to realize the benefit from increased insurance coverage.”

(click here to continue reading Hospitals See Troubles In Red States That Snubbed Obamacare’s Medicaid Deal – Forbes.)

Not Proclaiming Our Fall
Not Proclaiming Our Fall

What consistently boggles my mind is that the poor, uninsured people in Republican-leaning states still vote for Republicans. Self-hating folk presumedly. Or else the Tea-Bagger propaganda is so powerful, it has convinced them to vote against their own interests. 

A report last week from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute described the coverage difference as a “gulf in percentage of people without health insurance” that is growing larger between states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not.

As of June, the report said 60 percent of the nation’s uninsured residents live in states that did not expand Medicaid. That figure was up from 49.7 percent in September of last year.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with , , ,

The Rise of Ted Cruz

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The National Beer of Texas
The National Beer of Texas

Surprising nobody, Ted Cruz and the Tea Party Republicans have their own version of history, a version where Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were the same kind of obstructionist asshole as Ted Cruz. Of course, that isn’t factual, but since when have the 6,000 year old Earthers required facts to get in the way of narrative?

Jeffrey Toobin hangs out with Senator Cruz a bit:

Cruz’s ascendancy reflects the dilemma of the modern Republican Party, because his popularity within the Party is based largely on an act that was reviled in the broader national community. Last fall, Cruz’s strident opposition to Obamacare led in a significant way to the shutdown of the federal government. “It was not a productive enterprise,” John McCain told me. “We needed sixty-seven votes in the Senate to stop Obamacare, and we didn’t have it. It was a fool’s errand, and it hurt the Republican Party and it hurt my state. I think Ted has learned his lesson.” But Cruz has learned no such lesson. As he travels the country, he has hardened his positions, delighting the base of his party but moving farther from the positions of most Americans on most issues. He denies the existence of man-made climate change, opposes comprehensive immigration reform, rejects marriage equality, and, of course, demands the repeal of “every blessed word of Obamacare.” (Cruz gets his own health-care coverage from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a vice-president.) Cruz has not formally entered the 2016 Presidential race, but he is taking all the customary steps for a prospective candidacy. He has set up political-action committees to raise money, travelled to early primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, and campaigned for Republican candidates all over the country. His message, in substance, is that on the issues a Cruz Presidency would be roughly identical to a Sarah Palin Presidency.

Still, Cruz’s historical narrative of Presidential politics is both self-serving and questionable on its own terms. Conveniently, he begins his story after the debacle of Barry Goldwater, a conservative purist whom Cruz somewhat resembles. Nixon ran as a healer and governed, by contemporary standards, as a moderate, opening up relations with China, signing into law measures banning sex discrimination, expanding the use of affirmative action, establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and signing the Clean Air Act. Reagan’s record as governor of California included support for tax increases, gun control, and abortion rights, so he sometimes appeared less conservative than his modern reputation suggests. George W. Bush won (if he won) as a self-advertised “compassionate conservative.” So, at this point, Cruz’s concerted attempt to establish himself as the most extreme conservative in the race for the Republican nomination has not evoked much fear in Democrats. “We all hope he runs,” one Democratic senator told me. “He’s their Mondale.” (Running against Reagan as an unalloyed liberal in 1984, Walter Mondale lost every state but his native Minnesota.)

(click here to continue reading Jeffrey Toobin: The Rise of Ted Cruz : The New Yorker.)

Rockefeller and Reagan
Rockefeller and Reagan

I also hope Ted Cruz continues running for President, as I anticipate being amused that the Tea Bagger Birthers will find ways to twist pretzel logic so they can support a Natural Born ‘Murican who wasn’t actually born in the US. Even the most ardent Birthers never claimed Obama’s mother wasn’t American, just that Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii. Ted Cruz’s mother may have been born in Delaware1 but Ted Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada. It says so right on his birth certificate! The U.S. hasn’t invaded and annexed Alberta, yet.

As Jeffrey Toobin puts it:

Rafael Cruz fled Batista’s Cuba for Texas in 1957 after aligning himself with the anti-Batista movement. He returned to Cuba for just a month, in 1959, and became convinced that Fidel Castro was even worse than his predecessor, so he settled in the United States for good. He majored in mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, and met and married Eleanor Darragh, who was born and raised in Delaware. (Rafael had two daughters from a previous marriage.) Rafael and Eleanor started an oil-services company after moving to Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, where Rafael Edward Cruz was born, in 1970. (Ted’s birth in Canada, with dual American and Canadian citizenship, has raised the question of whether he is a “native born” citizen and thus eligible, under the Constitution, to be President. The answer is not completely clear, but it seems likely that the Constitution does not bar a Cruz Presidency. Recently, Ted Cruz formally gave up his Canadian citizenship.)

(click here to continue reading Jeffrey Toobin: The Rise of Ted Cruz : The New Yorker.)

Ted Is Organized

Ballard Street, via

Footnotes:
  1. allegedly []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 23rd, 2014 at 7:57 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Boeing falls most since April After Cantor loss

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Double Rainbow Over Boeing
Double Rainbow Over Boeing

The most amusing headline we read the day after Eric Cantor (Smug R) lost his primary to the Tea Bagger, and Ayn Randian acolyte, David Brat, was this one. Poor, poor Boeing, lost one of their sugar daddies…

Boeing Co. (BA) fell the most in two months as U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in a primary election threatens congressional reauthorization of low-cost lending that benefits the world’s largest planemaker.

