Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mealy Mouthed Republican of the Week - Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Knows How to Save Social Security But Won't

Mealy Mouthed Republican of the Week - Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Knows How to Save Social Security But Won't

Constituents waved signs and gave boisterous applause when one Iowan after another stood up and urged Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to strengthen Social Security rather than cut the retirement program at a town hall in Carroll, Iowa on Monday.

One middle-aged woman, Rosie Partridge, pointedly asked Grassley, “Why can’t we raise the wage cap in order to ensure that Social Security can continue on as it is without talking about cutting it?” (The current payroll tax does not tax income above $106,800.) Partridge, a small business owner, went on to tell her senator that despite the fact her business “would pay more” in payroll taxes, “you know what? No complaints. We want to have Social Security!” Grassley, who helped lead his party’s efforts to privatize Social Security in 2005, backed down, saying, “You have to have everything on the table”:

PARTRIDGE: My husband and I have a business in Carroll County. [...] My question is, why can’t we raise the wage cap in order to ensure that Social Security can continue on as it is without talking about cutting it? [Applause] And if we, as a business, we would have some people that would be giving more to that, actually a family member that’s part ownership of the business. And the business would pay more, too. And you know what? No complaints. We want to have Social Security! [Applause]

GRASSLEY: I think when it comes to Social Security, if anybody’s going to bargain in good faith, you have to have everything on the table. But if your point of view is to solve the Social Security problem just by taking the cap off, that isn’t going to solve it, as the trustees looked at it and said five years.

Watch it: video at link.

In fact, lifting the payroll tax cap would keep Social Security solvent for the next 75 years. Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced he would introduce legislation to this effect, because doing so would keep Social Security fully-funded without having to cut benefits.

Though it may be tempting to hear “everything [is] on the table” and believe that Grassley is open to Partridge’s proposal, this is a phrase he commonly employs in tough policy fights. Optimists may believe that Grassley genuinely considers all options; pessimists will point to the health care reform debate when he made similar musings, only to string Senate Democrats along for months before criticizing the bill for supposedly allowing government to “pull the plug on grandma.”

Later in the town hall, another older woman chastised Grassley and his fellow Republicans for including Social Security in the recent debt ceiling standoff. “We have not caused the debt,” the woman said. “You owe Social Security recipients just like Linkyou owe China and anybody else that has treasury bonds.”

Grassley worships at the alter of no increase in taxes even if hard working average Americans have figured out that sacrificing a few dollars now means income security for millions of Americans for the next 75 years. Like all weird cultish thinking Grassley doesn't have to make sense or justify what he believes, he just believes it and that should be enough.

Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law - America has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. It is exactly in bad times like these the government should spend.

How did Gretchen Morgenson, one of America’s best financial reporters, get the story of Fannie Mae’s role in the financial collapse so wrong? Fannie and Freddie have some mud on them, but it was private sector banks who went hog wild on sub-prime loans.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

America Hating Gov. Rick Perry Again Claims Social Security is Unconstitutional

America Hating Gov. Rick Perry Again Claims Social Security is Unconstitutional

During a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa today, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) reaffirmed all the views expressed in his book Fed Up!, including that Social Security is unconstitutional, despite previous attempts by his campaign staff to walk back the candidate’s words.

In Perry’s book, released just nine months ago, he writes on page 48 that Social Security is “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.” On page 50, he goes on to say that we have Social Security “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”

Last week, Communications Director Ray Sullivan tried to limit the damage from Perry’s book by saying that its contents were, as the Wall Street Journal writes, “not meant to reflect the governor’s current views on how to fix” Social Security.

ThinkProgress asked Perry today whether, in light of his campaign’s statements, states rights supporters should be worried that his views on Social Security have shifted now that he’s running for president. Perry dismissed his Communications Director’s comments, declaring “I haven’t backed off anything in my book. Read the book again, get it right.”

KEYES: But should states-rights supporters be worried that, as governor you said that Social Security is not something that falls in the purview of the federal government, but in your campaign, have backed off that?

PERRY: I haven’t backed off anything in my book. Read the book again, get it right. Next question.
Social Security is an income insurance program started by one of America's greatest presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It currently keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty. The Supreme Court of the U.S. has made three major decisions regarding the constitutionality of Social Security. They have all confirmed Social Security is constitutional and is well within the right of the people and their representatives in Congress to make laws that provide for the common good of the people.

The Myth That The Obama Administration Are Big Spenders

Conservative Republican Media Distort Study To Blame Obama For Poverty

Friday, August 26, 2011

Conservatives Force Poor Women Into More Unwanted Pregnancies

Conservatives Force Poor Women Into More Unwanted Pregnancies

In denying undeniable human nature – that people will have sex, regardless of how much moralizing they're exposed to or whether or not they receive abstinence-only education or wear “chastity rings” – the Christian right, which claims that abortion is “murder,” is doing its part to bring the long decline in the number of abortions in this country to a halt. In fact, they've succeeded. After a quarter-century-long decline in abortions -- from 29.3 per 1,000 women in 1981 to under 20 per 1,000 in 2005 -- the rate began to tick up again in the latter years of the Bush administration.

A number of factors impact those numbers. One of them is the belief that by limiting women's access to contraceptives, they'll be less likely to have sex outside of marriage. Give a high-school girl access to a condom, and get a reckless slut; deny her that access and she'll be as chaste as Doris Day until her wedding night. It's self-evident nonsense that only leads to more unintended pregnancies.

A new study (PDF) by Lawrence Finer and Mia Zolna of the Guttmacher Institute tells the tale. It found that the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States has remained relatively stable over the years – about 5 percent of women will have one each year. But those overall numbers obscure a dramatic story of racial and class division; while unintended pregnancies among women aged 15-44 whose incomes were at least double the poverty line declined by 29 percent between 1994 and 2006, among women struggling to get by beneath the poverty line they rose by 50 percent.

The sharp rise in unplanned pregnancies among low-income women – disproportionately women of color – leads to a higher rate of abortions; according to Guttmacher, 43 percent of unintended pregnancies are terminated. And with a threadbare social safety net providing scant support and the least-flexible workplaces on the planet, those who choose to bring a pregnancy to term often end up trapped in a grueling cycle of poverty. That's because of a sad truth in this country: women are punished economically for giving birth. And significantly so -- Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University found that a first child lowers a woman's earnings by 7.5 percent and a second child lowers her income by another 8 percent.

According to Guttmacher, “In contrast to the high rates among certain groups, some women in the United States are having considerable success timing and spacing their pregnancies.”

Higher-income women, white women, college graduates and married women have relatively low unintended pregnancy rates (as low as 17 per 1,000 among higher-income white women—one-third the national rate of 52 per 1,000), suggesting that women who have better access to reproductive health services, have achieved their educational goals or are in relationships that support a desired pregnancy are more likely than other women to achieve planned pregnancies and avoid those they do not want.

It also suggests that women who rely on publicly funded family planning services have seen a surge in unintended pregnancies while those more likely to have the means to buy contraceptives – or a high-quality health plan that pays for them – have had a different experience.

The study speaks to this point, noting that “family planning programs are under unprecedented attack.”

