Pat Toomey’s Greatest Hits

July 18, 2016

Pat_Toomey

Well well, it looks like PA’s U.S. senatorial mistake is running for re-election, for the benefit of anyone who didn’t know that.

What has he been up to over the last six years? Well, let’s consider the following:

  • Remember the deadly Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia in May of last year? Well, as noted here, Toomey…

    …has campaigned (for years) to delay a multibillion-dollar railroad safety technology, calling it an “exorbitantly expensive unfunded mandate.”

    But safety officials say the technology would have prevented last week’s deadly train crash in Philadelphia. And Democrats argue that the railroads were starved of the money necessary to finish it.

    Interviewed two days after the crash, Toomey abandoned some of his budget-cutting bombast of years past. He’s dropped his sponsorship of legislation that would postpone the safety system rollout for several more years. And he says the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority that he was trying to protect from unnecessary spending no longer needs a delay.

    Asked whether he thinks there should be any further delay in the positive train control system rollout, Toomey replied: “No.”

    Of course, 8 people were killed and over 200 people were injured (here), which, I suppose as far as Toomey is concerned, is a small price to pay to maintain his Teahadist bona fides.

  • Also, as noted from here

    After voting for sending our military to war in Iraq, Toomey voted against every – every – single Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations bill up to last December – as well as voting against the $21 billion standalone Veterans Health and Benefits Bill that would have helped at-risk veterans.

    Toomey voted against the standalone Veterans Jobs Act three years ago that would have helped returning Iraq and Afghanistan warriors find jobs at a time when their unemployment rate was higher than the unemployment rate of civilian Pennsylvanians. Toomey voted against the act even after it included a provision he requested for a jobs website.

    He has voted to defund Veterans Business Outreach Centers, which provide veterans with services that help them open businesses such as training, counseling, mentoring and referrals for eligible veterans who own a business or who want to start a small business. He’s voted against funding for the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which helps veterans go back to school so they can learn new skills and get jobs.

    But of course, that doesn’t prevent Toomey from saying the following on his web site (here)…

    Senator Toomey is proud of our men and women in uniform who are currently serving to protect the United States. The son of a former U.S. Marine and representing a state with one of the largest veteran populations in the country, he is also acutely aware of the nation’s commitment to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom. He understands how important it is that we continue to provide quality medical care and other benefits to veterans, both to those who served a generation ago, and to those just returning from fighting in the war against terrorism.

    What a dick.

  • In addition, I’m sure no one doubts that Toomey is allegedly “pro life,” but did you know that Toomey invested in Yorktown University, a for-profit college that “pushes an extreme, anti-woman ideology and preys on vulnerable students, including veterans”?

    As noted from here

    Yorktown has long been criticized for lacking appropriate accreditation, offering courses of questionable academic value, and preying on veterans who receive government tuition assistance. The revelation of Toomey’s involvement with the shady business venture comes as he throws his support behind Donald Trump, who is currently under investigation for defrauding students with his Trump University business scheme.

    “Sen. Toomey has voted to ban abortion and block access to basic health care for Pennsylvania families, so it’s unsurprising that he’s been secretly profiting from a school that teaches nostalgia for the Dark Ages,” said James Owens, states communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Sen. Toomey has fought against Pennsylvania families in Washington and now we learn he’s personally profiting from a Trump-style scam university that takes advantage of hardworking students. Sen. Toomey may be trying to hide his allegiance to Donald Trump, but it’s pretty apparent they both have no problem disrespecting women and the families they support while scamming hardworking Americans, including our veterans, who are just trying to get ahead.”

    Sen. Toomey has pushed legislation that would drive taxpayer dollars to disreputable educational institutions like this scam-university in which he is invested, despite findings that such institutions provide substandard academic quality while shackling students with debt. Yorktown University pushes a radical conservative agenda and describes pop music, modern art, and the modern discipline of psychology as “signs of serious cultural disturbance.” It pedaled a course that referred to the Enlightenment—the burst of discovery and knowledge that created the intellectual framework for the Declaration of Independence—as a “failed moral revolution.” Toomey’s investment in Yorktown has supported “professors” like Lawrence Roberge, who taught fanatical, anti-woman conspiracy theories such as the debunked claim that tetanus vaccines cause abortions. The revelations about Sen. Toomey’s shady educational deals comes amid the scandal surrounding Trump University, the scam university that Donald Trump is accused of using to defraud students.

    And oh yes, as long as we’re talking about the all-but-named Republican nominee for president, I should note how Toomey is trying to have it both ways; as noted here, Toomey felt that he had some kind of a right to lecture Trump on being a uniter, not a divider, or something (remember that one?), but when asked if he would support Trump for president, Toomey couldn’t even be bothered with mentioning the name of “Fergus Laing.”

  • Let’s see now…when it comes to filibustering President Obama’s nominees, Toomey opposed CIA director John Brennan (here – not going to shed tears much for that, though), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (the last 3 here – Murthy must’ve offended the NRA by calling for treating gun violence as a public health issue as well as for a ban on assault weapons), and Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland (here).
  • Continuing, the following should be noted from here (harking back somewhat to the Amtrak accident):

    Sen. Toomey Personally Introduced Budgets That Would Require “Massive New Cuts” to Transportation and Infrastructure Funding. CBPP reported that Toomey’s FY 2012 budget “cuts funding for nondefense discretionary programs by nearly $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years…In 2021, it would impose a 30 percent cut in this category – which includes transportation and infrastructure.” Toomey’s FY 2013 budget would “make massive new cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, which funds everything from veterans’ health care to medical and scientific research, highways.”[CBPP, 5/25/11, 5/09/12]

    Sen. Toomey Repeatedly Supported House Republican Budgets That Threatened “Severe Cuts” to Transportation Infrastructure. Between 2011 and 2013, Toomey voted for the House Republican budget proposals. CBPP reported that the FY 2014 and 2013 budgets would threaten “severe cuts” for road and bridge planning, construction and rehabilitation. CBPP stated, “Cutting federal support for these projects would shift costs to states and localities, which would have to choose between raising more revenue or reducing their transportation investments and absorbing the indirect cost to their economies and quality of life.” ThinkProgress reported that Ryan’s FY 2012 budget “would strip more than $1.4 trillion from public investments in education, infrastructure.” [CBPP, 3/27/13, 12/05/12; ThinkProgress, 4/17/11; SCR 8, Vote #46, 3/21/13; HCR 112, Vote #98, 5/16/12; HCR 34, Vote #77, 5/25/11]

    Just Last Year – Sen. Toomey Voted for “Big Cuts” to Transportation Infrastructure. In 2015, Toomey voted for the Senate Republican budget proposal. CBPP reported that the budget would cut transportation and infrastructure funding by $123 billion, or 22 percent, over 10 years. CBPP reported that the budget would “result in significantly smaller highway and transit programs at a time when many urge more investment in infrastructure.” [CBPP, 3/27/15; SCR 11, Vote #171, 5/05/15]

    As noted here, though, this is in line with budgetary practices by Toomey that were considered to be harsher than Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv in the U.S. House here.