Keeping alive the Export-Import Bank will be an “even more high-profile/challenging fight,” Chris Krueger, a senior policy analyst for Guggenheim Securities LLC, said today by e-mail. Boeing was the “biggest loser” besides Cantor in the Virginia Republican’s surprise loss yesterday, Krueger wrote.

Ex-Im arranges financing that helps foreign airlines buy jets, a service that Boeing said last month would support $10 billion of 2014 sales. As Congress debates reauthorization, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas is being promoted as a possible Cantor successor. He has said the U.S. should “exit the Ex-Im.”

(click here to continue reading Boeing Tumbles as Cantor Loss Clouds Ex-Im Bank’s Future – Bloomberg.)

Boeing - El Segundo
Boeing – El Segundo

So what exactly is the Export-Import Bank? The Wikipedia entry:

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is the official export credit agency of the United States federal government. It was established in 1934 by an executive order, and made an independent agency in the Executive branch by Congress in 1945, for the purposes of financing and insuring foreign purchases of United States goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept credit risk. The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. The Bank is chartered as a government corporation by the Congress of the United States; it was last chartered for a three-year term in 2012 which will expire in September 2014. Its Charter spells out the Bank’s authorities and limitations. Among them is the principle that Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders, but rather provides financing for transactions that would otherwise not take place because commercial lenders are either unable or unwilling to accept the political or commercial risks inherent in the deal.

(click here to continue reading Export-Import Bank of the United States – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Golden Plowshares
Golden Plowshares

Corporate welfare, in other words. Propping up the bottom line of the military-industrial complex, and other crony capital chores. Sure, after World War 2, the bank was perhaps justifiable, the Marshall Plan and all that. But in today’s economy? Why does Boeing, GE, Halliburton or ExxonMobil need special low-interest loans subsidized by US taxpayers, loans that are not available to the rest of the business world? Especially when so much of what the bank subsidizes is bad for the planet. 

Like:

The bank’s environmental policy is a disappointment because it would allow an increase in spending on coal and other technologies harmful to the environment, said Steve Kretzmann, who runs Washington-based Oil Change International, which seeks to curb government aid to fossil-fuel companies.

“It makes a mockery of the Obama administration’s supposed commitment to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies,” Kretzmann said in an interview.

The project in Papua New Guinea led by Irving, Texas-based Exxon has become a particular point of contention.

The pipeline’s construction will destroy pristine tropical forests, PacificEnvironment’s Norlen said in a submission to the lender in September.

Exxon “is the most profitable corporation on the planet,” Kretzmann said. “This is the last place that taxpayer support should be going.”

(click here to continue reading Obama’s Trade Goal Fights His Clean-Energy Plan (Update4) – Bloomberg.)

and:

President Barack Obama’s goals of boosting U.S. exports and combating climate change are colliding as the U.S. Export-Import Bank expands financing for oil, gas, mining and power-plant projects.

Bank-supported ventures approved in the year ended Sept. 30 will emit an estimated 17.9 million metric tons of carbon annually, more than triple the previous year and the most since the lender started releasing data in 2001, according to its annual reports. Among companies aided were General Electric Co. and Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil business.

“Ex-Im is on a fossil-fuel binge,” said Doug Norlen, policy director at PacificEnvironment, an environmental advocacy group in San Francisco.

You Can't Bribe No one
You Can’t Bribe No one

We’re not alone in wondering why in our current economic climate, this corporate welfare bank continues to exist.

For instance, from those hippies at Forbes:

Nothing brings out the well-tailored lobbyists in Washington quite like a threat to corporate welfare.  With the Export-Import Bank’s legal authorization set to run out this year, the Chamber of Commerce recently led a Big Business march on Capitol Hill to protect what is known as Boeing’s Bank.  Over the last eight decades ExIm has provided over a half trillion dollars in credit, mostly to corporate titans.  Congress should close the Bank.

ExIm was created in 1934 to underwrite trade with the Soviet Union.  The agency piously claims not to provide subsidies since it charges fees and interest, but it exists only to offer business a better credit deal than is available in the marketplace.  The Bank uses its ability to borrow at government rates to provide loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees, and loan insurance.

The result is a bad deal for the rest of us.  For instance, ExIm is not free, as claimed.  Recently made self-financing, the agency has returned $1.6 billion to the Treasury since 2008.  However, economists Jason Delisle and Christopher Papagianis warned that the Bank’s “profits are almost surely an accounting illusion” because “the government’s official accounting rules effectively force budget analysts to understate the cost of loan programs like those managed by the Ex-Im Bank.”

In particular, the price of market risk is not included, even though doing so, explained the Congressional Budget Office, would provide “a more comprehensive measure of federal costs.”  Delisle and Papagianis figured ExIm’s real price to exceed $200 million annually.  Indeed, both the Government Accountability Office and ExIm Inspector General raised questions about the accuracy of the agency’s risk modeling.

