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News Archive 2012 1st Qtr

Detroit Mower Gang

New 2012 Ballot Web page

There's a new Web page on this site, 2012 Ballot. The page contains information regarding Democratic candidates who may be on Otsego County voters' August primary ballot and November general election ballot. The page also contains information regarding ballot proposals that may show up on the November general election ballot.

The new page shows the elected position (e.g. President) and the Democrats running for the position, in this case only Barack Obama. The information for the candidate includes a photo (if we have one) or video link (if we have one) along with a link to the candidate's website (again, if we have one). If information becomes available that is of particular interest to Otsego County Democrats, such as Otsego County Prosecutor candidate Brendan Curran's dance/dessert/fund-raising party May 11th, this type of information is also available on this page.

Democratic candidates running for any Otsego county, city, village or township elected position and wish to have information added to this page, should send us a message via the form on our Contact Us page.

The page also contains information about ballot proposals that are likely to show up on the November ballot. A ballot proposal, that seems likely to be on the November ballot, is the proposed Michigan Constitution amendment to protect worker's bargaining rights and the full text of this amendment is shown. As more information becomes available, like the text for other proposals or details on when and where to sign a petition to put the initiative on the ballot, this information will also be placed on this page.

Romney & Benishek support cruel Republican budget plan

From 3/29/12 The New York Times editorial

In February, after embarrassing himself by saying he was “not concerned about the very poor,” Mitt Romney explained that the government’s safety net would take care of them, and he promised to repair any holes in the net. That promise didn’t last very long. On Thursday, House Republicans approved, on a party-line vote, a disastrous new budget that would leave millions of struggling families desperate for food, shelter and health care — and Mr. Romney has embraced it.

The budget, developed by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over 10 years.

“It’s an excellent piece of work,” Mr. Romney said. (Rick Santorum said it didn’t cut enough.)

The biggest of the cuts would be to Medicaid: a cut of $810 billion through 2022, one-fifth of current spending.

In all, 62 percent of the budget’s cuts come from low-income programs, and that’s on top of the substantial cut in spending already in place from last year. But the Ryan budget does contain a substantial tax cut for the rich, which is one of the reasons Mr. Romney said he was “very supportive” of the plan.

Our Congressman, Republican Representative Dan Benishek, voted for this budget resolution (H.Con.Res.112). No Democrats voted for this resolution and 10 Republicans also opposed it.

Tea Party bites the hand that feeds them

From 3/28/12 The New York Times article by Jonathan Weisman

Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations.

Even though money for major road and bridge projects is set to run out this weekend, House Republican leaders have struggled all week to round up the votes from recalcitrant conservatives simply to extend it for 90 or even 60 days. A longer-term transportation bill that contractors and the chamber say is vital to the recovery of the construction industry appears hopelessly stalled over costs.

At the same time, House conservatives are pressing to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has financed  business exports since the Depression, to run out of lending authority within weeks. The bank faces the very real possibility of shutting its doors completely by the end of May, when its legal authorization expires.

And a host of routine business tax breaks — from wind energy subsidies to research and development tax credits — cannot be passed because of Republican insistence that they be paid for with spending cuts.

Business groups that worked hard to install a Republican majority in the House equated Republican control with a business-friendly environment. But the majority is first and foremost a conservative political force, and on key issues, its ideology is not always aligned with commercial interests that helped finance election victories.

The Mandate -- Obama was against it before he was for it. Romney & Gingrich were for it before they were against it.

From 3/25/12 Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact.com

Defenders say that without the mandate — the least popular part of health reform — it’s impossible to require insurers to cover people regardless of pre-existing conditions — a popular part of health reform. Detractors say the mandate is an unconstitutional infringement of personal liberty and an unprecedented expansion of federal power.

Once upon a time, the individual mandate was the preferred health care policy of many Republicans.

Happy 90th Birthday Governor Milliken

From 3/27/12 Bridge Magazine article by Phil Power

Bill Rustem, your special assistant for natural resources and environment and now Gov. Snyder’s chief of strategy, told me: “The easy road for any politician is to appeal to people’s hates, their fears, and their greed; to be an echo chamber for the worst thoughts, deeds and words of human nature.

Governor Milliken always rejected that road. Rather, he believes that public servants had a higher calling – a calling to find the best in each of us; to challenge convention in order to build a better tomorrow; and to find the ties that bring people together rather than wedge them apart.”

The rich get richer

From 3/25/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Steven Rattner

In 2010, as the nation continued to recover from the recession, a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income. That delivered an average single-year pay increase of 11.6 percent to each of these households.

Still more astonishing was the extent to which the super rich got rich faster than the merely rich. In 2010, 37 percent of these additional earnings went to just the top 0.01 percent, a teaspoon-size collection of about 15,000 households with average incomes of $23.8 million. These fortunate few saw their incomes rise by 21.5 percent.

The bottom 99 percent received a microscopic $80 increase in pay per person in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The top 1 percent, whose average income is $1,019,089, had an 11.6 percent increase in income.

Ryan budget plan increases deficit and redistributes income to wealthy

From 3/25/12 The Washington Post op-ed article by E.J. Dionne Jr.

Robert Greenstein, president of the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is tough on deficits, careful in his use of numbers, and measured in his choice of words. These traits make his assessment of Ryan’s proposal all the more instructive.

“It [Paul Ryan's Republican budget plan] would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history),” Greenstein wrote. “Specifically, the Ryan budget would impose extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and over time would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance or become underinsured.”

How bad are gas prices?

From 3/23/12 The Washington Post

Inflation adjusted average gas price per gallon
$3.65 1981
$4.27 2008
$3.83 March 2012

Gas spending as percent of household budget
2.9% 2000
4.3% 2008
3.4% March 2012

Governor Snyder said he'd sign right-to-work law

Mike Thompson: SHOCKING New Obama video on Faux News

We can't show the video here because of copyright restrictions, but it's hilarious. See www.freep.com/article/20120319/BLOG2401/120318022/Mike-Thompson-Animation-Shocking-New-Obama-Video-

Brendan Curran, Otsego County candidate for prosecutor, announces evening of dance, dessert and fundraising

Friday, May 11th, 7-10 p.m., Livingston Township Hall

Click here for flyer

Romney lies about light bulbs, of all things

From 3/20/12 The Washington Post fact check article by by Glenn Kessler

"And the government would have banned Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Oh yeah, Obama’s regulators actually did just that."

— Mitt Romney, March 19, 2012

The Facts

 It’s a cheap political shot for Romney to blame “Obama’s regulators” for a proposal that was signed into law by a Republican president and was broadly supported at the time. Moreover, we don’t see how higher efficiency standards translates into a “ban,” especially when light manufacturers have embraced the new standards.

 Three Pinocchios

Mandate

From 3/20/12 The Washington Post op-ed article by Ruth Marcus

The most compelling sentences in the Obama administration’s brief defending the constitutionality of the health-care law come early on. “As a class,” the brief advises on Page 7, “the uninsured consumed $116 billion of health-care services in 2008.”

The mandate is by far the most unpopular feature of a law on which Americans are otherwise evenly divided. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll this month found that two-thirds of those surveyed disliked the mandate. Even among Democrats, a majority (53 percent) opposed the requirement; independents (66 percent) and Republicans (77 percent) were even more hostile.

Yet this is a provision that the overwhelming majority — those with insurance — should support, for the simple reason that these people currently end up footing the bill for much of that $116 billion.

As the government’s brief notes, “Congress found that this cost-shifting increases the average premium for insured families by more than $1,000 per year.”

The irony of the fight over the mandate is that President Obama was against it before he was for it. During the 2008 campaign, one of the signature differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton was that Clinton’s health plan included an individual mandate whereas Obama’s mandate covered only children.

Once elected, Obama quickly recognized the inescapable truth: An individual mandate was essential to make the plan work.

Kaiser found that when people were told that most Americans “would automatically satisfy the requirement because they already have coverage through their employers,” favorability toward the mandate nearly doubled, to 61 percent.