  • Toomey also introduced an amendment which would increase the threshold for bank examinations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from $10 billion to $50 billion. Since most banks don’t meet that asset threshold, 99 percent of all banks in the nation would have no federal regulator ensuring that they followed consumer financial protection laws. Of course, this is typical for Toomey, who has done all he can to derail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as noted here.
  • Toomey abstained from voting for an amendment which would have reversed the $125 million cut in Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) funding to help retrain workers laid off by unfair foreign trade practices (S Amdt. 633 to HR 2832 – here).
  • Toomey also voted against the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution; the Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, according to the EPA (yes, I know the Supreme Court basically put all of this on hold, but that doesn’t change Toomey’s awful vote as far as I’m concerned – here).
  • Oh, and did I note that, according to an analysis from Buzzfeed News, Toomey missed 80 percent of Senate Budget Committee Hearings (to which Toomey belongs) since 2013 (here)?
  • And lest I forget, I should note that Toomey was one of 47 U.S. Senators who signed a letter telling Iran to ignore the nuclear deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry; speaking only for myself, I believe these 47 lowlifes are guilty of treason (here).
  • We have a golden opportunity to send Pat Toomey packing this year; let’s not waste it (to support Toomey’s Democratic opponent Katie McGinty, click here).


    Friday Mashup (7/25/14)

    July 25, 2014
  • Lots to get to here…

    Things have been a bit quiet on the “gun front” lately (good news because it means fewer people than normal are dying as a result – hopefully it will stay that way), though this item recently appeared, including the following…

    Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee.

    The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015.

    Beretta general manager Jeff Cooper said that a sweeping gun-control measure that was passed last year initially contained provisions that would have prohibited the Italian gun maker from being able to produce, store or even import into Maryland the products that the company sells around the world. While the legislation was changed to remove some of those provisions, Cooper said the possibility that such restrictions could be reinstated left the company worried about maintaining a firearm-making factory in Maryland.

    So Beretta decided to move their operations from Maryland to Tennessee supposedly because of those gol-darned liberals and their danged gun laws, even though the Maryland legislation was changed to try and mollify Beretta.

    However, I think we need to note something else (from a related story here)…

    Beretta said they will not begin the transition process of moving production to Gallatin until sometime in 2015. The company added it had no plans to relocate its office, administrative or executive support functions from the Maryland facility.

    Really? I wonder why not? I mean, if you’re gonna “talk the talk” about moving all the jobs, then why not actually, y’know, move all of the jobs.

    Could it possibly be because, as noted here, the state minimum wage for Maryland is $7.25 an hour, but for Tennessee…well, there is no state minimum wage?

    Maybe Tennessee deserves Beretta, and I don’t mean that as a compliment; here, the reviewer of Beretta’s Cx4 Storm, which apparently can substitute as a semiautomatic pistol, concluded that “it is basically a weapon designed to kill and maim people in a quick, efficient manner…In the hands of even an unskilled shooter, it can still accomplish that purpose quite effectively.”

    Terrific.

  • Next, someone named Abby Johnson (must…resist…Blazing Saddles…snark) at The Daily Tucker tells us the following here

    Johnson, who left the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas in 2010, released a budget statement for the 2010 fiscal year she said shows that the clinic was expected to perform at least 1,135 abortions that year.

    Johnson’s group, And Then There Were None, released a photograph a few weeks ago of a Colorado clinic receiving an award for having performed more abortions in the first half of the 2013 fiscal year than they had in the second half of the 2012 fiscal year.

    Even though, as noted here according to the law, no federal funds are allowed to be used for abortions (so basically, if there had been an audit, that Planned Parenthood office would have lost its federal funding).

    I find Johnson’s claims hard to believe, particularly when you consider the following (here)…

    (Johnson), a former Planned Parenthood employee turned antiabortion activist, gave a workshop at Heartbeat International’s 2012 conference titled “Competing With the Abortion Industry.” According to audio of the event, Johnson told participants, ”We want to look professional. We want to look businesslike. And yeah, we do kind of want to look medical.” She discouraged them from foregrounding their religious affiliation, so as to better trick women: “We want to appear neutral on the outside. The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic. Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center, the ones that think you provide abortions.”

    Before she engages in any more deception on matters related to women’s health care, I honestly think Johnson ought to get straight on the whole “not bearing false witness” thing in accordance with the faith she claims she’s trying to practice. Particularly since, despite her best efforts and those of her fellow wingnuts, Roe v. Wade still happens to be the law of the land.

  • Further, Rich Lowry blames Number 44 as follows (here)…

    According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of immigrants younger than 18 who were deported or turned away from ports of entry declined from 8,143 in 2008 to 1,669 last year. There were 95 minors deported from the entire interior of the country last year.

    Of course, far be it for Lowry to note the effects of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which, as noted below, was passed and signed into law by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History (here).

    In 2008, in the lame-duck session of a presidential year when the party’s president and nominee were both immigration reformers, Congress easily passed the (Act – Wilberforce was a British parliamentarian who led the slavery abolition movement). No one in the House or Senate opposed a law intended to rescue children from exploitative pimps—legislation that allowed young people to attain “special immigrant juvenile status.” The Obama administration is citing this as the reason why deportations have plunged, and asked Congress to fix it.

    Oh yeah, like that will happen with Boehner and company, who never imagined a “scandal” they didn’t like concerning this president.

    Oh, and I know I’m going out of order a bit, but Lowry inflicts the following also…

    The first rule in a crisis for any executive is put on his windbreaker and boots and get out on the ground. President George W. Bush didn’t do it soon enough after Hurricane Katrina and, politically, could never make up for it, no matter how many times he visited New Orleans subsequently. Obama’s bizarre resistance to visiting the border on his fundraising swing out West fueled talk of the influx as Obama’s “Katrina moment.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

    To begin, I don’t know if it matters one bit whether or not President Obama goes to the border; as noted here, he described such a move as “cheap theater,” which I think is absolutely correct. Besides, as noted here, many of Obama’s most vocal critics on this haven’t been to the border either, including “Man Tan” Boehner, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy) and the thoroughly odious Ron Johnson (R-WI). You can also lump “Calgary” Cruz into the mix, along with Reps “Smokey Joe” Barton and Jeb Hensarling, all of Texas, which is particularly ridiculous (more on Hensarling shortly).

    Also, I really think the wingnuts should give the “Obama/Katrina” thing a rest, particularly when you consider the following from here; I believe the only tragedies and/or foibles that our corporate media haven’t declared to be an “Obama/Katrina” moment would be the Chicago Fire, the Kennedy assassination (either one), the Challenger shuttle disaster, and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (you can Google it, the event and/or the song – apparently, everything else is fair game).

  • Continuing (and speaking of Hensarling), I give you the following from here (where he and his pals try out a lot of new right-wing talking points about Dodd-Frank)…

    Thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage rule, Dodd-Frank makes it harder for low and moderate-income Americans to buy a home. According to a Federal Reserve study, roughly one third of African-American and Hispanic borrowers would not be able to obtain a mortgage based solely on the CFPB’s debt-to-income requirements.

    In response, I give you the following (here)…

    Dodd-Frank tried to (put in place) new consumer protection rules requiring banks to verify a borrower’s ability to repay a loan before extending it. At Wednesday’s hearing, much of the GOP criticism focused on false allegations about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage regulation, or QM.

    “You don’t protect consumers by taking away or limiting products, like the CFPB does through the Qualified Mortgage rule,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) said.

    The QM rule doesn’t ban anything. It’s a basic test of whether a loan is designed to line a lender’s pockets by ripping off a borrower. And it gives banks special perks for meeting the CFPB’s high-quality loan standards, protecting them from predatory lending lawsuits. In practice, that means limiting the amount lenders charge in points and fees to 3 percent of the loan value, banning balloon loans with a big lump sum due at the end of the mortgage…

    Hensarling was particularly vocal about the Dodd-Frank law’s effect on minority borrowers, claiming a Federal Reserve study shows that “about one-third of blacks and Hispanics would not be able to obtain a mortgage,” based on the rule’s requirement that monthly borrower debts not exceed 43 percent of monthly income.