Federal Reserve economist John H. Boyd took another approach, explaining:  “For an economic profit—that is, a real benefit to taxpayers—Eximbank’s income must exceed its recorded expenses plus its owners’ opportunity cost, a payment to taxpayers for investing their funds in this agency rather than somewhere else.”  If ExIm was private, he added, “one must suspect that its owners would have pulled out long ago in favor of a truly profitable enterprise.”  He figured the Bank’s real cost averaged around $200 million a year in the late 1970s but had increased to between $521 million and $653 million by 1980.  Given the recent explosion in Bank lending the corresponding expense today could be much higher.

(click here to continue reading Close the Export-Import Bank: Cut Federal Liabilities, Kill Corporate Welfare, Promote Free Trade – Forbes.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2014 at 10:42 am

The Center Ring at the Republican Circus Will Be Televised

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Bozo The Clown
GOP The Clown Party, as seen on TV

This would make me weep, if I wasn’t laughing so hard…

The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal. Half the House has asked to “serve” on the committee, which is understandable since it’s the perfect opportunity to avoid any real work while waving frantically to right-wing voters stomping their feet in the grandstand.

They won’t pass a serious jobs bill, or raise the minimum wage, or reform immigration, but House Republicans think they can earn their pay for the rest of the year by exposing nonexistent malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration. On Thursday, they voted to create a committee to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to conduct an investigation of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The day before, they voted to hold in contempt Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official whom they would love to blame for the administration’s crackdown on conservative groups, if only they could prove there was a crackdown, which they can’t, because there wasn’t.

Both actions stem from the same impulse: a need to rouse the most fervent anti-Obama wing of the party and keep it angry enough to deliver its donations and votes to Republicans in the November elections.

(click here to continue reading Center Ring at the Republican Circus – NYTimes.com.)

The rebranding of the Republican Party is complete, mandating the wearing of clown shoes at all times…

For instance:

Similarly, the Justice Department should not press Ms. Lerner’s contempt citation before a grand jury. She invoked her Fifth Amendment rights at a hearing last year and refused to testify, but Republicans claim, without foundation, that she waived those rights by first proclaiming her innocence. Her refusal, they said, was contemptuous of Congress. Little nuisances like constitutional rights or basic facts can’t be allowed to stand in the way when House Republicans need to whip up their party’s fury.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

GOP Hypocrites Busted For Trying to Add $310 Billion to the Deficit Via Tax Breaks

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Dance Now At Every Chance
Dance Now At Every Chance

Tax breaks are sacrosanct, responsible budgets be damned…

The next time a Republican even comes near climbing aboard the deficit cross, you have permission to laugh in their face. The party of paying for things has proposed $310 billion in permanent, unpaid for tax provisions today.

The party of austerity for children, veterans, the elderly, and the sick claimed they were only cutting people off in order to be “Responsible with the Deficit”. This is the same deficit that they told us didn’t matter when they were in charge, but after they fled responsibility in the wake of the 2008 crash as a Democratic President took office to clean up their mess, suddenly the deficit was all Republicans could think about. So sorry about your starving baby, but the DEFICIT.

The DEFICIT is the number one priority, they somberly and relentlessly intoned any time they got near a microphone.

And yet today, Republicans proposed tax provisions without offsets that Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) points out would add “a combined $310 billion to the deficit,” which “represents more than half of the entire federal deficit this year.”

(click here to continue reading GOP Hypocrites Busted For Trying to Add $310 Billion to the Deficit Via Tax Breaks.)

watch the statement yourself…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBeN3RkaFVk

Written by Seth Anderson

April 30th, 2014 at 9:40 am

Posted in politics

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California Farmers Short of Labor, and Patience

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We Are workers not criminals
We Are workers not criminals

Another big fault line in the Republican Party: the Tea Party wing is rabidly anti-immigration, and they seem to be setting policy. The Agribusiness wing just wants to harvest their crops like they always have, with sketchily documented migrant workers.

California is home to an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants, more than in any other state. Perhaps nowhere else captures the contradictions and complications of immigration policy better than California’s Central Valley, where nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, roughly half of them living here illegally, according to estimates from agricultural economists at the University of California, Davis.

 That reality is shaping the views of agriculture business owners here, like Mr. Herrin, who cannot recall ever voting for a Democrat. In dozens of interviews, farmers and owners of related businesses said that even the current system of tacitly using illegal labor was failing to sustain them. A work force that arrived in the 1990s is aging out of heavy labor, Americans do not want the jobs, and tightened security at the border is discouraging new immigrants from arriving, they say, leaving them to struggle amid the paralysis on immigration policy. No other region may be as eager to keep immigration legislation alive.

The tension is so high that the powerful Western Growers Association, a group based in Irvine, Calif., that represents hundreds of farmers in California and Arizona, says many of its members may withhold contributions from Republicans in congressional races because of the party’s stance against a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

“We’ve had secure borders with Mexico for the last decade; we don’t have that argument at this point,” Mr. Nassif said. “Now we want people to see the real damage of not doing anything, which is a declining work force, and it means losing production to foreign countries.”

After the 2012 presidential election, as Republicans spoke enthusiastically about the need to court Latinos, Mr. Nassif was optimistic that immigration would become a top priority. But exasperation has replaced his confidence in recent months, and he said his group could withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in congressional races in which it has usually supported Republicans.