Favorable attitudes rose to nearly half when people were told that without the mandate, insurance companies would still be allowed to deny coverage to those who are sick; that without the mandate people would wait until they were sick to purchase insurance, driving up premium costs; or that those unable to afford coverage are exempt.

“People don’t understand how the mandate works at all and they don’t understand why it’s there,” Kaiser’s polling director, Mollyann Brodie, told me.

Brodie suspects that it’s too late to change minds. “This law as a whole has really become a symbolic issue to people and they really aren’t open to information,” she said.

Republican Congressman Jones, a hawk, now dove

From 3/20/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Maureen Dowd

“We are spending $10 billion a month that we can’t even pay for,” said Congressman Walter Jones, that rarest of birds, a Southern Republican dove.

Congressman Jones directly confronted General Allen on the most salient point: “What is the metric?” How do you know when it’s time to go?

“When does the Congress have the testimony that someone will say, we have done all we can do?” he asked. “Bin Laden is dead. There are hundreds of tribes in Afghanistan and everyone has their own mission.”

Jones was once so gung ho about W.’s attempts to impose democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan that, after the French opposed invading Iraq in 2003, he helped lead the effort to rename French fries “freedom fries” and French toast “freedom toast” in the House cafeteria.

But now he thinks that both wars are sucking away lives and money, reaping only futility, and that he was silly about the fries. He said he’s fed up with having military commanders and Pentagon officials come to Capitol Hill year after year for a decade and say about Afghanistan: “Our gains are sustainable, but there will be setbacks” and “We are making progress, but it’s fragile and reversible.”

He said he had recently visited Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital to see wounded troops: “I had a young Marine lance corporal who lost one leg,” in a room with his mother.

“My question is,” the Marine asked him, “Why are we still there?”

Jones also read an e-mail from a military big shot whom he described as a former boss of General Allen’s, giving the congressman this unvarnished assessment: “Attempting to find a true military and political answer to the problems in Afghanistan would take decades. Would drain our nation of precious resources, with the most precious being our sons and daughters. Simply put, the United States cannot solve the Afghan problem, no matter how brave and determined our troops are.”

Jones agreed, noting mordantly: “I hope that sometime in between now and 2014, if things are not improving or they are fragile like they are now, somebody will come to the Congress and say the military has sacrificed enough. The American people have paid enough. And somebody would shoot straight with the American people and the Congress.”

He concluded: “We can declare victory now. But there’s one thing we cannot do, and that is change history, because Afghanistan has never changed since they’ve been existing.”

The epitaph of our Sisyphean decade of two agonizing wars was written last year by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates: “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East or Africa, should have his head examined.”

Republican 2013 budget plan reduces taxes on rich and cuts benefits for the old, the young and the poor

From 3/20/12 The New York Times Editorial

As he rolled out his 2013 budget on Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, correctly said that he and his fellow Republicans were offering the country a choice of two very clear futures. The one he outlined in his plan could hardly be more bleak.

It is one where the rich pay less in taxes than the unfairly low rates they pay now, while programs for the poor — including Medicaid and food stamps — are slashed and thrown to the whims of individual states. Where older Americans no longer have a guarantee that Medicare will pay for their health needs. Where lack of health insurance is rampant, preschool is unaffordable, and environmental and financial regulation are severely weakened.

Being a woman is not a pre-existing condition

From 3/20/12 Democrats Change That Matters website

Health insurance companies charge women up to 50 percent more than men for the same coverage. Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will close the insurance gender gap once and for all: It will be illegal for health insurers to discriminate against women.

By threatening to overturn the health reform law, Mitt Romney and the Republican presidential candidates would tell insurance companies it's okay to continue discriminating against women. Don't let them get away with it.

Michigan gets poor corruption risk report card

PACs controlled by just a few wealthy individuals are funding Congressional primaries

From 3/18/12 The New York Times editorial

And for all of its populist talk about [PACs] being “the equalizer” in these [primary] races, 95 percent of its money so far has come from just four wealthy men with conservative bents: Leo Linbeck III, a Houston builder who has campaigned against national health care reform; Eric O’Keefe, who helped found U.S. Term Limits; Tim Dunn, chairman of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility; and J. Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, who has crusaded against earmarks and federal spending.

Health Reform Law just in time

From 3/18/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

[T]he perfect is the enemy of the good; for all its imperfections, this reform would do an enormous amount of good. And one indicator of just how good it is comes from the apparent inability of its opponents to make an honest case against it.

To understand the lies, you first have to understand the truth. How would ObamaRomneycare change American health care?

For most people the answer is, not at all. In particular, those receiving good health benefits from employers would keep them. The act is aimed, instead, at Americans who fall through the cracks, either going without coverage or relying on the miserably malfunctioning individual, “non-group” insurance market.

The fact is that individual health insurance, as currently constituted, just doesn’t work. If insurers are left free to deny coverage at will — as they are in, say, California — they offer cheap policies to the young and healthy (and try to yank coverage if you get sick) but refuse to cover anyone likely to need expensive care. Yet simply requiring that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions, as in New York, doesn’t work either: premiums are sky-high because only the sick buy insurance.

The solution — originally proposed, believe it or not, by analysts at the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation — is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies.

Can such a system work? It’s already working! Massachusetts enacted a very similar reform six years ago.

Given this evidence, what’s a virulent opponent of reform to do? The answer is, make stuff up.

We all know how the act’s proposal that Medicare evaluate medical procedures for effectiveness became, in the fevered imagination of the right, an evil plan to create death panels.

For now, however, most of the disinformation involves claims about costs. Each new report from the Congressional Budget Office is touted as proof that the true cost of Obamacare is exploding, even when — as was the case with the latest report — the document says on its very first page that projected costs have actually fallen slightly.

As I said, the reform is mainly aimed at Americans who fall through the cracks in our current system — an important goal in its own right. But what makes reform truly urgent is the fact that the cracks are rapidly getting wider, because fewer and fewer jobs come with health benefits; employment-based coverage actually declined even during the “Bush boom” of 2003 to 2007, and has plunged since.

Inexperienced term limited Michigan legislators don't understand how state actions contributed to local government fiscal distress and they're about to make the situation worse

From 3/16/12 Michigan Municipal League artcle by Summer Minnick

Michigan has over 1,800 units of local government and over 500 school districts. It's well known that local governments and schools have been in fiscal distress for a number of years. While there are notable exceptions, for the most part both local units of government and schools have done whatever was necessary to remain fiscally sound under very difficult circumstances. What is poorly understood by the public and by a term-limited Legislature is how previous state government decisions, and decisions that will be made later this year, have and will continue contribute to that fiscal distress and the need for the EM law.

As a rule-of-thumb, local governments receive on average about 75 percent of their funding from local property tax collections and about 25 percent from state revenue sharing. Both sources have declined as costs and the demand for services have increased.

Prominent Republican lawmakers want to abolish Medicare

From 3/16/12 The Washington Post op-ed article by Dana Milbank

Four prominent Republican lawmakers announced their proposal to abolish Medicare — “sunset” was their pseudo-verb — even for those currently on the program or nearing retirement.

In Medicare’s place would be a private plan that would raise the eligibility age and shift trillions of dollars worth of health-care coverage from the government to the elderly.

The end-Medicare sponsors are key figures: DeMint is the godfather of the Tea Party, and he was joined by Paul and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), two conservative rising stars. Completing the foursome was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an influential thinker. Two other Republican senators, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have introduced a somewhat related plan to deal with Medicare, and Rep. Paul Ryan’s House Republican budget would also privatize Medicare, though on a slower timetable.

Meet MDP endorsed Michigan Supreme Court candidate Judge Shelia Johnson

Obama campaign video (17 min.)

Amendment to Michigan Constitution that trumps 80 anti-labor laws proposed by Republican legislators has 63% voter support

From 3/11/12 MLive op-ed article by Tim Skubick

Everyone had been summoned for a news conference regarding a statewide petition drive to ban Right to Work. The president of the United Auto Workers had earlier disclosed this effort was about to be launched.

But instead of a petition drive to block Right to Work, correspondents discovered a broadly written constitutional amendment that, if adopted by the voters, would preserve the right to collective bargaining.

