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News Archive 2011 4th Qtr

Occupy T-Shirt

Northern Michigan Veterans for Peace

From 12/30/11 Gaylord Herald Times article by Lorene Parshall

GAYLORD — The Iraq War officially ended Dec. 15 with the last convoy pulling out a couple days later, eight years after it began.

The end of the war was a goal Gaylord resident Don Storing, a member of Northern Michigan Veterans for Peace, had worked hard to achieve.

Thanks to our State representatives, MacMaster and Moolenaar, 2012 Michigan taxes higher for nearly everyone but businesses

From 12/31/11 The Detroit News article by Jim Lynch

In compiling and pushing through his 2012 budget last spring, Gov. Rick Snyder attacked what he saw as an outdated and cumbersome tax code.

His prescribed fixes take effect Sunday. That will mean major changes for state taxpayers and businesses.

At the heart of Snyder's overhaul is the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax — a move expected to lighten the tax load on corporations by roughly $1.6 billion.

But you don't take that much revenue off the books without replacing it somewhere else. And much of that burden will fall on Michigan's seniors and retirees in 2012.

Snyder's budget repealed several special exemptions for seniors, reduced the Earned Income Tax Credit and Homestead Property Tax, enacted a tax on public worker pensions and lowered the tax-exempt threshold for private sector pensions.

Tax deductions for charitable giving, political donations, and in-state bingo, raffle or charity auctions will no longer be available after Jan. 1.

Benishek and other radical House Republicans did significant damage in 2011

From 12/30/11 The New York Times editorial

After they took power in January, the hard-line Republicans who dominate the House reached for a radical overhaul of American government, hoping to unravel the social safety net, cut taxes further for the wealthy and strip away regulation of business. Fortunately, thanks to defensive tactics by Democrats, they failed to achieve most of their agenda.

But they still did significant damage in 2011 to many of the most important functions of government, and particularly to investments in education, training and transportation that the country will need for a sound economic recovery.

1% Animation

From 12/31/11 The Detroit Free Press animation by Michael Thompson

Click image or link above to open animation page. It opens slowly; be patient.

58,000 additional young Michiganders now have health care

From 12/30/11 Michigan Democratic Party press release

LANSING –  The Michigan Democratic Party is pleased to announce news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that the Affordable Care Act continues to significantly increase the number of young adults who have health insurance.

“Before the Affordable Care Act, more young Americans lacked health insurance than any other age group – accounting for more than one in five of the uninsured,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said. “Going without insurance put the health and finances of millions of young people at risk.”

Contrary to the myth that young people don’t need health insurance, one in six young adults has a chronic disease like cancer, diabetes or asthma.  Studies show that nearly half of uninsured young adults reported problems paying their medical bills and others forwent regular care, like checkups or recommended screenings, due to cost.

“President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act to put affordable, quality health insurance back within reach of all Americans,” added Brewer. “Thanks to the new law, young adults can now stay on their parents’ plan up to age 26.”

Originally, HHS projected that 1.24 million young adults would gain coverage in 2011 as a result of this part of the law. The actual numbers far exceed initial expectations.  The CDC recently announced that 2.5 million young adults now have health coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

In Michigan, that means an estimated 58,000 young Americans have access to health care because of the new law.

Health care reform does more than just expand coverage.  It also puts an end to insurance company abuses.  Already, insurance companies cannot use a lifetime cap or cancel coverage when someone gets sick and millions of Americans can get preventive care without copays or cost-sharing.  And, soon, it will be illegal for insurance companies to refuse to cover someone with pre-existing conditions.

2011: year of right-wing media's war on workers

From 12/20/11 MediaMatters for America article

This was a banner year in the right-wing media's campaign to belittle working Americans. In the early part of the year, media conservatives promoted anti-union laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, transitioned to attacking the National Labor Relations Board, and spent the entirety of the year demonizing union workers, low-income Americans, and the unemployed.

Fox & Friends lies

From 12/16/11 MediaMatter for America article

Fox News' Fox & Friends made considerable contributions to the field of conservative misinformation throughout 2011. The efforts of co-hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade -- as well as their rotating cast of fill-in hosts and Curvy Couch guests -- have made Fox & Friends the top misinformer on Fox News in 2011.

Fox & Friends Hyped Anti-Obama Conspiracy Theories
Fox & Friends' War On Unions
Economic Misinformation
Health Care Misinformation
Education Misinformation
Environment And Climate Misinformation
Immigration Misinformation
National Security And Foreign Policy Misinformation
LGBT Attacks
Attacks On Muslims

GOP Senate hopefuls court middle class … from country club

From 12/15/11 The Detroit News article by Marisa Schults

West Bloomfield Township— Two U.S. Senate hopefuls offered messages of hope and shied away from critiquing each other Wednesday at a Republican dinner.

The GOP primary challengers — former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Cornerstone Schools co-founder Clark Durant — spoke briefly before more than 300 attendees of the Greater West Bloomfield Republicans' first liberty dinner at the Shenandoah Country Club.

Public support for higher education dwindling (e.g. our state legislators, MacMaster and Moolenaar, voted for a 15% cut for Michigan colleges this year)

From 12/26/11 The Washington Post article by Daniel de Vise

BERKELEY, Calif. — Across the nation, a historic collapse in state funding for higher education threatens to diminish the stature of premier public universities and erode their mission as engines of upward social mobility.

At the University of Virginia, state support has dwindled in two decades from 26 percent of the operating budget to 7 percent. At the University of Michigan, it has declined from 48 percent to 17 percent.

From a reader comment on this article

Wenzela says: "Ever noticed that tuitions jump when the government introduces new financing plans (i.e. Student loans, grants, etc)?"
 
Funny you mention that. The Republicans under Gingrich's Congress back in the 90s insisted that private banks like BoA and CitiCorp be made the middlemen for student loans issued under the Federal Family Education Loan Program. These loans were federally funded student loans with highly subsidized interest rates and government guarantees. Banks made a mint off issuing these loans. The CBO did multiple studies and found the Dept of Education (yes, the same one several GOP candidates would like to eliminate if they could just remember to do so) issues the same loans at a far lower cost to taxpayers than the middlemen loans. Since Republicans don't really give a hoot about the deficit or the debt, but would really like to be BFF with the banking industry, they refused under Clinton to eliminate the middlemen and under Bush Jr. the program continued, needless to say.  
But, under Obama, the health care law included a line that eliminated that gravy train for the banks as a way to recoup up to $60bn/year in administrative costs.  
Obama once again acting as the fiscally responsible one.
Will he get an ounce of credit for it? Probably not.

The University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State and maybe Michigan Tech. are prestigious enough that high achieving students around the world are standing in line for admission and are more than willing to pay full tuition rates. Since these rates actually cover the cost of educating them, the solution for these schools is to simply bring in a higher percentage of out-of-state students. These schools will survive even if Michigan taxpayer support goes to zero, so long as they continue to provide a quality and very sought after education; they just won't be educating nearly as many Michigan students. As public support for public higher education dwindles, the big question is what happens to the other colleges in Michigan?

College students are too liberal to vote

From 12/26/11 The New York Time editorial

Next fall, thousands of students on college campuses will attempt to register to vote and be turned away. Sorry, they will hear, you have an out-of-state driver’s license. Sorry, your college ID is not valid here. Sorry, we found out that you paid out-of-state tuition, so even though you do have a state driver’s license, you still can’t vote.

William O’Brien, the speaker of the New Hampshire State House, told a Tea Party group earlier this year that students are “foolish” and tend to “vote their feelings” because they lack life experience. “Voting as a liberal,” he said, “that’s what kids do.” And that’s why, he said, he supported measures to prohibit students from voting from their college addresses and to end same-day registration.

House Republicans (including our Congressman, Dr. Benishek) oppose E.P.A. mercury regulations

From 12/25/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

[W]e were supposed to start regulating mercury more than 20 years ago. But the rules are finally here, and will deliver huge benefits at only modest cost.