“I can tell you if the Republicans don’t put something forward on immigration, there is going to be a very loud hue and cry from us in agriculture,” Mr. Nassif said. “We are a tremendously important part of the party, and they should not want to lose us.”

(click here to continue reading California Farmers Short of Labor, and Patience – NYTimes.com.)

Of course, if the Agribusiness wing of the GOP paid higher wages, they might be able to get some Americans to work picking crops, maybe. It is back-breaking labor, much harder than flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. And if farmers had to pay a living wage, produce would suddenly skyrocket in price, more than limes I’m guessing. Doesn’t matter anyway, the Steve “Cantaloupe” Kings of the party are opposed to any immigrant being let in.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2014 at 8:25 am

The 99 Percent in Illinois Cannot Afford Bruce Rauner as Governor

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End Torture in Illinois
End Torture in Illinois

And speaking of class warriors, Rachel Anspach has a good piece on the Republican One Percenter, Bruce Rauner, including:

Rauner’s stance on financial issues is in line with his own interests–Rauner’s wealth is estimated at $500 million. He made around $53 million in 2012 alone. And it is not clear where much of the income at his private equity firm in Winnetka came from; although he has run into criticism for his company’s deals with nursing homes, which were sued multiple times for patient neglect and wrongful death.

Although Rauner has flip-flopped on the issue, he originally stated that he was in favor of lowering Illinois’ minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25–a stance that is quite rich coming from someone who made over half-a-billion dollars in one year. Thus, his election could devastate the legislature’s current opportunity to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.65. At the same time as he supports further squeezing the working class, Rauner wants to lower the state’s personal and corporate income taxes, and is against a implementing a graduated income tax. Increasing the minimum wage would inject more cash into the economy, as those at the bottom of the income spectrum spend most of their income. On the other hand, lowering the tax rate on the wealthy would only put more money into their pockets while increasing our state’s budget woes.

Rauner constantly touts his business experience as enabling him to address the state’s budget issues. Yet he has offered little in the way of specifics (beyond cutting taxes, which clearly will not help budget shortfalls). A state is not a company, and the Republican claim that being a CEO prepares one to run a government has become trite and tired. The purpose of government is not just to turn a profit; it is also to govern in a way that maximizes the human rights of all.

(click here to continue reading The 99 Percent in Illinois Cannot Afford Bruce Rauner as Governor – Gapers Block Mechanics | Chicago.)

Illinois Department of Revenue
Illinois Department of Revenue

Sadly, Pat Quinn, the incumbent Democratic Governor, is in real danger of losing to this Mitt Romney clone. For the sake of Illinois, I hope that doesn’t happen, but Quinn is tepid dishwater, at best, so he might very well lose.

As mentioned by Ms. Anspach above, running a company, especially a private equity firm, has next to zero similarity to running a government. You can’t just fire your non-productive citizens, sell off your troubled bridges and other assets, and make Wall Street happy. Governments don’t work that way.

You ran one of Chicago’s biggest private equity firms, GTCR, for years. How does that prepare you to be governor? Being a successful CEO, where I’ve driven a bottom line, assembled teams, driven results, that’s a critical benefit to running the state government. A CEO’s job is leadership, problem solving, and team building. I’ve done that my whole career.

(click here to continue reading Bruce Rauner Answers 13 Questions on Running for Governor of Illinois | Chicago magazine | June 2013.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

March 25th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

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Phony Class warfare theme

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Class Warfare
Class Warfare

Sometimes I forget that the Chicago Tribune is a Republican-friendly newspaper. On many topics, they are decent source of non-biased news, but every so often, the visage slips. Last Friday, the print edition of the Chicago Tribune had this inflammatory headline:

“Democrats up class war ante”

The online version available today has slightly toned down the headline, but not much

Illinois Democrats went all-in Thursday with their election-year class warfare theme as Speaker Michael Madigan pitched the idea of asking voters to raise taxes on millionaires, Senate President John Cullerton advanced a minimum-wage increase and Gov. Pat Quinn compared wealthy opponent Bruce Rauner to TV villain Mr. Burns.

(click here to continue reading Illinois Democrats go all-in on class warfare theme – Chicago Tribune.)

Either way, calling Democratic Party initiatives to reduce income inequality, slightly, as class warfare is offensive, and straight out of Frank Luntz’s dictionary. Circa 2008, Frank Luntz started labeling every economic-related Democratic Party position “class warfare” whether or not it actually applies.1 Raising the tax on millionaires isn’t going to bankrupt the millionaires. Increasing the minimum wage isn’t going to force Bruce Rauner to sell off one of his many, many mansions. No Democratic politician is calling for the guillotine to be rolled out, though plenty of us peons chuckle at the idea. 

As Senator Bernie Sanders has been saying for many years, the real class warfare is being waged ruthlessly by the 1% on the rest of us. Focusing on tax breaks for corporations, flat tax proposals, allowing someone like Mitt Romney (or Bruce Rauner) to pay tiny amounts of income tax; these are tools of the rich, these are actual battles of class warfare. Cutting food stamps is class warfare, cutting education assistance is class warfare, cutting Social Security is class warfare, eliminating the minimum wage is class warfare, you could make a big, long list.