And there is internal polling data to suggest 63 percent of the voters support that, even though many of them are not in love with unions per se.

One can understand the frustration in the union movement. Since coming to town, Gov. Rick Snyder and minions have presided over one issue after another that labor finds distasteful - from the Emergency Manager law to stopping schools from collecting union dues. And with 80 other self-described anti-union bills in the hopper, the movement decided it was time to fight back.

Michigan Republican Party chair Bobby Schostak says Obama shouldn't get credit for auto industry recovery

From 3/14/12 MLive article by Michael Wayland

Here is the full statement from Schostak:

    "It is sad and disappointing to watch Pres. Obama trample on the successes of the middle-class by taking credit for auto's recovery. Obama acts as if he built and designed the cars today that are outselling their foreign competitors. Republicans and in fact most Americans recognize that credit is owed to the men and women who work on the line and build the cars, and those engineers who brought us world class cars and trucks designed for a global economy.

    "Republicans recognize the real reason for the auto's successes is the men and women who work for the companies did not give up. Instead they buckled down and built more popular and higher quality vehicles that are outselling their foreign competitors. Republicans applaud middle-class men and women who are the backbone of the automotive industry."

Republicans oppose renewal of Violence Against Women Act

From 3/15/2 The New York Times articl by Johathan Weisman

With emotions still raw from the fight over President Obama’s contraception mandate, Senate Democrats are beginning a push to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the once broadly bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, one of two women on the judiciary panel, said the partisan opposition came as a “real surprise,” but she put it into a broader picture.

“This is part of a larger effort, candidly, to cut back on rights and services to women,” she said. “We’ve seen it go from discussions on Roe v. Wade, to partial birth abortion, to contraception, to preventive services for women. This seems to be one more thing.”

"Bills were flying through the Senate on Wednesday like great flocks of geese soaring into the turbines of a passenger jet."

From 3/14/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Gail Collins

When it comes to deregulating business, all of the worst ideas in the modern history of Congress have been bipartisan to the core. People, when you see Republicans and Democrats together, holding hands and talking about unleashing the magic of the marketplace, hide your wallets.

Rush Limbaugh defended Lord's Resistance Army

From 3/9/12 The Christian Science Monitor by Peter Grier

Last October, Rush Limbaugh on his radio show defended Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, the Uganda guerilla group that is now infamous around the world thanks to a viral video from the Invisible Children organization that has exposed Kony’s cruel and murderous ways.

Why in the world would Limbaugh do that?

The truth about gas prices

From 3/14/12 White House website

Facts

  • U.S. Production of oil rising
  • U.S. Dependence on foreign oil declining
  • U.S. Crude oil rigs in operation are increasing
  • Total oil and [natural] gas production is on the rise
  • Increased production doesn't lower gas prices
  • While profits soar, oil companies are receiving about $7,610 a minute in tax breaks.
  • Global oil consumption is soaring.
  • China tripled its number of cars - and its gas needs in just 4 years
  • Global instability causes unpredictable price spikes
  • More domestic drilling will never meet our energy needs. The U.S. has only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. But we use 20 percent of the world's oil.
  • In order, the countries with the largest proved oil reserves are: Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Russia, Libya, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Qatar, U.S. and China.

We need to

  • Safely develop our large supply of domestic natural gas
  • Continue building new cars and truck with better fuel efficiency standards
  • Open new areas for oil and gas exploration
  • Increase our use of energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydropower

How can it be? Pat Boone a liar?

From 11/17/11 FactCheck Web page

The same old claims about the federal health care law turn up once again in an ad featuring pop and gospel singer Pat Boone, the national spokesman for the conservative 60 Plus Association.

We’ve been over some of the assertions that Boone makes more times than we care to count. But our fact-checking persistence hasn’t stopped groups like 60 Plus from repeating the claims. And repeating them, and repeating them.

The ad claims that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “creates a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats,” called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which, Boone says, “can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments so Washington can fund more wasteful spending.” But the board isn’t made up of “bureaucrats,” and it can’t “ration care.”

At the end of the ad, Boone repeats these false claims, saying that “unaccountable bureaucrats should never have the power to deny you the care you deserve.”

The IPAB is tasked with finding ways to reduce the growth in Medicare spending. Its 15 voting members won’t be bureaucrats; according to the health care law (see page 502), they will be doctors and medical professionals, economists and health care management experts, and representatives for consumers and seniors. The law says the president will appoint the members in consultation with Congress and with consent of the Senate.

The law also explicitly says that the IPAB’s proposals “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums … increase Medicare beneficiary costsharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.” (See page 490.)

The ad says that the law “cuts $500 billion from Medicare.” That’s a $500 billion cut in the future growth of Medicare over 10 years, or about a 7 percent reduction in growth over the decade. But 60 Plus doesn’t mention those details.

Later in the ad, Boone says that “Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years.”

The truth is that Medicare Part A — the hospital insurance trust fund, one of four parts of Medicare — is expected to be insolvent by 2020, according to projections from the Congressional Budget Office, or perhaps 2024, according to the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees. But that doesn’t mean the program will be calling it quits at the end of this decade. Shortfalls have been projected for Part A “almost from its inception,” says a Congressional Research Service report. Way back in 1970, the board of trustees said the trust fund would be in financial trouble a mere two years later. The warnings have continued, but Congress constantly finds ways to extend the program.

Meet Bridget Mary McCormack, MDP endorsed candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan Democratic Party press release

From 3/13/12 MDP Website

The Michigan Democratic Party applauds the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recent decision in DNC v. RNC which will continue to prevent “the intimidation and suppression of minority voters” by Republicans.

Charter schools have low standard test scores but are an option valued by parents

From 3/13/12 Bridge Magazine article by Nancy Derringer

While many charters produced outstanding results on statewide tests of academic achievement, taken on average, their test results were at or below statewide averages. In fourth-grade reading, math and writing tests, the statewide averages for traditional-school students ranked as meeting or exceeding standards were 84.8 percent, 91.8 percent and 48.2 percent, respectively. Charter-school students scored 76.8 percent, 87.6 percent and 37.7 percent on the same tests.

In eight-grade reading, math and science, traditional-school students meeting or exceeding standards were 82.3 percent, 78.8 percent and 78.9 percent respectively, while charter students were at 77.6, 67.8 and 68.7 percent.

Michigan ballot measure requires PACs disclose donors

From 3/9/12 Traverse City Record Eagle article by the Associated Press

LANSING — A Michigan group began collecting signatures Thursday for a ballot measure requiring far more disclosure of corporate donations so voters can see who's making unlimited gifts to special interest groups. The Corporate Accountability Amendment would change the state constitution to require corporations as well as any group receiving corporate donations to identify who gave the money.

Meet Debbie Stabenow

Why do extremists always target women?

Republicans want to "take our country back" ← back in time

"Obamacare" has lowered and may permanently lower Medicare costs

From 3/12/12 TPM article by Sahil Kapur

What if “Obamacare” not only helped save Medicare from fiscal doom, but also quashed the GOP’s longstanding goal of privatizing the program? It’s too early to know what will ultimately happen, but new evidence suggests that nightmare scenario for conservatives is within the realm of possibility.

In a development with potentially profound implications — both for Medicare itself and for the broader ideological fight between the two parties over the role of government — researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine believe that the growth in per patient Medicare costs has slowed, contra earlier projections that spending would soar at an unsustainable rate. More importantly, the researchers believe this trend will hold over time, thanks largely to the Affordable Care Act’s sweeping cost-control policies.

Explosion in militia, 'Sovereign Citzen' & 'patriot' hate groups

From 3/8/12 MSN article by Stephanie Schendel of Murrow News Service

The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 triggered an explosion in the number of militias and so-called patriot groups in the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in its annual tally of such anti-government organizations.

Republicans attempt to bust unions, labor fights back

From 3/8/12 The Detroit Free Press op-ed article by Brian Dickerson

If Rick Snyder thought he could avoid a divisive showdown with organized labor just by changing the subject every time someone mentioned "right-to-work," he'd better think again.

