The New York Times Editorial yesterday, Keeping Students From the Polls sums up a piece of the national campaign by the Republican Party to prevent likely Democratic citizens from exercising their right to vote.
It is a documented fact that actual voter fraud, in which someone casts a vote illegally, is extremely rare.
Starting with the assassination of ACORN, Republicans have tried to build a case that illegal immigrants are voting en masse with the help of evil librul organizations.
If you aren’t familiar with the ACORN case, the organization hired people across the country to registered people of ALL stripes to vote.
Some of those people, instead of doing their job, made up names and submitted them to ACORN — who promptly flagged them and reported the applications to the state election commissions in question.
That’s it. That’s the whole story.
In terms of voter fraud, ACORN was absolutely innocent, and independent investigations have exonerated the group. Their crime was to try to register minorities, immigrants, and young people — a demographic that tends to vote Democrat.
Using the pretext of the trumped-up ACORN case (fueled by Fox News, the right-wing blogosphere and talk radio), Republican governors have forced through completely unnecessary laws that:
- Prevent college students from voting Setup draconian
- ID laws to excluded the elderly and poor
- Distribute false information to likely Democratic constituents to suppress their vote during elections
- Stop convenient same-day registration for voters
The times piece notes, in the case of students:
Seven states have already passed strict laws requiring a government-issued ID (like a driver’s license or a passport) to vote, which many students don’t have, and 27 others are considering such measures. Many of those laws have been interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state driver’s licenses from being used for voting.
These barriers also prevent some minorities and the elderly from accessing the voting booth.
Case in point:
Did you guess? She’s black.
But others have been caught in the net as well:
All of this puts the lie to the alleged anti-big government bullshit stance taken by the right-wing.
They’re just fine with overreaching government interference into people’s rights — unless their the ones wo get interfered with.
The Times sums it up:
It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young, who are more likely to support President Obama, are disproportionately represented in the 21 million people without government IDs. On Friday, the Justice Department, finally taking action against these abuses, blocked the new voter ID law in South Carolina.
With the challenge to the SC law and other fights around the nation, Americans are winning small victories to restore voter access for all:
Many students have taken advantage of Election Day registration laws, which is one reason Maine Republicans passed a law eliminating the practice. Voters restored it last month, but Republican lawmakers there are already trying new ways to restrict voting. The secretary of state said he was investigating students who are registered to vote in the state but pay out-of-state tuition.
The major problem with these tactics is that they work.
In the long run, they create a bitter distaste for voting among young people and depresses their representation.
We need to fight to turn this around.
- Democrats Say GOP Suppresses Minority Vote (usnews.com)
- Democrats Hitting Back Against GOP Voting Measures (huffingtonpost.com)
There are a lot of very good reasons to institute a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT).
A small (0.05 to 0.1 percent for each transaction) FTT would generate billions in profit which could be used to make up the deficit in this country.
A few months ago former French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy wrote an NYT opinion piece about the recent European Commission proposal of an FTT to help alleviate the crisis there:
Douste-Blazy chairs Unitaid and is also a special adviser to the United Nations secretary general on innovative financing, so he has an interest in generating revenue to help poorer countries affected the economic downturn.
A similar tax has already been instituted in Britain. It brings in $6 billion annually — with no measurable effect on the market.
Not surprisingly, the main argument against the FTT is that it would inhibit “market efficiency”.
Read the article. But note that it does not mention the top reason for such a tax! That it might benefit real human investors by slowing finance and equity trading back down to the speed of human thought.
Would that necessarily be a good thing? The concocted rationalization you will hear, in opposition to this proposal, is called “market efficiency.” According to what’s become a bona fide cult, any process or innovation that allows ever-smaller increments of trade to happen ever-faster is “efficiency,” and that will automatically lead to better allocation of society’s capital, and thus a skyrocketing economy.