“What kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to millionaires but we can’t take care of the elderly and the children?” Sen. Bernie Sanders asked on Monday. He was reacting to a new report that more than 18 percent of Americans last year struggled to afford food. Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are calling for deeper and deeper cuts in food stamps, a program that provides help mostly to children and seniors. We are living in “a very ugly moment,” the senator told the Rev. Al Sharpton.

 

Later Sen. Sanders ripped Republicans for claiming that the problem is that children get too much help from the federal government, “These are the same people who want to eliminate the estate tax, which applies to only the top three tenths of one percent of all Americans, which is the richest of the rich, then they are going after kids. The politics of this, Al, is what they are trying to do is deflect attention away from income and wealth inequality. Attention away from the fact that the rich are doing extraordinarily well, and tell their supporters that the real problem in America is that children are getting too much help from the federal government, and that’s the kind of mentality that we have got to fight back against.”

(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan Quivers as Bernie Sanders Outs the Dirty Secret Behind His Poverty Propaganda.)

Of course it buys happiness
Of course it buys happiness

Speaking of wealthy class warriors, check out this list (from the Tribune, in fact) of some of the properties that the Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, owns

There’s the 6,870-square-foot Rauner mansion on a half-acre lot in Winnetka; two units, including a penthouse, in a luxury high-rise overlooking Millennium Park; a waterfront villa in the Florida Keys with a 72-foot-long pool; ranches in Montana and Wyoming; and a condo in an upscale Utah ski resort.

Most carry price tags well into the seven figures. But topping the list is a penthouse in a landmark co-op building along New York’s Central Park, which property records show Rauner bought in 2005 for $10 million.

Rauner has amassed a larger stable of high-end residences than Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee whose plentiful and opulent homes lent ammunition to foes who portrayed him as an out-of-touch elitist.

Rauner dismisses any such comparison to Romney…

Rauner said he likes recreational properties where he can practice land or water conservation. He often buys and pastes parcels together in areas he thinks are beautiful to “have an investment that appreciates over a 20- to 30-year period.”

That includes his property in Wyoming, he said, where he grows barley, alfalfa and winter wheat.

When he takes his family West, they most often go to his New Moon Ranch in Livingston, Mont., near Yellowstone National Park. It sits on hundreds of acres of grazing and cropland and includes a nearly 6,000-square-foot home, according to property records. It has five bedrooms and four baths and is currently valued by the Park County, Mont., assessor at $2.2 million.

In the winter, Rauner and his wife, Diana, have their pick of both hot and cold weather getaways. For snow sports they have a condominium in the luxury Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, east of Salt Lake City, purchased in 2003 and currently valued by the assessor there at $1.75 million.

The Rauners also own an oceanfront home in Key Largo, Fla., currently worth almost $7 million, according to property records there. It has a private boat dock, four bedrooms, four baths, 5,370 square feet of ground-floor living space and a patio nearly half that size.

The Rauners also have a New York penthouse on Central Park in a century-old Beaux Arts style building known as The Prasada. They paid $10 million for it eight years ago. A billionaire neighbor recently put the adjoining penthouse up for sale and is asking $48 million, according to realty postings.

In Illinois, Rauner holds title to three homes in Cook County, including two condominium units on East Randolph Street. Records show Rauner paid more than $1.2 million for the smaller unit in late 2008, where one of his daughters now lives.

The Rauners bought the penthouse unit a couple of months earlier, in August 2008, for $4 million, according to county records. …

The Rauners still own their Winnetka house and consider it their primary residence. Its current market value is estimated at $3.3 million by the Cook County assessor’s office.

(click here to continue reading Bruce Rauner has many million-dollar homes and a campaign that touts frugality – Chicago Tribune.)

Footnotes:
  1. I’m not sure Frank Luntz is the first to use this talking point, but he came up with Death Tax, and other Republican “hits”, so it stands to reason []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 25th, 2014 at 10:07 am

Supreme Court To Decide If Corporations Are Religious People Too

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Jesus Hoards
Jesus Hoards

The Supreme Court inexplicably ruled recently that corporations are people when it comes to spending political money; now this same court is going to rule whether for-profit corporations have religious rights as well. Rights that then would trickle down to the employees, squashing the employee’s rights. If this law passes, the religious affiliation of businesses will have to become a factor for workers deciding where to work. Will the corporation have to disclose the religious affiliations of each and every shareholder? Just the C.E.O. and President? The Board of Directors? Who controls the “Corporate Personhood”? How does Hobby Lobby take communion wafers and confession? Does Hobby Wine only drink grape juice like some Protestants?

Buzzfeed needs to make a listicle: 23 Odd Religious Practices Your Boss Might Insist Upon. I can imagine some of them now, like what if your boss was a Rastafarian, and insisted you treat cannabis as a sacrament each and every day? A Christian Scientist? You couldn’t go to the doctor at all, only pray for God to intervene. Orthodox Jewish boss? Better keep kosher, including paying attention to Shatnez- meaning you cannot mix wool and other fibers in the same clothing. If you worked for Staples when Mitt Romney owned it, would you have to wear the magic underwear? And be forbidden from drinking coffee? How about if your company’s board has members of Digambara Jain? Would you have to be nude all the time after you reached a certain age? If you worked for a Jehovah’s Witness like Prince, could your boss prohibit you from getting a blood transfusion? A Scientologist boss would prohibit you from Prozac and other psychiatric drugs and treatment. A Quaker corporation might not want its taxes to go to support building of war machines, would that be ok for the Court? What about wearing ornaments? God has railed against the wearing of ornaments in Exodus 33.