    That’s true, according to the Fed’s 2010 data. It’s also generally considered bad personal finance to have that much of your income tied up with debt payments.

    Also, this tells us more about the CFPB’s mortgage rules modifications. And as far as debt-to-income requirements, I give you the following from here

    Lenders will have to verify borrowers’ income, assets and debt before signing them up for home loans. Such common-sense practices anchored the mortgage market for decades but were cast aside in the lead-up to the meltdown as banks relaxed standards to churn out more lucrative loans. The result was millions of homeowners who were unable to manage their mortgages once the market tanked.

    And…

    In response, the CFPB has created a category of home loans that offer lenders broad legal protections against borrower lawsuits, provided they adhere to certain criteria. These “qualified mortgages” limit upfront fees and bar risky features such as no-interest periods that can leave homeowners stuck with unsustainable loans.

    Hensarling also propagandizes as follows…

    Dodd-Frank’s Volcker rule makes U.S. capital markets less competitive against other international financial centers. It’s more expensive for U.S. companies to raise working capital and harder for Americans saving for retirement or their children’s college educations.

    In response, this tells us more about the supposedly dreaded “Volcker rule”…

    A federal regulation that prohibits banks from conducting certain investment activities with their own accounts, and limits their ownership of and relationship with hedge funds and private equity funds, also called covered funds. The Volcker Rule’s purpose is to prevent banks from making certain types of speculative investments that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Here is more from Hensarling…

    Dodd-Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council and gave it the power to designate certain large businesses as “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” (SIFIs). Now insurance companies that pose no discernible systemic risk to the economy are being subjected to unnecessary regulation that dries up capital for infrastructure projects, and harms investors and policy-holders.

    In response (here)…

    AIG and GE Capital chose not to fight the (Financial Stability Oversight Council’s) efforts to bring them under tougher regulatory scrutiny (by declaring them SIFIs).

    “AIG did not contest this designation and welcomes it,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Russell Wilkerson, a spokesman for GE Capital, which is the financial services arm of General Electric, said the company had been prepared for the council’s decision.

    “We have strong capital and liquidity positions, and we are already supervised by the Fed,” he said.

    The oversight group does not name companies under consideration for this designation until it makes a final decision, but AIG and GE Capital had previously disclosed that the council had proposed declaring them systemically risky.

    Prudential Financial had also disclosed that the council had proposed designating it as systemically risky, but the company last week said it would contest the proposal by asking for a hearing before the regulatory group.

    I think we’ve figured out at this point that Hensarling and his pals are doing everything they can to try and scuttle financial reform, which is perfectly in lack of character for a guy who believes in fairy tales about how those alleged deadbeats with credit card balances are hurting the “bottom line” of the lending institutions – actually, as the poster notes here, the opposite is true.

    Hensarling, by the way, is chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. And do you know who else serves on that committee?


    Why, our own Mikey the Beloved, of course – with that in mind, I give you this from the Kevin Strouse campaign (running to unseat Mikey in PA-08)…

    Four Years After Authorization of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Congressman Fitzpatrick Continues to Advocate for Banks, the Ultra-Wealthy and Special Interests Instead of People

    Kevin Strouse exposes Congressman Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes to protect the big banks and special interests that support his campaign, putting 8th district consumers at risk.

    Bristol, PA – Yesterday (7/21) marked the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act becoming law. The act, which was passed in response to the financial crisis caused by irresponsible banks and self-interested politicians, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to enforce laws and ensure that the financial industry works for all Americans – not just big banks. Democratic Congressional candidate Kevin Strouse called out Congressman Fitzpatrick for his relentless attempts to weaken this law which was designed to regulate many of the big banks and payday lenders who donate large sums to Fitzpatrick’s re-election campaigns.

    In 2011 Congressman Fitzpatrick voted to eliminate the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. On yet another occasion, he voted in 2012 to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives.

    Strouse commented, “It’s disappointing that my opponent has taken every opportunity he could to vote to weaken an agency whose sole mission is to protect consumers. Unfortunately, Congressman Fitzpatrick has proven himself to be another self-interested Washington insider who will tirelessly defend the big banks and special interests that he’s supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, and then willingly turn his back on his middle class constituents.”

    Despite Representative Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made a real difference in peoples’ lives. To date, more than 15 million consumers have received $4.6 Billion in relief and refunds due to actions taken by the CFPB.

    Strouse continued, “The people of Bucks and Montgomery counties are simply asking for a fair shot to experience economic opportunity that works for everyone in this country, and voters this fall will have a choice between electing a representative who will work to support middle-class families in the 8th District, or remaining left behind by Congressman Fitzpatrick and the dysfunctional Republican Congress.”

    BACKGROUND:

    Fitzpatrick voted to limit the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). [2011, HR 1315, Vote #261]

    • The legislation would limit the effectiveness of the CFPB, a bureau created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, which “has the authority to regulate financial markets in ways meant to improve consumer protection”. The CFPB, which had a single director, would instead have a five-member board. This legislation would also change the two-thirds majority vote by the Financial Stability Oversight Council to override a CFPB decision to just a simple majority. [The Hill, 7/21/11; Washington Post, 7/22/11]
    • Philadelphia Inquirer: Fitzpatrick voted to “Muzzle” the CFPB… [Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/27/11].

    Fitzpatrick Voted to Expand Loopholes, Exemptions in Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill [HR 3336, Vote #180, 4/25/12]

    • In 2012, Fitzpatrick voted to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. According to CQ, the bill “would exempt certain financial institutions regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from classification as swap dealers under Dodd-Frank. The law included a similar exemption for depository institutions and supporters say the change would allow farm credit institutions that are not designated as depository institutions to offer swaps to protect customer loans from sudden interest rate fluctuations.” [CQ, 4/25/12]

    15 million consumers will receive $4.6 billion in relief due to actions taken by the CFPB. Source here.

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to local high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To support Kevin, click here.

    Ryan Good Deed
    Also related to financial stuff, it looks like none other than Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv is back with some supposedly glorious plan to lift everyone out of poverty with not one dime of new spending or (Heaven forbid!) a revenue increase of any type whatsoever, as his mouthpiece Reihan Salam tells us here

    …Loved by the right and loathed by the left, Ryan has been the architect of the most consequential Republican domestic policy initiatives of the Obama era. In spirit if not in name, Ryan spent much of President Obama’s first term as the leader of the opposition, rallying Republicans against Obamacare and in favor of long-term spending reductions. His controversial calls for entitlement and tax reform as chairman of the House Budget Committee were singled out by the president for over-the-top denunciation. In the spring of 2012, well before Ryan was named the Republican vice-presidential nominee, the president went so far as to characterize the Wisconsin congressman’s budget proposal as “thinly-veiled Social Darwinism.”

    Yeah, well, that’s probably because it is “thinly veiled social Darwinism” (here).

    So what exactly is Ryan’s supposedly wonderful new plan? Why, to consolidate stuff like SNAP and Section 8 housing funds into a block grant for states, where there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that the funds will EVER be used inappropriately once federal oversight is removed. And of course, there will be NO PROBLEM with people who need housing funds but not food assistance losing out because the latter need will be over allocated by a state instead of the former one. Am I right (more here)?