This is wrong in many ways, starting with the pure fact that the flourishing of fast-cybernetic trading has directly correlated with the steepest decline in the health of capital markets in a century. Indeed, the increase in market volatility that we have seen lately, with sudden spikes in apparently random directions, can be generally attributed to this trend.
According to Brin and Wall Street Analyst Peter Cohan, approximately 70 percent of the volume of trading done on the Stock Exchange is performed by “flash traders” — computers that buy and hold stocks for approximately 11 seconds before selling them again.
These trades, based on increasingly complex algorithms developed from studies of human psychology are often counterintuitive and increase market volatility.
It is becoming less and less clear why markets plunge and soar.
But that’s not the final and most terrifying argument Brin makes:
Take those high-speed trading systems we’ve been discussing. They are growing incredibly sophisticated, at a very rapid rate, absorbing and incorporating models of human psychology, with one goal in mind. To appraise and predict behavior patterns in order for the program to track and to pounce on opportunities for predatory trading. Competitive ferocity is the only criterion for success. Indeed, if you were to even propose inserting balancing factors like ethics or morality or accountability into such a project, you’d at-minimum be laughed down and probably fired.
Moreover, these systems are receiving billions in funding (including their own new transatlantic fiber cable) entirely in secret. There are no public agencies involved. No third party observers. No Congressional oversight committees. No supervision whatsoever. Laboratories developing new genetic strains of wheat are under closer accountability than cryptic Wall Street think tanks that may unleash the first fully autonomous AI… programmed deliberately to have only the behavior patterns, goals, attitudes and morality of parasites.
And so we see the ultimate reason to demand the Transaction Fee. At a low level – say 0.1% – it would never bother a private citizen who is optimizing his portfolio on E-Trade, especially if each trader gets a hundred or so “freebies” that come exempt from the tax. But it would remove the horrific incentives that Wall Street “geniuses” now feel compelled by, to invest in these monstrous, hyper-fast trading programs that swamp the market in a blizzard of uncountable mosquito bites.
The fee (which could also help balance our budget) can be tuned to give that human a fighting chance and to discourage the very worst kind of artificial intelligence from leaping upon our necks out of the dark.
Defeat Skynet. Institute the FTT!
- Time for a financial transactions tax (cbsnews.com)
- Bill Nighy: Robin Hood Tax Can Still be Agreed at the G20 (huffingtonpost.co.uk)
David Sirota, writing at Salon.com examines the results of two new studies on education and found that the principle factor deciding of students perform well is — money.
The first report, from Stanford University, showed that with a rising “income achievement gap,” a family’s economic situation is a bigger determinative force in a child’s academic performance than any other major demographic factor. For poor kids, that means the intensifying hardships of poverty are now creating massive obstacles to academic progress.
Because of this reality, schools in destitute areas naturally require more resources than those in rich ones so as to help impoverished kids overcome comparatively steep odds. Yet, according to the second report from the U.S. Department of Education, “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding.” As if purposely embodying the old adage about adding insult to injury, the financing scheme “leav(es) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.” In practice, that equals less funding to recruit teachers, upgrade classrooms, reduce class sizes and sustain all the other basics of a good education.
Put all this together and behold the crux of America’s education problems in bumper-sticker terms: It’s poverty and punitive funding formulas, stupid.
For years, private education corporations have consistently blamed teacher unions for poor results in our nations schools, but the reports shoot down this myth. Sirota:
We’ve also learned that no matter how much self-styled education “reformers” claim otherwise, the always-demonized teachers unions are not holding our education system back. As the New York Times recently noted: “If unions are the primary cause of bad schools, why isn’t labor’s pernicious effect” felt in the very unionized schools that so consistently graduate top students?
The conclusion is that in order to improve education for all students, we must combat poverty and reform the funding system:
Instead, America’s youth need the painfully obvious: a national commitment to combating poverty and more funds spent on schools in the poorest areas than on schools in the richest areas — not the other way around.
