Nel's New Day

December 31, 2011

2011–Not All Bad

Although the year 2011 began on a dark note—and got blacker—as the conservatives fought to wipe out a century of progressive movements that gave people in the United States a safety net, I find many things to be grateful on the last day of the year.

First, I am most thankful for my wonderful family (who is visiting me as I write), my fantastic partner of 42+ years, and my fabulous friends, many of whom send me topics and information for Nel’s New Day. And a thumbs-up to my pets, especially the new kitten who is turning everything upside down in our household.

After almost nine years, the Iraq War, that killed at least 120,000 people and left far more wounded, has come to an end. At a conservative estimate of $806 billion, the war left over 1.6 million refugees and another 1.24 million internally displaced with the country’s infrastructure almost disseminated.  The war that conservatives started planning almost two decades ago has taught some people in our nation a lesson about being wary of government “intelligence” and avoiding pre-emptive wars.

The political scene may be looking up for progressives. The Occupy people  are willing to suffer extremely discomfort not only in the wet, snowy cold or while being indiscriminately pepper-sprayed or tasered but also jailed for following their First Amendment rights. Their slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” has made the country acutely aware of economic inequities despite the naysayers who live in their comfortable homes and ignore hungry and homeless people.

The Occupy Movement wasn’t the first big protest of the year, however. Wisconsin fought their new governor Scott Walker, Ohio won against union-busting politicians, Maine voted down unfair election changes, and Time made “the protester” its person of the year. Conservatives have gone so far to the right in denying people their rights that the rest of the United States—like the “Arab spring”—may have reached the tipping point to fight back.

Change.org and the Internet have helped to right some wrongs perpetrated by large corporations. The most recent win is Verizon’s reversal in its attempt to charge customers a fee for paying bills online. Bank of America decided not to charge a monthly fee just for using a debit card. These are the companies that net billions of dollars while paying no taxes and having the right—as “persons”—to pay unlimited funds to elect more conservatives who will take more money from the poor to give to the wealthy.

Yet not all corporations are greedy blood-suckers. In Alternet, Lauren Kelley highlighted five companies that support the environment and economy: Ben & Jerry, Patagonia, H&M, Hewlett Packard, and Method Products. May more companies join them in the coming year!

Through their humor, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert continue to enlighten millions of Americans, particularly young ones who might have been lost to Fox lies. Republican presidential candidates have provided these two comedians much fodder although these politicians look ridiculous on their own.

After the disappointing show of progressives in last August’s debacle of raising the debt ceiling, Democrats seem to have found a spine. Led by President Obama, Congressional Democrats refused to roll over (mostly!) this month to the Republicans’ demands regarding the payroll tax reduction. Democrats wanted to keep the tax, aka Social Security taxes, the same; Republicans wanted to increase it. The 99 percenters discovered that Republicans want to lower taxes only for the wealthy, a good lesson for them.

A new political figure in town, Elizabeth Warren, may turn things around. After Republicans refused to consider her nomination as director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency that she created, she decided to run for Massachusetts senator. Despite the huge funding that corporations are pouring into incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s re-election and his recent turn toward a more moderate position,Warren is leading! And she knows where all the bodies are buried!

Courts are also taking a constitutional (what conservatives call “activist” if it opposes their far right positions) approach to new laws for immigration, elections, etc. For example, after Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer fired the chair of the state’s nonpartisan commission to determine redistricting for the House of Representatives because it didn’t favor Republicans 100 percent, the state supreme court overturned her decision. Courts in Texas overturned the legislature’s partisan redistricting decision, and the Department of Justice overruled the highly restrictive South Carolina photo ID mandates.

American minorities made advances when the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in the military was finalized. New York legalized same-sex marriage, and California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, stayed unconstitutional for the time-being. Representatives and senators are working to advance the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act,” that keeps marriage to one man with one woman even if it only lasts for 72 hours.

More people in theUnited States are getting health care, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and the economy is supposedly improving. Approval rating for the Tea Party has shrunk, and  “Progressive” is the most positively viewed political label inAmerica, ahead of “Conservative.” And all these positive facts are just the tip of the iceberg.

In the words of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:

“Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern: Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward. Sometimes it takes an economic shock like the bursting of a giant speculative bubble; sometimes we just reach a tipping point where the frustrations of average Americans turn into action.

“Look at the progressive reforms between 1900 and 1916; the New Deal of the 1930s; the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s; the widening opportunities for women, minorities, people with disabilities and gays; and the environmental reforms of the 1970s. In each of these eras, regressive forces reignited the progressive ideals on whichAmericais built. The result was fundamental reform.

“Perhaps this is what’s beginning to happen again across America.”

We’ll all hope so! Happy New Year!

December 22, 2011

Conservatives Confused about ‘Christmas’

‘Tis the season for all conservatives to complain about “liberals” taking Christ out of Christmas because that stupid part in the Constitution calling for separation of church and state. This year Fox News and Sarah Palin are incensed about the official White House holiday card because it “makes no mention of the word ‘Christmas’ and instead focused on Bo the First Dog based on the wishes of the First Family.” Palin wondered why the card didn’t highlight traditions like “family, faith and freedom.”

Most conservatives are under the mistaken impression that the people who founded this country believed Christmas celebrations—including the greeting “Merry Christmas”—were a vital part of life. An example of their ire is The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought from Fox’s John Gibson. The history of this holiday shows a different picture from the revisionists’ perceptions.

Many Christmas celebrations came from pagan traditions. The tradition of Mummers, costumed singers and dancers going from house to house to entertain neighbors, began in ancientRomeand evolved into caroling. Kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual because it was a sacred plant, and evergreen trees were important in pre-Christian times because it reminded people that crops would grow again. They were also totems of good luck, also representing fertility while hollyberries were a food of the gods.