Some of these attacks appear purely ideological. For example, the House of Representatives earlier this year moved to strike all funding for Title X for the remainder of the current fiscal year... Although the Senate blocked that move, funds for the program were eventually cut by $17 million. Such cuts were disproportionately higher than those made to other programs, ultimately leaving Title X at 64% below what the program had been funded at in 1980, when inflation is taken into account...

Moreover, both in Congress and in the states, opponents of family planning are taking aim at the network of family planning providers. The funding bill approved initially by the House would have denied federal funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates, a move that ultimately was... blocked. Nonetheless, opponents of family planning have tried to emulate this approach on the state level, with efforts (some of which currently are being litigated) in five states...to either limit or deny funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates specifically or specialized family planning providers more generally.

Social conservatives have also championed “conscience clauses” allowing fundamentalist health-care providers to pick and choose which drugs and services they find sufficiently moral, and fight laws compelling insurers that cover other prescription drugs to pay for FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices. Again, more than four in 10 unintended pregnancies end in abortion, so whether or not they know it, the religious right is driving an increase in what they call “baby-killing.”
One really has to question the bottom line of right-wing social conservatives. Do they want fewer abortions or do they want control over women's bodies. It seems to be the latter when we study the facts.

Rick Perry Sought State Profits From Teacher Life Insurance Scheme

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Does Gov Rick Perry Hate America and Capitalism

Why Does Gov Rick Perry Hate America and Capitalism

On Sunday afternoon—just 24 hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced his presidential candidacy—an email arrived in my inbox titled, “14 Reasons Why Rick Perry Would Be a Really, Really Bad President.” The article contained in the email took such a harsh tone toward Perry, I assumed, for a brief moment, that a liberal interest group was quickly jumping on the newest entrant in the Republican presidential field. In turns out, however, that the piece was the product of a right-wing website called The American Dream. The author of the article argued that Perry, the supposed savior of conservatives nationwide, is actually a RINO—a Republican in Name Only.

For Texans, this line of argument is nothing new. Indeed, for anyone who’s closely followed Perry’s tenure in Texas—as I have, covering the governor for The Texas Observer since 2003—it’s no secret that some of the state’s conservatives and libertarians dispute his conservative credentials. It’s true that Perry has trafficked heavily in anti-Washington rhetoric, especially in the run-up to his candidacy to become president. But the closer you look at Perry’s record in Texas, the harder it is to discern any coherent ideology at all. When GOP primary voters in other parts of the country examine his signature legislative accomplishments and policy stances, some won’t like what they find.

The first Perry proposal to rile some Texas right-wing activists was the Trans-Texas Corridor—an ambitious plan to cover the state in a series of toll roads. Perry first pitched the idea during his 2002 campaign for governor. The plan would have used government’s eminent domain authority to seize rural farmland not just for multi-lane tolled highways, but also for rail and utility lines. Perry’s office and the Texas Department of Transportation gained legislative approval for the plan in 2003. The state handed the contract for the road planning and building to a Spanish-based company named Cintra.

The backlash from rural Republicans was intense. It was a text-book example of a policy that classic small-government conservatives would hate: Seizing farmland with eminent domain, then handing public money to a foreign company that would built roads Texans would have pay tolls to drive on. Anti-Trans Texas Corridor buttons soon became one of the most popular items among delegates at Republican State Party Conventions in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

Perry’s plan for a comprehensive network of toll-roads would eventually die slowly over the next four legislative sessions, meeting resistance from conservative Republicans. Toll roads are still being built in Texas, but the corridor plan is remembered as a colossal failure for the governor.

Perry caused conservative revulsion again in 2007 when he proposed that all young girls in Texas receive the HPV vaccine. The drug company Merck had just put the drug on the market, and the governor’s office made a heart-wrenching case for why all Texans should have access to it. His office brought to the Legislature a young woman with terminal cervical cancer, caused by HPV, to meet with the press and argue for mandatory vaccinations.

Some Texas Democrats agreed with Perry’s position. But the governor’s critics also pointed out that Perry’s former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, was serving as a lobbyist for Merck, which stood to make millions from the vaccine requirement. In the end, conservative Republicans in the Legislature bucked at the thought of requiring young girls to receive an STD vaccine, and Perry's effort died in the Legislature.

Then there’s the one major proposal that Perry did, in fact, pass into law—the state’s business tax. This tax increase on business was crafted in 2006 as part of a school-finance reform. The idea was to cut local property taxes and replace the lost revenue with a new business margins tax. This 2006 tax “swap” was the one instance during Perry’s decade as governor when he proposed a wide-ranging plan and successfully pushed it through the Legislature mostly unchanged. It will likely be remembered as his signature legislative accomplishment.

The problem is, it’s been a disaster. Small businesses hate it because they’re forced to pay regardless of whether they’re turning a profit: it seemed to be the very definition of a “job-killing” tax. Some conservatives simply hate it on principle. A few even argued that Perry’s business tax is unconstitutional—amounting to a tax on income, which is forbidden by the Texas Constitution.

But worst of all, the tax doesn’t even generate enough revenue. The tax “swap” has cost the state $5 billion a year for five years running. The Texas budget now faces an ongoing structural deficit because of the underperforming business tax. And with a tax increase on small business and a structural budget deficit to boot, it’s clear that Perry hasn’t taken conservative economists like Milton Friedman as his inspiration.

Another example of his conservative heresy is the Texas Enterprise Fund, which Perry seem to be especially proud of. The purpose of the Fund is to dole out public money to lure companies to Texas. It has created tens of thousands of jobs in the state, but critics have not incorrectly, labeled it “corporate welfare,” a slush fund for well-connected businesses. The Observer investigated the fund in 2010 and found that several companies with political ties to Perry had received state grants.
All of this probably makes little difference to the anti-American conservatives who see Perry as a wing-nut god of sorts. he speaks their special coded language, he uses all the buzz words to inflate his and their fake patriotism to make it look real. He is dumb as a rock, just the way conservatives like their leaders. Modern conservatism holds knowledge and enlightened thought in contempt and so does Perry. So Perry can climb trees and yell like a baboon with rabies and the fake patriot conservatives will smile and pull that lever knowing that one of their own will lead the country into the dysfunctional utopia they dream of.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Republicans Are Still Trying To Kill Grandma

Anti-American Republicans Are Still Trying To Kill Grandma

ThinkProgress previously reported on the network of front groups advancing the “Health Care Compact,” a massive deregulation idea to turn over federal money used for health reform, Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs to state governments along with the power to use that money however they see fit, even if it has nothing to do with actual health care. The idea, hatched earlier this year by a political operative named Eric O’Keefe, is designed to dismantle major safety net programs and energize Tea Party activists into the 2012 elections.

Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) recently signed a Health Care Compact bill into law. But just as the group begins to gain ground, Leo Linbeck III — the wealthy heir to the Linbeck construction fortune in Houston financing the Health Care Compact group — is signaling that organizers may look beyond health care soon. Linbeck, an active participant in public online forum on Pajamas Media called the Belmont Club, described his next steps in posting on July 18 (view a screenshot here):

The cancer is well-advanced. Therapies that rely upon the federal government to self-restrain will not work. The states must engage. We are left, then, with two broad options:

1. Compacts, that allow for piecemeal deconstruction of the federal state (BTW: Gov. Perry signed the Health Care Compact yesterday, making it the fourth state to join. There will be a big push in 2012 in many more states, and we are adding an Education Compact and Banking Compact to the mix.)