Within education, achieving those objectives requires efforts to stop financing schools via property tax systems (i.e., systems that by design direct more resources to wealthy areas). It also requires initiatives that better target public education appropriations at schools in low-income neighborhoods — and changing those existing funding formulas that actively exacerbate inequality.
I have been saying something similar for years.
My two-part proposal has been 1) to create an affordable model school infrastructure and make sure all schools meet the standards (physical plant, class size, resources, and 2) pool all school funds at the state level and distribute them based on a per-student amount to every school.
Schools in poverty-stricken areas would be given additional funds to meet needs (nutrition, etc.) not found in wealthier areas.
As Sirota notes, it’s a tough sell in the current political environment, but it’s one of the most important obstacles to ensuring the prominence of American for generations to come.
I don’t have any great expectations for the State of the Union address tomorrow night.
Paul Krugman has been critical of the signalling coming out of the White House:
The Competition Myth
Robert Reich has a blog summarizing how our country got to it’s current state and what the president should do about it:
The State of the Union: What the Presideny Should Say
There’s much truth in what both of these economists say.
But Obama has spent much of his time trying to appease business interests and surrounding himself with the movers and shakers from the very corporate enclave that helped create our current economy.
It’s not clear exactly what helpful policies will be allowed to see sunlight in a setting in which the president is bending over backwards to satisfy big business.
- Report: Obama to Call for New Investments in State of the Union (news.firedoglake.com)
I watched for two years the coming of the slow-motion train wreck that was Tuesday’s mid-term election.
Of course, the right is crowing that this is a repudiation of liberals and liberal ideology, which of course is wrong.
If this were true, the Blue Dogs would have sailed to reelection, and progressives would have all gone down hard. Instead, it seems progressives did better than the conservative/corporate toadies who call themselves Dems:
Of the 54 seats occupied by members of the Blue Dog coalition, 27 of them were lost to Republicans. (That includes five held by incumbents who either retired or ran for the Senate.) On the other hand, all but three of the much larger group of Progressive Caucus members up for re-election won their seats, including six out of nine caucus members whose races were rated as competitive.
If anything the elections were the result of these things:
1) The timidity of the Democrats — and their inability to put their message out (and highlight their accomplishments)
2) The shit-ton of money poured into campaigns by secretive, unaccountable front groups in the light of the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling. Release the Kraken, indeed.
The New York Times has the critical article on this.
“Outside Groups on the Right Flexed Muscles”
While it is hard to sort out the exact difference they made, their success rate, particularly in races in which Republican challengers would have otherwise been badly outgunned, raises the prospect that a relatively small number of deep-pocketed donors exerted an outsize influence on Tuesday’s results.
Yeah. Classic understatement.
The principle right-wing shadow organ has been the hilariously misnamed US Chamber of Commerce. I’ve written about them before, and they look to be one of the most powerful money-laundering outlets for the Bankster set.
As a side note, I find it hilarious the way right-wing nutbags snarl the name “George Soros” (who funds liberal organizations) but can’t find their voice to say anything about Richard Mellon Scaife, the Koch Brothers, front groups like the US Chamber and media vampire Rupert Murdoch.
Until a way is found to get the oversized influence of huge multinational (and in many cases, foreign) money out of the election process, this country is on the fast march to Fascism.
The unbridled celebration of corporatism is about to begin, and the faith of the true believers is unlikely to be broken by any disaster visited upon us as a result.
If these deluded hordes could be swayed by reality, the BP disaster, Mortgage catastrophe and Enron certainly would have done the trick.
The inestimable Bill Moyers recently gave a speech honoring the late progressive historian Howard Zinn. Entitled “Welcome to the Plutocracy”, it should be read by anyone who gives a shit about this country.
The elder statesman of a dead art (journalism) crafts a lesson filled with all the history needed to highlight the consequences of the regressive direction American voters just chose.