Concerned that the governor's oft-professed disinterest in right-to-work legislation won't prevent him from signing it into law if a bill comes to his desk, the state's largest unions are going on the offensive.

If the omnibus constitutional amendment they're proposing garners the requisite 323,000 signatures by July 9, Michigan voters will have the opportunity this November to ban right-to-work legislation outright while effectively rescinding or pre-empting dozens of anti-labor initiatives sponsored by Republican legislators.

Proposed Michigan constitution amendment to protect labor's right to bargain for an employment contract

From Protect Our Jobs website

Amendment Language:

INITIATIVE PETITION AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION -

The proposal would add a new Section 28 to Article I of the State Constitution, as follows: (1) The people shall have the rights to organize together to form, join or assist labor organizations, and to bargain collectively with a public or private employer through an exclusive representative of the employees' choosing, to the fullest extent not preempted by the laws of the United States.

(2) As used in subsection (1), to bargain collectively is to perform the mutual obligation of the employer and the exclusive representative of the employees to negotiate in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and to execute and comply with any agreement reached; but this obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or make a concession.

(3) No existing or future law of the State or its political subdivisions shall abridge, impair or limit the foregoing rights; provided that the State may prohibit or restrict strikes by employees of the State and its political subdivisions. The legislature's exercise of its power to enact laws relative to the hours and conditions of employment shall not abridge, impair or limit the right to collectively bargain for wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment that exceed minimum levels established by the legislature.

(4) No existing or future law of the State or its political subdivisions shall impair, restrict or limit the negotiation and enforcement of any collectively bargained agreement with a public or private employer respecting financial support by employees of their collective bargaining representative according to the terms of that agreement.

(5) For purposes of this Section, "employee" means a person who works for any employer for compensation, and "employer" means a person or entity employing one or more employees.

(6) This section and each part thereof shall be self executing. If any part of this section is found to be in conflict with or preempted by the United States Constitution or federal law, such part shall be severable from the remainder of this section, and such part and the remainder of this section shall be effective to the fullest extent that the United States Constitution and federal law permit.

The proposal would add the following to Article XI, Section 5 of the State Constitution: Classified state civil service employees shall, through their exclusive representative, have the right to bargain collectively with their employer concerning conditions of their employment, compensation, hours, working conditions, retirement, pensions, and other aspects of employment except promotions, which will be determined by competitive examination and performance on the basis of merit, efficiency and fitness.

Dems

During 2009 healthcare debate, Romney recommends mandated insurance

From 07/30/2009 USA Today op-ed article by Mitt Romney

Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn't have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages "free riders" to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn't cost the government a single dollar.

Women senators ask Speaker Boehner to table HR 1179, the House version of Blunt amendment cosponsored by our Congressman, Republican Dan Benishek

3/8/12

Speaker Boehner,

    We write to express our concerns over your recent statements pledging to continue efforts to put employers between American women and their access to birth control. Specifically, we are asking that you abandon the promise you have made to bring legislation to the House floor similar to the Blunt amendment, which was defeated in the Senate last week, and which would turn the clock back on women’s access to health care. Furthermore, we ask that you listen to the overwhelming outcry from American women who support access to contraception and drop all politically-charged efforts to deny them coverage.

    Today, at a time when 99% of sexually active women in the U.S. have used birth control, its role in the lives of women and their families is hard to understate. Access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, and is linked to overall good health outcomes. Nationwide, 1.5 million women use contraceptives only as treatment for serious medical conditions. And most importantly, access to birth control helps reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, a goal we all share.

    That is why the recent Republican attacks on birth control access have been so eye-opening for American women. For most American women, the battle over contraception was settled a half century ago. Yet, over the course of the past month alone, women have watched as panels on birth control have been convened without women, a young woman that dared to speak out in defense of birth control was subjected to vile name-calling, and extreme legislation, like the Blunt Amendment, has been pushed to deny access.

    Women have had enough. As we have heard from countless women in our home states and here on Capitol Hill, they are tired of being targets for a political strategy that endangers their health care and they want it to stop. We hope that you can answer their calls, and ours. It’s time for you to put an end to the attacks on women’s health care and to work with the Senate to get back to the American people’s top priority: creating jobs and boosting our economy.

    As you may know, today is International Women’s Day, a day celebrated each year to mark the political, social, and economic progress women have made. We ask that on this day you join with us in working to ensure that we build on the progress of the past, not reverse it.


Signed by senators Murray, Mary Landrieu, Barbara Boxer, Claire McCaskill, Jeanne Shaheen, Maria Cantwell, Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar, Debbie Stabenow, Kay Hagan, and Barbara Mikulski

Michigan laws weak on issue ads, financial disclosure, lobbying and campaign-finance reporting

From 3/8/12 Bridge Magazine article by Chris Andrews

Issue ads
In Michigan, millions of dollars in spending on television and radio advertising go unreported by the Department of State each election cycle. They escape disclosure laws because they are considered “issue advocacy,” since they don’t explicitly ask voters to cast ballots for or against a candidate or ballot proposal.  Never mind that the candidates’ own ads often don’t have these so-called “magic words,” either.

Financial disclosure
Michigan is one of just three states that don’t require top elected officials (let alone local or unelected officials) to provide any public information about their financial holdings. Financial disclosure laws are designed to enable the public to identify potential conflicts of interest.

Lobbying
Michigan’s mostly useless lobby law that tells the public almost nothing about the efforts by special interests to influence policy...

Campaign-finance reporting
Michigan residents had to wait more than a year between elected officials’ campaign finance reports to see who had contributed what to candidates during the period that lawmakers were debating a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, and other important public policy matters.

Our state representative, Republican Greg MacMaster, and state senator, Republican John Moolenaar support HB 4929 teacher union busting law

From 3/8/12 The Lansing State Journal by Tim Martin of the Associated Press

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature narrowly approved a measure Wednesday that would prohibit public schools from automatically deducting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees, a move that unions consider another attack on collective bargaining rights.

Some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure, which was approved 20-18 in the Senate and 56-54 in the House. The bill goes to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who intends to sign it, spokesman Ken Silfven said.

Reagan defending unions

Republican presidential candidates afraid of Limbaugh

From 3/5/12 The Washington Post op-ed article by Eugene Robinson

How’s this for political cowardice? Right-wing bloviator Rush Limbaugh launches a vile attack, full of sexual insults and smarmy innuendo, against a young woman whose only offense was to speak her mind. Asked to comment, the leading Republican presidential candidates — who bray constantly about “courage” and “leadership” — run from the bully and hide.

“I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used,” said Mitt Romney. I wonder what language Romney thinks Limbaugh should have used to call Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

So let’s get this straight: These guys want us to believe they’re ready to face down Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Eun, the Taliban and what’s left of al-Qaeda. Yet they’re so scared of a talk-radio buffoon that they ignore or excuse an eruption of venom that some of Limbaugh’s advertisers — nine, at last count, have said they would no longer sponsor the show — find inexcusable.

Michigan lobbying rules loose compared to other states

From 3/6/12 Bridge Magazine article by Peter Luke

When it comes to ethics guidelines, or ordering off the menu, the Michigan Legislature has long set a low bar for itself.

Other states bar lobbyists from buying meals and drinks for lawmakers. Others set limits on how much food and beverage a lawmaker can accept from a lobbyist in a single setting – $50 in Louisiana, for example. Or they have limits on an annual basis — $75 in Ohio.

Michigan sets no hard guidelines for lawmakers to follow and imposes no limits — just  reporting thresholds — on how much food and beverage lobbyists can provide.

The Jack Kennedy speech that made Santorum want to throw up

President Obama called "tar baby" "boy"

From 3/3/12 The Christian Science Monitor article by Patrik Jonsson

The specter of two national Republican figures apologizing for calling President Obama, the first African-American president, alternately a "tar baby" and "boy" gave new fuel to speculation on the left that underneath much of the criticism of the president and his policies lurks the shadow of racism.

In SE Michigan heroin is cheap, accessible, trendy and deadly

From 3/5/12 The Detroit Free Press article by Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki

The new heroin addicts likely started off using prescription drugs, authorities said. But as the prescription drugs ran out, they turned to the street, where the drugs cost $80 a pill. Heroin, on the other hand, is cheap -- as little as $5 a pop.