If the Banking Compact looks anything like Linbeck’s Health Care Compact, he could obliterate what’s left of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and the other financial regulators that are already under-staffed and partially captured by bank lobbyists. Linbeck’s “piecemeal deconstruction of the federal state” will be as disastrous for banking regulation as it is for health care.

Moving authority for banking regulation from the federal government to the states has been tried, with results that have hurt consumers and enriched financial industry corporations. For instance, credit card deregulation in the 70s allowed credit card companies to comply only with the regulations of the state they are based in. Credit card executives lobbied the South Dakota and Delaware to lift the cap on interest rates, which averaged about 12 percent in most states before deregulation, and before long credit card companies had the power to hike rates as high as they wanted. While President Obama has made steps to finally reign in out of control usury, with credit card reform and the Dodd-Frank Act, a move back to state-based regulation will amount to an even greater level of bank-led cartels.

Linbeck has aligned himself with a network of front groups associated with the Tea Party billionaires Charles and David Koch. Linbeck’s top operative, Eric O’Keefe, has spent a career setting up libertarian and anti-government front groups on behalf of his wealthy patrons. And while Linbeck does not call himself a Tea Party activist, he characterizes Obama’s slightly left-of-center approach with doomsday rhetoric. “Should Obama win and enter Washington as Napoleon entered Moscow, the question is how our nation will respond,” he warned before the 2008 elections.

As many of us remember the Paul Ryan(R-Wisconsin) to make Medicare into some kind of voucher plan would have resulted in gutting Medicare while also greatly increasing out of pocket expenses for seniors and the disabled. This new plan by the radical Right would have the same if not worse effects. Gutting financial regulation would point average Americans at risk to pay for another Wall St meltdown. As anyone over 55 has seen, when you deregulate anything in the financial sector the big financial firms push risk taking to the point of being a reckless gamble. They do not gamble with their money, they gamble with America's money - our savings, our homes, our pension funds.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2012 Anti-American Republican Presidential Candidates Literally Hope More Americans Die

In a current article at the NYT Republican presidential candidates brag about how they want to gut environmental protection for workers and families. While this column only mentions Texas Deranged Conservative Rick Perry, the other canidates are running on the same platform - Washington’s Anti-Regulatory Crusade, and Why Your Job Hasn’t Killed You Yet

On the campaign trail, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is spreading the gospel of Perrynomics—a magical job-creation formula based on minimal government regulation of industry, combined with tiny tax rates and tight controls on lawsuits. In a state that seems inclined to cannibalize its own government, this agenda plays well. But a closer look reveals the high price of low regulation.

In recent months, politicians in both parties, including the White House, have claimed that scaling back regulations would unleash economic growth, suggesting that businesses should be liberated from rules that protect the environment, occupational health and other public interests. But a new analysis by Public Citizen presents a few unsung gems of federal bureaucracy that help keep us happy, healthy and sane. Several of these regulatory chart-toppers, not surprisingly, were enacted in defiance of heavy political pushback:

Clearing the Air. Since the days of the Lowell mills, so-called “brown lung” has been a hallmark of the miserable toil of poorly ventilated, dust-clogged textile factories. The disease, also known as Byssinosis, has historically hit women especially hard, spreading its signature coughing and lung scarring to thousands of workers around the world. The epidemic was virtually ignored until the 1960s and 1970s. Then came OSHA's 1978 rule requiring more lung-friendly machinery, and within a few years the prevalence of brown lung in the industry fell by an estimated 97 percent. And employers' grumbling about the "costs" of the rule faded when it became clear that the reforms improved the industry's efficiency as well.

Rule of (Keeping Your) Thumb. You'd think a rule that helps keep workers from getting accidentally hacked to pieces would be somewhat popular. But in the late 1980s, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) didn't mind sacrificing a few extremities here and there to resist the evils of regulatory "burdens." Industry moguls sued to block the Lockout/Tagout rule, which would force employers to mark potentially hazardous equipment with colored tags and provide safety training for workers. But the rule passed, and according to Public Citizen, made the shop floor a much less terrifying place:

An analysis of two union databases conducted in 2000 showed that hazardous energy-related fatalities declined, depending on the industry, by between 30 percent and 55 percent in the years following the enactment of the Lockout/Tagout rule.... OSHA currently estimates that the regulation prevents a total of 50,000 injuries and 120 fatalities per year.

Even NAM eventually backed off its opposition to the rule, apparently recognizing that workers do a better job when they have all their fingers.

Caves not Graves. OSHA issued safety standards for excavacation-related construction in 1989, designed to protect workers from subterranean collapse. Basic structural protections for trenching and excavation worksites have since become standard practice, and Public Citizen calculates that the reforms correlate with "a 40 percent decrease in the fatality rate."

Fire on the Prairie. A generation ago, America's farming industry was booming, in a really bad way. Grain facilities like silos and grain elevators were prone to deadly explosions when combustible grain dust mixed with hazardous gases. In spite of initial opposition from agribusiness groups and Reagan administration officials, OSHA enacted the Grain Handling Facilities Standard, which established environmental controls for dust and gas and required protective gear for workers. After seeing a “95 percent drop in explosion-related fatalities for certain facilities," reports Public Citizen, even industry groups eventually had to admit that workplaces that don't spontaneously explode are good for business.

Coal Quagmire. Despite major strides in workplace health and safety over the years, weak regulations and shoddy enforcement still plague various sectors. Public Citizen points to a dramatic reduction in coal mine-related deaths since Congress passed the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, which the group describes as “the first comprehensive mine safety law creating mandatory inspection requirements, enforceable health and safety standards, and civil and criminal penalties for willful violations.”

But although Big Coal's underground empire has become less lethal, the many workers who perished in the West Virginia Massey mine tragedy more than a year ago are a testament to the dangers that still loom over workers every day. Politician's promises to strengthen mine worker protections have faded in recent months, and Massey Energy's sordid environmental and safety record has so far not compelled decisive action to prevent future disasters.

As industrial criminality mounts, protecting workers and the public from harm remains unfinished business. Yet Rick Perry and his Beltway brethren continue to preach their anti-regulatory gospel, peddling the fable that we will somehow get more jobs if the institutions that keep us safe, can't do their jobs.

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times.
How can conservatives call themselves patriots or pro-America when they want to enact pro-death to Americans legislation. Who knows. These are the same people who hang on every lie put out by anti-American pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Andrew Breitbart.

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) gets the crazy weirdo conservative salute of the day - It's Only The Race Card When You Play It

Most blatantly unethical venal conservative, as of today Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) - Exclusive: Goldman Sachs VP Changed His Name, Now Advances Goldman Lobbying Interests As A Top Staffer To Darrell Issa . Why are conservatives try to destroy America by pushing it down into a sewer of corruption?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Republicans Have Become The Anti Jobs Party Just to Make Obama Look Bad

Republicans Have Become The Anti Jobs Party Just to Make Obama Look Bad

Got home yesterday and told my kid I'd had a busy day because the stock market dropped a lot. Her response: "Oh... is that bad?"

The downgrade certainly played into the massive sell-off, so yet again, S&P's fingerprints are all over a market crash. Could somebody please downgrade them?!

