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City Lights

City Lights's Journal
City Lights's Journal
January 14, 2012

Think Progress: Chamber Of Commerce Drops Call For Health Care Repeal From Annual Policy Address

By Igor Volsky posted from ThinkProgress Health on Jan 14, 2012 at 9:00 am

Tom Donohue signaled that the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce may be softening its attacks against President Obama’s signature accomplishments like the Affordable Care Act and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kevin Hall reports that Donohue is pledging a “wait-and-see approach” towards the new agency and has not decided if the organization will challenge the recess appointment of Richard Cordray as its director.

During his annual State of the Business address yesterday, Donohue also adopted a more moderate tone towards health care reform. “The health care law established 159 new agencies, panels, commissions, and regulatory bodies,” Donohue said, but did not echo his 2011 call for repealing the law in its entirety. Consider the contrast:

DONOHUE IN 2011: By mid-December, HHS had already granted 222 waivers to the law—a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable. And, with key provisions under challenge in the courts by states and others, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Last year, while strongly advocating health care reform, the Chamber was a leader in the fight against this particular bill—and thus we support legislation in the House to repeal it. We see the upcoming House vote as an opportunity for everyone to take a fresh look at health care reform—and to replace unworkable approaches with more effective measures that will lower costs, expand access, and improve quality.

Read the entire piece at Think Progress.org
January 13, 2012

Sirota: America’s dangerously removed elite

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 1:00 PM UTC

It's easy to cut public education funding when your kids go to private school. Just ask Christie and Emanuel
By David Sirota

Last week, my local Twittersphere momentarily erupted with allegations that Denver’s public school superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is sending his kids to a private school that eschews high-stakes testing. Boasberg, an icon of the national movement pushing high-stakes testing and undermining traditional public education, eventually defended himself by insisting that his kids attended that special school only during preschool and that they now attend a public school. Yet his spokesman admitted that the school is not in Denver but in Boulder, Colo., one of America’s wealthiest enclaves.

Boasberg, you see, refuses to live in the district that he governs. Though having no background in education administration, this longtime telecom executive used his connections to get appointed Denver superintendent, and he now acts like a king. From the confines of his distant castle in Boulder, he issues edicts to his low-income fiefdom — decrees demonizing teachers, shutting down neighborhood schools over community objections and promoting privately administered charter schools. Meanwhile, he makes sure his own royal family is insulated in a wealthy district that doesn’t experience his destructive policies.

No doubt this is but a microcosmic story in a country whose patrician overlords are regularly conjuring the feudalism of Europe circa the Middle Ages. Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters; our governors demand crushing budget cuts from the confines of their taxpayer-funded mansions; our Congress exempts itself from insider-trading laws and provides itself healthcare benefits denied to others; and our nation’s capital has become one of the world’s wealthiest cities, despite the recession.

Taken together, we see that there really are “Two Americas,” as the saying goes — and that’s no accident. It’s the result of a permanent elite that is removing itself from the rest of the nation. Nowhere is this more obvious than in education — a realm in which this elite physically separates itself from us mere serfs. As the head of one of the country’s largest urban school districts, Boasberg is a perfect example of this — but he is only one example.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

January 11, 2012

TPM: The Perfect Storm That Could Sink Romney’s Hispanic Vote Hopes

Pema Levy January 11, 2012, 5:26 AM

Romney may have just become the first Republican candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire — and is looking increasingly like the eventual nominee — but the primary is about to spread to the rest of the country where the Latino vote is significant. Once in the general election, that vote becomes crucial. But Romney is not on track to win over the requisite number of Latino voters, who will be key to winning swing states like Florida, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Moreover, the Democrats may have stumbled into a neat situation that could give them an unusual boost.

In the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney made what could prove a fatal error: as president, he said, he would veto the Dream Act. Designed to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, the Dream Act is so intensely popular that it’s hard to see Romney winning 40% of Latino voters, the crucial threshold Republican pollster Matthew Dowd said Bush had to hit in order to win crucial swing states in 2004. Bush, who pushed for immigration reform, barely hit 40% and won. McCain fell short.

Before the 2010 midterm elections, Latino voters ranked immigration reform as “one of the most important issues” on election day 2010.” Throughout 2011, about 85% of Latino voters supported the Dream Act and wanted to see it passed, a series of Latino Decisions poll found. Further, 59% of Latinos said they were less likely to vote for candidate whose economic views they agreed with if they used negative rhetoric about immigrants.

In addition to a growing population in crucial swing states, the Latino community is working hard to play a big role in the 2012 election. Tuesday, in one of many efforts to mobilize the Hispanic community, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition launched an initiative in the crucial I4 corridor in Florida to register young Hispanic evangelicals to vote. In the coming months, they intend to partner with churches and colleges in key swing states moving from Florida to Ohio, then Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There are an estimated 10 million to 11 million young Latino evangelicals, many of voting age, and they want them to vote. For this evangelical community, their top issues are not abortion or gay marriage but immigration reform, as well as poverty and education. And they’re partnering with pro-Dream Act group Campaign for an American Dream. The GOP candidates’ stance on immigration “is a political error and deeply alienating to our community,” said the Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “They should reconsider their position. Any candidate who doesn’t see the writing on the wall is committing a serious, serious” error in judgment.