County officials: In the burbs, heroin is the most-used drug behind alcohol.

Health agencies in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties say that they have seen in increase in heroin addiction in their treatment facilities, and opiate painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin are increasingly at the root of the addiction.

It's a middle-class problem.

In Oakland County, heroin addicts have gone from 13% of those admitted for treatment to 23% in the last four years.

"It continues to be our second primary drug of choice in our area," after alcohol, said Christina Nicholas, chief of substance-abuse services for Oakland County. "We find that a large portion of prescription drug users seeking treatment were using prescription opiates, and then they move on to heroin."

No definitive numbers were available in Wayne County, but heroin usage is increasing in suburban communities there, as well, trailing only alcohol as the most-used drug.

"It's very popular and it's very trendy now to use," said Darlene Owens, treatment services manager for the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance. "It's been going up every year."

I wish that parents and young people would recognize that heroin and synthetic prescription heroin (such as OxyContin) are extremely dangerous.

[H]eroin is more accessible than marijuana.

Fewer cops in Michigan

From 3/5/12 The Lansing State Journal article by Tim Martin of the Associated Press

Michigan's cash crunch has resulted in the nation's largest percentage drop in law enforcement employees over the past decade, gutting some police stations, lowering arrest totals and leaving many residents to fend for themselves.

In Flint, the size of the police force has been cut in half in less than a decade. Neighborhood groups are taking it upon themselves to more actively patrol crime-ridden neighborhoods in hopes their presence will act as a deterrent to home invasions, robberies and other crimes.

Deficits higher with Republican budgets

From 3/1/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

Mitt Romney is very concerned about budget deficits. Or at least that’s what he says; he likes to warn that President Obama’s deficits are leading us toward a “Greece-style collapse.”

So why is Mr. Romney offering a budget proposal that would lead to much larger debt and deficits than the corresponding proposal from the Obama administration?

Of course, Mr. Romney isn’t alone in his hypocrisy. In fact, all four significant Republican presidential candidates still standing are fiscal phonies. They issue apocalyptic warnings about the dangers of government debt and, in the name of deficit reduction, demand savage cuts in programs that protect the middle class and the poor. But then they propose squandering all the money thereby saved — and much, much more — on tax cuts for the rich.

The Blunt Amendment

From 3/1/12 The New York Times editorial

Only one Senate Republican — Olympia Snowe of Maine, who is retiring — voted against a truly horrible measure on Thursday that would have crippled the expansion of preventive health care in America. The amendment, which was attached to a highway bill, was defeated on a narrow 48-to-51 vote. But it showed once again how far from the mainstream Republicans have strayed in their relentless efforts to undermine the separation of church and state, deny women access to essential health services and tear apart President Obama’s health care reform law.

From 3/2/12 reader comment regarding this editorial by Concerned Citizen in Brooklyn

I think this argument is too narrowly focused on women's reproductive health. Consider the following:

  • I personally find circumcision abhorrent. Were I an employer, I would morally object to paying an employee to, in my opinion, butcher their infant. The Blunt Amendment would have allowed this.
  • I also think smokers should reap what they sow. The Blunt Amendment would allow me to deny any and all life-saving measures related to an employee's bad habit.

Those are just my beliefs and I would legally be allowed to impose them on my employees.

The amendment empowers employers to:

  • deny coverage because they think vaccines cause autism or deny coverage because they think autism and ADD/ADHD are nothing more than modern-day myth;
  • deny STI (sexually transmitted infections) screenings and treatments;
  • deny vasectomies (they prevent God's will, procreation);
  • deny erectile dysfunction treatments for non-breeding males;
  • deny mental health care;
  • deny organ transplantation;
  • deny IVF (in vetro fertilization);
  • deny coverage because they think alcoholism is a bad habit and not a disease;
  • deny coverage to minor children the employer feels should have never been born (Down's Syndrome, Treacher Collins syndrome, albinism, conjoined twins, spina bifida, harlequin type ichthyosis, deafness or blindness and the so called" gay gene", if ever isolated). The Blunt Amendment is effectively state sanctioned eugenics.

That is why this is a bad amendment, not just women's health.

Sanctions Worked! In exchange for food, North Korea agrees to suspend uranium enrichment, missile tests, nuclear tests, and allow IAEA inspections again.

From 2/29/12 The Washington Post article by William Wan

North Korea has agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment program and its long-range missile and nuclear tests, the State Department said Wednesday. In return, the United States will provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid.

New battery discovery produces three times the energy of Lithium batteries currently used in electric vehicles at less than half the manufacturing cost

From 2/26/12 The New York Times article by Jim Motavalli

Envia Systems, a battery maker based in California, announced on Monday what it called a “major breakthrough” in lithium-ion cell technology that would result in a significant increase in the energy density — and a sharp reduction in the cost — of lithium-ion battery packs. Envia is financed by the Energy Department and G.M. Ventures, the venture-capital arm of General Motors, as well as other investors.

“We will be able to make smaller automotive packs that are also less heavy and much cheaper,” Atul Kapadia, chairman and chief executive of Envia, said in a telephone interview. “The cost of cells will be less than half — perhaps 45 percent — of cells today, and the energy density will be almost three times greater than conventional automotive cells.”

Mr. Kapadia continued: “What we have are not demonstrations, not experiments, but actual products. We could be in automotive production in a year and a half.”

U.S. intelligence agencies say no hard evidence Iran has decided to build bomb

From 2/24/12 The New York Times article by James Risen and Mark Mazzetti

WASHINGTON — Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.

Don't bet against the Michigan worker

Michigan Truth Squad

This Center for Michigan project blows the whistle on false and misleading political speech.

Only Pennsylvania has a smaller public sector workforce percentage than Michigan

From 2/23/12 Bridge Magazine article by Derek Melot

[A] new report from Gallup based on ongoing employment surveys, estimates that among all the states, Michigan now has the second smallest percentage of its work force employed in state or local governments. Compared to a national average of 11.6%, Michigan comes in at 9.1%.  Only Pennsylvania, at 8.8%, has a smaller percentage of its work force employed in state and local government.

Herman Cain & Pete Hoekstra campaign together for 9-9-9 tax

From 2/20/12 mlive.com article by Nate Reens

Hoekstra, a Holland Republican seeking to challenge and upend U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, will tour the state with Cain on Thursday

Democrats have criticized Hoekstra bringing Cain on the campaign trail as has Clark Durant, Hoekstra’s leading GOP competition.

“Congressman Hoekstra is desperate to put a populist veneer over his 18-year big spending record in Washington D.C., which culminated in the revolving door to the Dickstein Shapiro lobbying firm," said Andy Anuzis, Durant’s campaign manager.

Feds vs carp

From 2/23/12 The Detroit Free Press article by the Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Obama administration will spend about $50 million this year to shield the Great Lakes from greedy Asian carp, including first-time water sampling to determine whether the destructive fish have established a foothold in Lakes Michigan and Erie, officials said Thursday.

An updated federal strategy for preventing an invasion also includes stepped-up trapping and netting in rivers that could provide access to the lakes, as well as initial field tests of chemicals that could lure carp to where they could be captured, officials told The Associated Press. An acoustic water gun that could scare the carp away from crucial locations will be tested near a Chicago-area shipping lock that some want closed because it could serve as a doorway to Lake Michigan.

"This strategy builds on the unprecedented and effective plan we are implementing to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we determine the best long-term solution," said John Goss, the Asian carp program director for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He said initiatives in 2012 would "strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and move even more innovative carp control projects from research into implementation."

A snarky summary of the Arizona debate

From 2/23/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Gail Collins

The Arizona crowd was totally on Romney’s side. This was no easy task, since it required a lot of booing and cheering at those obscure earmark arguments. But Mitt needed all the help he could get. He’s facing a must-win primary next week in Michigan, which is, of course, his home state. Along with Massachusetts and New Hampshire and California, where he has, um, homes. Michigan appears to be the only Romney home state where Romney does not have an actual residence.