But the larger issues behind the crash are well-known at this point. At center-stage, we have weak growth prospects that continue to lag expectations -- everybody thinks things are about to get better, and when they don't, everybody has their economic hearts broken all over again.

The typical forecaster predicts improvement in the next quarter or so, then a week later, moves that improved scenario another few quarters ahead.

Note the magical thinking here. "Things will get better, I just know it." Yet, both here and in Europe, policy makers essentially fumble around, unwilling to identify and go after the real culprit: weak aggregate demand here and insolvency (or near-insolvency) there.

I'm not saying these are easy problems to diagnose or fix (well, the US demand problem is very clear -- Europe's is more complicated, because some countries (Italy) could likely resolve their debt burdens with strong liquidity injections, others (Greece), probably not).

But what was the biggest, most time- and media- and attention-consuming economic debate in this country in recent months? Was it which are the best jobs measures to get America back to work? Was it how many more rounds of easing should the Fed undertake?

No. It was whether to raise the debt ceiling or default.

Enough already.

Yes, there are many policy makers who either don't understand these dynamics or are purely politically motivated. Some are cynically and solely driven to make the president look bad, with no regard for collateral damage. Others are acting on the belief that smaller government, and thus cuts and further austerity will allow growth to flourish, despite daily evidence that this is backwards.

If you are Ben or Barack, in my honest opinion, you need to ignore them from here on in.

Bernanke and the Fed can help, but they face two other constraints. First, the monetary version of premature fiscal austerity is the phantom menace of inflation. But to the contrary, one way to help both households and governments reduce the real level of their debt burdens is to print money and buy more long-term bonds -- QE3, 4, etc. There's little threat of core inflation accelerating with so much spare capacity in the economy, so helping these sectors to lower the liabilities on their balance sheets will help.

But it might not help much. Constraint number two for the Fed is that interest rates are already low, both at the short and long end of the yield curve. And we know firms are highly profitable and sitting on trillions in cash reserves. So monetary policy faces a pushing-on-a-string problem.

The real action is with the president right now. I liked his comments yesterday -- they didn't go far enough on the jobs front in a way I'll suggest in a moment, but I liked the setup. He essentially said, "OK, I worked with the opposition -- who recklessly used default as a bargaining chip -- to do some deficit reduction. S&P didn't like it -- so what? They're not exactly a beacon of light these days. But I think I've bought myself some running room on jobs... so that's where I'm headed."

He then talked about renewing the payroll tax holiday, extending unemployment benefits, and infrastructure -- specifically roads and bridges.

The first two are already in the system -- they should be renewed but let's be clear: they don't provide new stimulus. It's keeping your foot on the accelerator, which is helpful, but not as helpful as pushing down further. The third -- infrastructure -- is great, but I'm worried "roads and bridges" don't get it. They're necessary, but a) they've become more capital intensive so you don't create enough jobs (I think this is true, but need more research to be sure), and b) they don't capture the imagination.

I like FAST! and recommend he runs with that, or some other idea that meets these criteria: it can be stood up quickly, it's labor intensive with a decent bang-for-buck re jobs, people get it and feel good abut it right off the bat (so, as much as I like the infrastructure bank idea, I'm not sure it works here).

"But wait!," you shout. We're out of bullets -- there's no more money for such things -- and Congress will refuse to add any of this to the deficit. How can you advise the president to block everything else out and call for measures Congress will refuse to consider?!

That's the kind of second guessing, negotiating-with-yourself that has us stuck in the mud. The president needs to decide what this economy needs, make sure it meets the above criteria, especially the one about the solution being easy to understand and feeling good, and fight for it nonstop from here until the unemployment rate starts to steadily decline.

If the merchants of negativity and obstruction block him, then he has to tell the American people precisely who is standing between them and their jobs, their opportunities, their living standards. Tell them that their own and their children's well-being is actively undermined by those who refuse to work with him to get America back to work.

It's that simple.

(This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.)

For those who have had time to keep up we know that Republicans are enjoying every drag they can put on economic progress. Their presidential candidates have their fingers crossed hoping there is no job recovery because it might help them become president. In the last thrity years conservatives have raised the debt ceiling over 20 times. Now they decide was a good time to hold the economy hostage to get their anti-jobs austerity plan into action. Conservatives are not concerned about jobs or America they are concerned with power and gathering up more money from special interests in between doing everything and anything to make the President look bad. They're like spiteful children who have to have everything their way or they won't play, or let anyone else play either. This all plays into their strategy to make sure govenrment does not work. Government is never all the things everyone wants it to be, ut are we really supposed to put our futures completely in the hands of Exxon or the Koch brothers - you know like they're going to look out for the average American's best interests. Our best hope is a more progressive Democratic Congress in 2012. Kick out the government hating, jobs hating conservative brats.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The American Exceptionalism Myth and Obama

The American Exceptionalism Myth and Obama

Republicans have endlessly recirculated the completely misleading talking point that President Obama in 2009 spoke dismissively about American exceptionalism. Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach, in a story about American decline, seems to have read the talking points and repeated the myth without bothering to check the context:

There is also a rash of books from Republican politicians that include attacks on President Obama, accusing him of not believing in “American exceptionalism, ” the idea that the United States is destined, either through constitutional genius, geography, culture, divine providence or some combination thereof, to play a unique and outsized role in human civilization. ...

When asked during a trip abroad in 2009 whether he believed in American exceptionalism, Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” This only drew more criticism from Republicans.

Since then, Obama has been more emphatic in speaking about America’s special role in the world.

This is a smear. In the comments, Obama defended American exceptionalism. The passage quoted by Achenbach, and many Republicans, is the throat-clearing caveat at the beginning of his answer, in which he describes the perspective of his critics before proceeding to disagree with it.

The full remarks:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.

What you see here is a common Obama rhetorical technique. You could apply the Republican method to nearly any Obama statement, and simply take out of context the part where he describes the opposing view to make it sound as if he believes the opposite of what he actually does. It's a remarkable testament to the power of dogged, repetitive spin that the GOP has managed to get mainstream newspapers to start printing this utterly dishonest interpretation as fact.
Remember the Jim Carrey movie Liar Liar where he was forced to always tell the truth. If such a spell could ever be used on the conservative movement they'd be rendered utterly incapable of debate.

Romney’s Social Security Views More Dangerous Than His “Corporations Are People” Quip

Fox Whitewashes Rob Portman's "Interesting Background" As Bush OMB Director. One of the conservatives responsible for driving the U.S. economy off a cliff is defended by the anti-American propagandists at anti-American international crook Rupert Murdoch's Fox News.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Does Michele Bachmann Hate America and American Values

Why Does Michele Bachmann Hate America and American Values

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) has already made one slavery-related gaffe during her presidential campaign, signing a pledge produced by the Iowa FAMiLY LEADER that included language suggesting black children were better off under slavery than they are now. Bachmann offered half-hearted apology at the time, saying she had only signed the “candidate vow,” not the part that included slavery, and compared it to “economic enslavement” brought on by taxes.