Read the entire piece at TPM.com

January 9, 2012

TPM: The Rapid Economic Recovery Republicans Are Praying Against

Brian Beutler January 9, 2012, 5:20 AM

Everything that’s supposed to happen in politics this year, and everything that has happened for the last several months, has been premised on the tacit, but seemingly safe assumption: The economy will remain weak for years.

This has underlined Congressional jobs bill theatrics, campaign rhetoric about Obama’s record, debates about who’s to blame for high unemployment, and which party best represents the interests of the middle class.

But what if that assumption is wrong?

A contrarian school of thought holds that it is wrong — and its proponents have a growing cache of evidence to back them up.

Read the entire piece at TPM.com

January 7, 2012

Salon: Obama’s not-so “dangerous” Pentagon cuts

Saturday, Jan 7, 2012 2:00 PM UTC

Republicans pounced on Obama's proposed military cuts as endangering America, but, historically, the plan is modest

By Justin Elliott

In a presentation at the Pentagon Thursday, President Obama announced the results of a “comprehensive defense review” and some hints about how a proposed $487 billion in cuts over the next decade might be made.

Republicans quickly blasted Obama’s initiative as “dangerous,” with columnist Charles Krauthammer calling the plan “a road map to American decline.”

But are the proposed cuts really all that drastic? For an answer to that question and an explanation of how cuts might — or might not — ultimately be made, I spoke to Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

Can you give the quick broad overview of what Obama actually announced yesterday in terms of the size of the military and its budget?

Going back to when Bob Gates was still secretary of defense, they started out talking about cuts of less than $100 billion over five years. At the meeting this week they talked about $487 billion over 10 years. But that’s against what the Pentagon would like to spend, not against what they’re spending now; and they had quite ambitious plans for increases. As President Obama pointed out, this new plan would basically slow the rate of increase. Given that we’re at the highest spending level since World War II, there shouldn’t be as much of an uproar as there has been in Congress. I think a lot of it is just turf wars protecting bureaucracies and contracts.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

January 6, 2012

TPM: Romney’s Claim To Be A Job Creator Hits The Skids

Brian Beutler January 6, 2012, 5:30 AM

Mitt Romney’s effort to disguise one of his biggest political liabilities has hit a major snag — one that may force him to abandon his most effective but misleading talking points about his work in the private sector..

Romney makes two different, but implicitly entwined claims: That while working in corporate management he created over 100,000 jobs and that — by comparison — Obama his presided over millions of job losses.

This is a false juxtaposition, based on two false claims. And so far, precious few reporters have pressed Romney or his campaign about it. But in the past several days, the veneer of plausibility has begun to peel leaving the candidate highly exposed to backlash from the press.

Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent, and Washington Monthly blogger Steve Benen have been Romney’s (and the press’) most consistent critics on this issue. After bringing it to light, Post fact checker Glenn Kessler buttonholed a Romney spokesman about the first claim — and found it to be unsubstantiated. It’s true only if you count Romney-managed companies that later hemorrhaged jobs.

Read the rest at TPM.com

I'm glad at least some in the media are calling him on his absurd claim. Let's hope more join in and keep up the pressure.
January 5, 2012

TPM: Here’s What Romney’s Unreleased Tax Returns Almost Certainly Hide

Brian Beutler January 5, 2012, 5:32 AM

Mitt Romney still says he’s unlikely to publicly release his tax information, even if he clinches the Republican presidential nomination, and Democrats have a pretty good idea why.

Romney is a privileged poster child for the “Buffett Rule” — President Obama’s principle that the tax code should make it impossible for a person of great wealth to pay a lower share of their income in taxes as than ordinary people. The DNC knows it, policy wonks know it, Romney certainly knows it. But the reasons why are technical and illustrate just how different Romney is from the vast majority of Americans who will cast votes for him — in either the GOP primary or the general election.

One tax expert told TPM of “fairly sophisticated tax strategies” that would be “not available to ordinary tax payers.” A technique that puts you in a position that’s “like having an unlimited 401k account” sounds very attractive. But maybe not if you’re running for office, for Pete’s sake.

When Romney jokes that he’s been unemployed for years, he’s obscuring the fact that he’s still collecting millions of dollars of investment income, which is taxed at a much lower rate than it would be if he, like most taxpayers, took home a regular paycheck. He’s also obscuring the fact a great deal of that same income is only vaguely connected to his own underlying investments, and yet benefits from a key loophole in the tax code that allows him and other wealthy finance veterans to more than halve their effective tax rate.

Read the entire article at TPM.com

January 4, 2012

Joan Walsh: Rick Santorum, working class hero or free market fanatic?