    Somehow I have a feeling that, if Hensarling, Mikey and their buddies were serious about balancing the books, they would not have cut the IRS enforcement budget by 25 percent (here). They also would not have recently passed “a whopping $287 billion business tax cut measure with no effort to pay for or offset that amount” (here).

    And as former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett points out here

    As far as tax reform is concerned, the problem for Republicans is they don’t actually believe in the “reform” part of tax reform. That would be the part that eliminates unjustified tax cuts and loopholes to pay for statutory rate reductions. In their heart of hearts, Republicans only believe in tax cuts, especially for big corporations and the ultra-wealthy. They, like the right wing novelist Ayn Rand, believe that only the wealthy create wealth. Average workers are greedy parasites, especially when they have the temerity to join a union and, like Oliver Twist, ask for “more.” The Republican establishment pulled out all the stops recently to kill the unionization of an auto plant in Tennessee lest workers get too uppity.

    Hmm, Tennessee huh? The same state where Beretta decided to move the majority of its workforce, as noted earlier. I guess it’s just a coincidence that Tennessee is also, apparently, virulently anti-union, huh?

    I know better minds than mine have said this before, as I have also, but it needs to be repeated again. The Party of Reagan wants to take from the “have less” crowd and give to the “have more” crowd any way possible, and they don’t give a damn about balancing the budget or growing the economy. When it comes to their supposed fiscal stewardship, here endeth the lesson.

  • Finally, I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to say about this item, but I’m compelled to speak up anyway…

    Many Pennsylvania drivers have long-awaited the increasing of the maximum speed limit. That day is coming next week.

    The speed limit will be raised to 70 mph on a 100-mile stretch of toll road in the south-central part of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced Friday.

    The 70 mph zone will be on the Turnpike mainline (Interstate 76) between the Blue Mountain Interchange (Exit 201) and the Morgantown Interchange (Exit 298) starting Wednesday.

    Turnpike officials are planning a news conference for next week to detail future speed-limit changes across the Turnpike’s 550-mile system.

    “Our studies have shown that the design of our system in this area can safely accommodate the higher speed limit,” Pa. Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said in a news release.

    “But motorists must remember that it is their responsibly to drive safely and sensibly according to the traffic and weather conditions — especially when the pavement is slick from precipitation or when visibility is limited.”

    State police say they’re planning strict enforcement of the 70 mph limit.

    I drive the PA Turnpike a lot, but I must confess that this isn’t really the best news as far as I’m concerned. Unless this is the proverbial Trojan Horse in the sense that the state police are dressing this up as a very attractive carrot, when in reality they plan to turn it into a cash-raising stick via higher fines for speeding offenses, which is another story.

    I drive the stretch from Downingtown to Trevose/Bensalem, Pa. a lot (don’t ask me the exit numbers; I committed the old ones to memory and can’t remember the news ones), and though there has been a bit of a break with traffic volume for the summer vacations, I envision this stretch of road turning into even more of a demolition derby when most of the drivers come back if a speed limit of 70 is ever put into place.

    Yes, I’m frequently around 70 myself, and mainly I’m just keeping up with traffic flow. But in time, the “unofficial” speed will tick upward, probably closer to 80. And again, on that stretch of the turnpike, that is too damn fast of a speed to maintain, particularly when you consider this (first bullet). I am also old enough to recall when discussions about raising the speed limit also discussed whether or not that led to energy savings; no sign of that here that I can tell.

    My motivation behind saying this is simple; I’m trying to keep people alive, including myself. And if that means I’m forced to drive, say, 5 to 10 miles slower on my route than I would if I were approaching, say, Harrisburg, then that’s a small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.

    Oh, and something else – as long as I’m discussing the PA Turnpike, can we please speed it up a bit with building the I-95 connector near Bristol? Also, replacing the rest stop where the Street Road EZ Pass ramp is now located would be a good idea too. Can you please make it so?

    Hugs…


  • Wednesday Mashup (7/17/13)

    July 18, 2013
  • Part of me truly wanted to avoid this recent column by Stu Bykofsky, but I believe it is too rank to be ignored (on the matter of PA AG Kathleen Kane’s decision not to enforce the commonwealth’s indefensible Defense of Marriage Act)…

    It doesn’t matter whether you support or oppose gay marriage, this is an issue of law, current law.

    The state Attorney General is substituting her own preferences to Pennsylvania law, which she is sworn to uphold. Ms. Kane doesn’t get to decide constitutionality, the courts do that.

    This is materially no different than George Wallace blocking the entrance to a school because he didn’t agree with the court knocking down segregation. It is different only in that we don’t like where he was, but (most of us) do like Kane’s position. But that it (sic) not the issue. The issue is obeying (and in Kane’s case) defending the law, even if not palatable.

    (Frankly, couldn’t she just have assigned a low-ranking, inexperienced attorney, who would botch the job? She could have. I think she is show-boating here.)

    In response, I give you the following from here

    In a public statement on Thursday, Kane said, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” adding, “It is my duty under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act whenever I determine it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to authorize the Office of General Counsel to defend the state in litigation. Additionally, it is a lawyer’s ethical obligation under Pennsylvania’s Rules of Professional Conduct to withdraw from a case in which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement with the client.”

    So Kane didn’t kill the case. Not at all! Instead, she rightfully disclosed a conflict of interest due to a difference of opinion, and passed the case along to Gov. Corbett.

    How many politicians do you know that disclose a conflict of interest? You can count that number on one hand.

    Oh, and paging “Byko” for this one…

    Kane also didn’t sabotage the case by accepting it and then giving it to a lackey – an awful suggestion that has been made by some.

    Instead, she took the high road and essentially recused herself and her office from handling the case.

    Kane’s decision is making national news. But it shouldn’t. She’s hardly the first attorney general to refuse to participate in a case involving this or any other hotbed social issue.

    Back when California Gov. Jerry Brown was the state’s Attorney General, he refused to defend California’s anti-gay-marriage measure, Proposition 8. Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the case, ruling that those who defended Proposition 8 didn’t have legal standing to do so.

    Time will show very soon that PA’s DOMA law is unconstitutional, too – the same way that Loving v. Virginia declared that banning interracial marriages was illegal.

    And as far as “Byko” and the comparison between Kane and George Wallace (really?) is concerned, I give you this

    Of course, while similar on the surface (the law is involved?), Kane’s position isn’t really like Wallace’s at all! In Brown v. Board of Ed., the Supreme Court said that states could no longer segregate their own schools. In the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision this year, it was ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is not constitutional, though doesn’t say the same about Defense of Marriage Acts passed in individual states.

    When Wallace stood in front of the University of Alabama in 1963, he was refusing to enforce a federal court order to allow three students with perfect qualifications to attend the school.

    Wallace_Katzenbach

    (And somehow, I find it hard to believe that Eric Holder or another Justice Department attorney would ever show up on the steps of the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg, arguing with Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett about whether or not straights should be allowed to marry, parroting this iconic photo of Wallace with Kennedy Justice Department lawyer Nicholas Katzenbach.)

    I will admit that there’s a bit of posturing by Kane going on here, since I’m pretty sure that she once claimed in her primary campaign against Patrick Murphy that the Attorney General didn’t have the right to decide which laws should be enforced. However, I definitely believe that she’s acting in the interests of the “greater good” here.