So, naturally, Republicans are furious.

[E]ven opponents of environmental regulation admit that mercury is nasty stuff. It’s a potent neurotoxicant: the expression “mad as a hatter” emerged in the 19th century because hat makers of the time treated fur with mercury compounds, and often suffered nerve and mental damage as a result.

[A] lot of mercury gets into the atmosphere from old coal-burning power plants that lack modern pollution controls. From there it gets into the water, where microbes turn it into methylmercury, which builds up in fish. And what happens then? The E.P.A. explains: “Methylmercury exposure is a particular concern for women of childbearing age, unborn babies and young children, because studies have linked high levels of methylmercury to damage to the developing nervous system, which can impair children’s ability to think and learn.”

That sort of sounds like something we should regulate, doesn’t it?

From 9/28/11 Michigan League of Conservation Voters press release by Ryan Werder

MICHIGAN – Last week, Congressman Benishek helped the U.S. House pass the TRAIN Act (HR 2401) - the first in a suite of attacks on public health safeguards outlined in Majority Leader Cantor’s Fall Agenda.

The TRAIN Act delays two critical clean air safeguards for reducing toxic air pollution from power plants that would save over 2,000 lives per year in Michigan*: the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard and the Cross State Air Pollution Rule.

10 worst Republican actions of 2011

From 12/23/11 Guy Cecil e-mail

2011 is almost over, and that means everyone’s making Top 10 lists. I decided to get in on the action too. Here’s my compilation of the 10 Worst Republican Actions of 2011.
 
Which do you think is the worst?

  • Bring Back “Pre-Existing Conditions”: Health care reform is one of President Obama’s signature achievements. No longer can children born with health conditions be denied insurance. No longer can insurance companies deny care for “pre-existing conditions.” About 2.5 million young adults who lacked health insurance now are covered by their families’ plans. So what did Republicans do? Try to repeal “Obamacare” and put control back in the hands of insurance companies.
  • Kick Grandma Off Medicare & Give Her a Coupon: Republicans all lined up in favor of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s extreme budget plan earlier this year that would kill Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher program. Thank goodness the Democratic Senate was there to stop them and keep our promise to seniors.
  • Hand Over Cash to Corporations and the Wealthy: Another part of Paul Ryan’s plan: Give huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. While the middle class struggles to get ahead, Republicans tried to make things worse by reducing taxes on the wealthiest – and sticking everyone else with the bill.
  • Rip Away Workers’ Rights: When Republicans won the governorships in Wisconsin and Ohio, among other states, one of the first things they did was go after public workers, including taking away the rights of teachers and prison guards to bargain for better pay and benefits. Bad move. They clearly overstepped their bounds, and voters will remember at the ballot box in 2012. 
  • Prevent You From Voting: Republicans this year decided that when it comes to elections, if you can’t beat, then cheat. From Florida to Wisconsin to Ohio, Republicans passed laws that will have the effect of suppressing Democratic turnout in these crucial swing states. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than 5 million voters will be affected by these laws – a number higher than the margin of victory in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Senate Democrats are holding hearings on the Florida laws in January.
  • Declare War on Women: It was bad enough that Republicans tried to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning programs. Then they tried to change federal law to redefine rape and to allow hospitals to deny lifesaving care for pregnant women. So much for the Republican promise to have a “laser focus” on jobs. The Republican War on Women is alive and well.
  • Shove Gay Soldiers Back Into the Closet: It was a huge victory for civil rights and basic human dignity when President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell into law. Finally, all Americans could serve openly in the military. Or not. This year, Republicans tried to bring back the policy, and some Republican presidential candidates have said reinstituting discrimination is one of their top policy priorities.
  • Launch Assaults on Sesame Street and Lake Wobegon: I don’t know what Republicans have against Big Bird and Garrison Keillor, but they will do almost anything to shut off their microphones. In fact, earlier this year, Republicans vowed to shut down the federal government if NPR and PBS weren’t defunded. Luckily, Senate Democrats were there to stop the nonsense, and “Sesame Street” and “A Prairie Home Companion” were given a reprieve – for now.
  • Let Consumers Fend For Themselves: One of the most important reforms passed by Democrats in decades was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prevent big banks from ripping off their customers with dangerous financial products – some of the same products that contributed to the Great Recession. But Republicans hate anything that puts customers ahead of corporations. So they’ve fought the bureau – and people chosen to lead it – tooth and nail.
  • Increase Taxes for Middle Class Families. And last but certainly not least, this week House Republicans refused to support tax relief for the middle class, even as they demand it for billionaires and huge corporations. If your taxes go up next year, you’ll have nobody but Republicans to blame.

These policies and positions are simply awful -- so awful, in fact, that I couldn't choose the worst. That's your job.The Democratic Senate has been the firewall stopping most of these measures dead in their tracks. With only a four seat majority, it’s never been more important to protect the Senate.
 
From all of us here at the DSCC, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a great – and blue! – 2012.
 
Guy Cecil
Executive Director, DSC

www.newtgingrich.com

From 12/22/11 NPR morning news broadcast

The Gingrich campaign didn't bother to register the newtgingrich.com domain name and it redirects to Web pages unfavorable to Newt.

Michigan population still shrinking

From 12/21/11 The Detroit Free Press article by staff

What do Michigan, Maine and Rhode Island have in common? Winters, yeah, but they also are the only three states to lose population between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, according to new numbers released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Benishek votes to increase payroll taxes and cut unemployment benefits

From 12/20/11 The Washington Post article by Rosalind S.Helderman and Paul Kane

The House voted on Tuesday to reject a Senate compromise that would have extended a federal payroll tax holiday for two months, continued unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and averted a cut in the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medicare patients.

At its heart, the fight over the tax cut is only the latest incarnation of the same ideological clash that has afflicted Congress for the past year, over what the government should fund and how it should be paid for.

Once again, Democrats and Republicans foundered over whether to fund an initiative by cutting entitlements and other spending or by raising taxes on the wealthy.

MacMaster votes (HB5014) to not spend $9.8M federal funds for setting up health insurance exchange

From 12/17/11 The Lansing State Journal article by Kathy Barks Hoffman of the Associated Press

State Licensing and Regulatory Affairs director Steve Hilfinger said the state needs lawmakers to authorize the use of $9.8 million in federal funds so it can start planning the exchange, which would help small businesses and individuals compare private health insurance plans on a special website and buy the one best for them.

After the GOP-led Senate passed a spending bill authorizing the state to spend the money, the GOP-led House stripped out that approval this week, leaving the planning process in limbo.

Many Republican lawmakers don't like the health care law and are leery of backing the exchange because so many tea partiers oppose it.

On Tuesday, members of the Hartland-based RetakeOurGov Tea Party hand-delivered Christmas stockings containing lumps of coal to 13 Republican senators — including Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville — who voted for a bill that authorized setting up the exchange.

States have to put in a request for a new round of federal planning money by June 30, so Michigan risks being turned down for additional money if it hasn't done anything with the first $9.8 million grant by then, Hilfinger said.

The money in both rounds can be used for many purposes, including deciding what kind of technology the online exchange will use.

The governor estimates half a million uninsured Michigan residents will buy private coverage starting in 2014 through the exchange, which is designed to create competition among insurers and make insurance more accessible as well as more affordable.

SS Reform

Level the playing field for renewable energy

From 12/4/11 The Washington Post opinion article by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Federal investment is critical to the success of the renewable energy industry. That’s not a new idea. The same was true for coal, which would not have been economically feasible without tax exemptions and incentives. It was also true for offshore oil drilling, which was deemed unprofitable without royalty waivers and favorable packaging of federal leases.