Wednesday, Jan 4, 2012 1:25 PM UTC

The former Pennsylvania senator makes Romney look like the plutocrat he is, but he has no solutions for the economy
By Joan Walsh

For a modestly attended small-state caucus that ended with three candidates within four percent of one another, Iowa clarified a great deal about the GOP presidential campaign. Mitt Romney didn’t entirely shame himself; the man who once pondered skipping Iowa because of its conservative Christian caucus base wound up effectively tied for first place, ahead by eight votes when all the caucus reports were in. Most important, there’s already an official anti-Romney candidate, and it’s Rick Santorum. Two weeks ago, nobody saw that coming. He and Romney are going to fight a faux-battle over the role of class and the sputtering American economy that will ultimately offer no solutions for struggling Americans. But it might highlight issues that ought to matter in November.

Just as Ron Paul, who finished a slightly disappointing third, brings a welcome focus on the excesses of the American national security state, Santorum shows a concern for the casualties of the American economy that is rare for a Republican. It’s not that Santorum has answers, but it’s a little bit bracing even to hear the questions, in a race that has been mainly about destroying Iran and the evil socialism of Barack Obama. Don’t get me wrong: Santorum wants to destroy Iran, and Obama, and he has no solutions to the problems of income inequality and stalled economic mobility he professes to care about. But his election night speech established a huge empathy gulf between him and Romney that ought to rattle Romney in the weeks to come.

I found myself moved when Santorum talked about his Italian immigrant grandfather, a coal miner, who “worked in a mine in a company town, he lived in a shack.” Santorum described staring at his grandfather’s big, rough, workingman’s hands after he died, and realizing “those hands dug freedom for me.” I thought of that great Bill Withers song, “Grandma’s hands.” Mitt Romney will never make you think of Bill Withers.

And yet Santorum has nothing to offer the struggling, left-behind American worker. He gathered himself up to denounce his party for only talking about cutting taxes and regulations when people are hurting – and then he mainly talked about cutting taxes and regulations. Santorum’s answer to American economic insecurity is strengthening the American family. He offered the touching bromide, “When the family breaks down, the economy breaks down.” In fact, the reverse may be true.

Read the whole article at Salon.com

December 30, 2011

TPM: Ron Paul Doesn’t Appeal To Evangelicals? Polls Say Otherwise

By: Kyle Leighton December 30, 2011, 5:01 AM

The Iowa GOP caucuses, the home field of the social conservative — where former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee turned out the evangelical vote on his way to a victory, and where noted religious activists can be just the endorsement a campaign needs to win the first state in the primary process. In 2008.

The evangelical vote in Iowa this year has been hard to pin down. Or rather, it’s been moving from candidate to candidate during the various surges in the state, mirroring the more general faction of GOP voters that would like to nominate anyone but Mitt Romney. But as the January third caucuses approach, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has moved to the top of the heap…presenting pundits with a problem. The conventional wisdom is that Paul can’t or won’t make a play for those voters — that they are strictly the territory of Christian firebrand candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R).

Except, the numbers show evangelical voters haven’t coalesced around any of those candidates. And Paul, who has never actually suffered with this voting bloc, is picking up more and more as he rises to the top in Iowa.


So the Iowa caucuses may again pick a very conservative candidate with little to no chance of actually getting the nod. But this time, it might be a candidate who wants to take out the Federal Reserve, not go to war on gay marriage.

Read the article at TPM.com

December 28, 2011

Sirota via Salon: A reformed Jack Abramoff?

Tuesday, Dec 27, 2011 6:00 PM UTC

A reformed Jack Abramoff?

The notorious lobbyist talks about how he justified his own crimes and whether D.C. can be saved from corruption

By David Sirota

Before the late aughts, the term “lobbyist” evoked an image of thousands of pinstriped cowboys using sheaves of greenback-stuffed envelopes to corral cash-eating congressmen on the floor of the U.S. Capitol. Then came the sprawling Jack Abramoff scandals, and a single fedora-clad icon became the picture of Washington corruption — a political gunslinger whose flair and balls-out-ness made him stand out from his fellow ruffians on K Street.

Though there have been other well-known D.C. wranglers like Bob Livingston and Haley Barbour, the words “super-lobbyist” and “Abramoff” are basically synonyms. Eventually pleading guilty to felony charges of defrauding American Indian tribes and of public corruption, he went to prison for more than three years — and he brought more than a few politicians and professional influence-peddlers into the slammer with him. Released to a halfway house in 2010, Abramoff just published a book titled “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist.”

Abramoff recently agreed to an interview about his book with me on my daily drive-time radio program on KKZN-AM760 in Colorado. During our conversation (full audio podcast here), Abramoff discussed his crimes, but admitted that if he had not been caught, he would still likely be a criminal making bank in the nation’s capital. He also expounded on the psychology of Washington, describing how even the most corrupt lawmakers tell themselves that their vote selling is in pursuit of a higher goal. And he offered up his ideas to clean up the system.

Is Abramoff sincerely reformed? Or is this new Abramoff all just a P.R. façade to rehabilitate his image? Or is it a mix of the two? Read the edited transcript of our discussion below and decide for yourself.

Read the rest at Salon.com

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