National debt balloons under GOP candidates' tax plans

From 2/23/12 The Washington Post article by Lori Montgomery

The national debt is likely to balloon under tax policies championed by three of the four major Republican candidates for president, according to an independent analysis of tax and spending proposals so far offered by the candidates.

According to the report — set for release Thursday by U.S. Budget Watch, a project of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich would do the most damage to the nation’s finances, offering tax and spending policies likely to require trillions of dollars in fresh borrowing.

Republican lies told at February Arizona debate

From 2/23/12 The Washington Post Factchecker article by Glenn Kessler

It’s hard to believe we’ve fact checked all of the GOP debates — and this may be the last one. But once again we heard a blizzard of dubious statements, including many oldies but goodies.


“Obviously the first thing we need to do is repeal “Obamacare.” That’s one entitlement that we can get rid of. And that’s a couple trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years.”

— Rick Santorum

Santorum is only counting one side of the ledger — and overcounting it at that. Because the health care law raises some taxes and cuts Medicare spending, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that it slightly reduced the deficit in the first 10 years, though much of the law was not fully implemented in the first four years.


“When I was speaker, as I’m sure he remembers, we balanced the budget for four consecutive years, for the only time in his lifetime.”

— Newt Gingrich

Ugh, this old saw again. It’s simply not true, no matter how often Gingrich says it. There are three key problems with his claim.

First, he was only speaker for two of those years.

Second, Gingrich opposed two tax-raising budget deals in 1990 and 1993 that were mostly responsible for bringing the budget into balance.

Third, the gross debt kept rising because the surplus included money earmarked for Social Security.


“I wrote an op-ed in the paper and I said, absolutely not, don’t write a check for $50 billion. These [auto] companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy just like airlines have, just like other industries have. Go through a managed bankruptcy.”

— Romney

With the Michigan primary coming up, Romney is still paying a political price for the headline on that opinion article: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” His argument was actually a little more nuanced, but as we have written, he has never explained how the auto companies could have survived a bankruptcy when the credit markets were frozen and there was literally no financing.


“Not once in the 2008 campaign — not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. OK? So let’s be clear here. If we’re going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama, who as a state senator voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans.”

— Gingrich


Michael Dobbs, our predecessor as The Fact Checker, examined this claim when GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin publicly raised it during the 2008 campaign. She ended up with Two Pinocchios, with Dobbs ruling that “it is unfair to accuse Obama of supporting the withdrawal of medical treatment from babies born as the result of a botched abortion.” He said Obama had never taken that position during debates in the Illinois state legislature.

More recently, our colleagues at PolitiFact reexamined the controversy when Santorum claimed that Obama, “in his own words,” said babies born prematurely could be killed. He earned a “Pants on Fire” ruling.


“Our bill [Romneycare] was 70 pages; his bill [Obamacare] is 2,700 pages.”

— Romney

As we have noted before, this is a specious claim that previously earned Romney a Pinocchio. He is double-counting pages and adding things that had little to do with health care. The correct comparison is about 145 pages (Romneycare) to 200 pages (Obamacare).

During the debate, Gingrich also referenced the health care law’s supposed page count, which really is a meaningless measurement of a law.


 

Government spending cuts drive European countries into recession

From 2/19/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

[I]n early 2010 austerity economics — the insistence that governments should slash spending even in the face of high unemployment — became all the rage in European capitals. The doctrine asserted that the direct negative effects of spending cuts on employment would be offset by changes in “confidence,” that savage spending cuts would lead to a surge in consumer and business spending, while nations failing to make such cuts would see capital flight and soaring interest rates. If this sounds to you like something Herbert Hoover might have said, you’re right: It does and he did.

Now the results are in — and they’re exactly what three generations’ worth of economic analysis and all the lessons of history should have told you would happen. The confidence fairy has failed to show up: none of the countries slashing spending have seen the predicted private-sector surge. Instead, the depressing effects of fiscal austerity have been reinforced by falling private spending.

Furthermore, bond markets keep refusing to cooperate. Even austerity’s star pupils, countries that, like Portugal and Ireland, have done everything that was demanded of them, still face sky-high borrowing costs. Why? Because spending cuts have deeply depressed their economies, undermining their tax bases to such an extent that the ratio of debt to G.D.P., the standard indicator of fiscal progress, is getting worse rather than better.

Meanwhile, countries that didn’t jump on the austerity train — most notably, Japan and the United States — continue to have very low borrowing costs, defying the dire predictions of fiscal hawks.

So what will it take to convince the Pain Caucus, the people on both sides of the Atlantic who insist that we can cut our way to prosperity, that they are wrong?

Republicans disappointed with Benishek

From 2/2/12 Traverse City Record Eagle article by Brian McGillivary

Republican Larry Inman, who chairs the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners, will consider challenging U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, for the redrawn 1st Congressional District.

“They are sick of Benishek,” Inman said. “They said he’s arrogant, doesn’t spend any time in the district, isn’t accessible ... and they’re worried if he’s the Republican nominee we’ll lose the seat in November.”

Michigan League of Women Voters opposes voter suppression legislation

From 2/18/12 Michigan League of Women Voters website

The proposed effort to suppress voting in Michigan is part of a nation-wide push that relies on two falsehoods: (1) that voter fraud in the form of voter impersonation is rampant and (2) that every honest voter can easily produce a photo ID.

Voting law changes that passed the MI Senate on February 14 are "an attempt to suppress the vote either by making it harder for people to register to vote or by making it harder for them to vote at the polls," said LWVMI President Sue Smith in one of many, post-vote radio interviews.  The bills require MI voters to present photo ID when registering to vote and obtaining an absentee ballot in person.  Certification and training requirements for groups that register people to vote would also be required.  The bills now move to the House.

AARP opposed to Michigan voter suppression legislation

From 2/16/12 Bridge Magazine article by Mark Hornbeck

AARP Michigan opposes bills (Senate Bills 751 and 754) moving through the Legislature that will make it more difficult for many state residents to register to vote and to participate in elections.

Our State of Michigan senator, Republican John Moolenaar, voted for both these bills. No Democrat in the Michigan Senate voted for either.

Misogyne?

From 2/17/12 MDP e-mail by chairman Mark Brewer

This week:

  • Congressman Darrell Issa refused to let any women testify during Congressional hearings on contraceptives, even denying one female by saying simply that she was "unqualified" to speak about the need for affordable family planning.
  • GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum believes states should have the right to ban the sale of contraceptives.
  • Santorum Super PAC funder Foster Friess said women should put aspirin "between their knees" for birth control.
  • As a GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney promised to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate federal funding for birth control and cancer screenings.

Michigan business leaders upset about prison cost and reduced support for higher education

From 2/16/12 Bridge Magazine article by Derek Melot

Business Leaders for Michigan, a group formerly known as Detroit Renaissance, is a major player in how state policy is shaped in Lansing these days. So when it takes a stance, it’s advisable to pay attention.

And BLM on Wednesday made an important statement about prison costs — in its bid to reinvent the state’s higher education policy.

The big headlines off of Wednesday’s events will be that BLM is proposing a new system by which the state invests more in universities that perform well on a series of identifiable metrics. As most Bridge readers know, Lansing in the era of Rick Snyder is all about metrics and dashboards. BLM’s proposal plays right to that atmosphere, advising the linkage of state aid dollars to graduation rates, student retention rates, R&D work and the like.

But what’s most interesting is how BLM is seeing beyond the higher education account to the state’s budget situation as a whole.

In a press release, BLM board member Patrick Doyle, who spends his days running Domino’s Pizza, stated, “This fiscal year, Michigan will spend 76 percent more general fund dollars on prisons than we will on universities. Our public universities are a major driver of Michigan’s economy yet we are spending more on prisons than we are to help a Michigan student go to college. This investment strategy is upside down if we want to attract business investment and good-paying jobs.”
 
That’s as direct a statement about how prison spending has distorted Michigan’s priorities as we at Bridge Magazine can recall from any large faction of the business community.

At a press event to unveil its strategy, BLM head Doug Rothwell said, “Michigan needs to get back to the commitment that it had for decades, as a top 10 state in support of higher education.”