But in his profile of Bachmann released yesterday, The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza revealed that Bachmann’s “worldview” on slavery goes much deeper. In 2002, then-state Sen. Bachmann’s campaign posted a “must-read” list of books on her web site. Included in the list were the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, and a book titled, “Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee,” authored by J. Steven Wilkins. The Lee biography includes this apologetic passage:

Northerners were often shocked and offended by the familiarity that existed as a matter of course between the whites and blacks of the old South. This was one of the surprising and unintended consequences of slavery. Slavery, as it operated in the pervasively Christian society which was the old South, was not an adversarial relationship founded on racial animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause.

The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith.

Wilkins goes on to claim that slavery existed on a “relationship of trust and esteem,” that positive race relations may have progressed further if the pro-slavery South had won the war, and that Lee, despite being a slave-owner himself, “never held any animosity for blacks.”

After explaining the “cruelty and barbarism” of “pagan” Africa, he goes on:

The fact was (and is) easily demonstrable that, taken as a whole, there is no question that blacks in this country, slavery notwithstanding, were “immeasurably better off” in nearly every way [than they were in Africa].

In Lee’s view, however, emancipation could only be accomplished successfully if it was gradual. Time was needed for the sanctifying effects of Christianity to work on the black race and fit its people for freedom. [...]

Abolitionism was not the best answer.

The idea that the relationships between white slave owners and black slaves were not founded on racial animosity has no basis in history. Whites viewed themselves as inherently superior to blacks, who were bought and sold as property and, for population counts, were worth only three-fifths of a white person. The idea that sanctifying blacks through Christianity made them “immeasurably better off” than they would have been in Africa, meanwhile, ignores the utter loss of humanity caused by enslavement. It ignores the untold number of blacks who died on slave ships, the sale of blacks at auctions as if they were livestock, the families split up at an owner’s whim, and the loss of all basic human rights, not least of which was their own free will.

Bachmann has a history of using slavery analogies, and she has made multiple mistakes regarding American history already in her campaign. None, however, is nearly as disturbing as her love for a book that attempts to explain away the horrors of slavery by rewriting history to make it seem like it was a minor price to pay for the sanctifying favors whites did blacks by bringing them to America as slaves.
Some Republicans, totally ignorant of the political realignments of the parties over the last 140 years, like to claim they are the party of Lincoln. Bachamnn is no Lincoln. She sounds like the Vice-President of the treasonous Confederate states Alexander H. Stephens (1812-1883): Cornerstone Address, March 21, 1861 when he wrote,

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other-though last, not least: the new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions-African slavery as it exists among us-the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time. The Constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly used against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it-when the "storm came and the wind blew, it fell."

Our new Government(the Confederacy) is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. [Applause.]
Shame on Bachmann and her UnAmerican supporters.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The 10th Amendment is sacred to right-wing conservatives except when doing so does not get them what they want

The 10th Amendment is sacred to right-wing conservatives except when doing so does not get them what they want

During the last two weeks, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, by most accounts on the brink of a presidential candidacy, has reversed himself on the question of the proper venue for dealing with the two of the hoariest cultural issues in American politics, same-sex marriage and abortion.

First, at a Republican governors meeting on July 22, he referred to the recent decision by the New York legislature to legalize gay marriage as something that was "fine with me," and said further: "That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business." But then, in a matter of days, he was performing what can only be described as a public act of penance on Christian right potentate Tony Perkins’ radio show, trumpeting his support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage nationally.

Meanwhile, on July 27, Perry took another hard-line states’ rights position, this time on abortion:

Despite holding personal pro-life beliefs, Texas Gov. Rick Perry categorized abortion as a states’ rights issue today, saying that if Roe v. Wade was overturned, it should be up to the states to decide the legality of the procedure.

"You either have to believe in the 10th Amendment or you don’t," Perry told reporters after a bill signing in Houston. "You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then [for] something that doesn’t suit you say, 'We’d rather not have states decide that.'"

By August 1, though, after public criticism of Perry from anti-abortion leaders, he backtracked again and made clear his support for a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion as well.

Aside from making Perry look like a flip-flopping pol who is afraid of conservative activist groups, these incidents probably confused some folks about what the authorized "true conservative" position on these issues actually is. Do they favor states’ rights or federal domination of state policy-makers on cultural issues? And if it’s the latter, how come so much recent conservative activism on abortion and same-sex marriage has played out on the state level?

The history of cultural conservatives on these issues is very clear: They favor the maximum legal heft the political market can bear in support of their views. From their point of view, a federal constitutional ban is ideal; federal statutes would be less effective but better than state action; and state action (via either state constitutional amendments or statutes) is a useful fallback position if national bans aren’t practical. Though conservatives often vary in their sense of whether federal or state efforts are most effective at any given moment, it is hard to find conservative activists who actually think the 10th Amendent’s reservation of non-enumerated powers to the states should be dispositive on these issues, which they consider a matter of fundamental, global, eternal issues of right or wrong.

Same-sex marriage is a relatively recent issue that first exploded into the national political arena in 1993 when Hawaii courts appeared to be moving towards a ruling banning discrimination against same-sex couples in the issuance of marriage licenses. The ensuing agitation led to the enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act by Congress in 1996, which supposedly protected states (and the federal government) from any obligation to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states, and then to a vast array of politically-driven state-level statutes, ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments banning such marriages or even civil unions and domestic partnership arrangements.

While some conservatives appeared to be happy with the idea of same-sex marriage being confined to a few liberal states, the steadily proliferation of states allowing gay marriage, along with court decisions undermining DOMA (followed by the Obama administration’s announcement that it wouldn’t pursue DOMA enforcement), has helped "traditional family" groups crack the whip among Republicans on behalf of a federal amendment. The 1996 and 2000 Republican Party platforms did not mention a federal amendment but instead simply endorsed DOMA and its enforcement. But the 2004 and 2008 platforms did endorse a federal amendment. With public opinion rapidly trending in favor of marriage equality, it has become far more common to hear Republican politicians argue against a big effort to enact a federal marriage amendment on practical grounds. In the current presidential cycle, Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all favor a federal marriage amendment; only Ron Paul and Herman Cain have said they are opposed.

On the abortion front, the obvious difference is that federal constitutional law currently protects (to a greater or lesser degree) abortion rights, circumscribing the opportunities for anti-abortion activism. The fundamental position of the right-to-life movement, which has been enshrined in every national Republican platform since 1984 (the 1976 and 1980 platforms endorsed a constitutional amendment, but with ambiguous language about its scope) is in favor of a Human Life Amendment that would not only overrule Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but would establish fetal rights from the earliest moments of pregnancy (perhaps even prior to implantation of a fertilized ovum in the uterine wall, threatening many popular contraceptive methods) as a matter of federal constitutional law. There is sometimes confusion on this point, since the only constitutional amendment calling itself a “Human Life Amendment” that obtained a congressional vote, a 1983 measure that failed in the Senate, merely denied a constitutional right to abortion, which would have effectively reversed Roe and turned the issue back to the states. But the term now clearly refers to the more sweeping variety of amendment banning abortion nationally.