The date chosen for “Christ’s birth” was influenced by three popular Roman pagan festivals on or near December 25: Saturnalia with its reputation of excessive partying; the New Year’s celebration; and the winter solstice dated December 25 by calendars of the time, the birthday of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. Scholars agree that Jesus was born between March and October, a long time before–or after–the December date.

In the colonies, Christmas, with its pagan connection, was forbidden for the first century of European settlement, starting in 1620 when Gov. William Bradford forbade any holiday celebrations. Caroling, games, and even mince pies, considered vulgar holiday luxuries, were outlawed. A 1659 law that fined people five shillings for feasting or other merriment on December 25 was not repealed until 1681—and then the repeal came from English-appointed Gov. Sir Edmund Andros. The ending of the ban didn’t change Puritan patterns; the majority of colonists still abstained from celebrations.

Puritans avoided the term “Christmas” because it meant “the mass of Christ” which smacked of Roman Catholicism. It has also been suggested that the Puritans viewed Santa Claus as the Anti-Christ.

Christmas may have been legal after 1681, but evergreen decoration continued to be expressly forbidden in Puritan meeting houses and discouraged in New England homes. Merrymakers were prosecuted for disturbing the peace.

Quakers also eschewed Christmas celebrations because, in the words of seventeenth-century Quaker apologist Robert Barclay, “All days are alike holy in the sight of God.” Although they never tried to legislate against Christmas celebration in Pennsylvania, they urged their members in local meetings to disdain Christmas and to be “zealous in their testimony against the holding up of such days.” As late as 1810, the Philadelphia Democratic Press reported that few Pennsylvanians celebrated the holiday.

Not until two and a half centuries after the Europeans began to settle America did Christmas become a legal holiday. Many prominent figures, including the most famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher of the 1800s, failed to embrace Christmas celebration. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Samuel Goodrich recalled the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and “training day” as the only “great festivals” of their childhood in the early nineteenth century. As late as 1847, no college in New England had a Christmas holiday, and New England did not make it an official holiday until 1856. As late as 1870, the year when December 25 became a federal holiday, Boston public schools held classes on Christmas Day, punishing students who were absent that day.

It was actually the Civil War that brought Christmas to the entire United States. Because the southern states were not settled by religious groups, their people adopted what conservatives now recognize as traditional Christmas celebrations. They saw Christmas as an important part of their social season and were the earliest to make December 25 a legal holiday: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838. After the Civil War was settled, the U.S. government created December 25 as a federal holiday to create a bond between the two parts of the country.

Because Fox seems to be an authority on the appropriate content of “Christmas” cards, I’m including an image of the greeting card that people received from Fox News. The symbolism (sheep?) is outstanding.

The next time that conservatives grump at you about how “liberals” are taking Christmas away from the country, explain to them that the date is based on pagan festivals and the celebrations are based on pagan traditions. And show them Fox’s card! Happy Yule!

December 20, 2011

Conservatives Fraudulently Disenfranchise Voters

The minute that the Republicans took over a majority of the states in this country, they laid the groundwork to keep a Democrat president from being elected through constrictive laws demanding photo IDS and gerrymandering the House districts. Other laws shorten early voting period, ban in-person early voting on Sundays, and prohibit boards of election from mailing absentee ballot requests to voters. Two other states have disenfranchised criminals who have paid their time and are now contributing members of society. All this is in the name of voter fraud. In 38 states.

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters as well as on voters with disabilities, sharply tilting the election results in the coming year. The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2011—63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

Not having photo IDs has already been a problem for voters. After Indiana passed its law in 2008, a group of retired nuns who had always voted were turned away from the primary election because they lacked proper photo identification.

Getting a photo ID will be either expensive and/or impossible for up to 5 million U.S. citizens who have voted in past elections. An example is the Wisconsin law that requires photo ID from anyone who goes to the polls to vote. Although the state ostensibly offers a “free” photo ID to its residents, a birth certificate is necessary in order to obtain it. Copies of birth certificates cost at least $20—if it’s available.

Ruthelle Frank, an 84-year-old Wisconsin woman who, because of a difficult home birth, doesn’t have an official birth certificate now must pay as much as $200 to get one simply to satisfy the “free” photo ID requirements. To get a birth certificate, she has to have a photo ID. In Tennessee, 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper was refused a voter ID because she didn’t have her marriage certificate.

Republicans virtuously claim voter fraud as the reason for demanding photo IDs. A friend pointed out that Indiana recently discovered this problem, but the case she referenced was someone possibly falsifying names in a petition to put Barack Obama on the ballot for the presidential candidate in 2008. It wasn’t voter fraud.

To support the suspicion of fraud, the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) searched for all the cases of voter fraud that have been prosecuted over the last decade. They found 311 cases. That’s an average of 31 cases annually out of a vast number of people who voted—131 million in 2008, for example.

Examining the RNLA’s report showed a bit of “fraud” in the results. RNLA citations actually went back to 1997. It claimed fraud in 46 states but cited only 44 states. For two of those 44 states there were no examples since 2000. That lists only 42 states in the past decade, indicating no fraud in the other eight states. After the claim that Florida had at least 17 cases involving prosecutions for non-citizen voting in 2005, RNLA failed to follow up with the information that at least four of those cases were dismissed. And these are Republicans looking for fraud!

The Justice Department shows 86 proven cases over the past decade. That’s 8.6 a years, resulting in punitive laws from almost half the states in the country. In Wisconsin, seven of the approximately 3 million votes cast in 2004 were deemed invalid–all from felons who were unaware of their ineligibility. Comedian Stephen Colbert recently mocked the need for photo ID laws, noting that fraud occurs in “a jaw dropping 44 one-millionths of one percent” of votes.

Paul Schurick, an aide to former Maryland Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., has been convicted of attempted voter suppression—which may come under the auspices of voter fraud. During the 2006 gubernatorial election, Schurick tried to use robocalls to suppress the black vote. Calls to 112,000 voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County on Election Day before polls had closed in Baltimore and Prince George’s County told African American residents to “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had already won the race. Schurick became Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager in the 2010 race and had been his communications director for the four years that he was governor.