Imagine what the renewables industry would look like if the federal government leveled the playing field and showed the same dedication we have in California. Our green sector is the brightest spot in California’s economy, having grown 10 times faster than any other business sector since 2005. Today, one in every four jobs in the U.S. solar industry is in California. One-third of U.S. clean-tech venture capital flows into our state. Nurturing the green-tech sector was the right thing for me to do as governor, and it is the right thing for the federal government to do.

"Higher education is a public good currently lacking public support"

From 12/17/11 The Detroit Free Press article by David Jesse

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman is asking President Barack Obama to lead a national conversation on reducing the cost of higher education.

In an open letter sent Friday to Obama, Coleman said funding for higher education is at critical levels.

"Higher education is a public good currently lacking public support. There is no stronger trigger for rising costs at public universities and colleges than declining state support," she wrote.

"The University of Michigan and our state's 14 other public institutions have been ground zero for funding cuts," she wrote. "The state's significant disinvestment in higher education has been challenging: a 15% cut in the last year alone, and a reduction of more than 30% over the last decade."

Survey shows high discontent with Congress, particularly Republicans

From 12/15/11 Pew Research Center survey

Public discontent with Congress has reached record levels, and the implications for incumbents in next year’s elections could be stark. Two-in-three voters say most members of Congress should be voted out of office in 2012 – the highest on record. And the number who say their own member should be replaced matches the all-time high recorded in 2010, when fully 58 members of Congress lost reelection bids – the most in any election since 1948.

The Republican Party is taking more of the blame than the Democrats for a do-nothing Congress. A record-high 50% say that the current Congress has accomplished less than other recent Congresses, and by nearly two-to-one (40% to 23%) more blame Republican leaders than Democratic leaders for this. By wide margins, the GOP is seen as the party that is more extreme in its positions, less willing to work with the other side to get things done, and less honest and ethical in the way it governs. And for the first time in over two years, the Democratic Party has gained the edge as the party better able to manage the federal government.

Conservative lawmakers aim to reduce both state and federal help for the unemployed as soon as next month

From 12/15/11 The Detroit News article by Brian J O'Connor

The state's November unemployment rate fell below 10 percent for the first time in three years, as 21,000 workers landed jobs.

But almost the same number of workers — 19,000 — quit looking for work or left the state, continuing the trend that has seen Michigan's jobless rate improve this year only because fewer workers are left.

But the good news for those who managed to find work last month is being met with bad news for the 457,000 Michigan workers still hunting for a job, as conservative lawmakers aim to reduce both state and federal help for the unemployed as soon as next month.

An estimated 93,000 jobless Michiganians would lose their extended federal unemployment benefits in January under a bill from Midland Republican [Congressional] Rep. Dave Camp approved by the House on Wednesday. When combined with state cuts signed in March by Gov. Rick Snyder that also take effect next month, jobless workers in the state would go from getting 99 weeks of unemployment checks now to a maximum of 46 weeks.

Camp's bill, which heads to the Senate, would end unemployment payments to 3.3 million unemployed U.S. workers.

Since November 2010, unemployment in the state has dropped by 84,000. But only 12,000 of those workers — one of every seven — landed a job. The rest either gave up looking for work, retired, died, went back to school or moved out of state.

In Michigan, basic state unemployment benefits were cut from 26 to 20 weeks, to help lower taxes on businesses which, backers argued, would help create jobs

The state's action also cut the benefits workers receive under the formulas for federal aid that picks up when state benefits end. In Michigan, we lost six weeks in state benefits right off the top, and then it's an additional 13 weeks of federal benefits.

Two four star U.S. Marine generals urge veto of National Defense Authorization Act

From 12/12/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar

IN his inaugural address, President Obama called on us to “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” We agree. Now, to protect both, he must veto the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress is expected to pass this week.

This budget bill — which can be vetoed without cutting financing for our troops — is both misguided and unnecessary: the president already has the power and flexibility to effectively fight terrorism.

One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past.

A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it hasn’t sought.

A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantánamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future. Not only would this bolster Al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts, it also would make it nearly impossible to transfer 88 men (of the 171 held there) who have been cleared for release. We should be moving to shut Guantánamo, not extend it.

Republicans target the unemployed

From 12/12/11 The New York Times editorial

At last count, 13.3 million people were officially unemployed and 5.7 million of them had been out of work for more than six months. At no time in the last 60 years has long-term unemployment been so high for so long.

But Republican lawmakers would have you believe that the nation cannot afford jobless benefits and that many recipients are not so much needy, as lazy, disinclined to work as long as benefits are available. When was the last time any Republican lawmaker tried to live on $289 a week, the amount of the average benefit?

Gingrich tax plan reduces millionaire taxes by 62% says independent study

From 12/12/11 The Washington Post aricle by the Associated Press

The tax plan by GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich would provide big tax breaks to the rich and blow a huge hole in the federal budget deficit, according to an independent study released Monday.

Romney’s claim that Obama is an apologist for U.S. is based on distortions

From 12/11/11 The Washington Post fact checker article by Glenn Kessler

Romney likes to say that President Obama apologized overseas for the United States. He even titled his campaign book “No Apology.”

Even more, Romney suggests, Obama does not believe in American strength and greatness. The assertion feeds into a subterranean narrative that Obama, with his exotic, mixed-race background, is not really American in the first place.

In a lengthy article on the Fact Checker blog, we tracked down every statement Obama uttered that partisans claim was an apology, and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context.

57% of Americans don't know that GOP controls one house of Congress

From 12/10/11 Gaylord Herald Times op-ed article by Tim Skubick

Before you read on, take the quiz by going to www.pewresearch.org/interactive and click on the IQ Quiz of 13 questions, then return after you are finished.

A majority (74 percent) of the participants knew that the elephant was the GOP symbol, but when you break it down by party, 87 percent of the Republicans got it right but only 69 percent of the Democrats were correct.

58 percent did not recognize Israel on a map.

57 percent did not know the GOP controls one house of Congress.

[M]any voters are not sure where Congress is located.

[T]hree out of 10 did not recognize the guy responsible for your lousy 401(k). By the way, it is Ben Bernanke, who runs the Federal Reserve.

Older folks, over 50, scored higher than other age groups.

[T]hose aged 18-29 missed 10 of the 13 questions to secure their position as the least informed on politics and public affairs.

Ford to insource work from Mexico and China to Rawsonville Plant, retain 750 jobs

From 12/8/11 AnnArbor.com article by Tom Perkins

About 750 Ford Rawsonville Plant employees will retain their jobs as production previously handled by Mexican and Chinese auto suppliers is insourced to Ypsilanti Township.

Osawatomie & values

From 12/6/11 The New York Times editorial

After months of Republican candidates offering a cascade of bad ideas about the economy, President Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kan., Tuesday came as a relief. He made it clear that he was finally prepared to contest the election on the issues of income inequality and the obligation of both government and the private sector to enlarge the nation’s shrinking middle class.

The speech felt an awfully long time in coming, but it was the most potent blow the president has struck against the economic theory at the core of every Republican presidential candidacy and dear to the party’s leaders in Congress. The notion that the market will take care of all problems if taxes are kept low and regulations are minimized may look great on a bumper sticker, but, he said: “It doesn’t work. It has never worked.” Not before the Great Depression, not in the ’80s, and not in the last decade.

Mr. Obama spoke in the same town where Theodore Roosevelt issued his call for a square deal in 1910. In demanding “a new nationalism,” Roosevelt supported strong government oversight of business, a “graduated income tax on big fortunes,” an inheritance tax and the primacy of labor over capital. For that, he was called a socialist and worse, as Mr. Obama observed, having endured the same.

Tuesday’s speech, in fact, seemed expressly designed to counter Mitt Romney’s argument that business, unfettered, will easily restore American jobs and prosperity. Teddy Roosevelt knew better 101 years ago, and it was gratifying to hear his fire reflected by President Obama.

12/6/11 President Obama’s economic speech in Osawatomie, Kans.