Moyers captures the moment perfectly:
Now let’s connect some dots. While knocking down nearly all limits on corporate spending in campaigns, the Supreme Court did allow for disclosure, which would at least tell us who’s buying off the government. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell even claimed that “sunshine” laws would make everything okay. But after the House of Representatives passed a bill that would require that the names of all such donors be publicly disclosed, McConnell lined up every Republican in the Senate to oppose it. Hardly had the public begun to sing “Let the Sunshine In” than McConnell & Company went tone deaf. And when the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce was asked by an interviewer, “Are you guys eventually going to disclose?” the answer was a brisk: “No.” Why? Because those corporations are afraid of a public backlash. Like bank robbers pulling a heist, they prefer to hide their “personhood” behind sock masks. Surely that tells us something about the nature of what they’re doing. In the words of one of the characters in Tom Stoppard’s play Night and Day: “People do terrible things to each other, but it’s worse in places where everything is kept in the dark.”
In the short term, I am extremely interested in how the alleged principles of the Tea Party zealots breaks against the wall of corporate adulation that is the Republican party.
I’ll be crying into my popcorn as I watch.
- Texas millionaire gives $7 million to GOP group (salon.com)
- Senate Elections: Democrats Take Losses But Hold Upper Chamber (huffingtonpost.com)
- More than half the Blue Dogs are out (dailykos.com)
Paul Krugman does another bang up job explaining a complicated issue in yesterday’s New York Times.
This time it’s the mortgage foreclosure mess:
Seems that many on the right think that the lack of documentation for foreclosures (much of which was lost in the relay of mortgages from banker to banker) is no big deal and we should take it on faith that when the banks say someone has defaulted on the provisions of their loan, we should believe them.
We shouldn’t. Krugman explains:
This is very, very bad. For one thing, it’s a near certainty that significant numbers of borrowers are being defrauded — charged fees they don’t actually owe, declared in default when, by the terms of their loan agreements, they aren’t.
Krugman properly nails the Obama Administration for its obeisance to Wall Street:
True to form, the Obama administration’s response has been to oppose any action that might upset the banks, like a temporary moratorium on foreclosures while some of the issues are resolved. Instead, it is asking the banks, very nicely, to behave better and clean up their act. I mean, that’s worked so well in the past, right?
As mentioned in the piece, there are some good ideas on how to deal with this mess:
…the Center for American Progress has proposed giving mortgage counselors and other public entities the power to modify troubled loans directly, with their judgment standing unless appealed by the mortgage servicer. This would do a lot to clarify matters and help extract us from the morass.
Of course, this will happen over the screeching undead bodies of the greedy bankers who caused this mess in the first place.
So it won’t happen.
It may be naive thinking on my part, but wouldn’t it be better to have someone in their home, paying a mortgage than to foreclose and try to get only a fraction of the value back in this terrible market?
Anyway, this is yet another datapoint indicating the claims that Obama is the first American Socialist President — Not so much.
- Why We Need Government Regulation To Protect Americans (alan.com)
- Editorial: The Foreclosure Crises (nytimes.com)
Apparently, Paul Krugman is continuing to be a problem for the powerful elite.
From time to time you read a snide comment or a post purporting to prove Krugman wrong. If it comes to his attention, the Nobel Prize-winng economist usually takes the argument apart like a cheap suit.
This past week, he has faced two attacks from the gatekeepers of knowledge in the media.
Most of the article is standard profile fluff, but there is undercurrent of snobbery throughout that seems to say that rich people are hypocrites when they advocate for the middle class and poor.
For example, in Kurtz’ Media Notes profile of the New York Times columnist, he writes:
Krugman would seem to have an exceedingly comfortable life. There’s the large house in Princeton, described by the New Yorker as being in “Japanese modern style,” the New York apartment and the condo on the beach in St. Croix. There are trips to international conferences, most recently in Sweden and Japan. He makes a bundle on writing textbooks with his wife. People’s heads turn in restaurants, like the one where he is lunching.
So, Kurtz seems to say, why doesn’t he just shut the F*&K up?