    Besides, Kane is, aside from the head prosecutor in PA, also the chief administrator of law enforcement. Given that, what kind of judgment would it show if she committed personnel and resources of her office, all on the public dime, to defending a law that, on the federal level, had recently been invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court?

  • Next, if we’ve recently suffered a gun tragedy or a miscarriage of justice of some type over guns within the last week or so, you can always count on John Lott to pop up with more demagoguery and misinformation to try and show that it’s all the fault of those dastardly liberals somehow (here)…

    Comments by President Obama, Al Sharpton and others surely stirred up the racial aspects of the case and appear to have led some blacks across the country to attack whites to avenge Trayvon Martin

    Really? Obama “stirred up the racial aspects” by urging calm? Before he presses on another ugly piece of propaganda for Fix Noise, Lott should actually try reading their web site once in a while (here).

    Also, Reverend Al said that the protests in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict were mostly nonviolent here, which is also borne out by this clip from Rachel Maddow here.

    Of course, this isn’t the first time that John Lott has either demonized African Americans or whitewashed attempts to marginalize them at the ballot box, as he did here, claiming that he somehow wasn’t able to name a single person who was disenfranchised from voting in the Florida 2000 presidential election.

    I don’t know what’s in the minds of these people when they concoct this garbage. And I really don’t want to know either.

  • Further, I got a bit of a laugh out of this item (here)…

    Ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) charged that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was engaged in “unprecedented data collection.”

    “The CFPB is collecting credit card data, bank account data, mortgage data and student loan data,” Crapo said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “This ultimately allows the CFPB to monitor a consumer’s monthly spending habits.”

    Crapo’s comments came just hours after the Senate voted 71-29 to end debate on the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the CFPB. A final vote on Cordray’s nomination could come as early as today.

    I’d recently read comments from Mikey the Beloved to this effect also. And in response, let me ask this; who isn’t engaged in massive data collection these days (not approving it – just asking the question).

    And in defense of Cordray, I give you this

    Cordray replied that the credit card and mortgage payment data are widely available and are bought from companies such as Argus and from credit records, which the CFPB is using to work with the Federal Housing Finance Agency to construct a national mortgage database. “The information is not personal but is anonymized,” he said. “If people want to misunderstand and think that it’s invading privacy based on speculation, I’d simply say, that’s not what it is.”

    The bureau must gather such data if it is to prepare cost-benefit analysis of the structure of markets and to deliver reports required by Congress, he added. “If we didn’t, you’d be disappointed with us and rightly so.”

    Similarly, the CFPB’s consumer complaint database, which has accumulated nearly 100,000 complaints about lenders, does not risk disclosing personal data, Cordray said. The complaints are “scrubbed” of personal identifiers after confirming that the complainer has a commercial relationship with the company. “We use it to communicate to companies on how to improve, and to the public too,” he said. “We need more of this, not less.” He did promise Crapo a visit from his staff to clarify the bureau’s privacy safeguards.

    Also, while I’m on the subject of Cordray, allow me to congratulate him due to the fact that he was finally confirmed by the Senate as part of a recent deal “aimed at freeing up seven stalled appointments President Barack Obama has made to the consumer agency, the National Labor Relations Board and other agencies,” as the AP via HuffPo tells us here.

    And concerning the NLRB part of the deal, I give you the following whining from Sen. Charles Grassley here (from “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” as Charles Pierce rightly calls it)…

    …Grassley (R-Iowa) said the decision to block Cordray ultimately helped lead to a deal that forced two previous nominees for the National Labor Relations Board to be replaced with new candidates as part of a broader Senate deal struck this week over how executive branch nominees will be handled going forward.

    “We got two illegally appointed NLRB people off the agenda,” he said. “It was pretty important when the court says somebody’s been illegally appointed that they don’t get Senate confirmation.”

    The two NLRB appointees in question, Sharon Block (a former labor counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy) and Richard Griffin (former general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers), had been serving on the board since January 2012, appointed by Obama during a Senate break after Republicans blocked their confirmations (as the New York Times tells us here).

    The “legality” of Block and Griffin’s appointments was decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; as noted here, the court issued a ruling that, in essence, also retroactively invalidated about 300 other recess appointments of this type by prior presidents since 1981 (and of the three judges on the appeals court panel, one was appointed by The Sainted Ronnie R, one was appointed by Bush 41, and one was appointed by Bush 43).

    And I think we also need to recall the following from here

    When Obama took office, the NLRB only had two members. In April 2009, Obama nominated three people to serve on the NLRB – Mark Pearce (D), Craig Becker (D) and Brian Hayes (R). Yet Senate Republicans’ silent filibusters were effective in preventing a Senate vote on these nominees.

    In March 2010, Obama recess appointed Becker and Pearce to the board. In June, the Senate confirmed Pearce and Hayes, but continued to block Becker.

    When Becker’s recess appointment expired on Jan. 3, 2012, the NLRB didn’t have a quorum to make decisions. Confronted with Senate Republicans intent on undermining the NLRB’s authority, Obama made three recess appointments – Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D) and Terence Flynn (R) – to guarantee a fully functioning board. These members joined Pearce and Hayes, who left the board in December 2012. (Flynn resigned after an ethics scandal in March 2012.)

    So basically, that’s the history of the Repugs doing their best to gum up the NLRB since Obama was first elected in 2008. In fact, they have such an animus towards the NLRB (how dare an agency of government create such a “burdensome” environment for business by allowing workers to present and seek redress of grievances??!!) that the House, apparently believing that the Senate would end up allowing the NLRB appointments, decided to make things worse on their own by passing the utterly odious HR 1120 here, which basically shuts down the NLRB altogether (Mikey the Beloved commendably voted No).

    Grassley should shut his proverbial pie hole on matters related to the NLRB and Obama’s recess appointments overall. The actions of his party may not have been illegal, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t stink to high heaven anyway (besides, based on this, it looks like Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao got outfoxed for a change).

    Update 7/18/13: And depressing though it is, here is more food for thought on this subject (to me the name James Sherk is a bit Dickensian).

  • Finally, I’m glad to hear that this guy is back on the air (here). I’m sorry that he will no longer be a political voice; I think that’s a monumental waste, but it was even worse for a reporter and broadcaster of his caliber to be effectively blackballed from TV journalism altogether.

    So good luck, Keith, and just bite your lip if the Texas Rangers make it to the World Series and Former Commander Codpiece starts strutting and yakking all over the place, trying to take credit for something he didn’t do, as usual.


  • Saturday Mashup (5/4/13)

    May 5, 2013
  • This recent opinion column in the Murdoch Street Journal by Repug U.S. House Rep John Campbell of California tells us the following…

    There were many contributors to the 2008 financial crisis—including unsound housing loans and mortgage-backed securities, Fannie Mae FNMA -0.12%and Freddie Mac, FMCC -0.85%excess leverage by major financial institutions, and regulatory failures. Car and truck loans were not among the problems, and their lenders in any event pose no “systemic” risk to the financial system.

    And yet, amazingly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—a creature of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed to correct and prevent the causes of, and problems that led to, the 2008 crisis—wants to change the way car loans are made. The CFPB’s proposal is a noxious attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and is likely to make a mess of one part of the consumer-loan industry that works.

    I’ll explain what is wrong here shortly.

    Currently, if you apply for a car loan through a bank, credit union or one of the car manufacturers like Ford Motor Credit or Toyota Financial, you are judged on matters such as your credit score, income and debt. The financial institution won’t know your race or ethnicity or even necessarily your gender. It will approve or disapprove the application and offer you an interest rate based on the data. That’s just as it should be.