Full text

Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefitted from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

This is a great speech that defines Democratic and the nation's economic values. Please read it.

Michigan prosecutors oppose new state concealed weapons bill

From 12/5/11 MLive.com article by John Banres

Michigan prosecutors are also opposing a bill that would allow people to apply for concealed handgun permits outside their home counties.

Larry Burdick, president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, echoed concerns being raised by other groups, including the Michigan Sheriffs' Association. The prosecutors' group is sending a letter to senators outlining concerns.

"It's going to create a burden on those counties that are acting fairly expeditiously with processing gun permits," said Burdick, Isabella County's prosecutor. That becomes especially troublesome in determining eligibility, he added.

Electronic background checks - such as the state's Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) - are not sufficient alone, Burdick said. Knowledge of local police and courts is essential, he noted.

"LEIN is not going to tell me whether someone had a personal protection order taken out against them two years ago. It's not going to tell me if someone was involuntarily hospitalized. It's not going to tell me if a person has a history of getting into arguments with neighbors," he said.

"If we begin getting applications from folks that live outside the county, it will be a lot more difficult to do that."

Michigan residents down on economy, Congress, Gov. Snyder

From 12/5/11 MLive.com article by Angela Wittrock

Nearly half of Michigan's residents say they're worse off now than they were a year ago, and more than 60 percent believe their economic situation will stay the same or get worse.

Gov. Rick Snyder's favorable rating plummeted again, and has fallen consistently since taking office.

Only 19.3 percent of Michigan residents rated Snyder's job performance as "excellent" or "good," down from 31.5 percent in the spring survey and 44.5 percent when he came into office.

Michigan residents followed the national trends in disapproving of the job of the U.S. Congress is doing, with 57.4 percent issuing a grade of "poor."

Less than 1 percent of survey respondents gave Congress an "excellent" or "good" mark, a harsher assessment than what's been reported in national surveys, Ballard said.

President Barack Obama's favorable ratings also fell, from 44.5 percent in the spring survey to 40.5 percent currently.

Public sector jobs are not actual jobs say Republicans

From 12/4/11 The New York Times editorial

Buried in the relatively positive numbers contained in the November jobs report was some very bad news for those who work in the public sector. There were 20,000 government workers laid off last month, by far the largest drop for any sector of the economy, mostly from states, counties and cities.

That continues a troubling trend that’s been building for years, one that has had a particularly harsh effect on black workers. While the private sector has been adding jobs since the end of 2009, more than half a million government positions have been lost since the recession.

Many Republicans, however, don’t regard government jobs as actual jobs, and are eager to see them disappear. Republican governors around the Midwest have aggressively tried to break the power of public unions while slashing their work forces, and Congressional Republicans have proposed paying for a payroll tax cut by reducing federal employment rolls by 10 percent through attrition. That’s 200,000 jobs, many of which would be filled by blacks and Hispanics and others who tend to vote Democratic, and thus are considered politically superfluous.

But every layoff, whether public or private, is a life, and a livelihood, and a family. And too many of them are getting battered by the economic storm.

Cynical or clueless Republican may win

From 12/4/11 The New Your Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

There are two crucial things you need to understand about the current state of American politics. First, given the still dire economic situation, 2012 should be a year of Republican triumph. Second, the G.O.P. may nonetheless snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — because Herman Cain was not an accident.

Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year — and who, even as they declare their hatred of government, will balk at any hint of cuts to Social Security and Medicare (death panels!).

And you also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican [Romney] -designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security.

So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements? There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or to be totally clueless.

The Washington Post quotes an unnamed Republican adviser who compared what happened to Mr. Cain, when he suddenly found himself leading in the polls, to the proverbial tale of the dog who had better not catch that car he’s chasing. “Something great and awful happened, the dog caught the car. And of course, dogs don’t know how to drive cars. So he had no idea what to do with it.”

The same metaphor, it seems to me, might apply to the G.O.P. pursuit of the White House next year. If the dog actually catches the car — the actual job of running the U.S. government — it will have no idea what to do, because the realities of government in the 21st century bear no resemblance to the mythology all ambitious Republican politicians must pretend to believe. And what will happen then?

What every mother should tell her daughter ;o))

Unemployment benefit extension

From 12/5/11 The Detroit Free Press article by Katherine Yung

Unless Congress acts to continue extended unemployment benefits, it could be a grim holiday season for nearly 160,000 Michiganders.

The outcome of the debate is particularly important for states with high unemployment, such as Michigan, which has a 10.6% jobless rate.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which represents 6,800 employers in the state, has not yet taken a position on whether the extended benefits should continue, said Wendy Block, the chamber's director of health policy and human resources.

She expressed concerns about the cost of another benefit extension, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at $44 billion in 2012.

Those in favor of continuing extended benefits say the money boosts the economy because the weekly checks are usually spent immediately to pay for basic living expenses.

The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, estimates that this spending will create or save 560,000 jobs nationwide next year, including 20,400 positions in Michigan.

Supporters also argue that the aid should be provided for humanitarian reasons.

But critics said the benefit extensions prolong many people's job searches, encouraging them to look for positions that may be in short supply.

James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said this effect bumps up the nation's unemployment rate by half a percentage point.

If there is an extension next year, unemployed Michiganders will be eligible for a maximum of 76 weeks of state and federal benefits, compared with the current 99 weeks. The reduction was triggered by a new state policy that goes into effect next month. It will cut the number of weeks of state benefits from 26 to 20.

Click graphic to enlarge

Dramatic decline in border arrests

From 12/3/11 The Washington Post article by Nick Miroff and William Booth

Arrests of illegal migrants trying to cross the southern U.S. border have plummeted to levels not seen since the early 1970s, according to tallies released by the Department of Homeland Security last week, a historic shift that could reshape the debate over immigration reform.

The Border Patrol apprehended 327,577 illegal crossers along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30, numbers not seen since Richard Nixon was president, and a precipitous drop from the peak in 2000, when 1.6 million unauthorized migrants were caught. More than 90 percent of the migrants apprehended on the southwest border are Mexican.

“We have reached the point where the balance between Mexicans moving to the United States and those returning to Mexico is essentially zero,” said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, whose conclusion was shared by many migration experts.

Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain

From www.protectingthevote.org

Who lacks an unexpired government-issued ID?

  • 18% of young Americans
  • 19% of Latino Americans
  • 25% of African Americans
  • 20% of Asian Americans

Voter fraud is rare. The 2000 - 2007 Bush administration investigation found 9 possible occurrences of voter fraud. By comparison, in this same period there were 352 deaths by lightning and 32,299 UFO reports.

Almost all the Republican photo ID mandates make it more difficult for students to vote:

  • In Texas, you can vote with a gun license but not a student ID.
  • South Carolina and Tennessee expressly prohibit the use of student IDs.
  • Wisconsin allows student IDs but has a strict qualifications that no university ID in the state currently meets.

This year alone, 40 states have passed or promoted legislation that will make it harder for eligible Americans to exercise their most basic civil right.

Right to vote legislation is advancing in Michigan.

Democrats are fighting back:

  • In all five states where GOP legislators sent a photo ID bill to the desk of a Democrat, the governor vetoed the bill.
  • In Maine and Ohio, we've successfully organized around repealing GOP voting legislation.
  • We're committed to defending the vote with significant resources, training, organizing, and, where appropriate, litigation on behalf of Americans whose rights are violated.

European leaders risk world wide recession because they fear inflation

From 12/2/11 The New York Times editorial

The Federal Reserve’s move on Wednesday to make it easier for European banks to acquire dollars shows that American policy makers understand the gravity of Europe’s turmoil and will do what they can to prevent a financial collapse across the Atlantic. European leaders, however, seem paralyzed and, even at this point, fail to share the Fed’s sense of urgency.

The Fed’s extraordinary intervention should impress upon the European Central Bank, as well as its paymasters in Germany, that it is high time it stopped sitting on its hands. Only aggressive action by the bank can arrest the government debt crisis that is spreading across the Continent and threatening the very survival of the euro.