These are jokes, almost, but depending upon how the Supreme Court rules, the joke might turn to ashes in our mouths. I know the prospect scares me, and I’m self-employed. I really don’t want to live in the Christian Theocracy these zealots are trying to create…

God Is Ugly

God Is Ugly 

Some coverage regarding this scary, scary issue that I read today, including this overview from Adam Liptak, New York Times:

In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver, ruled for Hobby Lobby (PDF), a corporation owned by a family whose members have said they try to run the business on Christian principles. The company, which operates a chain of arts-and-crafts stores and has more than 15,000 full-time employees of many faiths, objected to a requirement in the health care law that large employers provide their workers with comprehensive insurance coverage for contraception.

Hobby Lobby told the justices that it had no problem with offering coverage for many forms of contraception, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery. But drugs and devices that can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb are another matter, and make it complicit in a form of abortion, the company said.

The law presents companies with difficult choices, Hobby Lobby told the justices. Failing to offer comprehensive coverage could subject it to fines of $1.3 million a day, it said, while dropping insurance coverage for its employees entirely could lead to fines of $26 million a year.

The Tenth Circuit ruled that Hobby Lobby was a “person” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and that its religious beliefs had been compromised without good reason.

Kyle Duncan, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said he was pleased that the justices had agreed to resolve the split among the federal appeals courts. “We hope the Supreme Court will vindicate the rights of family business owners,” he said.

Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that “the right to religious freedom belongs to individuals, not for-profit institutions.”

“These for-profit companies,” she said, “are no more entitled to deny women insurance coverage for essential health care than they are to dictate how any of us can and cannot spend our paychecks.”

In July, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation (PDF), which makes wood cabinets and is owned by a Mennonite family that had similar objections to the law. The Third Circuit concluded that “for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise.”

David Cortman, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the company and its owners, said the ruling was misguided. “The administration has no business forcing citizens to make a choice between making a living and living free,” he said.

The Third Circuit rejected an analogy to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to free speech. Though the First Amendment also protects the free exercise of religion, Judge Robert E. Cowen wrote for the majority of a divided three-judge panel, “it does not automatically follow that all clauses of the First Amendment must be interpreted identically.”

But a five-judge majority of an eight-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit, in the Hobby Lobby case, said that “the First Amendment logic of Citizens United” extended to religious freedom.

“We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich wrote for the majority.

(click here to continue reading Justices to Hear Contraception Cases Challenging Health Law – NYTimes.com.)

I AM GOD YOU ARE GOD
I AM GOD YOU ARE GOD

Amelia Thomson-Deveaux notes that neither of these businesses are even Catholic, so why would they object to contraception?

Oddly enough, neither of the business owners involved are Catholic, even though the first objections to the contraception mandate were raised by Catholic leaders, who didn’t want religiously affiliated hospitals and schools to provide birth control, which the Catholic hierarchy considers taboo. One case—Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, documented extensively for the Prospect by Sarah Posner earlier this summer—deals with an arts-and-crafts chain owned by evangelical Christians. The other—Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius—hones in on a smaller, Mennonite-owned cabinet door manufacturer.

Neither of the plaintiffs’ arguments mention doctrinal objections to contraception. That’s because Protestants, unlike Catholics, don’t believe that birth control is immoral. In fact, the denominations’ divergent views on the two issues created a kind of intra-Christian culture war throughout much of the twentieth century. Haunted, in part, by neo-Malthusian fears about the world’s rapid descent into overpopulation, the Church of England officially moderated its stance on contraception in 1930. Over the course of the following decade, most American Protestant denominations followed suit. The Mennonite Church does not have an official stance on birth control.

When evangelical Christians decided to throw in their lot alongside the Catholic hospitals and schools seeking an exemption from the contraceptive mandate, their argument was, to put it mildly, a stretch. When Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Illinois, asked the Obama administration for an emergency injunction against the contraception mandate last year, it emerged that the college was not eligible because it had “inadvertently” been including emergency contraception in its student health plan.

It should also be noted that neither of the cases that will appear before the Supreme Court are founded on sound science; both allege that emergency contraception—and, in the Hobby Lobby case, the IUD—is a form of abortion. This relies on the notion that pregnancy begins when the egg is fertilized—not, as the medical community contends, when a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall. This means that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, the facts of the case will be based on junk science, not theology. The Catholic Church, whether you agree with it or not, has consistently maintained that birth control is a fundamental evil. Protestant attempts to overturn the contraception mandate aren’t about theological objections to birth control—they’re an effort to dramatically expand religious freedom rights for conservative Christians.

(click here to continue reading The Contraception-Mandate Cases Aren’t Really About Contraception.)

The Devil and Pope
The Devil and Pope

Jessica Valenti writes

Today the Supreme Court announced it will hear two cases concerning the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies’ insurance plans cover birth control. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties claim the mandate violates their belief against certain kinds of contraception—pitting female employees’ right to a nondiscriminatory health plan against a company’s religious freedom. (I also fervently hope these companies are fighting as hard to ensure that their unmarried male employees don’t have access to sin-pills like Viagra.)