    But it is not good enough for the CFPB. In a quest to make sure that all individuals falling within the “protected classes” under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act get the same interest rate as those who are not covered by it, the agency wants financial institutions to guess your race, ethnicity and gender based on your name and the address on your application. Put bluntly, they want lenders to profile you.

    The CFPB should withdraw this outrageous and abusive guidance immediately and focus on helping consumers in those areas in which the need for reform truly exists.

    Campbell is actually right about most of that without the vitriol (shocking, I know), but here is the problem. The “financial institution” may not have the demographic information on the person trying to purchase a vehicle, but the dealer sure does. And auto dealers have been known to engage in a practice called “dealer markup,” which the CFPB is trying to address, as noted here

    When consumers finance automobile purchases from an auto dealership, the dealer often facilitates indirect financing through a third party lender. The dealer plays a valuable role by originating the loan and finding financing sources. In this indirect auto financing process, the lender usually provides the dealer with an interest rate that the lender will accept for a given consumer.

    Indirect auto lenders often allow the dealer to charge the consumer an interest rate that is costlier for the consumer than the rate the lender gave the dealer. This increase in rate is typically called “dealer markup.” The lender shares part of the revenue from that increased interest rate with the dealer. As a result, markups generate compensation for dealers while frequently giving them the discretion to charge consumers different rates regardless of consumer creditworthiness. Lender policies that provide dealers with this type of discretion increase the risk of pricing disparities among consumers based on race, national origin, and potentially other prohibited bases. Research indicates that markup practices may lead to African Americans and Hispanics being charged higher markups than other, similarly situated, white consumers.

    Oh, and Campbell is a former auto dealership owner who apparently rents properties to dealerships, as noted here (um, want to try and find someone a little more objective to write a column like this? And Campbell is #40 on the list, by the way).

    If auto dealers and the lenders weren’t engaging in this type of nonsense, then there would be no need for the CFPB to step in (more info is here). But since they do…

  • Next, I know I teed off a bit on South Carolina a day or so ago, and with good reason I believe. And here is more cause for indignation…

    The Supreme Court may have ruled ObamaCare is constitutional, but implementing the controversial federal law would become a crime in South Carolina if a bill passed by the state House becomes law.

    The bill, approved Wednesday by a vote of 65-39, declares President Obama’s signature legislation “null and void.” Whereas the law that Obama pushed and Congress passed is known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, South Carolina’s law would be known as the Freedom of Health Care Protection Act.

    It would prohibit state officials and employees from “enforcing or attempting to enforce such unconstitutional laws” and “establish criminal penalties and civil liability” for those who engage in activities that aid the implementation of ObamaCare.

    So it looks like “The Palmetto State” is going to try the whole tenther, “nullification” BS to get around that socialist, big gumint Kenyan Muslim Marxist pre-dee-dint of ours.

    However, as noted here

    Steering South Carolina’s uninsured residents away from seeking primary treatment in emergency rooms and into free health clinics is a worthy idea. But it wouldn’t come close to matching the benefits of expanding Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income South Carolinians.

    Last week, S.C. House Republicans launched a proposal designed to serve as an alternative to complying with the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The proposal would pay hospitals $35 million next year to guide the uninsured to the state’s 20 free federally qualified health clinics.

    The plan also calls for giving the clinics $10 million next year to treat those patients. The money would come from $62 million the state Department of Health and Human Services received last year but did not spend.

    The plan also includes $20 million – $6 million in state money and $14 million from the federal government – to pay rural hospitals for the entire cost of uncompensated care they provide for low-income patients. Smaller amounts would go to other efforts to expand and improve care, such as $3 million for a program to repay the student loans of doctors who agree to work in underserved areas of the state.

    But not a single new person would be insured under the plan. By contrast, expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would result in about 500,000 more uninsured residents being covered.

    Also, here is some background on Bill Clinton’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech in which he outlined the threat to Medicaid expansion from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and her pals in charges of states across this country (oh, and has noted here, South Carolina ranks 44th out of 50 states in median income).

    Truly a miracle of Republican Party “governance,” my fellow prisoners…

  • Further, Charles Lane of the WaPo “wanks” as follows here

    Of all the arguments for the Obama administration’s green-energy loan program, one of the worst is that federal aid leverages private capital.

    Consider Fisker Automotive. In August 2009, this wannabe plug-in electric hybrid car company was hard up for cash to pay suppliers and faced potential layoffs.

    A green-energy loan was the only hope, Fisker executive Bernhard Koehler explained in an e-mail to the Department of Energy — because it would help bring in private money. “We are oversubscribed in this equity round with the DOE support — and nowhere without it,” Koehler pleaded.

    A month later, in September 2009, the Energy Department approved a $529 million low-interest loan. Vice President Biden stood before the proposed site of a Fisker plant in Delaware and described the department’s program as “seed money that will return back to the American consumer in billions and billions and billions of dollars of good new jobs.”

    Alas, government loans could not overcome Fisker’s fundamental problem: no experience mass-producing automobiles, let alone the complex battery-powered luxury cars that it proposed to sell for more than $100,000. Today, the company is nearly bankrupt; taxpayers are on the hook for $171 million, and private investors are probably nearly wiped out. (The story is well told, with documents, at PrivCo.com.)

    In response, I give you the following from here

    First, Fisker originally requested the federal funds it received in 2008, before President Obama took office. Why? Because the Bush/Cheney administration urged the company to participate in the federal loan program, seeing it as a worthwhile investment. If Republicans are convinced Fisker should never have received aid in the first place, they’re lashing out at the wrong president.

    Second, to condemn the federal loan program because one company struggled after receiving assistance is silly — some of the companies in the Department of Energy’s program fared well, some didn’t. It happens. As Michael Grunwald explained a while back, “That’s capitalism. That’s lending. That’s life. As one Obama aide told me: Some students who get Pell grants are going to end up drunks on the street.” It’s not as if those failures discredit the entire Pell grant program.

    And third, (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell) Issa may want to get off his high horse — in 2009, he urged the Department of Energy to extend federal support to an electronic car manufacturer named Aptera, which declared bankruptcy soon after.

    In the case of this one company, it didn’t work out well, but others have fared far better. There’s no reason for Republicans to throw a fit.

    Silly Steve Benen – what else are the Repugs going to do besides throw a fit? Engage in the tedious, difficult work of actual governance? What a quaint notion (removing my tongue from my cheek).

  • Continuing, I came across this curious item from Think Progress recently…

    The Florida legislature passed a bill this week to impose new obstacles on challenging the death penalty in a state with the greatest number of exonerations. The bill’s intent was to shorten the time inmates wait for execution by imposing time limits for appeals and post-conviction motions, but DNA and other evidence often emerges years after a crime is committed – a concern that didn’t seem to faze Republican proponents of the bill who said swift justice is “not about guilt or innocence”:

    “Is swift justice fair justice?” asked Democratic party Senator Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa attorney who voted against the bill. “We have seen cases where, years later, convicted people were exonerated,” she said. […]

    But Republican Senator Rob Bradley said, “this is not about guilt or innocence, it’s about timely justice.” Frivolous appeals designed only for delay are not fair to victims and their families, he said. […]

    “Only God can judge,” Matt Gaetz, a Republican who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, said last week during House debate. “But we sure can set up the meeting.”