Until now, the central bank has refused to intervene on a substantial scale. Leaders in Germany, the strongest European economy, argue that allowing the central bank to turn on the printing press would foster profligacy by taking weak nations off the hook. And it says it fears inflation, an implausible concern for economies that are slipping into recession.

Gun lobby doesn't have a target

From 12/2/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Timothy Egan

Into the early months of the Obama presidency gun sales went though the roof.

And then, nothing. No legislation. No speeches about the ubiquity of guns in the most violent of Western democracies. Obama actually increased gun rights, signing a bill with a rider that allows people to pack loaded and concealed heat in national parks. Even after the slaughter in Tucson in January of 2011, when six people were killed and 13 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, in a madman’s spree, Obama did nothing to keep guns out of the hands of those at the margins of sanity.

Left with nothing to fear but imaginary fear itself, the gun nuts are in a terrible rut. They need scary opposition in order to flourish. They need someone to hate. They need conspiracies. And, as always, they need donations.

So, in their world, Obama’s silence, his reticence, his passivity is proof of a grand scheme.

“It’s all part of a massive conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intention to destroy the Second Amendment,” [executive vice president of the National Rifle Association] LaPierre told a major conservative gathering this fall.

Get it: he’s a stealth threat!

Economist says austerity not the answer in Europe or here

From 12/2/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

So the next time you hear someone claiming that if we don’t slash spending we’ll turn into Greece, your answer should be that if we do slash spending while the economy is still in a depression, we’ll turn into Europe. In fact, we’re well on our way.

November U.S. unemployment dropped to 8.6%

From 12/2/11 The Washington Post article by the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The unemployment rate fell last month to its lowest level in more than two and a half years, as employers stepped up hiring in response to the slowly improving economy.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate dropped sharply to 8.6 percent last month, down from 9 percent in October. The rate hasn’t been that low since March 2009, during the depths of the recession.

Europe's financial crisis for dummies

From 11/30/11 The Washington Post op-ed article by Matt Miller

“Why are we having a depression, Daddy?”

It’s a clarifying exercise to try to explain complex issues to a 14-year-old. Like my daughter, for instance. If you can do it, you’re probably focused on what matters. If you can’t, you’re probably caught in the weeds.

It’s not easy to meet this test when it comes to the impending catastrophe in Europe, but let’s try.

The article is short and informative, but too much to summarize here. Click the link.

With apologies from the webmaster, a dead duck story I just couldn't resist

From 11/30/11 chain e-mail by Who Knows

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest.

After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away."

The distressed woman wailed, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead," replied the vet.

"How can you be so sure?" she protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room.
 
He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head. The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room.

A few minutes later he returned with a cat. The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the woman and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."

The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman.

The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!" she cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!"

The vet shrugged, "I'm sorry. If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it's now $150.

Retiring MSU controller comments on rising tuition

From 11/30/11 State News article by Beau Hayhoe

When Brower first started as assistant controller at MSU in 1979, one credit hour of tuition cost $24.50, according to Brower’s office.

This fall semester, one credit hour costs $406.75, an increase Brower said is the culmination of about 30 years of federal and state budget cuts.

“It’s getting old,” Brower said of the ongoing trend of declining state aid, calling it a “constant battle.”

State and national legislators alike have argued cuts to higher education were made in efforts to balance the budget.

Mitt v Mitt

U.P. gold, silver, copper and nickel

From 11/27/11 The Detroit Free Press article by Tina Lam

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, it's drill, baby, drill.

The drilling that began there in September is not for oil, but for gold, silver, copper and nickel.

In a resurgence of mining in the region whose mineral heyday was more than a century ago, foreign companies are finding rich bodies of ore they hope to mine for billions of dollars.

New technology and higher prices for metals are making mining profitable again, spurred by increases in demand for high-tech gadgets such as smartphones, kitchens full of stainless steel appliances and hybrid cars -- all of which use the metals that can be found in the U.P.

Three new mines are either under way or planned, with more possible. Also, an abandoned mill to process ore is expected to reopen. Mineral rights on more than 1 million of the U.P.'s 7 million acres have been leased by companies prospecting for metals.

The new mines are less than a football field away from streams, rivers or Lake Superior, and environmental groups say the risks of contamination from acidic rock waste are high and that the state has too few resources to be a proper watchdog.

Are state tax payers getting the shaft

From 11/28/11 The Detroit Free Press article by Tina Lam

Critics -- and even a key state agency -- say the state isn't getting enough in exchange for the wealth of minerals about to be extracted from the Upper Peninsula.

The state has no severance tax on minerals, as it does on oil, gas and iron mines. The tax is a way to repay Michigan citizens for the value of underground resources removed forever from the state.

The state also doesn't auction mineral leases, as it does for oil and gas.

And finally, the state is getting only paltry sums from its future mines in fees and bonds for permits, potential cleanup costs and oversight.

Community mentally ill treatment costs $10,000 annually, in prison, $35,000

From 11/27/11 The Detroit Free Press article by Jeff Gerritt

Sheriff Benny Napoleon spoke for most sheriffs when he said, during a community meeting earlier this year, that his jail had become his county's largest mental health care institution.

Over the last two decades, changes in state policy and big cuts in funding for community mental health care have pushed hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people into county jails and state prisons.

Between 1987 and 2003, Michigan closed three-quarters of its 16 state psychiatric hospitals.... The state now provides the sixth-lowest number of psychiatric beds per capita in the nation.

Community mental health agencies -- which were supposed to take up the slack but never received the resources to do so -- face continuing budget cuts. The state has resumed warehousing its mentally ill -- this time behind bars.

A University of Michigan study last year found that more than 20% of the state's prisoners had severe mental disabilities -- and far more were mentally ill. The same study found that 65% of prisoners with several mental disabilities had received no treatment in the previous 12 months.

The problem is even worse in county jails, where psychiatric treatment is virtually nonexistent.

Treating one client in a community program costs about $10,000 a year, compared with $35,000 a year to house one prisoner.

Michigan's extreme right wing Supreme Court

How to cut U.S. deficit by $6 trillion? Ask Congress, Obama to do nothing.

From 11/23/11 The Washington Post op-ed article by Ezra Klein

Imagine if the Democrats offered Republicans a deficit deal that had more than $3 in tax increases for every $1 in spending cuts, assigned most of those spending cuts to the Pentagon, and didn't take a dime from Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare beneficiaries. Republicans would laugh at them. But without quite realizing it, that's the deal Republicans have now offered to the Democrats.

In August, Republicans scored what they thought was a big win by persuading Democrats to accept a trigger that consisted only of spending cuts. The price they paid was 1) concentrating the cuts on the Pentagon while exempting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare beneficiaries, and 2) delaying the cuts until January 1, 2013. That was, they figured, a win, as it eschewed taxes. Grover Norquist's pledge remained unbroken.

But 12 years earlier, George W. Bush had set a trigger of his own. In order to pass his tax cuts using the 51-vote budget reconciliation process, he had agreed to let them sunset in 2010. A last-minute deal extended them until the end of 2012.

So now there are two triggers. One is an extremely progressive spending trigger worth $1.2 trillion that goes off on January 1, 2013. The other is an extremely progressive tax trigger worth $3.8 trillion that goes off on...January 1, 2013. If you count reduced interest payments, the two policies alone would reduce future deficits by about $6 trillion. That's far more than anything the supercommittee came close to discussing. It's distributed far more progressively than anything the Democrats have even considered proposing. And all that needs to happen for it to pass is, well, nothing.

Economy hardest on young

From 11/18/11 Boston Globe editorial published in the Gaylord Herald Times

Consider a recent Pew Research Study, which found the wealth gap between adults over 65 and adults under 35 to be at a stunning ratio of 47 to 1 — nearly five times what it was in 1984. Further, Pew’s research found that almost 40 percent of young people have either no net worth or negative net worth. This study comes on top of other data showing that over one in four recent college graduates is unemployed.