While the ultimate position of the anti-abortion movement and the GOP as a party (with fewer and fewer dissenters each year) couldn’t be much clearer, there has been an explosion of state-level anti-abortion activity during the last few years, much of it stimulated by the first real crack in the wall of Supreme Court protection of abortion rights, the 2007 Gonzalez v. Carhart decision that validated a federal ban on so-called "partial-birth abortion." By expressing a tolerant attitude toward restrictions that don’t directly ban abortions, and by stipulating that lawmakers (presumably at either the state or federal level) could make factual determinations about the actual necessity of certain post-viability abortions to protect the health of women or the interests of the fetus, the decision seemed to open the door to a variety of restrictions, some aimed at procedures, some at abortion providers, and some at women seeking abortions.

Very recently, conservatives in a number of states have pursued "personhood" bills, ballot initiatives and constitutional amendment proposals that would test the limits of the federal courts’ deference to legislative policy-makers on abortion, and/or set the table for total abortion bans in the case of a hypothetical future reversal of Roe. (Most conspicuously, a 2010 ballot initiative in Colorado pursuing a "personhood amendment" was routed at the polls, but another will appear on the ballot in Mississippi this November).

With much greater success, anti-abortion activists have been promoting "fetal pain" bills that seek to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy (a standard that flatly contradicts Roe’s prohibition on bans prior to the third trimester of pregnancy) on the highly questionable grounds that this is the point at which the fetus can experience pain. Such bills have been enacted in Nebraska, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana and Alabama. Legal challenges to these laws will eventually emerge, though some pro-choice advocates fear a rollback of federal constitutional abortion rights and note that only 1.5 percent of abortions occur after 20 weeks.

Lest anyone think the fetal pain bills reflect a retreat from the right-to-life movement’s commitment to a national "solution" to abortion, it’s noteworthy that the pro-life group the Susan B. Anthony List recently pressed on presidential candidates a pledge that included support for a federal fetal pain statute. Candidates Bachmann, Pawlenty, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul signed on to it while Romney, Huntsman and Cain declined. (Romney, for his part, did not mention the fetal pain issue in his objections to the pledge.)

Since he is not a candidate just yet, Rick Perry hasn’t had to make up his mind about a federal fetal pain law. But given his recent experience, he is likely to deal with future demands from the Christian right and other cultural conservatives by simply saying: "Where do I sign?"
Conservatism could be said to be that slate of issues wrapped up in a ball of hypocrisy, narcissism, hatred of women and spoiled brat syndrome. They want what they want. There really is no guiding political philosophy like there is for liberalism - the foundation for the establishment of American democracy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Continues Anti-American Attacks on American Values: Protecting Factory Farms and Sewage Sludge?

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Continues Anti-American Attacks on American Values: Protecting Factory Farms and Sewage Sludge?

As suburbs engulfed the rural landscape in the boom following World War II, many family farmers found themselves with new neighbors who were annoyed by the sound of crowing roosters, the smell of animal manure, or the rumble of farming equipment. In defense of family farming, Massachusetts passed the first "Right to Farm" law in 1979, to protect these farmers against their new suburban neighbors filing illegitimate nuisance lawsuits against them when, in fact, the farms were there first. Since then, every state has passed some kind of protection for family farms, which are pillars of our communities and the backbone of a sensible system of sustainable agriculture.

Class B Sewer Sludge Sign

However, in the past few decades, intensive corporatization of farming has threatened both the future of family farming and the ability of neighbors to regulate the development of industrial agricultural operations that have transmogrified many farms into factories. Small-scale farms that resembled Old MacDonald's farm (with an oink oink here and a moo moo there) have increasingly disappeared or been turned into enormous livestock confinements with literal lagoons of liquified manure and urine, super-concentrated smells that could make a skunk faint, or vast fields of monoculture crops grown with a myriad of chemicals and pesticides and sometimes even sewage sludge. For example, the decade before the first right to farm law was passed, it took one million family farms to raise nearly 60 million pigs but by 2001, less than ten percent (80,000 farms) were growing the same number of pigs.

Capitalizing on the sentiment of protecting traditional farming, giant agribusiness interests have convinced some states to revise their Right to Farm laws to stealthily protect the most egregious of industrial farming practices from legitimate nuisance suits. The Center for Media & Democracy has recently exposed and analyzed a cache of bills voted on by corporations and politicians behind closed doors and then introduced in state legislatures without any notice to the public of the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill factory in the production of the legislation and no disclosure of the fact that corporations pre-voted on the bills, let alone disclosures of the names of those companies. In 1996, ALEC suddenly took an interest in expanding right to farm laws. ALEC's corporate backers, unsurprisingly, hale from the factory farm side of the equation.

ALEC's Corporate Backers

ALEC's corporate members and funders have included a number of agriculture interests, including Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill, and DuPont, as well as industry organizations like the National Pork Producers Council, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and the Illinois Soybean Association. Cargill is the nation's second largest beef processor, third largest turkey processor, and fourth largest pork processor. In three other areas, flour milling, soybean crushing, and production of animal feed, ADM joins Cargill as the biggest in the industry. Chemical giant DuPont is one of the world's largest makers of numerous pesticides, and in 1999, it purchased seed giant Pioneer Hi-Bred, the world's top seller of corn seeds, including genetically engineered seeds.

Unlike the corporations, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is actually led by farmers . . . and lobbyists for multinational pork processors, like Don Butler, past president of NPPC and lobbyist for Smithfield Foods, the largest pork processor in the world. The farmers who lead NPPC tend to own farms similar to that of NPPC president Doug Wolf. Wolf's farm produces 24,000 hogs per year - and it also has a beef feedlot and 1,200 acres of corn, soy, and alfalfa.

Perhaps the most surprising "agribusiness" donor to ALEC is the most powerful of all: Koch Industries. It turns out that an early part of the Koch empire was the Matador Cattle Company, founded in 1952. To this day, Koch Agriculture Company retains Matador Cattle Company, which has about 15,000 cattle. However, in the 1990's, Koch Beef Company was the nation's 10th largest cattle feeder, with feedlots that held up to 165,000 cattle. Koch bought a new feedlot in 1996 and, among other things, decided to expand its capacity by adding 20,000 more cows. The neighbors did not think that was a good idea:

"Some businesses and farm owners expressed concerns over the health of their employees, some of whom would be housed within 300 feet of Koch's cattle pens. Other neighbors cited concerns over the potential for groundwater pollution, the amount of dirt, insects, and odors added to the area contributing to health problems, a decrease in the quality of life for nearby residents, and the possible devaluation of land."

Koch overcame their objections with the ruling of a friendly regulator in Texas, winning the right to expand. With all these corporate interests in limiting regulation of factory farming, thank goodness their pals at ALEC approved a model version of a Right to Farm bill in 1996!

Why Corporations Care About Laws For Farmers

While nearly all farms in the United States are technically "family farms" (a tiny fraction are owned directly by corporations), multinational agribusiness corporations have a major stake in how these farms are operated. Often family farms take the form of Wolf L & G Farms LLC, the farm owned by the family of Doug Wolf (mentioned above). Particularly for chickens and hogs, individual farmers often contract with meatpackers like Cargill, Smithfield, or Tyson. In contract farming arrangements, the corporations provide the animals, medications, and feed to the farmers; the farmer is responsible for the animals' housing, manure, and the bodies of animals that die prematurely. When the animals are fully grown, they are picked up by the corporation, which slaughters, processes, and markets the animal and plays the farmer for the weight the animal gained in his or her care. The farmers have most of the debt and risk and the corporation has most of the power and profit.