Like many of the media elite, floating around in the rarified air (and sipping champagne with the politicians and other power brokers they write about), Kurtz cannot fathom why someone would be upset that American is going to hell in a handbasket.
After all, he’s got plenty of money, right?
Krugman started his early columns in the New York Times at the time the Bush Administration took the reigns. As Kurtz does manage to note, the Princeton professor didn’t like the lies and sleight of hand the Bush economic team used to rig the economy for the wealthy.
He called them on it in print. A lot.
This has made Krugman a target for the elite and the right, who bluster nonsensical pronouncements about magical economic forces the defy scrutiny. They usually do this without a shred of evidence to back them up, or by distorting and misreading data.
Krugman writes in a way that takes the complexity of the worlds of finance and economics and makes them understandable to the layperson.
And so, he must be marginalized. Immediately. Mercilessly.
The second attempt this week is also the most hilarious.
As reported in Salon’s “The dumbest attack on Paul Krugman, ever”, blogger Gonzalo Lira, writing for Business Insider tried to twist the Times’ columnist’s word to make it seem that he was advocating starting a war to improve the economy.
Dumb, dumb, dumb:
It’s Krugman’s disturbing, nihilist inference, which he makes over and over, tucked away in his articles, but always there, like a nasty aftertaste of a drink laced with a roofie: So maybe another total war might not be such a bad idea now, so as to get us out of this new Global Depression.
That is what I object to in Paul Krugman: He seems to be offering up another war as the only way to fix the economy.
Of course, Krugman never said or suggested any such thing.
Lira tries to state that Krugman’s reference to World War II’s role in helping bring the U.S. out of a depression (a little-debated fact among economists) as advocacy for starting another war.
Bullshit was called on Mr. Lira by large segments of the blogosphere, and Business Insider yanked the piece with a weak mea culpa:
The post that previously appeared at this URL by the writer Gonzalo Lira makes some claims about Paul Krugman’s stance on war being necessary for the economy that we feel distort Krugman’s actual stance.
It’s clear that certain factions are scrambling to find something to nail Krugman with, with little success.
It’s a good indication that what he is saying is making certain people uncomfortable.
You should read him.
Yesterday’s Paul Krugman piece in the New York Times references an amazing article that was published in New York Magazine last year.
“The Wail of the 1%” details the beginning of the prolonged tantrum being thrown by the parasites on Wall Street over having part of their bonuses taken away. This, in light of the taxpayers bailing them out to the tune of billions of dollars.
These are not people who are about to be homeless, or facing medical bills they cannot pay. They do, however, possess a hubristic sense of entitlement — and are ready to go to war for their “principles.”
A typical expression of outrage from the Wall Street set?
“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.
The condescension toward working Americans is choice. Read the article. It’s incredible.
They felt picked on and embarrassed at the looks they got when wearing their expensive suits in public.
They were outraged and betrayed that the former Wall Street executives in Obama Administration didn’t go to bat for them.
Another passage that illustrates the mindset:
The argument that Obama has in fact done a great deal to help Wall Street—to the tune of trillions of dollars—doesn’t have much truck with these critics. “If you really take a look at what Obama is promising, it’s frightening,” says Nicholas Cacciola, a 44-year-old executive at a financial-services firm. “He’s punishing you for doing better. He doesn’t want to have any wealth creation—it’s wealth distribution. Why are you being punished for making a lot of money?” As a Republican corporate lawyer puts it: “It’s the politics of envy, and that’s very dangerous.”
Great argument. Wealth creation. So, if you follow that logic, since these giants of moving paper around in shadowy markets made inordinate amounts of cash, we should all be doing great, right? After giving the bankers billions of taxpayer dollars, the level of gratitude is amazing.
Now, Krugman writes, this chutzpah has spread outside of Wall Street:
For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.
At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.
The popular sentiment is that “it’s my money, and I have the right to keep it”. Oh, and they deny they are rich, despite annual salaries of $400,000 to $500,000.
There’s no sense that taxes are the price to pay for all the infrastructure and stability that allows them to ply their trade.