Most American women—99 percent—will use birth control at some point in their lives. Twenty-seven million women are being covered by this provision right now. So I have to wonder what companies that don’t want to cover birth control will tell their female employees should the contraception mandate be struck down. Abstinence? Aspirin between the knees, perhaps?

There’s also an incredibly slippery slope here—if employees’ health plans have to adhere to company owners’ religious beliefs, what happens if your boss doesn’t believe in vaccinations? Or as Guardian columnist Jill Filipovic tweeted, “What if your blood transfusions violate your employer’s religious beliefs? No surgery coverage?” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement, “Allowing this intrusion into personal decisions by their bosses opens a door that won’t easily be shut.”

(click here to continue reading Birth Control Coverage: It’s the Misogyny, Stupid | The Nation.)

Katie McDonough: 

“The corporations that brought these cases have views that are far outside the mainstream, and the outcome of these cases could have extreme consequences for millions of Americans,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in response to the news. “For the first time ever, the court could decide that corporations have the right to opt out of a legal requirement — based entirely on the personal beliefs of their owners.”

“The right to religious freedom belongs to individuals, not for-profit institutions,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “These for-profit companies are no more entitled to deny women insurance coverage for essential health care than they are to dictate how any of us can and cannot spend our paychecks.”

But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, suggested it believes that the Supreme Court will rule to protect the so-called religious expression of for-profit corporations, citing the 2010 Citizens United decision as an example of the court defining corporate personhood. “We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” the court wrote.

(click here to continue reading Supreme Court to hear cases challenging contraception mandate – Salon.com.)

I AM Temple Faux Lomo
I AM Temple Faux Lomo

The president of Hobby Lobby is a member of the Christian Taliban if there ever was one:

Among his more controversial beliefs: Gothard thinks he can determine a person’s character simply by staring into their eyes, that disease has spiritual causes and that men are the sovereign rulers of the household. His books provide detailed instructions on how women ought to stand, in addition to diagrams of the appropriate length of men’s pants and illustrations of suitable female hairstyles.

In 2002, Green, acting through his family trust, purchased and then leased a vacant college campus to Gothard’s ministry. A year later, Green, this time acting through Hobby Lobby itself, purchased a shuttered hospital in Little Rock, Ark., and donated it to Gothard for the purposes of building a local training center.

These weren’t mere business transactions, either. The website of one of Gothard’s many ministries features video of Steve Green describing Hobby Lobby’s “desire to share Christ and Disciple others.” And in a review of Gothard’s book, The Amazing Way, David Green, father of Steve Green and founder of Hobby Lobby, wrote that, “Through the example and teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, we have benefited both as a family and in our business. It is as we take those lessons from God s Word that Bill clearly articulates that we live the full life that God intends.”

Objective courses about the Bible are permissible in public schools, but Sunday School lessons are a different matter entirely. Green’s past statements and Religious Right connections indicate that he’s actually trying to promote a specific perspective on the Bible: his own.

(click here to continue reading Curricular Controversy: Hobby Lobby President Proposes Bible Elective in Okla. Public School | Americans United.)

I know I’m never setting foot in a Hobby Lobby again:

Hobby Lobby, the giant craft retailer known for providing knitting wool, holiday trinkets, fake flowers, and just about any other craft-centric material one could need, balks at providing certain types of medical care for its employees. That is because the company, which has 559 stores across the country and brings in $3 billion in revenue each year, is owned by the Green family—devout Christians who believe that human life begins at conception and that using certain types of birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The Greens, who often have Hobby Lobby buy newspaper ads encouraging people to “know Jesus as Lord and Savior,” also think that their religious beliefs should be imposed on Hobby Lobby’s 22,000 employees. Because of their religious convictions, the Greens have asked a federal court, in a case called Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, to exempt their for-profit corporation from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer health plans covering contraception.

In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that minimum standards for employer health plans would include preventive care for women, including mammograms, cervical-cancer screenings, prenatal care, and contraceptives—all services that are vital to women’s health and well-being. The Obama administration provided an exemption from the contraception-coverage requirement for “religious employers”—churches and nonprofit religious organizations—but not for for-profit, secular corporations such as Hobby Lobby. 

Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius is one of 40 lawsuits filed across the country asking federal courts to exempt a for-profit corporation from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement. It is also one part of a coordinated effort led by conservative legal groups to undermine the Affordable Care Act and avoid complying with other laws.

(click here to continue reading Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius: Crafting a Dangerous Precedent | Center for American Progress.)

 Iota Eta Sigma

Iota Eta Sigma

So if a for-profit corporation is religious, is it based on its board members? Share holders? Founders? Who gets to decide what religion a company is?

Even if one assumes that the mandate represents a “substantial burden,” another problem with the argument being made against the mandate is that the free exercise of religion is an inherently individual act. As Sarah Posner argued, the idea that a secular, for-profit corporation can “exercise” religion is a strange concept that would be inconsistent with a substantial body of precedent. Some have argued that the Court’s Citizens United decision should be seen as changing the legal context, the issues involved are very different. Corporations must have some free speech rights because the dissemination of speech often involves corporate entities—Congress cannot ban the showing of Masters of Sex just because it’s distributed by Viacom. Religious exercise, conversely, is inherently personal. Some shareholders in the Hobby Lobby may have religious beliefs that contradict the religious mandate, but the corporation itself cannot.