Wisconsin also has a record of one particular county clerk magically “discovering” ballots in her computer a few days after a less-than-conservative candidate loses. She is the only person with access to that computer.

The Constitution has only two requirements in the redistricting every ten years after the census to allocate House representatives: roughly equal populations and no discrimination against minority voters. Ohio is an example of how Republicans in the majority party are making sure that the state will send mostly Republicans to the House—and incidentally vote for a Republican president. State legislators drew up new maps that favor Republicans in 12 of Ohio’s congressional districts, strengthening the majority of likely Republican supporters in at least 17 house districts. The president of the state senate, Republican Thomas Niehaus, wrote in an e-mail, “I am still committed to ending up with a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports,” even though, as a spokesman said in November, Boehnner “has no official role in the redistricting process.”

Redistricting is expensive because it requires voter data and mapping consultants. It also requires lobbyists to influence state legislators, who are in charge of redistricting in most states, for people like the Koch brothers who want to own theUnited States. Mysterious groups influencing redistricting are cropping up in a number of states such as Minnesota. These groups don’t have to divulge their financing from far-right funders.

Ironically, voting is not a constitutional right; states can keep people from voting if they wish. The restrictions just cannot be by race, color, or previous condition of servitude (thanks to the Fourteenth Amendment); gender (thanks to the Twentieth Amendment); or by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax (thanks to the Twenty-Fourth Amendment). These restrictions were removed in 1868 (Amendment 15); 1920 (Amendment 20); and 1964 (Amendment 24). For over 50 years, the Constitution was even able to require that voters be male, as specified in the Fourteenth Amendment.

So what the states are doing to remove voting rights from their citizens?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder got his state legislature to give him the right to appoint “emergency managers” for any municipality and void the right of the people there to elect their officials. Ostensibly to cure the fiscal problems of whatever place he takes over. The four “emergency managers” who he has already appointed to Michigan cities may be joined by Detroit. If he succeeds in doing this, half the African-American residents of Michigan will no longer be able to elect their city officials. They will have no say in what happens to the places where they live.

Everyday Republicans who aren’t elected officials are working hard to remove the rights of voters. In Wisconsin, where opponents of Gov. Scott Walker are trying to gather enough signatures to impeach him, supporters have been caught on video jumping out of trucks to threaten circulators, even defacing or ripping up petitions. One Milwaukee man admitted he had signed recall petitions approximately 80 times. Walker supporters also posted a website saying that people could quit signing the petitions because there are enough signatures. There aren’t.

Another way that states cut down on voter involvement is to send out postcards. People who don’t return them are then questioned at the polls about whether they are qualified to vote. Ohio and Michigan were taken to court over this practice during the past decade. Other lists to possibly disqualify voters were created from people whose homes were foreclosed.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler ordered Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz to not send ballots to soldiers out of state who are legally registered Pueblo County voters but who failed to cast ballots in 2010. No notification—just no ballot.

Other tactics are reflected by Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate, in his joke about making sure that Ohio’s anti-union law passes in the state’s most recently election. Encouraging supporters to call friends and ask if they’re voting for Issue 2, he joked, “If they say no, well, you just make sure that they don’t go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date,” he said. “That’s up to you how you creatively get the job done.”

Debating the laws in state legislatures demonstrates the rationale for the laws and the attitude that some legislators have toward some of their constituents. New Hampshire’s new Republican state House speaker, William O’Brien, described college students as “foolish.”  “Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added. They lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.

Tennessee Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, wondered how “all these people” are able to buy beer and cigarettes without driver’s licenses. “Tell me how people are buying beer and cigarettes? They have to have an ID to do that, a photo ID to do that. I have a hard time believing that all these people don’t have an ID. … You have to have a photo ID to get public housing. You have to have a birth certificate to get public housing. … I think there’s more people with a photo ID than they want to admit.”

Some people are fighting back. Retired Tennessee teacher Lee Campbell and his wife spoke to Congress about their fight for a promised free photo ID under a Republican law demanding ID in order to vote. The DMV tried to charge Campbell $8 for his ID. They are only two, however, of a possible 5 million disenfranchised voters.

In a speech to student activists, Bill Clinton said, “One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time. Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.”

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have introduced a bill that would impose tough criminal and civil penalties on individuals who make and distribute campaign literature with false information intended to deceive voters and suppress turnout. Let’s see what the Republicans, so concerned about voter fraud, will have to say about this.

There was a time in American history when only white male property owners could vote. Let’s hope that we’re not returning to that era.

December 19, 2011

House Republicans Drop the Ball on Middle America

The payroll tax cut looked like a done deal last Saturday after the Senate passed a two-month extension with a 89-10 vote. All 39 Republicans voted in favor, and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said that the House would also vote in favor.

The good news about the Senate bill:

An extension of the payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans

An extension of federally-funded, long-term unemployment benefits for 1.8 million Americans in just January

Prevention of a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements for doctors

The bad news about the Senate bill: Republicans forced a provision to make the president to make a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline within 60 days. (More about that later.)

Because Republicans insisted that the continuation of the tax cut be paid for from other funds while refusing to accept a 1.9 percent surtax on millionaires, the bill included an increase in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fees which would cover just two months. For the other ten months the Republicans wanted to take money from the middle class to pay the middle tax so the Senate delayed this discussion. The bill passed, both sides in the Senate agreed to hammer out a solution in another two months, and the Senate adjourned for the year.