So, when you hear their fevered complaints of class warfare, remember that they are on the ones bringing it. To keep things in perspective, ponder this: The whiners are winning.
Update: Robert Reich has a post from yesterday about framing this debate: “The Defining Issue: Who Should Get the Tax Cut – The Rich or Everyone Else?”
It’s a winning issue for Democrats, and it makes good economic sense:
The rich spend a far smaller portion of their money than anyone else because, hey, they’re rich. That means continuing the Bush tax cut for them wouldn’t stimulate much demand or create many jobs.
The rest is well worth reading.
- Op-Ed Columnist: The Angry Rich (nytimes.com)
31 Congressional Democrats are pushing to extend tax cuts for the wealthy.
Here’s their rationale in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed by all 31 Democrats.:
“Given the continued fragility of our economy and slow pace of recovery, we share their concerns,” the group wrote. “We believe in times of economic recovery it makes good sense to maintain things as they are in the short term.”
Sooooo — why do we need these folks again? We already have a party that whose whole purpose is to prevent things from happening.
Paul Krugman’s piece in the New York Times yesterday gives the background of how we got here:
So, about those tax cuts: back in 2001, the Bush administration bundled huge tax cuts for wealthy Americans with much smaller tax cuts for the middle class, then pretended that it was mainly offering tax breaks to ordinary families. Meanwhile, it circumvented Senate rules intended to prevent irresponsible fiscal actions — rules that would have forced it to find spending cuts to offset its $1.3 trillion tax cut — by putting an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2010, on the whole bill. And the witching hour is now upon us. If Congress doesn’t act, the Bush tax cuts will turn into a pumpkin at the end of this year, with tax rates reverting to Clinton-era levels.
It’s clear that raising taxes on the middle class during a down economy is a bad idea. That’s why no one is proposing this.
It’s also clear that the fiscally responsible thing to do is to let the tax cuts expire for the top two percent of earners. Cuts for this group is unlikely to do anything to improve the economy, so the argument made by the “Jackass 31” (as I have named them) is spurious.
Keep in mind, retaining these tax cuts for the rich will add $700 billion the deficit in the next ten years.
This demonstration of political expediency over principle is exactly why there has been a growing movement on the left.
It’s time to begin a movement to replace candidates like the “Jackass 31” with progressive lawmakers who will support them middle class, show true fiscal responsibility and behave like the grown ups the American electorate deserves.
We need a Tea Party on the left — a thoughtful, progressive Tea Party that mobilizes to remove candidates who have stood in the way of progress. We don’t need Republican Lite. We need committed liberals.
There’s already a ray of hope in the victory of progressive Ann McLane Kuster in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District.
Progressives need to build on wins like these by supporting groups like Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, which helped Obama take several red states in the historic 2008 election.
TPM provided a handy list of the signers that you can use to remember them in future primaries:
Rep. Jim Matheson (UT)
Rep. Gary Peters (MI)
Rep. Melissa Bean (IL)
Rep. Glenn Nye (VA)
Rep. Michael McMahon (NY)
Rep. Lincoln Davis (TN)
Rep. John Salazar (CO)
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (IN)
Rep. Dan Boren (IN)
Rep. Jim Himes (CT)
Rep. John Barrow (GA)
Rep. Ron Klein (FL)
Rep. Zack Space (OH)
Rep. Jason Altmire (PA)
Rep. Allen Boyd (FL)
Rep. Joe Donnelly (IN)
Rep. Jim Cooper (TN)
Rep. Frank Kratovil (MD)
Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC)
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (ND)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Rep. Jim Marshall (GA)
Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (SD)
Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA)
Rep. Mike Ross (AR)
Rep. Rick Boucher (VA)
Rep. Harry Teague (NM)
Rep. Travis Childers (MS)
Rep. Walt Minnick (ID)
Rep. Harry Mitchell (AZ)
Rep. Jim Costa (CA)
See you at the polls.
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