Even as the cost of a college degree rises, it’s increasingly become more of a minimum qualification than a guaranteed pass to the middle class. And unlike those who came of age during a period of extended prosperity, today’s young people are facing the worst job market in decades. ...

Lawmakers should recognize that questions of generational equity arise in a number of national policy issues — for instance, whether and how to adjust Medicare and Social Security benefits — and that younger Americans have a particular interest in measures that might stimulate the economy now

Gaylord OWS

11/17/11 Occupy Wall Street We Are the 99% event in Gaylord

The event was organized by William Wieske.

Click photo for larger photo.

Tom Kellogg "Save Social Security and Medicare. I feel for suffering students and their huge debt. The country's wealth is going to the 1%."
David Heick "I'm here to bring attention to the national Occupy Wall Street movement. I have friends working 2 and 3 jobs and still can't make ends meet."
Janet Weber "We need to save future generations. I'm worried about my grand kids and retaining the middle class."
Jeanne Hough "I'm here because apathy is the biggest enemy and every little bit helps." Georgia Hagan "We need to save the middle class and Social Security. I'm protesting the party of NO." Dan Bennett "We need to save the middle class; it's being destroyed. I want my grand kids to have a future."
Randal Osgood "The United States Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is the death of freedom in America."
Jody Saks "I'm here to support the principle that citizens need to question our government's actions."
Mary Richards "When we lose our middle class then we lose our democracy. Until people make a living wage, you can't have a democracy, as so many nations have shown."
Anonymous "No money - no demand - no jobs. People aren't buying, therefore companies aren't making things."
Tom McHale "We're from Emmet County. Campaign finance rules need to be changed. Our representatives are being held hostage by banks and the wealthy." Carol McHale "We aren't being represented."
Natalie Smith "I'm concerned about corporate welfare and corporate control of our government. I want to see tax money going to the people and not corporations."
John Witherow "I would like to see the 1% taxed and campaign finance reform."

The e-mail rumor mill is run by conservatives

From 11/17/11 The Washington Post article by Paul Farhi

Will Medicare premiums go up nearly 2 1 / 2  times over the next two years in order to pay for the health-care legislation signed by President Obama last year? Well, no, they won’t. But you might think an increase is coming if you read a chain e-mail that has spread across the country in the past few months. “Send this to all seniors that you know,” it says. “So they will know who’s throwing them under the bus.”

Will Americans be subjected to international gun-control laws under a new U.N. treaty signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton? Is the president honoring Jane Fonda as one of the “women of the century”? Was suspected Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan an adviser to the Obama administration?

Like the Medicare story, these claims are demonstrably false, too. Nevertheless, they are popular on the thriving underground e-mail circuit, a carnival of nonsense whose star attractions have included the canard that Obama is a secret Muslim and variations on the “birther” claims about his origins.

Supreme Court announces it will hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act

From 11/14/11 White House blog by Megan Slack

The Affordable Care Act will:

  • Reduce the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next decade due to decreased spending on health care
  • Expand health care coverage to 32 million people who didn’t have it before
  • Allow more than 1 million young people to stay on their parent’s health care plans until their 26th birthday
  • End abusive insurance practices such as denying treatment for pre-existing conditions, dropping people from plans when they get sick, and implementing annual and lifetime limits on care
  • Strengthen Medicare to help better protect our seniors

“We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.

Romney campaigns in Michigan against auto bailout

Michigan, Wisconsin and New Jersey raise taxes on poor

From 11/13/11 ANN ARBOR.com article by the Associated Press

Michigan is among just a handful of states raising taxes on low-income working families while cutting taxes for other groups, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said in a report released Tuesday.

The Washington-based group notes that Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin all have scaled back tax credits for low-income workers in recent years while cutting business taxes. In Michigan's case, low-income families will see their tax breaks shrink starting next year by about $260 million annually while businesses will get a $1.1 billion tax break starting in January and a $1.7 billion tax break the year after.

If the far right hates Romney, how bad can he be?

From 11/13/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Bill Keller

Peter Beinart pointed out recently, President Romney would inherit a permanent conservative infrastructure of think tanks, lobbyists and members of Congress that constrains any Republican administration. “It doesn’t matter all that much what Romney really believes, or whether he believes much of anything,” Beinart observed. “Romney will be a very conservative president because that’s the only kind of president a Republican can be these days.”

To which I would add just two words: Supreme Court.

Does government regulation really kill jobs? Economists say overall effect minimal.

From 11/13/11 The Washington Post article by Jia Lynn Yang

[D]ata from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that very few layoffs are principally caused by tougher rules.

Any time a firm lays off workers, the bureau asks executives the biggest reason for the job cuts. In 2010, 0.3 percent of the people who lost their jobs in layoffs were let go because of “government regulations/intervention.” By comparison, 25 percent were laid off because of a drop in business demand.

Romney threatens war with Iran

From 11/12/11 The New York Times article by Karen Tumulty and Perry Bacon Jr.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — With the International Atomic Energy Agency warning in a new report that Iran may be proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, the leading Republican candidates for president accused President Obama of not being forceful enough to prevent that from happening.

At the first GOP debate that focused on foreign policy, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House speaker Newt Gingrich indicated that if either of them were commander in chief, they would be willing to use military force against Iran, if tightened economic sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition did not work to deter nuclear weapons development in the country.

Europe's welfare states are not failing, but their austerity states are

From 11/10/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

The attempt to create a common European currency was one of those ideas that cut across the usual ideological lines. It was cheered on by American right-wingers, who saw it as the next best thing to a revived gold standard, and by Britain’s left, which saw it as a big step toward a social-democratic Europe. But it was opposed by British conservatives, who also saw it as a step toward a social-democratic Europe. And it was questioned by American liberals, who worried — rightly, I’d say (but then I would, wouldn’t I?) — about what would happen if countries couldn’t use monetary and fiscal policy to fight recessions.

So now that the euro project is on the rocks, what lessons should we draw?

I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States.

It's the regulations stupid, say Republican presidential candidates

From 11/10/11 New York Times op-ed article by Andrew Rosenthal

The Republican Party foisted another one of its endless presidential debates on television viewers last night.

The only really interesting point of the two vacuous hours was when Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, announced there were three agencies he simply wanted to do away with. This is one of the older and more tedious plays in the G.O.P. book and you’d think any Republican who has the “small government” merit badge would have long ago memorized it. But Mr. Perry could not name all three. He forgot the Department of Energy, which among other minor tasks safeguards the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

[C]andidate after candidate continued to insist that when the government does its job – either by regulating private-sector excess or intervening to save the auto industry – it is “killing America,” in Mr. Perry’s phrase.

Regulations account for less than one percent of layoffs, and small businesses repeatedly say that their biggest problem is low demand, not high regulation. But these statistics are never heard at a Republican debate, where candidates survive by demanding to get rid of government rather than fix its problems.

Mandatory voting?

From 11/5/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Willam A. Galston

JURY duty is mandatory; why not voting?

Thirty-one countries have some form of mandatory voting.

[C]onsider Australia, whose political culture is closer to that of the United States than that of any other English-speaking country. Alarmed by a decline in voter turnout to less than 60 percent in 1922, Australia adopted mandatory voting in 1924, backed by small fines (roughly the size of traffic tickets) for nonvoting, rising with repeated acts of nonparticipation. The law established permissible reasons for not voting, like illness and foreign travel, and allows citizens who faced fines for not voting to defend themselves.

The results were remarkable. In the 1925 election, the first held under the new law, turnout soared to 91 percent. In recent elections, it has hovered around 95 percent.

Requiring people to vote in national elections once every two years would reinforce the principle of reciprocity at the heart of citizenship.