Romney vows to bust unions

From 1/15/12 The Detroit News article by Marisa Shultz

"I've taken on union bosses before," Romney said before hundreds at a furniture manufacturer. "I'm happy to take them on again."

One business owner asked Romney to sign an executive order on Day 1 to end a provision that federal work be done by union labor. "You'll have that," Romney said.

Romney outlined his reforms against the unions if he should win the Oval Office: Require secret ballots, protect paychecks, guarantee the right to work, end favoritism in government contracts and uphold the rule of law.

Republicans pushing prison reform

From 2/14/12 Bridge Magazine article by Ron French

Prison reform — once considered a ticket out of office for politicians — is spreading around the country, and in some unlikely places. In many states, the efforts to reduce prison populations are being led by “law-and-order” Republicans.

High percentage of income in several 1st District counties comes from government

From 2/12/12 Bridge Magazine article by Derek Melot

A small Michigan subplot to the New York Times’ story about how opposition to government benefits programs appears to spike in areas where government benefits are most prevalent.

In 2010, Dan Benishek ran for — and won –Michigan’s 1st Congressional District, which then covered the U.P. and a good hunk of the northeastern quadrant of the Lower Peninsula. Benishek was identified as a Tea Party candidate, with the commensurate focus on curtailing government spending and fiscal responsibility.

Now look at this interactive map from the Times. The Michigan counties where income is most reliant on federal spending are counties in Benishek’s district. In fact, several counties in Benishek’s district derive a larger percentage of income from government than highly urbanized counties:

  • Oscoda County– 44.86 percent
  • Alcona County– 44.33 percent
  • Roscommon County — 44.21 percent
  • Gladwin County– 41.72 percent
  • Ogemaw County– 40.87 percent
  • Genesee County (Flint) — 31.28 percent
  • Saginaw County– 29.05 percent
  • Wayne County (Detroit) — 28.04 percent
  • Kent County (Grand Rapids) — 18.05 percent
  • National average — 17.6 percent

Some of this surely has to do with the aging of rural areas as young people leave in search of employment. The NY Times graphic includes Social Security and Medicare spending in its calculations. Yet, there are arguments in Washington,D.C., to curtail spending on Medicare and raise the retirement age for Social Security.

A trend receiving too little coverage in Michigan these days is the growing outlook gap between urbanized Michigan and rural Michigan. In a 21st century economy, job creation is dominated by urbanized areas. What happens to rural areas if jobs fade away? One answer is that rural areas get older — and as they get older, they get more dependent on federal benefit programs for the elderly.

With HB4936 the Michigan insurance industry is attempting to shift long term health care costs for accident victims to taxpayers and increase their profits

From 2/9/12 CPAN (Coalition Protecting Auto No-fault) website

The insurance industry has introduced legislation that, if enacted, would fundamentally change the basic nature of the Michigan auto no-fault system.

Michigan insurance companies want to cap your injury and rehabilitation auto insurance benefits (known as Personal Injury Protection), which they say will save drivers 15 percent on the Personal Injury Protection portion of their premium.

Here’s what insurance companies are not telling you about this legislation:

  • The insurance industry REFUSES to guarantee cost savings in exchange for reduced benefits.
  • Drivers will have to purchase MORE insurance to protect themselves from underinsured drivers.
  • Seriously injured drivers will be FORCED onto welfare programs to pay for their care once their auto insurance hits the proposed limits, which our state cannot afford.

Our Republican representative in the Michigan House, Greg MacMaster, claims in his latest newsletter that he's still undecided about this legislation, so it may be worthwhile to contact him. His contact information is available at www.gophouse.com/contact.asp,

House G.O.P. may weaken insider trading legislation passed 96 to 3 by Senate

From 1/7/12 The New York Times article by Robert Pear

WASHINGTON — Lobbyists were in a tizzy on Tuesday over provisions of a Senate-passed ethics bill that tighten regulation of lobbying and require secretive “political intelligence” firms to register in the same way as lobbyists.

House Republicans and their floor leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, said they would amend the bill, going to the House floor this week, to strengthen it.

But Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, said, “I think ‘strengthening’ here is a euphemism for ‘weakening.’ ”

And Representative Tim Walz, Democrat of Minnesota, said the bill, to ban insider trading by members of Congress, was being rewritten behind closed doors by House Republican leaders. “How ironic,” Mr. Walz said. “Insiders now appear to be writing a bill meant to ban insider trading.”

The bill is intended to restore trust in Congress, but Mr. Walz said the revisions could “make the cynicism that’s rampant in America even greater.”

Republicans not happy with "racist" Super Bowl ad

From 2/6/12 The Lansing State Journal article by Kathy Barks Hoffman of the Associated Press

LANSING — The portrayal of a young Asian woman speaking broken English in a Super Bowl ad being run by U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra against Michigan incumbent Debbie Stabenow is bringing charges of racial insensitivity.

GOP consultant Nick De Leeuw flat-out scolded the Holland Republican for the ad.

Citizens United decision and voting obstruction law decisions linked

From 2/5/12 The Washington Post op-ed by E.J. Dionne Jr.

We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it doesn’t work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.

In fact, this decision should be seen as part of a larger initiative by moneyed conservatives to rig the electoral system against their opponents. How else to explain conservative legislation in state after state to obstruct access to the ballot by lower-income voters — particularly members of minority groups — through voter identification laws, shortened voting periods and restrictions on voter registration campaigns?

It's halftime in America

Lower than expected unemployment, stock market surges

From 2/3/12 The Washington Post article by Peter Whoriskey and David Nakamura

An unexpectedly rosy jobs report set off a chain reaction Friday, upending economists’ gloomy predictions for the coming year, leading to a surge on Wall Street and potentially boggling the political calculus of the 2012 presidential campaigns.

The surprise — that the unemployment rate had dipped for the fifth straight month, to 8.3 percent — was first reflected in the stock market, where the Dow Jones industrial average soared to its highest mark since the beginning of the financial crisis. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, meanwhile, hit an 11-year high.

Obama to Congress "Don't muck it up"

Reagan economist says "economic conditions are entirely different today"

From 2/3/12/ The Washington Post op-ed by Bruce Bartlet

In their debates, ads and speeches, the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are vying for the label of most Reagan-esque.

Judging from the candidates’ tax proposals, they seem to believe that the most Reagan-like candidate is the one with the biggest tax cut. But as the person who drafted the 1981 Reagan tax cut, I think Republicans misunderstand the premises upon which Reagan’s economic policies were based and why those policies can’t — and shouldn’t — be replicated today.

All of the evidence tells us that the economy’s fundamental problem today is not on the supply side but the demand side. According to a recent study by Credit Suisse, two-thirds of the difference in growth at this point in the business cycle, compared with previous cycles, is due to slower consumer spending. And low inflation — as well as widespread unemployment, vast stocks of unsold houses, empty factories and other indicators — tells us that money is tight, not loose, as was the case in the late 1970s.

“Low interest rates are generally a sign that money has been tight,” economist Milton Friedman wrote in 1997. Yet, absurdly, Republicans continually berate the Federal Reserve for being too easy; some even insist, insanely, that the United States should return to the gold standard, even though it was a key cause of the Great Depression.

Because inflation and interest rates are low, Fed policy is constrained today in ways it was not in the early 1980s. Back then, the Fed could bring down the federal funds rate to a little less than the inflation rate and create negative real rates, thus stimulating borrowing, investment and consumption. It can’t do that now because it can’t reduce market interest rates below zero.

Economic conditions are entirely different today than they were in Reagan’s era, and different conditions demand different policies. Those who say otherwise are simply engaging in cookie-cutter economics — proposing whatever was popular and seemed to work once, without regard to changing circumstances.

Bruce Bartlett was a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and a Treasury official during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Romney not concerned about the poor

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

If you’re an American down on your luck, Mitt Romney has a message for you: He doesn’t feel your pain. Earlier this week, Mr. Romney told a startled CNN interviewer, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”

Faced with criticism, the candidate has claimed that he didn’t mean what he seemed to mean, and that his words were taken out of context. But he quite clearly did mean what he said. And the more context you give to his statement, the worse it gets.