After Boehner said yes, he said no. Although a minority of House Republicans was willing to support the bill, Boehner didn’t want to make the others look bad by voting against the bill. He also wants to kill the economy so that President Obama will look bad. After saying that the House would vote down the Senate bill—which Minority Leader Mitch McConnell loved—he even refused to put the bill up to the House for a vote

Without the payroll tax extension, here’s what happens to the economy:

Reduce GDP growth by 0.5 percent and cost the economy 400,000 jobs (Macroeconomic Advisers)

Knock off 1.5 percent off of first quarter growth next year (Barclay)

Extending the payroll tax extension the economy would continue to improve:

Add between 750,000 to 1 million jobs (Ameriprise Financial Services)

Add 1 percent to economic growth and create 1 million jobs next year (Susan Wachter, finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School)

Put $120 billion into U.S. households in 2012 (Regional Economic Models)

Many of the Republicans realize how disastrous it is to not renew the payroll tax cut. Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), facing a bruising campaign with popular Elizabeth Warren, said, “The House Republicans’ plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-class families is irresponsible and wrong.”

Back to the Keystone XL pipeline proposal that could ship oil tar sands crude, the dirtiest oil on the planet with mixed oil and sand, from Canada to the Gulf of  Mexico. To get a usable form of crude, the  industrial processes use massive amounts of water and energy with a total greenhouse gas footprint some 5% to 30% greater than processing conventional oil. The oil sands are often mined in huge pits requiring huge swaths of forest to be cut down and nearby waterways to be polluted. All thanks to Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP.

Approval at this time, as the bill demands, would pre-approve the safety of an unknown route with the known quantity that Nebraska will avoid the precious Ogallala Aquifer. The 1,700-mile pipeline will threaten more than 1,500 waterway crossings with the type of accident that dumped 42,000 gallons of oil in the Yellowstone River last summer and put 20 times that much tar sands in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010. That spill hasn’t been cleaned up yet.

With the Keystone XL pipeline, Congressional Republicans have promised hundreds of thousands of jobs and oil that will make the United States more independent of the Middle East. Independent studies show a maximum of 6,500 temporary construction jobs, few of which would be local hires. Cornell University concludes that the pipeline would kill more jobs than it would create by reducing investment in the clean energy economy. The pipeline would lead to higher fuel prices in the Midwest, the study said, and that would slow consumer spending and cost jobs. It also said jobs could be lost due to crop failures or other events associated with higher pollution levels the oil sands would bring.

With the majority of the contracts for the processed oil already cut, most of it will probably be exported to foreign countries.

Both Republicans and Democrats want to know why Boehner called the compromise a “good deal” and a “victory” on Saturday, only to say he opposed the deal on Sunday? As recently as Friday, the Speaker said he’d demand an expedited decision on the Keystone XL pipeline as a condition for the payroll break. Democrats agreed to meet the demand, and Boehner still won’t take the Senate bill to the House. And my last question. Are the 160 million Americans who are losing money watching the Republicans?

December 18, 2011

Bachmann, Gingrich Want Religious Law

“I hold a biblical view of law. If you look at the original constitution and the founding documents of our country, it was clear that the founders wanted to separate power, they wanted to separate the presidency from the Supreme Court and from the Congress, because they thought that the Congress should be the most powerful of all the people’s voices because the people would have the ability to change out the members of the House every two years, originally the state legislatures would chose the Senators and they would have the state’s interest in mind, and the President was meant to execute the laws that Congress would put into place. The courts had a relatively minor function, it was to take current facts and apply it to the law that Congress had passed. So it was really a beautiful system that set up but it’s been distorted since then, and that’s what we need to do, get back to the original view of the Founders because it worked beautifully.”—Michelle Bachmann on The Jan Mickelson Show (12/16/11)

I have two questions:

Would a law against “sharia” law that prevents religion guiding the courts also apply to “biblical” law?

Would Michelle Bachmann continue to believe that the presidency should be subordinate to Congress if she were (shudder!) to become president?

Meanwhile Newt Gingrich wants to rid the United States of “secular” courts. “we’ve in fact attempted to create a secular country, which I think is frankly a nightmare,” said Gingrich. The irony is that he claims to be an “historian” who should know that the country was founded to free people from the oppression of religion.

He also said that he is disturbed by the “steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a nonreligious country and the encroachment of the courts on the president’s commander-in-chief powers which is enormously dangerous.” As the president wannabe, Gingrich wants the power himself.

Last spring Gingrich, now a Roman Catholic, espoused his new values approach at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio (TX) where Pastor Rev. John Hagee described the Roman Catholic Church as “the great whore,” and argued that Adolf Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God to expedite God’s will to have Jews reestablish a state of Israel.

With Gingrich’s polling sinking to the level of the other Republican presidential candidates, it is unlikely that he will be the chosen nominee. If he were, however, opponents will have a rich video library of Gingrich quotes for their advertising.

 

 

December 17, 2011

Conservatives Ambivalent about Controlling Internet

Net neutrality was a big story a month ago when the Senate Democrats, in a 52 to 46 vote, stopped a Republican attempt to repeal rules that prohibit Internet service providers from slowing down or blocking access to legitimate websites. Even FCC spokesman said the vote was “a win for consumers and businesses.”

Republicans use the typical excuse in their votes to  give advantages to big business by saying that these rules are an unnecessary burden on businesses and an attempt for the government to control the Internet. Except for two absences, all Senate Republicans voted to repeal the rules, and all Democrats voted to maintain them.

Verizon has since filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that the FCC overstepped its authority by trying to regulate broadband Internet service. The same court that ruled against Comcast last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will hear the Verizon case. Comcast sued after FCC sanctioned Comcast for slowing down users’ access to file-sharing site BitTorrent, arguing it violated an FCC policy statement. If the court strikes down the net-neutrality rules, the FCC could choose to re-classify broadband Internet as a “telephone service” as opposed to an “information service.” The FCC has a much broader authority to regulate telephone companies.

The month before Republicans, who moaned about “government control of the Internet,” decided to control the Internet. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), demands that search engines, Internet providers, and ad networks cut ties with websites “dedicated” to copyright infringement.