Ideally, a democracy will take into account the interests and views of all citizens. But if some regularly vote while others don’t, officials are likely to give greater weight to participants.

Our low turnout rate pushes American politics toward increased polarization. The reason is that hard-core partisans are more likely to dominate lower-turnout elections, while those who are less fervent about specific issues and less attached to political organizations tend not to participate at levels proportional to their share of the electorate.

Imagine our politics with laws and civic norms that yield near-universal voting. Campaigns could devote far less money to costly, labor-intensive get-out-the-vote efforts. Media gurus wouldn’t have the same incentive to drive down turnout with negative advertising. Candidates would know that they must do more than mobilize their bases with red-meat rhetoric on hot-button issues. Such a system would improve not only electoral politics but also the legislative process. Rather than focusing on symbolic gestures whose major purpose is to agitate partisans, Congress might actually roll up its sleeves and tackle the serious, complex issues it ignores.

Biggest Public Firms Paid Little U.S. Tax, Study Says

From 11/3/11 The New york Times article by David Kocieniewski

A comprehensive study released on Thursday found that 280 of the biggest publicly traded American companies faced federal income tax bills equal to 18.5 percent of their profits during the last three years — little more than half the official corporate rate of 35 percent and lower than their competitors in many industrialized countries.

Mr. Buffett, the billionaire investor, has said that the tax code is unfair, allowing him to pay just 17 percent in federal taxes last year, about half the percentage his secretary paid.

The corporate study examined the regulatory filings of the companies to compute each year’s current federal taxes. Some of the companies disputed the findings, saying that the study understated their tax payments by omitting deferred taxes that they may pay in future years.

Using information from the companies’ own corporate filings, however, the study concluded that a quarter of the 280 corporations owed less than 10 percent of profits in federal income taxes and 30 companies had no federal tax liability for the entire three-year period.

Republican State Representative Greg MacMaster votes yes on HB5002

HB5002 cuts worker compensation benefits if you get injured on the job and gives employers more power to dictate what doctor you see for medical treatment.

Mitt Romney's America

OCW opinion in GHT

From 11/1/11 Gaylord Herald Times op-ed article by Lorene Parshall

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently released a report stating that the income of the top 1 percent of the population grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007. As to the three middle classes, their income actually went down 2 to 3 percent.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that 30 years ago the average CEO made 40 times as much as the average worker taking home $400,000 for every $10,000 their workers made. But today the average CEO takes home $2 million for every $10,000 that a worker makes. Through ongoing insistence on deregulation, massive tax cuts and the crushing of unions, the 1 percent continue to devastate the middle and poor classes because, by Jove, 275 percent is not enough.

Republican Congressman Benishek and big oil

This very impressive young man is an unemployed engineer

The fruit of trickle down economics: the rich (top 1%) got much richer

From 10/25/11 CBO report

The study that shows why Occupy Wall Street struck a nerve

From 10/28/11 The Washington Post op-ed article by Eugene Robinson

The hard-right conservatives who dominate the Republican Party claim to despise the redistribution of wealth, but secretly they love it — as long as the process involves depriving the poor and middle class to benefit the rich, not the other way around.

That is precisely what has been happening, as a jaw-dropping new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office demonstrates. Three decades of trickle-down economic theory, see-no-evil deregulation and tax-cutting fervor have led to massive redistribution. Another word for what’s been happening might be theft.

Who are the socialists -- Wall Street bankers or Occupy Wall Street?

From 10/26/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Nicholas D. Kristof

So, yes, we face a threat to our capitalist system. But it’s not coming from half-naked anarchists manning the barricades at Occupy Wall Street protests. Rather, it comes from pinstriped apologists for a financial system that glides along without enough of the discipline of failure and that produces soaring inequality, socialist bank bailouts and unaccountable executives.

Article that attacks conventional economic wisdom

From 10/26/11 The New York Times op-ed article by James Livingston

AS an economic historian who has been studying American capitalism for 35 years, I’m going to let you in on the best-kept secret of the last century: private investment — that is, using business profits to increase productivity and output — doesn’t actually drive economic growth. Consumer debt and government spending do. Private investment isn’t even necessary to promote growth.

[C]orporate profits do not drive economic growth — they’re just restless sums of surplus capital, ready to flood speculative markets at home and abroad. In the 1920s, they inflated the stock market bubble, and then caused the Great Crash. Since the Reagan revolution, these superfluous profits have fed corporate mergers and takeovers, driven the dot-com craze, financed the “shadow banking” system of hedge funds and securitized investment vehicles, fueled monetary meltdowns in every hemisphere and inflated the housing bubble.

Why, then, do so many Americans support cutting taxes on corporate profits while insisting that thrift is the cure for what ails the rest of us, as individuals and a nation? Why have the 99 percent looked to the 1 percent for leadership when it comes to our economic future?

Another alleged Wall Street thief arrested

From 10/26/11 The New York Times article by Azam Ahmed

Rajat K. Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs director who surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday morning, was charged with insider trading, the latest development in the government’s multiyear crackdown on illegal activity on Wall Street.

Price of college education increases as states slash budgets

From 10/26/11 The Detroit News article by Justin Pope of the Associated Press

It's a kick in the gut even for students and families hardened to bad financial news: Average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose an additional $631 this fall, or 8.3 percent, from a year ago.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents colleges in Washington, said the cause of the price increases for the 80 percent of college students who attend public institutions is clear. State appropriations to higher education declined 18 percent per student over the last three years, the College Board found, the sharpest fall on record.

President Barack Obama planned to announce a new measure today to help borrowers of student loans.

Presidents announce end of Iraq War

“Tax the poor” is a lousy political slogan.

From 10/21/11 The Washington Post op-ed article by E.J. Dionne Jr.

“Tax the poor” is a lousy political slogan. That’s why Cain’s 9-9-9 plan and Perry’s flat tax are doomed to fail.

Our Republican state representative doesn't want to openly meet with constituents

From 10/20/11 Republican 105th District State Representive Greg MacMaster newsletter

My next meeting takes place Monday October 24, 2011 in Antrim County at the County Building in Bellaire, in Room 211. This discussion runs from 9 to 11 a.m. Charlevoix County office hours will also be Monday October 24, 2011 located at the Boyne City Library in the community room lasting from 3 to 5 p.m. These office hours are going to be different than normal. The goal is to have one-on-one sessions, on a first-come, first-serve basis. This way each person can have ample time to talk instead of a small amount of people taking over the floor.

Republican's proposed changes to Michigan's No-fault auto insurance law may increase health insurance and Medicaid costs and lower income for hospitals.

From 10/20/11 Republican 105th District State Representive Greg MacMaster newsletter

Auto No-Fault Insurance

Legislation that will redefine auto insurance no-fault system will be coming before the House for a vote soon; and while our current no-fault insurance may be good for some, it hurts others. Our current system is not economically sustainable; the new legislation, while not perfect, is also not sustainable though is still superior to our current no-fault system. There’s no doubt that this legislation, if passed, will have a financial impact on hospitals, Medicare, and other organizations, though we must work to keep those additional costs low.

There are various questions regarding the proposed changes to the system of no-fault auto insurance that must be addressed before I can vote in favor of any such legislation.
Legislation that will redefine auto insurance no-fault system will be coming before the House for a vote soon; and while our current no-fault insurance may be good for some, it hurts others. Our current system is not economically sustainable; the new legislation, while not perfect, is also not sustainable though is still superior to our current no-fault system. There’s no doubt that this legislation, if passed, will have a financial impact on hospitals, Medicare, and other organizations, though we must work to keep those additional costs low.

There are various questions regarding the proposed changes to the system of no-fault auto insurance that must be addressed before I can vote in favor of any such legislation.

•    Will there be a shift in cost from auto insurance to healthcare or Medicaid?
•    What is the current catastrophic fund level, and is it transparent?
•    What will be the impact on community hospitals and the costs for the under or uninsured?
•    Does the bill guarantee that those who choose to drive uninsured will actually choose insurance?