Because the corporations tightly control the conditions in which the animals are raised (specifying how housing is constructed and the use of certain medications, etc., in the farmers' contracts), they woud be affected by nuisance claims by neigbors against the conditions they require of the farms. And because they need enough contracted farms in the vicinity of their slaughterhouses to keep the slaughterhouses operating year round, they would find themselves in a pickle if neighbors - and even fellow small farmers - who suddenly found their neighborly family farm mutated into an industrial agriculture operation were able to challenge and shut down animal factories.

For non-contract farms, agribusiness corporations' stake in the farms is much more straightforward. They want as many farmers as possible to buy and use their products (or in some cases involving sewage sludge, take the product for free!). If genetically engineered crops, aerial spraying of pesticides, or application of sewage sludge were banned in an area - or subject to nuisance suits from upset neighbors - agribusiness would have to adapt in response to local concerns.

ALEC's Model Right to Farm Act

In 1996, ALEC entered the fray with its version of a Right to Farm law. Like many such laws, it protects a farm from a nuisance suit if the farm was established before a change in land use around it (i.e. before a suburb encroached upon a rural agricultural area). However, the exemption applies even if the farm had a "change in ownership or size," adopted dramatically different "new technology," or changed "the type of farm product being produced." In other words, if the same family farm next door with two pigs and a cow was bought by new owners who built a mega-dairy on the land . . . too bad. The types of things that cannot be the subject of a nuisance complaint under the law are defined to include "the use of manure and other nutrients, agricultural waste products, dust, noise, odor, fumes, air pollution, water pollution, food and agricultural processing by-products, care of farm animals and pest infestations."

In ALEC's model bill, neighbors may not intervene in a farm's practices so long as the farm conforms to "generally accepted agriculture and management practices." Furthermore, anyone who brings a nuisance suit against a farm and loses must pay the farm's attorneys' fees and any other costs incurred by the farm as a result of the lawsuit.

While such changes would undoubtedly benefit small family farmers, the changes seem much more beneficial to the huge factory farms that were emerging in the 1990s and that dominate the market today. In 2005, Indiana Senate Republicans Bob Jackman, Vic Heinold, and Brandt Hershman introduced an update to the state's Right to Farm law that inserted language similar to that of ALEC's mode Right to Farm Act, shielding a farm from nuisance suits even if it changes in size or adopts a new technology. Both Hershman, who is currently the Indian Senate Majority Whip and a member of ALEC, and Jackman are farmers. Jackman operates a contract hog confinement. Heinold, while not a farmer himself, works in corporate agribusiness, and ultimately left the Senate before the end of his term in order to pursue a career with a multinational grain shipping company.

A local community that is unhappy about groundwater pollution from a large animal confinement or odor and health problems caused by a farmer spreading sewage sludge on his fields might try to pass local ordinances that prohibit those practices. Or could -- until 16 states added bans on any local laws that are stricter than the state's laws. Those states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Sewage Sludge: More Than a Nuisance

Obviously, barring neighbors the ability to file a lawsuit over water pollution, air pollution, by-products or waste products of agricultural processing, and the fumes from the use of manure or other "nutrients" is very far reaching. One product that seems likely to implicate several of these aspects is sewage sludge, which comes from both industrial and human waste flushed down the drains. Over the past several decades sewage sludge, ruled too toxic to dump in oceans, has been promoted has a fertilizer for farms and gardens. Dioxins, PCBs, medical wastes, industrial solvents and chemicals, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, flame retardants, and pathogens have been found in sewage sludge and sewage sludge derived products marketed to farmers and gardeners (often without any disclosure that the products are made of sewage sludge).

Extraordinary odor is just one of the negative attributes of sewage sludge but it is a powerful one. Craig Pataky, a resident of Cottage Grove, Oregon, describes the stench of sewage sludge by saying, "It smells like all the residents of Cottage Grove are taking a crap in a field right down the road." Another Cottage Grove resident, Les Moore, links health problems to the smell. "It was so acrid that I had a severe headache. Never have a bad headache. And I was that close to throwing up," says Moore. A year before, residents of Rio Vista, CA, had the same problem when a nearby farm spread sewage sludge on its fields. "It made you feel energy-less," said Bob Tillisch, a Rio Vista resident who complained about the smell.

Sewage sludge, as a currently legal agricultural practice despite the objections of many people, is one of the many "nuisances" covered by Right to Farm laws.

What other practices might be barred from suit under the ALEC bill? Please help the Center for Media and Democracy identify additional examples.
Conservatives did a great job corrupting the meaning of good words like values and morality. Now they're corrupting the good old family farm. Watch out, mom and apple pie are probably next, and I'm only half joking.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

UnAmerican Fox News Told America The Debt Ceiling Did Not Matter

UnAmerican Fox News Told America The Debt Ceiling Did Not Matter

During the debt ceiling debate, Fox has relentlessly pushed economic policies and positions that experts have said would be harmful to the economy, including downplaying default concerns, openly advocating for default and a credit downgrade, and actively lobbying for a balanced budget amendment.

Fox Figures Consistently Dismissed Or Downplayed Concerns Over Government Default

Hannity: Democrats' "Doomsday Rhetoric Would Have You Believe" That If The Ceiling Deadline Passes, The "Economy Would Crumble." On the July 11 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said: "As the deficit reduction talks continue in Washington, Democrats have been ramping up their efforts to scare the American people into supporting this deal. Now, the left's doomsday rhetoric would have you believe that if Congress does not vote to raise the debt limit by August the 2nd, the American economy would crumble." [Fox News, Hannity, 7/11/11, via Media Matters]

Dobbs Calls Debt Ceiling Deadline A "False Date" And "Pure Fiction." On his July 11 Fox Business show, host Lou Dobbs called the August 2 deadline for raising the debt limit a "false date" and "pure fiction." Dobbs made his comments in response to J. Dennis Hastert, former Republican speaker of the House, who said that "the federal government can decide what it's going to pay, when, and where." [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 7/11/11, via Media Matters]

Carlson: "Some Republicans" Are Asking Whether Debt Ceiling Deadline Is A "Democratic Ploy." On the July 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that "some Republicans are saying that August 2 deadline, as I alluded to at the top of the show -- is that a Democratic ploy, or is that a hard and fast date now? Remember, back in April that was the first deadline date, and everyone kind of pooh-poohed it, and before you knew it, in the middle of that horrible earthquake tsunami in Japan, the Treasury secretary moved it." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/12/11, via Media Matters]

Moore: "The Biggest Lie In This Whole Debate ... Has Been That The United States Is Going To Default On Its Debt." On the July 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Steve Moore claimed: "The biggest lie in this whole debate for the last six months has been that the United States is going to default on its debt, and I will tell you this point blank with 100 percent certainty: There will not be a default on U.S. securities, no matter what happens." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 7/18/11, via Media Matters]

Doocy: Obama Is Trying To "Gin ... Up" Default Crisis As If "It's The End Of The World." On the July 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy responded to a Pew Research Center poll which claimed that 43 percent of independents say it's "not essential to meet deadline" by claiming, "It's that last number right there, the independents, that has got to horrify the White House, because they're trying to gin this up as if it's the end of the world." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/19/11, via Media Matters]