SOPA would create a “blacklist” of websites that infringe on copyrights. Private companies who allege that a site is unlawfully publishing their copyrighted content could, with a judge’s signature, demand that ad networks and companies such as PayPal and Visa stop doing business with such sites. Internet service providers would need to prevent Americans from visiting them. Prosecution would result from just suspicion of wrongdoing—just like the new law stating that U.S. citizens can be indefinitely imprisoned without a trial on suspicion of terrorist activities.

A website that deliberately acts “to avoid confirming a high probability of the use…of the site” to commit infringements” faces getting shut down by a lawsuit from a rightsholder, or having its credit card and ad funding pulled by a court order. Terms like “high probability” and “avoid confirming” aren’t defined, making prosecution—even of innocent people—far easier. SOPA adds a new violation to copyright infringement called “lacking sufficient zeal to prevent copyright infringement.”

SOPA would “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself,” according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and effectively break the Internet. It would punish web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. Schmidt compared SOPA to the censorship practiced by repressive foreign governments like China. He also criticized SOPA for targeting the Domain Name System, which experts have warned could undermine the security of the Web.

The House bill states that any online service provider who has a DNS server has to generally “take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers” to the targeted site. This includes DNS redirecting, but also can include any number of unspecified actions. What they are is completely unknown.

Supporters of  SOPA include the Motion Picture Association of America (not surprising), the pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even the International Association of Firefighters, who say that piracy saps the tax dollars that support emergency services.

Opponents run the gamut from progressive rights groups who say the bill could stifle free expression online to tea party activists who say that the measure gives far too much business-strangling power to the government. Wikipedia said they may temporarily blank out its pages in protest; other websites including Tumblr, Reddit and Firefox already have.

Even librarians are riled about SOPA. Representatives of 139,000 libraries stated that this bill “could threaten important library and educational activities.” If  SOPA passed, the court could find a person guilty even if the person believed the actions were legal. The new law would impose “ both misdemeanor and felony penalties for non-commercial public performances.” In addition, the proposed law would make colleges and universities far more liable to criminal prosecution even if they are operating under the assumption that their use of materials is reasonable.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law expert at Harvard Law School, argued that SOPA violates the First Amendment because it amounts to illegal “prior restraint,” suppressing speech without a judicial hearing. He also wrote to House members that the law’s definition of a rogue website is unconstitutionally vague:  “Conceivably, an entire website containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement. Such an approach would create severe practical problems for sites with substantial user-generated content, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and for blogs that allow users to post videos, photos, and other materials.” In addition Tribe argued that  SOPA undermines the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which protected websites from being held responsible for the actions of their users.

A competing legal analysis by constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams claimed that the First Amendment does not protect copyright infringement and the bill’s protections are sufficient to not cause a chilling effect on protected speech. Abrams wrote the analysis on behalf of a coalition of movie and television associations which support the legislation.

SOPA is a great way for the entertainment industry to destroy the Internet and force people to go back the movie theater or sit in front of a small screen to watch reality shows. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) took the lead in the Senate to support SOPA with the Protect IP Act and might have succeeded with no debate if Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) had not put a hold on it and promised a filibuster. (Occasionally these are good!)

The House Judiciary Committee spent 12 hours Thursday debating SOPA and adjourned yesterday without a vote to move it onto the House and without a revised schedule for any vote. The bill’s sponsors were continually exposed for knowing almost nothing about how the Internet functions. During Thursday’s session, more than one lawmaker insisted that Congress could pass the measure without understanding the architecture of the Internet and how the bill could change the way the web works.

The committee also heard no testimony from experts on internet engineering or network infrastructure, even as it faces widespread opposition from the Internet industry. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who opposes SOPA, has confirmed that talks regarding SOPA will continue Dec. 21. It’s my guess that very few representatives will be there for the meeting so soon before their holiday; their recess was scheduled to begin on December 8.

Basically the bill is about copyright infringement. The United States has laws against copyright infringement. Congress just wants to make the search engines be the police to watch for this infringement—and make them take the blame if someone else infringes copyrights.

If the bill doesn’t pass before December 31, 2011, sponsors have to start from scratch in 2012. It’s a guarantee that millions of Internet lovers will provide lots of scrutiny for the destruction of the Internet.  

Thanks to the Internet, people can track the committee’s efforts to do away with the Internet. Enjoy! (At least as long as it exists.)

December 16, 2011

Omnibus, Temporary Payroll Tax Extension Pass

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:27 PM
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It’s always a good thing when Congress decides that the country should pay its bills—although why there’s such a hoopla about it, I don’t understand. The government was due to shut down today—for the third time this year since Republicans took over—unless the $1 trillion omnibus bill passed, a law which will fund the government for the next year. The House passed it today by a vote of 296 to 121.

The cynic in me always wonders what we lost because the Republicans agree to vote with the Democrats about paying the nation’s bills.  Yes, there’s a batch of bad smells coming out of the omnibus bill

The Republicans have succeeded in keeping the District of Columbia from spending their local funds on abortion and, thanks to the tireless work of Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), blocked the light bulb standards that George W. Bush signed into law. Riders barred the use of federal funds for needle exchanges nation-wide, weakened the National Labor Relations Board, and included funds for discredited “abstinence only” programs.  Other negatives were cuts to LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), black Colleges,and community service programs.

Also the Republicans’ bill  to extend the payroll tax reduction, dubbed the oxymoronic “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011,” was passed–for two months. The two-month bill goes to the Senate tomorrow morning. Republicans fought to get Democrats to cave on all their proposals. The Democrats already dropped their proposal to tax the millionaires; now they agree to sending the Keystone XL pipeline proposal to Obama for an immediate up or down. Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said they would not accept even a temporary extension of the payroll tax holiday without the Keystone language.

The Congress can’t really force the administration into making this decision before Obama’s deadline of after the 2012 election. The State Department, which makes the final call, has said, “Should Congress impose an arbitrary deadline for the permit decision … the Department would be unable to make a determination to issue a permit for this project.” The saber-rattling about the subject, however, continues.