10/14/11 E-mail from Senator Levin

Carl Levin

Senate Republicans want the jobs bill to go away. But this bill is not going to go away.

Earlier this week, I spoke out on the Senate floor against the Republican filibuster of the American Jobs Act to draw attention to the Republicans' action to thwart the will of a majority of the Senate and prevent the Senate from even considering a bill designed to address the nation's jobs crisis.

Today more than 14 million Americans are out of work. The American Jobs Act would help up to two million Americans get work or keep their jobs. It would prevent the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, firefighters and other first responders. It would give tax cuts to millions of small businesses, would give incentives to those businesses to hire new workers. It would provide a payroll tax cut to millions of American families. It would help our returning veterans find jobs. And it would put thousands of construction workers on the job repairing crumbling schools, building and repairing roads and bridges.

The overwhelming majority of economists agree that the American Jobs Act would help our economy grow and reduce unemployment.

How would it do this? The bill uses ideas that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past. It would not add a dime to the federal budget deficit. Its provisions are overwhelmingly popular with the American people, according to all of the public opinion polls.

But because our Republican colleagues this week voted not to allow the Senate to even begin to debate this legislation, and because the Senate require 60 votes to break a filibuster, Senate Republicans were able to prevent the Senate from even debating this jobs bill.

If Republicans oppose this bill, which is their right, they should vote against it. Better yet, if Republicans oppose this approach, they should offer an alternative jobs bill so the American public can compare what is in this jobs bill with what Republicans presumably favor. Instead, they oppose ours without really saying what they favor.

What's coming across to the American public loud and clear these days is that the Democrats in the Senate have an alternative. The Republicans are filibustering that alternative without offering one of their own.

I hope that President Obama will use his bully pulpit to make clear to the American people that it is the obstructionism of filibustering Republicans that prevents us from taking action on a jobs bill.

We're not simply going to fold our tent and give up. We are going to keep trying to pass legislation to put Americans back to work. Senator Reid is going to try again to bring the bill before the Senate, and then there will be another effort to break a Republican filibuster so that we can at least debate this critically important legislation.

Sincerely,

Carl signature

Carl Levin

Elizabeth Warren

GOP - don't just do something, stand there!

From 10/12/11 The Washington Post op-ed article by E.J. Dionne

So let’s see: The solution to large-scale abuses of the financial system, a breakdown of the private sector, extreme economic inequality and the failure of companies and individuals to invest and create jobs is — well, to give even more money and power to very wealthy people, to disable government and to trust those who got us into the mess to get us out of it. That’s a brief summary of the news from the Republican Party this week. It’s what Republican candidates said during the Post-Bloomberg debate Tuesday night, and it’s the signal Senate Republicans sent in voting as a bloc against President Obama’s jobs bill. Don’t just do something, stand there.

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No Jobs Bill, and No Ideas

From 10/12/11 The New York Times Editorial

It was all predicted, but the unanimous decision by Senate Republicans on Tuesday to filibuster and thus kill President Obama’s jobs bill was still a breathtaking act of economic vandalism. There are 14 million people out of work, wages are falling, poverty is rising, and a second recession may be blowing in, but not a single Republican would even allow debate on a sound plan to cut middle-class taxes and increase public-works spending.

The bill the Republicans shot down is not a panacea, but independent economists say it would have a significant and swift effect on the current stagnation.

The Republicans offer no actual economic plans, only tired slogans about cutting regulations and spending, and ending health care reform. The party seems content to run out the clock on Mr. Obama’s term while doing very little.

Republican candidates fear the Tea Party too much to acknowledge that economists are solidly behind government intervention to awaken growth.

Take the Mitt Romney quiz at WhichMitt.com

Occupy Wall Street

From 10//10/11 USA Today editorial cartoons

Republicans don't want the young, the poor, the elderly and minorites to vote

From 10/9/11 The New York Times editorial

It has been a record year for new legislation designed to make it harder for Democrats to vote — 19 laws and two executive actions in 14 states dominated by Republicans, according to a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice. As a result, more than five million eligible voters will have a harder time participating in the 2012 election.

Of course the Republicans passing these laws never acknowledge their real purpose, which is to turn away from the polls people who are more likely to vote Democratic, particularly the young, the poor, the elderly and minorities.

There is almost no voting fraud in America. And none of the lawmakers who claim there is have ever been able to document any but the most isolated cases. The only reason Republicans are passing these laws is to give themselves a political edge by suppressing Democratic votes.

[Republicans] are abusing the trust placed in them by twisting democracy’s machinery to partisan ends.

President's jobs bill fully paid for says CBO

From 10/7/11 The Hill article by Erik Wasson

The Congressional Budget Office on Friday confirmed that President Obama’s jobs bill would be fully paid for over ten years and also gave its seal of approval to Senate Democrats' version that includes a surtax on millionaires.

Obama puts Republicans on defense

From 10/5/11 The Washington Post op-ed article by E.J. Dionne Jr.

American politics reached a pivot point this week. A new story line will define how voters and the media see what’s going on.

Obama’s move shows how determined he is to remind the country that he doesn’t run the government all by himself and that Republicans in Congress are now incumbents and not just the opposition. He will cast himself as the guy with ideas and Republicans as cranky reactionaries who will keep anything good from happening.

Republicans in Congress find themselves defending a series of unpopular positions. Voters don’t like tax increases in general, but they do think the wealthy should bear a bigger share of the tax burden. Regulation may be an easy target, but Americans are in no mood to let Wall Street off the regulatory hook. And government may be scorned in the abstract, but the specifics of what Obama wants government to do through his jobs bill have wide appeal. Obama is a long way from being able to sing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” But for conservatives, the days of wine and roses are over.

Occupy Wall Street

From 10/6/11 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

What can we say about the [Occupy Wall Street] protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right.

A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.

Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

Otsego County Democratic Party Chair petitions Benishek regarding Buffett Rule

From 10/4/11 Gaylord Herald Times article by Lorene Parshall

GAYLORD — Carol Lesser, representing the progressive Web site MoveOn.org, visited the Gaylord offices of U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, last Friday.

While there, she dropped off a list of 7,692 of his constituents who had signed an online petition requesting Benishek support the Buffetttt [sic] Rule.

The Buffettt [sic] Rule was named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has spoken publicly about how unfair it is that his secretary has to pay a higher tax rate than he does and that it’s time for the ultrarich [sic] to pay their fair share.

MoveOn.org, with 5 million members, has partnered with 47 other national organizations to form the American Dream Movement. The other organizations are as diverse as Catholics United, the League of Young Voters, Working Families and the Sierra Club.

The objectives of the movement include investing in education, securing Social Security, insuring a living wage, rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure and other topics that strengthen the middle class and the country. The Buffett Rule is only one of the movement’s projects.

“Moveon.org also provided a list of 96 millionaire politicians who oppose the Buffett Rule, and Benishek is one of them,” said Lesser, handing over a copy. “I’ll go back to his office in two weeks with a list of more of his constituents who signed the petition and ask if he is willing to start supporting the Buffett Rule.”

Bill O'Reilly's $16 Muffin claim "Mostly False"

From 10/04/11 PolitiFact.com Truth-O-Meter article

[A] full reading of the [Inspector General's] report showed the $16 muffins included beverages and possibly fruit, as well as meeting space. While a $16 breakfast is no bargain, it’s not as bad as $16 for a solitary baked good.

Also, O’Reilly made his remarks to Jon Stewart on Sept. 28, after Hilton issued its first statement on Sept. 23 saying the invoices may not have been complete. So the report was under question when O’Reilly debated Stewart. (We contacted O’Reilly for comment, but we didn’t hear back.)

Because the federal government didn't pay $16 for a muffin even if it paid too much for breakfast, we rate O’Reilly’s statement Mostly False.




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