    For the record, Matt Gaetz is the son of Don Gaetz, who is in charge of the Florida State Senate. And this tells us that Gaetz the Younger worked in 2010 to defeat amendments that would prevent voting districts from being gerrymandered (which the Repugs have elevated to an art form…the surprisingly forthright excuse – though still a morally bankrupt one – is that the amendments would blunt a “conservative comeback”).

    Florida’s junior state representative also favored repealing Florida’s “Cap and Trade” law here (and get a load of his full-on wingnut language attacking former governor Charlie Crist…some BS about California romance, or something). And based on this, Gaetz the Elder is no prize either.

    However, I don’t believe that M. Gaetz has a right to involve himself on legal matters, at least not for a good while anyway, based on this.

  • Finally, William McNabb wrote the following in the Journal recently (returning to the “money” theme…McNabb is CEO of The Vanguard Group, the mutual fund investing behemoth based in Malvern, Pa.)…

    We estimate that since 2011 the rise in overall policy uncertainty has created a $261 billion cumulative drag on the economy (the equivalent of more than $800 per person in the country). Without this uncertainty tax, real U.S. GDP could have grown an average 3% per year since 2011, instead of the recorded 2% average in fiscal years 2011-12. In addition, the U.S. labor market would have added roughly 45,000 more jobs per month over the past two years. That adds up to more than one million jobs that we could have had by now, but don’t.

    At Vanguard we estimate that the spike in policy uncertainty surrounding the debt-ceiling debate alone has resulted in a cumulative economic loss of $112 billion over the past two years. To put that figure in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that sequestration may reduce total funding by $85 billion in 2013. Clearly, the U.S. debt situation is the economic issue of our generation.

    Spoken as a charter member of the “pay no price, bear no burden” investor class that continues to skate while the “99 percent rabble” lives paycheck to paycheck…

    Fortunately, Ezra Klein responded as follows here, citing the work of fellow “Wonk Blog” contributor Mike Konczal…

    How do (the authors of the “uncertainty” studies McNabb based his column on) construct the search of newspaper articles for their index, which generates a lot of the movement?

    Their news search index is constructed with four steps. They first isolate their search to a set of articles from 10 major newspapers (USA Today, the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal). They then search articles for the term “uncertainty” or “uncertain.” They then filter again for the word “economic” or “economy.” With economic uncertainty flagged, they then filter again for one of the following words to identify government policy: “policy,” “‘tax,” “spending,” “regulation,” “federal reserve,” “budget,” or “deficit.”

    See the problem? We don’t know what specific stories are in their index; however, we can use their search terms listed above to find which articles would have likely qualified. Let’s take a story from their first listed paper, USA Today, “Obama taking aim at GOP pledge on campaign trail,” from August 28, 2010 (for the rest of this post, I’m going to underline the words in quotes that would trigger inclusion in their policy uncertainty index):Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the House GOP lawmakers who crafted the pledge, said “it’s laughable that the president would try to lecture anyone on.” [….] Buck said the pledge was developed to address voter worries about high unemployment and record levels of government and debt.

    “While the president has exploded federal spending and ignored Americans who are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’, the pledge offers a plan to end the economic uncertainty and create jobs, as well as a concrete plan to rein in Washington’s runaway spending spree,” Buck said.

    Spokespeople for the conservative movement tell reporters that President Obama’s policies are causing economic uncertainty. Reporters write it down and publish it. Economic researchers search newspapers for stories about economic uncertainty and policy, and create a policy uncertainty index out of those talking points.

    It’s about jobs. It’s about generating demand. It’s about the utter failure of austerity not just in this country, but all over the world.

    I understand that McNabb and those in his orbit won’t admit the complete and total collapse of their wrongheaded ideology, but it’s despicable to watch them try and craft a narrative justifying their mistakes to the utter ruination of working men, women and families all over the world.

    On a bit of a happier note, though, this tells us that, while our supposed geniuses of finance have a collective freak out over pending “Too Big To Fail” legislation co-sponsored in the Senate by Sherrod Brown (no surprise) and David Vitter (WHAAA????), local community banks appear to have no problem with it.

    And those are the folks (and the credit unions also, let’s not forget) that are gradually digging us out of the financial mess created by the corporate Wall Street criminals. Those are the institutions releasing the loans and making the credit available to return the key sectors of our economy to life, thereby increasing demand and leading to better hiring numbers such as these (a long way to go I know, but improvement).

    community-banks
    And given all of this, I would say that this is a sign o’the times.


  • Thursday Mashup (3/21/13)

    March 21, 2013
  • Last Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Gideon v. Wainright in which the High Court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires the states to provide defense attorneys to criminal defendants charged with serious offenses who cannot afford lawyers themselves (this was the basis for the great TV movie called “Gideon’s Trumpet” starring Henry Fonda – here).

    As noted here, though…

    The issue is by no means settled. In his recent New York Times editorial “The Right to Counsel: Badly Battered at 50,” Lincoln Caplan contends that “After 50 years, the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright is mocked more of than fulfilled,” at times because of the lack of funding for public defender offices, in other cases due to incompetent counsel. He concludes, “There is no shortage of lawyers to do this work. What stands in the way is an undemocratic, deep-seated lack of political will.”

    Indeed – as noted here, Georgia shifted the burden of providing counsel to its 159 counties; this was an issue in particular for capital murder cases involving the death penalty (don’t know if it was an issue here or not) – apparently Georgia is responsible for more executions than any state except Texas (I think that’s what the author meant to say instead of “Houston”). And it’s not much better in the “Sunshine State” (here); New York State has issues also as noted here (lest anyone think I intend to pick on “red” states only).

    And from here

    The Supreme Court has carved out other exceptions to the right to counsel after an arrest. It has allowed law enforcement officials to have ex parte contacts with defendants to determine whether the defendant is in fact represented by counsel (sic). It has also allowed ex parte communications that are made with the consent of defendant’s counsel; those made pursuant to discovery procedures, such as subpoenas; communications in the course of a criminal investigation; communications necessary to protect the life or safety of another person; and those made by a represented person, so long as the person has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived the right to have counsel present. These exceptions apply to all persons, regardless of whether they can afford their own attorney.

    And as noted here

    No one wants to pay for more public defenders. Or, better put, few people in political power care enough about the gross injustices being done to poor people to spend more money trying to ensure they receive adequate representation. “Inadequate funding is the primary source of the systemic failure in indigent defense programs nationwide,” concluded Harvard Law School student David A. Simon in a thoughtful law review piece published a few years ago. “Of the more than $146.5 billion spent annually on criminal justice, over half is allocated to support the police officers and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute cases, while only about two to three percent goes toward indigent defense.”

    (Criminal justice experts Stephen B. Bright and Sia M. Sanneh) don’t just blame lawmakers. “Many judges tolerate or welcome inadequate representation because it allows them to process many cases in a short time,” they write. And the problem is made worse, they contend, because the “Supreme Court has refused to require competent representation, instead adopting a standard of ‘effective counsel’ that hides and perpetuates deficient representation.” Not only that, Simon adds, but the justices have “neglected to specify which level of government — federal, state or local — must serve as the guarantor” of the right to counsel nor the “method by which states should administer their public defender programs.” No one is responsible, in other words, because everyone is in charge.

    Let us hope that this HBO documentary, due to air this summer, helps to shed some more light on this travesty.