Two months would cost less than $30 billion to be covered by increasing the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fees for mortgage lenders to guarantee repayments of new mortgage loans. The payroll tax reduction bill would also freeze scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors until March.

Another bone of contention between Republicans and Democrats was counting war savings in the “payfors” that conservatives required. Possibly Republicans don’t want to count the savings because they plan a preenptive war on Iran. Every Republican presidential candidate at the most recent debate except Ron Paul is determined to bomb Iran because they have nuclear weapons. (Have we heard that conservative argument for a preemptive war recently?)

None of this is a done deal. If the Senate passes the bill, then changes have to go back to the House so that representatives can vote on it. Again. Republicans certainly like living on the edge!

December 14, 2011

Income Inequity Destroys Economy

Class warfare: that’s what Republicans call it. They want everyone to stop walking about the inequity of income between the bottom 99 percent and the rest of the people in the country. Income inequity is so prevalent, however, that seeing it cannot be avoided.

David Siegel tried to sell his unfinished 90,000-square-foot house (no, that’s not a typo!) in Orlando. The asking price of $75 million may include the 10 Segways that he, wife Jacqueline, and their eight children use to get from one part of the house to another. The 10 of them will not be homeless; Siegel still owns the 26,000-square-foot house where they live. The last recession hit Siegel hard: his time-share company, Westgate Resorts, went from an annual $200 million profit to $1 billion in the hole. His money difficulties, he explained, stemmed from his banks that won’t finance loans.

The recession hurt others as well. Edra Blixseth, former co-owner of the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky (MT), filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. She said that she and husband Tim were “living on the financial edge,” edge meaning two yachts, three jets, and a California estate with its own 19-hole golf course and staff of 110 people. Their spending is in accord with the patterns of the top 10 percent that spends 10 times the amount that the bottom 80 percent do. We’ll guess that the bottom 80 percent are more concerned with toothpaste and milk whereas the top end concentrates on jewelry and vacations.

When Westgate couldn’t roll over its debts, Siegel fired half of his workforce of 12,000 people and sold off assets. Today, according to Siegel, Westgate is “highly profitable,” but revenues are still half their peak levels. Economy measures for the Siegel means that they fired 14 of their 15 housekeepers and lost their private chef, “Chef Jeff.” The kids go to public school, and the bank seized their Gulfstream. The family is allowed to use it occasionally, but on a trip when they had to fly commercially, one of the kids said, “Mom, what are all these strangers doing on our plane?” [Thanks to Robert Frank for this information in his book, The High-Beta Rich: How the Manic Wealthy Will Take Us to the Next Boom, Bubble, and Bust.]

Conservatives are fond of raging about how little the bottom half of the people in the nation. They like to say that these people pay nothing, but they neglect the fact that any employed person in the United States pays payroll taxes. It should be a no-brainer to understand why the unemployed don’t pay taxes.

The top 1% of earners pay 38% of federal income taxes. They also have 38.3% of all privately held stock, 60.6% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity. The top 10% have 80% to 90% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. In summary 10% of the people pretty much own the United States of America.

Other income inequities:

The top 0.1 percent of earners in the U.S., about 328,000 people, has more than 20 percent of the personal income in the country, and their average income is $5.4 million. The average income of the bottom 90 percent is $31,244.

In 1970 the top 100 CEOs earned $45 for every $1 earned by the average worker; in 2006, the ratio was $1,723 to $1.

In 2005 total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent from the year before; income for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent. The gains went largely to the top 1 percent, whose incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000, or about 14 percent.

The top 300,000 people in the U.S. (about 0.1 percent) collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980. The top 10 percent of  people in the U.S. collected 48.5 percent of all reported income in 2005, an increase of more than 2 percent over the previous year and up from roughly 33 percent in the late 1970s, about a 50 percent increase.

The combined net worth of the bottom 40 percent of the nation’s wealth  is 0.3 percent or the country’s total net worth; the top 1 percent has 25 percent or the nation’s wealth, about the same as just before the Great Depression in the 1930s.

S. Robson “Rob” Walton, Walmart chairman and 9th richest person in this country, has a net worth of about $19.7 billion. Walmart workers make around $8.75 an hour, about $18,000 a year. Each one of these employees would have to work over a million years to approach the $19.7 billion. Alice and Jim Walton each have about $20 billion, and Christy Walton has $24 billion. In 2010 the CEO of Walmart, Michael Duke, made his average employee’s yearly salary, $18,000, every hour.

Six members of the Walton family possess wealth equal to that of the entire bottom 30 percent of Americans: six people have the same wealth as over 90 million people in this country.

In the 1950s the top 400 taxpayers faced a 90 percent federal tax rate; by 1995 their effective tax rate, what they really paid after all deductions as a percent of all their income, fell to 30 percent. Now it’s barely 16 percent.

In 2010 business donated $1,317,999,729 to political campaigns; labor donated $92,355,686. Such an inequity in campaign expenditures guarantees increase income inequity.

In 1994 the top six banks’s assets were 17 percent of the economy; in 2009 the top six banks’ assets were 63 percent of the economy.

Between 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income; their share of after-tax income more than doubled from below 8 percent in 1979 to 17 percent in 2007. For those in the top 20 percent of the population, average real after-tax household income grew by 65 percent, increasing their overall share from 43 percent in 1979 to 53 percent.

For the poorest fifth of the population, average real after-tax household income rose 18 percent between 1979 to 2007, lowering their percent of after-tax household income from 7 percent in 1979 to 5 percent in 2007. And for the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale, the growth in such household income was just under 40 percent, dropping their share of after-tax income by 2-3 percent from 1979 to 2007. Thus the lowest 80 percent almost kept up with inflation during these 28 years, but the collective income of the top 20 percent is now more than the bottom 80 percent.