What about closely held corporations?

One potential argument, recently made by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, is that a corporation itself cannot exercise religion, but a corporation’s owners can. Since one argument made by Conestoga Wood is that the religious rights of the company’s owners have been violated even if those of the company cannot be, the case is presumably a vehicle for the Court to examine this legal question as well. In my judgement, this argument is no more convincing than Hobby Lobby’s. The owner of a business cannot obtain the advantages of a corporate form (including substantial insulation from personal liability) while remaining an individual when it is advantageous to do so. Nonetheless, it would not be surprising for the Supreme Court to split the baby by rejecting the Hobbby Lobby’s claim while accepting the ones raised by the owners of Conestoga.

(click here to continue reading The Affordable Care Act v. Supreme Court, Round 2.)

Jill Filipovic of the Guardian, U.K.

On its face, it seems odd to even consider the question seriously. After all, no one is forcing the owners of the company to take contraception or purchase contraception. The belief in question – that certain types of contraception are “abortifacients” – is also far from scientific fact. Also, the company owners issue their employees a pay check and have no say over how the employees spend it; they have no say over the activities their employees participate in on a vacation day.

It’s certainly not violating the company’s religious freedom for an employee to use the money paid to them by the company for a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including buying contraception. It’s certainly not violating the company’s religious freedom for an employee to use a company-issued vacation day to enjoy a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including, say, a full-day contracepted sex-fest, a trip to Mecca or a pork barbecue.

So why is it a problem for employees to use their health insurance for the care they and their doctors agree upon?

The cases the supreme court will hear were brought under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which bars the government from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is justified by a “compelling reason”. Free religious exercise is burdened when the government forces an individual to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs, but not every infringement on religious beliefs is a substantial burden. As the ACLU points out in their amicus brief to the supreme court, the contraception law doesn’t force the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store to violate their own religious beliefs. It requires them to cover health insurance, which may subsidize someone else’s activities that violate the Hobby Lobby owners’ religious values – but again, the same could be said for issuing a pay check.

By refusing to cover contraception, the Hobby Lobby owners (and the owners of the other companies claiming the healthcare law infringes upon their religious freedom) are in fact using their own religious beliefs to deny benefits to their employees who may not share those beliefs at all. That’s not religious freedom; it’s religious tyranny.

The company heads bringing these claims want to have it both ways. By incorporating, owners and shareholders create separate entities and are not personally liable for their employees’ salaries or health insurance costs – the entire point of incorporating is to create a legal entity separate from the individuals who created it. Yet these owners and shareholders want the court to consider their personal religious beliefs indistinguishable from those of the corporation, and allow those beliefs to dictate the kind of healthcare coverage their employees receive.

(click here to continue reading Get real: covering contraception doesn’t violate employers’ religious freedom | Jill Filipovic | Comment is free | theguardian.com.)

At least my corporation is atheist (because I am)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 27th, 2013 at 10:53 am

Ayn Rand’s vision of idiocy: Understanding the real makers and takers

without comments

Who Is John Galt?
Who Is John Galt?

Feeling lazy right about now1, so I’ll simply point you toward this…

For those who haven’t had the great misfortune of reading “Atlas Shrugged,” the book is premised on the idea that if the world’s “creative leaders,” businessmen, innovators, artists (i.e., the “makers”) went on strike, our entire society would collapse. These strikers hide out in a utopian compound in the mountains of Colorado while the rest of us despondently wail and gnash our teeth and beg for them to once again bestow their creativity upon us.

The book mirrors in many ways the more lefty “Elysium,” where to escape the environmental degradation they have wrought, the wealthiest go off to form their own society in the sky. The rest of the human population remains mired in slum-like conditions, because the only thing standing between humanity and savagery is Bill Gates. But have no fear! Rather than collectively solving our problems, humanity needs a salvific “Jesus” in the form of (who else?) Matt Damon to make us citizens of Elysium and thereby save humanity. These two, very disparate tales of woe both have common elements (what I will call the “Randian vision”): society relies on the wealthy; collective action through government is either meaningless or detrimental; and a few individuals (“great men”) should be the center of social change and innovation. But all of these assumptions are false.

The arts are largely supported by public funding, not private donations. And many businesses are less self-sufficient than they imagine, requiring bailouts and competition between states to support them. Many corporations, like Walmart, dump poor employees on to government largess rather than pay them enough to feed themselves. And who builds the roads and takes out the garbage?

Were the richest .01% to venture out and form their own society, the rest of us would not devolve into violent conflict; rather, without the expensive burden of the wealthy tapeworms siphoning our common wealth, we could begin to solve our problems. So to the rich who threaten to leave New York, I say, “go.” If the rich somehow manage to form their own planet, we can start fixing the problems on ours. We are the makers, they are the takers.

(click here to continue reading Ayn Rand’s vision of idiocy: Understanding the real makers and takers – Salon.com.)

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Footnotes:
  1. probably due to this, and this []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 16th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,