  • Further, I give you the latest from the fake outrage factory here (ZOMG! There goes that Marxist preh-zee-dint of ours again)…

    Yesterday during the White House daily press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked by “just a blogger” if President Obama planned to cut back on his lavish vacations and travel at a time when the country is hurting economically. Carney’s answer wasn’t “no,” but rather a long drawn out “Obama is focused on jobs.”

    This question came just one week after it was revealed the Obama’s are living at a cost of $1.4 billion per year.

    This is an attempt to re-spin the finding here from last year that the Obama White House spent $1.4 billion on vacations, which was totally ridiculous when it was first pronounced for the reasons noted here (actually, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs did an even better job of dispensing with this nonsense here).

    Memo to clownhall.com…the purse strings of the federal government rest with the House of Representatives. Neither you nor your wingnut brethren have any right whatsoever to complain about the effects of the sequester, particularly when Obama and the Senate Democrats have been proposing alternatives that don’t totally screw over many more people than necessary in this country and leave the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch untouched as usual.

    Meanwhile, Man Tan Boehner, that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv and the rest of the Repug “young guns” (with Mikey the Beloved pledging his supine acceptance) are bound and determined to shove austerity down our throats whether we like it or not, all to make Congressional Democrats and Number 44 look as bad as they can.

  • Next, BoBo of the New York Times is back, as noted from here

    There is a statue outside the Federal Trade Commission of a powerful, rambunctious horse being reined in by an extremely muscular man. This used to be a metaphor for liberalism. The horse was capitalism. The man was government, which was needed sometimes to restrain capitalism’s excesses.

    Today, liberalism seems to have changed. Today, many progressives seem to believe that government is the horse, the source of growth, job creation and prosperity. Capitalism is just a feeding trough that government can use to fuel its expansion.

    For an example of this new worldview, look at the budget produced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week. These Democrats try to boost economic growth with a gigantic $2.1 trillion increase in government spending — including a $450 billion public works initiative, a similar-size infrastructure program and $179 billion so states, too, can hire more government workers.

    Oh yes, how dare those baaad, dastardly Dems try to hire more “government workers” (police, fire, teachers – you know, those lazy, gold-bricking swine…snark). And of course, David Brooks won’t tell us that the U.S. House Repugs and their economic warfare on said workers (as part of the austerity I noted earlier) is one of the biggest drags against our economic recovery (here).

    Oh, and BoBo also tells us the following about taxes (Brooks is responding to Back to Work, the plan of the Progressive Democratic Caucus, which would indeed raise the top-end rate to 49 percent – for anyone making $1 billion or more – I’ll acknowledge that there could be a “bite” when you calculate state and local taxes with it, but I’m sorry, I don’t see that as a “game changer”; maybe try to factor in a tax credit for these folks when we return to prosperity? Just a thought…)…

    Now, of course, there have been times, like, say, the Eisenhower administration, when top tax rates were very high. But the total tax burden was lower since so few people paid the top rate and there were so many ways to avoid it. Government was smaller.

    And high earners aren’t avoiding taxes now? Really?

    And Brooks also trots out the “higher taxes will cause me to work less” argument, supported by former Bushie Greg Mankiw among others – I think it is important to consider this in response, mainly that such thinking is counter-intuitive to human nature (wouldn’t you want to work more to make up lost earnings?) – also, deferring taxation this way might end up putting more of a burden on your kids if you’re a parent.

    As noted here, though, BoBo has been wrong about income inequality for years (and as noted here, Brooks once blamed women for it – nice). And for good measure, he once defended the “one percent” here (Matt Yglesias responds also here – h/t Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton).

    In conclusion, I just wanted to note that I did a search for “unemployed” or any variation thereof in Brooks’s column, and I came up empty, which isn’t surprising I know (love to see how Brooks would do having to work one or two “McJobs” in an effort to make up for his cushy pundit paycheck and related perks).

  • And never to be outdone when it comes to self-righteous indignation, the Murdoch Street Journal whines as follows here (about Medicare Advantage, which, quite rightly, is being targeted for a budget cut)…

    The tragedy is that Medicare Advantage architecture is far from perfect and HHS could save money if it wanted to, in particular by targeting the private fee-for-service plans that mimic all of traditional Medicare’s dysfunctions except with an element of private profit. But that approach conflicts with the Administration’s political goal of strangling Medicare Advantage in the crib.

    (Conservatives just love to punctuate their literary flourishes with violent imagery, don’t they?)

    As noted here

    Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers.

    And as noted here

    Private insurance plans under Medicare Advantage are often able to attract healthier Medicare beneficiaries by offering cheap — but bare-bones — health plans. When those healthier seniors encounter a medical problem that’s too extensive for their private coverage, they switch over to the more generous traditional Medicare program in order to take advantage of its more expansive benefits. That in turn, raises spending in the traditional Medicare pool

    And just go ahead and call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but based on this poll from last December, I would say that most of those people polled want traditional Medicare to be left alone (despite all of its “dysfunctions,” something the Repugs would do well to get through their thick heads in light of this).

  • Finally, Irrational Spew Online bloviates as follows here

    Elizabeth Warren was slated to be the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans stopped her confirmation, so now she is leading the charge to confirm Richard Cordray to that office.

    But nobody should be the head of this monstrous Dodd-Frankenstein by-product. The structure and powers of the CFPB, as created by Congress, put it outside our constitutional system. Most significantly, Congress allotted the bureau an independent source of revenue, guaranteed its insulation from legislative or executive oversight, and gave it the power to define and punish “abusive” practices.

    Actually, this tells us that the CFPB can have its rules vetoed by something called the FSOC, and no other regulator is subject to this kind of a check (so much for operating “outside our constitutional system”). Also, this tells us how Warren has called out the Repugs on their BS over Cordray in particular and the CFPB and Dodd-Frank in general.

    And as noted here (in the matter of supposed “insulation from legislative or executive oversight”)…

    “Since his first confirmation hearing in September 2011, Director Cordray has appeared before this Committee more than any other financial regulator,” said (South Dakota Democratic U.S. Senator Tim) Johnson. “During that time, he has proved to be a strong leader of the CFPB. He has completed many of the rules required by Wall Street Reform, including a well-received final [Qualified Mortgage] rule. He listens, and has crafted strong rules that take into account all sides of an issue. He has laid the groundwork for nonbank regulation. He has brought to light the financial challenges faced by students, elderly Americans, servicemembers and their families. He has taken important enforcement actions against banks that took advantage of customers. So I ask my colleagues, what more can Richard Cordray do to deserve an up-or-down vote? I hope we can finally put aside politics and move forward with Richard Cordray’s confirmation.” – Consumerist, 3/19/13

    The Daily Kos post tells us that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote was 12-10 along party lines. Every Democrat supported him. Every Republican opposed him.

    As mad as I get at the Dems at times, I get even madder at people who say they’re the same as Republicans. The latter bunch just wants to keep fleecing us, fighting unending wars for little or no purpose, fouling the environment at will, sitting on their collective hands while austerity tries to wreck our fledgling recovery, allowing weapons of death to continue flooding every school, movie theater, and gathering place of any kind in this country, and continually trying to demonize the opposition party instead of working with them on behalf of the best interests of the majority of the people of this nation (oh, but they’re “pro-life,” aren’t they? Not if you’re actually born, they’re not).

    And unless you’re rich, if you know all this and still support these fools, frauds and charlatans (at least on the national level anyway – I’ve encountered precious few good Republicans on the local level, though not recently), then I have no tolerance for your point of view.

    Your willful ignorance continues to be the ruin of this country. Heckuva job!


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