The U.S. has a higher level of income inequality than Europe, Canada, Australia, and South Korea, according to data gathered by the World Bank. America ranks in the bottom third of the list of 90 countries, which is mainly based on 2008 data of per capita income or consumption in each nation.

Unique to the United States is the relative lack of government support compared to Europe and Canada. Other countries provide more public services, including health insurance, higher education, daycare, and pensions. And these benefits are provided on a more universal basis, rather than being dependent on one’s income level, as in the United States.

Europe also places more restraints on executive compensation so its corporate leaders don’t receive the outsized packages that their American counterparts do. Lavish executive pay is one reason why the top 1% ofU.S. earners have seen their average inflation-adjusted household incomes rise by 275%, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, weakening the unions has destroyed the middle class. The conservatives’ philosophy that income inequity is good because it shows the success of capitalism makes them fail to recognize that without a strong middle class, the bottom 99 percent cannot afford to spend money to support the private sector. The result is fewer and fewer jobs, continually weakening the private sector and keeping them from supporting the public sector. The Republican position is forcing the United States into a race to the bottom of the world’s economy.

December 13, 2011

Republicans Deny Obama’s Nominees, Nullify Law

The Congressional recess is frequently a time when presidents appoint nominees to official positions after the Senate refuses to act on these nominations. President Obama missed his chance last summer because the Senate didn’t officially call a recess: a senator showed up each day to hold a fake meeting, that they call brief “pro forma” sessions, to avoid recessing. Those sessions, typically lasting just minutes with a handful of members present, exist because of Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that neither chamber will adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other. If House Republicans do not agree to the Senate’s recess or vice versa, those brief sessions are required. GOP members have forced several of these sessions over the last few months, precisely to block recess appointments.

The Congress is nearing its usual winter recess after the conservatives’ customary refusal to approve nominees. So what’s Obama to do if they continue to hold pro forma sessions?

Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution states that if there is a disagreement about when the chambers should adjourn, the president has the power to “adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper.” The power has never been used before perhaps because no other Senate has refused to approve such a large number of nominees.

Also the 20th Amendment of the Constitution states that the Congress shall assemble at least once a year, with each session beginning at noon on Jan. 3. That means that the Congress has to break in order to assemble. Theodore Roosevelt once made a recess appointment during a recess that was less than a day long, creating an historical precedent. Doing this, Obama would bring criticism from Republicans in the Congress, but that is nothing new for him.

A major position left empty for over a year is the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because Senate said they would reject Elizabeth Warren before she was appointed, Obama named Richard Cordray to be the financial watchdog. He has impeccable credentials, having been Attorney General of Ohio, and 30 other state attorney generals wrote to the Senate requesting his approval.

Although the Senate could have passed Cordray with a 53-45 vote, the Republicans filibustered—again—which required 60 votes to bring the matter up for a vote. The only Republican who voted for cloture was Scott Brown (R-MA), a practical approach because he is running against the extremely popular Elizabeth Warren for his Senate seat.

As of last September the Republican stall campaign in the Senate had sidetracked so many of the Obama’s judicial nominees that he has put fewer people on the federal bench than any president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his first term 40 years ago. Despite the Democrats’ substantial Senate majority, Republican filibusters have caused fewer than half of Obama’s nominees to be confirmed and 102 out of 854 judgeships to be vacant.

Six years ago 14 Senate Republicans and Democrats made an informal agreement that a filibuster would be used for presidential nominees only in “extraordinary circumstances” in order to break a logjam on judicial nominees. Four of these Republicans who participated in this agreement are still in the Senate, and some of them are continuing the filibusters. An example of this is the 54-45 vote that failed to bring cloture to debate regarding the judicial nomination of Caitlin Halligan to join the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK) was the only Republican to vote against the filibuster.  Murkowski said Halligan deserved an up-or-down vote. “I stated during the Bush Administration that judicial nominations deserved an up-or-down vote, except in ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and my position has not changed simply because there is a different President making the nominations,” she said.

Senate Judiciary ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) voted present. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he opposed the nomination not because of Halligan’s views but also because he doesn’t believe the position is needed. The slot that Halligan was nominated for, to replace U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, has been vacant for years.

Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said in a release, “Let me be clear: Senate Republicans blocked a supremely qualified nominee today. Halligan is a lawyer’s lawyer. She clerked for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, she has a long and distinguished record of service in New York, and she has support across party lines–including from former George W. Bush nominee Miguel Estrada.  She is an exemplary nominee, supported by a majority of Senators. She was first nominated in 2010, and she should have been sitting on the D.C. Circuit by now.”

Cordray’s tenure would be five years if he were approved; federal judges are permanent. The more Obama nominees that can be avoided, the happier the conservatives will be. Their hope is that they will take over the Senate and presidency next year so that the entire judicial system will be as far right as possible.

Opposing Cordray has been profitable for several senators. Wall Street banks are fighting the new agency tooth and nail, and the 45 Republicans who vowed to block the agency’s director have received nice donations from the financial services industry, over $6.5 million from the financial industry in 2011 and nearly $125.6 million during their careers. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Banking committee (and lead signer of the letter), received at least $81,850 in 2011 and $6.2 million from the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector throughout his career.

What the senators are practicing in these two cases can be called “nullification.” Senators voted against Halligan because they didn’t see the need for the position (as declared by law), and they voted against Cordray because they don’t want the bureau to exist despite the fact that is passed Congress. They have been very open about their votes opposing the law that passed the bureau, not the person himself—in short, openly trying to keep an already-approved piece of legislation from taking effect. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told the New York Times: “This is not about the nominee, who appears to be a decent person and may very well be qualified.” The Republicans are simply saying that they don’t like a law that was legally passed so they are going to behave as if it didn’t.

It’s not the first time that the Republicans have used nullification during Obama’s term. They refused to allow a vote on Don Berwick, Obama’s first choice to run Medicare and Medicaid–not because they seriously doubted his qualifications but because they don’t like the Affordable Care Act.