Cavuto: "I Would Welcome A [Credit] Downgrade." On the July 27 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto claimed: "I would welcome a [credit] downgrade. I really would. I think it would be the pain from which we have a gain." Fox News host John Stossel responded, "Maybe that would wake people up." [Fox News, Your World, 7/27/11, via Media Matters]

Morris: Offices That Would Close Without Increase In Debt Ceiling Are "Ones We Don't Much Care About." On the July 28 edition of Fox News' On the Record, Fox News contributor Dick Morris claimed that, if the debt ceiling is not raised, "some offices are going to close, but they are ones we don't much care about. I mean, who is going to go crazy because the National Labor Relations Board closes its doors, or the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission?" Morris later claimed that "the country is not going to fall apart" without agencies such as those. [Fox News, On the Record, 7/28/11, via Media Matters]
While Some On Fox Have Openly Advocated Against Raising The Debt Ceiling

Napolitano: "If I Were In The Congress, I Would Encourage Everybody To Vote Against Raising The Debt Ceiling." On the April 11 edition of his Fox Business show Freedom Watch, host Andrew Napolitano interviewed Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ). During the interview, Napolitano spoke repeatedly about the debt limit and at one point said, "If I were in the Congress, I would encourage everybody to vote against raising the debt ceiling." From the show:

NAPOLITANO: You have a couple of crucial votes coming up, Congressman Schweikert ... I suggest to you, Congressman Schweikert, is one of the more crucial votes you'll have to make this year, and that's the vote on whether or not to raise the debt ceiling.

SCHWEIKERT: The debt ceiling.

NAPOLITANO: And here is where the Republicans alone -- they don't need the Democrats, they don't need Mrs. Pelosi and they don't need the Senate -- can stop the flow of red ink. Because if every Republican in the House, or a majority of the Republicans, simply says no, then the debt ceiling does not go up, and the president is forced to cover the debt service, defense, entitlements and discretionary spending just on what he collects every month. What are the chances of that happening?

SCHWEIKERT: Judge, I've got to tell you, you're speaking like I'm thinking, except there's a lot more in the details. What happens if we stand firm, and do we what's right on the debt ceiling vote, and the bond markets go nuts on us. Every point that interest rates go up on U.S. sovereign debt is close to another 100 billion dollars in debt service. And remember, the discussion is raising the debt ceiling functionally to pay the bills that the previous Congress have already spent the money on.

NAPOLITANO: Correct. Correct, correct.

SCHWEIKERT: And so where do you find the balance of convincing the world debt markets that we're taking our debt seriously, so we don't panic them, and at the same time we bend this curve in the spending? This is walking a tightrope, because if we screw up, boom, every bit of savings we've accomplished gets eaten up by higher interest rates, and if we don't do it enough, then the left keeps buying their next election by this crazy spending.

NAPOLITANO: Last question, Congressman Schweikert. And if I were in the Congress I would encourage everybody to vote against raising the debt ceiling. But you've analyzed this in a most respectful and intelligent way. What will the Republicans get from the president and the Democrats in return for voting to raise the debt ceiling that will permanently, permanently stop this red ink and this madness? [Fox Business, Freedom Watch, 4/11/11, via Media Matters]

Napolitano Has Repeatedly Spoken Against Raising The Debt Limit. Napolitano has frequently used his Fox Business show as well as guest host positions on the Fox News Channel to speak against raising the debt limit. As a guest host on the March 10 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, Napolitano urged Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to vote against the debt limit. During the January 4 edition of Freedom Watch, Napolitano said, "It's an easy one for me -- the debt ceiling should not be raised." [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 3/10/11, via Media Matters; Fox Business, Freedom Watch, 1/4/11, via Media Matters]

Bolling: "I Say Let Them Default." As a guest co-host on the April 13 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Eric Bolling told Stuart Varney, "I say let them default. ... What's going to happen?" Varney replied, "Armageddon is going to happen." From Fox & Friends:

VARNEY: There's a great danger in that. As you approach this deadline, if you're even talking about default, as even a possibility, a remote possibility, you really spook the world's money people. You really spook them.

BOLLING: I say let them default.

VARNEY: Really?

BOLLING: Let them go. What's going to happen?

VARNEY: You're a brave guy.

BOLLING: What's going to happen?

VARNEY: Armageddon's going to happen.

BOLLING: How is it going to be Armageddon? Let's talk about that for a second.

VARNEY: OK. If we fail to allow ourselves to borrow any more money --


BOLLING: That's got to stop. That will force it to stop. That will guarantee --

VARNEY: So you've got an immediate $150 billion cut every month.

BOLLING: That will guarantee in order for it to come out of default, you have to stop spending. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/13/11, via Media Matters]

Hannity: "I Would Not Vote To Raise The Debt Ceiling." During a panel discussion on the April 12 broadcast of his Fox News' show, Sean Hannity said, "If I was in Congress, I would not vote to raise the debt ceiling." From Hannity:

HANNITY: If I was in Congress, I would not vote to raise the debt ceiling.


HANNITY: Vote for a balanced budget amendment -

SCHOEN: I would with a plan to balance the budget absolutely.

[STAN] DZIEDZIC [FMR. OLYMPIC WRESTLER]: I think it is dangerous to go down that path.


DZIEDZIC: Well, you have to remember that -

HANNITY: Wouldn't force him to cut?

DZIEDZIC: If that was the end result, but you may - you may force a risk premium for uncertainty on the bonds -

HANNITY: Isn't China, isn't Europe lecturing us now on capitalism and how if we don't get control of our debt -- wouldn't they see that as a sign that America may actually get it? [Fox News, Hannity, 4/12/11, accessed via Nexis]

Palin: "Hells No, I Would Not Vote To Increase That Debt Ceiling." On the April 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin responded to a question about whether she would vote to increase the debt ceiling by claiming: "Hells no, I would not vote to increase that debt ceiling. Otherwise it just shows the American public we're not serious yet, we're still going to incur more debt." [Fox News, Speical Report, 4/29/11, via Media Matters]

Bolling: "We Should" Let The Debt Ceiling Expire "And See What Happens." On the July 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Bolling responded to White House press secretary Jay Carney's statement that people unconcerned with raising the debt ceiling should "buy and hold [and] see what happens" by claiming, "He was right, though. We should buy and hold and see what happens." Bolling later claimed, "That downgrade and default thing that they keep throwing out there and scaring, you know, the bejesus out of people, it won't matter." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/28/11, via Media Matters]

But Economic Experts Have Agreed That Failing To Raise Debt Ceiling And Defaulting Would Have Disastrous Consequences

Zandi: "In A Post-Default World, Financial Markets Would Unravel And The U.S. And Global Economy Would Enter Another Severe Recession." In a July 15 Washington Post op-ed, Moody's economist Mark Zandi stated: "The Obama administration and Congress must raise the federal debt ceiling by Aug. 2. That's all there is to it." Zandi warned that failure to do so could create "another severe recession" in "U.S. and global econom[ies]." From The Washington Post...
Since Fox News is a mouthpiece for Anti-American far Right conservatives it serves their interests to see the country dive into an even deeper recession. That way they could blame the consequences on a Democratic president. Now that a debt ceiling bill has been passed that is all about spending cuts without raising revenue, it is Republcans who are resposnsible for the continued recession.