Nullification may have led to the Civil War. In 1830 Vice-President John C. Calhoun theorized that states had the power to “nullify” federal laws, using arguments from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison opposing the Alien and Sedition Acts. When he finally understood the danger of this position, he worked to develop a more bipartisan attitude, but the southern states continued to simmer until South Carolinacame to boil thirty years later followed by ten other states.

According to Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land…anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Every member of Congress takes an oath to “support and defend” the Constitution and swears that they take that oath “without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” Senate Republicans are pretending that they don’t have to follow the Constitution. The question is whether what they are doing is unconstitutional

December 12, 2011

Republicans’ Payroll Tax Benefits Wealthy

Last week the conservatives in Congress who got elected to find jobs for millions of people in the country while not raising taxes voted against an extension of a payroll tax break for middle-class families. Their objection is that the top 0.1 percent of income earners would have a 1.9 percent tax increase. They defend their refusal to increase taxes for the wealthy by claiming that the Grover Norquist pledge prevents them from doing so. But last week they were comfortable raising taxes for half the people in the nation.

Tomorrow, in the last week before they leave on their holiday recess at the end of the year, the Republicans will vote on a proposal that won’t raise taxes, and they will proudly announce this while accusing the Democrats of wanting to penalize the poor and middle class. The good news about the Republican proposal is that it would maintain the payroll tax at 4.2 percent, partially continue the unemployment payments, and slightly raise the Medicare payments for doctors rather than drastically reducing them. As usual, however, with Republicans there’s lots of bad news.

The Republicans’ bill would add $25.3 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, increasing the deficit by $166.8 billion in just the coming year. They are willing to do this after swearing that any raise to the deficit is evil. Democrats have pointed out that the Republicans’ cut-go rules state that a bill must not add to the deficit in the 5-year and 10-year budget windows, but Republicans seem to ignore the rules whenever they choose.

The Republicans’ bill would allow states to require drug testing as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits. A judge has already declared that a Florida law requiring those who apply for welfare benefits to be unconstitutional. Judge Mary Scriven ruled that this law would violate the constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on illegal search and seizure. “If invoking an interest in preventing public funds from potentially being used to fund drug use were the only requirement to establish a special need,” she wrote, “the state could impose drug testing as an eligibility requirement for every beneficiary of every government program. Such blanket intrusions cannot be countenanced under the Fourth Amendment.”

The Republicans’ bill would repeal $8 million in mandatory funding for the healthcare reform law and cut another $34.9 billion necessary in implementing that law. Language in the bill would also delay and potentially weaken Environmental Protection Agency air-pollution regulations for industrial boilers and incinerators. Republicans have been very strong in asserting that these regulations will hurt business, but EPA says revised boiler regulations aimed at reducing harmful air pollutants such as mercury and soot would only apply to about 1 percent of the country’s boilers and would offer major public health benefits.

The Republicans’ bill would extend a pay freeze for federal workers, prohibit millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps, and gradually increase Medicare premiums for the upper-income retirees, those who make more than $80,000. The bill raises the number of Medicare recipients who pay higher premiums from 7 percent of them to 25 percent, affecting not only wealthy but also middle-class retirees.

The Republicans’ bill also changes the health co-payment structure for certain federal retirees, raises fees for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and increases revenue through spectrum auctions, selling the rights (licences) to transmit signals over specific bands of the electromagnetic spectrum and to assign scarce spectrum resources. In addition, the bill allows businesses to deduct the full cost of their equipment investments in as little as one year.

The Republicans’ bill forces the administration to fast-track a permit decision on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline which the Obama administration wishes to delay until after the 2012 election.

Missing in the Republicans’ bill is the 1.9 percent surtax on millionaires.  Republicans continue to protect the wealthy. Their reason for keeping the money flowing to the wealthy is the same one that they’ve used for the past decade: doing so will hurt the “job creators.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) used his intuition to declare that a tax increase will keep businesses from job creation. NPR (always on the conservatives’ chopping block) set out to search for these “job creators” who will be affected by the 1.9 percent tax increase.

NPR reporters first went to Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership, who couldn’t find any millionaire “job creator” to be interviewed. Then the reporters went to business groups lobbying against the 1.9 percent surtax. Once again no one. A reason for this failure might be that only 2 percent of people with any business income, large or small, would be affected by the 1.9 percent tax increase.

Instead, several business owners who would get the 1.9 percent increase insist that the tax wouldn’t hurt hiring at all. Business owners continue to tell Republicans that the marginal tax change makes “zero difference” in hiring. Anchor Brewing CEO Keith Greggord said that not a lot of “small-business owners I know are millionaires.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney derided the GOP package, saying, “Their plan seeks to put the burden on working families while giving a free pass to the wealthiest and big corporations by protecting their loopholes and subsidies.” As usual, the Republicans are also blackmailing the Democrats into passing this bill and penalizing the poor people through their additions to the bill such as requiring people getting welfare to take drug tests.

With a raise in the payroll tax, 160 million people would pay an additional 2 percent on the first $106,800 that they earn, an average of an extra $1,000 per year. A surtax on millionaires would charge 1.9 percent on their money over $1,000,000. Only 328,000 people have an adjusted gross income over $1,000,000; they are the top one percent. The bottom 160 million people are the real job creators because each one of them will spend their $1,000. That $120 billion will go into the economy.

The 328,000 millionaires, includes over 250 in Congress, are also developing spending “savvy,” according to a Newsweek article on 12/5/11. This means that the 2010 Bordeaux is too expensive; they’ll stick to the 2009 vintage. According to concierge services at Fischer Travel, the wealthy need a dermatologist in London or former White House doctors who treat them on yachts or private jets. So when they save money because the Republicans take money from the bottom 160 million people in the U.S., they can afford these luxuries–probably from out of the country.

 

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