Specifically, the candidate has endorsed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan for drastic cuts in federal spending — with almost two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts coming at the expense of low-income Americans. To the extent that Mr. Romney has differentiated his position from the Ryan plan, it is in the direction of even harsher cuts for the poor; his Medicaid proposal appears to involve a 40 percent reduction in financing compared with current law.

So Mr. Romney’s position seems to be that we need not worry about the poor thanks to programs that he insists, falsely, don’t actually help the needy, and which he intends, in any case, to destroy.

President's remarks at National Prayer Breakfast

Both these articles about the fight in Afghanistan are instructive and worth the reading time.

2/1/12 The Hard Way Out of Afghanistan by Luke Mogelson

2/1/12 Taliban

 

New Michigan tax laws impact poor 1,000 times harder than rich

From 2/1/12 mlive.com article by Rob South

A new [Michigan League for Human Services] report says low income families will be hardest hit by a state tax reform package passed last year.

The League released a report that says the tax plan will hit poor families 1,000 times harder than wealthy households.

When the changes are fully implemented next year, business tax revenues would be cut 83 percent and individual income taxes would go up 23 percent.

They want dignity

From 1/31/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Thomas L. Friedman

Memo to: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev

Subject: Russia and the Arab Spring

From: A traveler to Cairo and Moscow

Dear Sirs: You may think that the situations in Egypt and Russia have nothing in common. Think again.

Michigan exodus slowing

From 1/31/12 Crain's Detroit Business article by the Associated Press

Figures released today by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget show that migration rates of 18- to 24-year-olds weren’t as steep in 2009-10.

The migration rate for ages 18-19 topped 5.5 percent in 2008-09, compared with about 4 percent the next year. For 20- to 24-year-olds, out-of-state migration was about 5 percent in 2008-09, compared with about 4.5 percent in 2009-10.

“Michigan is finally starting to add jobs after several years,” state demographer Ken Darga said.

Still, more people are moving out of the state than in.

About 116,000 relocated to Michigan in 2010 and 117,000 in 2009. But 178,000 left in 2010 and 206,000 moved out the previous year.

U.S. health care as socialized as Canada

From 1/31/12 Slate article by Darshak Sanghavi

[There is a] fundamental disagreement over the nature of health insurance. Should it be “social” insurance, with which financial risk is leveled between those who are ill and healthy, so the carefree twentysomething and diabetic elderly man pay equally into the system? Or would it be better structured as “actuarial” insurance, where those expected to consume more shell out more, just as those who drive flashy, expensive cars or rack up speeding tickets pay higher auto insurance rates? If your view is the former, you generally support the notion of a single-payer system, as ... many Democrats do. On the other hand, if you see health insurance as actuarial, you favor tiered premiums depending on age and pre-existing conditions, and tend to like health savings accounts, as many Republicans do. This dispute is central to continuing political wrangling over the 2010 health reform legislation, the main provisions of which are scheduled to take effect in a few years.

But Americans made their choice clear long before Barack Obama ever signed the law—and they picked social insurance. The issue today isn’t whether we should redistribute health care dollars. We do, arguably to the same degree that every other country does.

Almost nothing that politicians are currently debating is likely to change the overall costs of care. What’s merely at stake is the shell game about who appears to be paying.

Hiding the redistribution inherent in American health care has a corrosive effect on our national dialogue. It’s wrongly believed that our system prizes individualism and financial responsibility, when nothing could be further from the truth. Arguably, our system is just as redistributive as those of Europe, Canada, or Australia. We just do it in the dark and pretend to be exceptional.

Republicans hated Obama as much on his first day in office as today

From 1/30/12 The Washington Post article by Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

“Obama’s ratings have been consistently among the most polarized for a president in the last 60 years,” concludes Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones in a memo summing up the results. “That may not be a reflection on Obama himself as much as on the current political environment in the United States, because Obama’s immediate predecessor, Bush, had similarly polarized ratings, particularly in the latter stages of his presidency after the rally in support from the 9/11 terror attacks faded.”

Our guess is that Jones’ latter hypothesis is the right one — that we are simply living in an era in which Democrats dislike a Republican president (and Republicans dislike a Democratic one) even before the commander in chief has taken a single official action.

Global elite discuss economy failure at World Economic Forum

From 1/26/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Ed Miliband

IS 20th-century capitalism failing 21st-century society? Members of the global elite debated that unusual question on Wednesday at the annual World Economic Forum [in Davos, Switzerland].

There was a time, not long ago, when such a debate would have been held only among the protesters who annually shelter in igloos farther down the Alpine slopes. So it is encouraging that more than three years since the global financial crisis, a belated process of soul-searching has begun in search of the right lessons to learn from it.  

Both the United States and Britain suffered because their economies were overly reliant on the financial sector’s artificial profits; living standards for the many worsened while the economic rewards skewed to the top 1 percent; a capitalist model encouraged short-term decision-making oriented toward quarterly profits rather than long-term health; and vested interests — from giant banks to media moguls —were deemed too big to fail or too powerful to challenge.

We need to recognize that the trickle-down promise of conservative theorists has turned into a gravity-defying reality in which wealth has flowed upward disproportionately and, too often, undeservedly. To address properly the squeeze in middle-class incomes on both sides of the Atlantic requires fresh thinking from governments about how people train for their working lives and what a living wage should be.

Ed Miliband is a member of the British Parliament and the leader of the Labour Party.

The Demagogue

From 1/26/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Timothy Egan

When not holding forth from his favorite table at L’Auberge Chez François, nestled among the manor houses of lobbyist-thick Great Falls, Va., Dr. Newton L. Gingrich likes to lecture people about food stamps and how out-of-touch the elites are with real America.

Gingrich, as he showed in a gasping effort in Thursday night’s debate in Florida, is a demagogue distilled, like a French sauce, to the purest essence of the word’s meaning. He has no shame. He thinks the rules do not apply to him. And he turns questions about his odious personal behavior into mock outrage over the audacity of the questioner.

State of Michigan government brain drain

From 1/26/12 Bridge Magazine article by Ron French

Michele Glinn loved her job, and she was good at it. As the only Ph.D toxicologist working in the Michigan State Police toxicology unit, she analyzed blood samples for alcohol and other drugs — and crisscrossed the state testifying in court.

Frustrated by unpaid furlough days, a shrinking staff and a negative public perception of state employees, Glinn sat down at her computer one day last fall and sent her resume to an employment search firm. “I got a call from the headhunter the same day,” Glinn recalled. “Two days later, I had a phone interview; a week later, I was in St. Louis being offered a job on the spot.”

Her U-Haul crossed the state border in November, leaving Michigan with no one who can provide expert testimony for the prosecution in alcohol and drug cases.

As the state shrinks its work force and has cut pay through unpaid furloughs, those with the most ability to find jobs in the private sector — usually workers with advanced education such as Glinn — leave.

A study conducted in 2009 found that state employees with advanced degrees (above a bachelor’s) earn less than they could in the private sector. State employees with a master’s degree earned 36 percent less; those with a Ph.D earned 24 percent less.

“If you’re a janitor working for the state, you’re probably getting paid pretty well, compared to other janitors,” Ballard said. “But if you’re a doctor or a lawyer, you’re taking a huge pay cut to work for the state.”

“I loved this job,” Glinn said. “This was my favorite job I’ve had. I felt like I was making a difference.”

Today, Glinn makes 30 percent more than she did with the Michigan State Police. She works fewer hours, and is part of a profit-sharing program at a private company.

Internet technology at its best

From 1/25/12 The New York Times article on president's State of the Union Speech

This article regarding the State of the Union speech leverages Internet technology in some unique ways --

The left column of the page has an index that shows the time and topic for the president's speech. When you click an item in the index, e.g. "11:48 Corporate Tax Reform", several things happen on the page:
  1) The video of the speech jumps to that spot in the speech and starts playing.
  2) The middle column on the page jumps to the text for that part of the speech.
  3) The right column on the page jumps to a fact check article regarding the president's assertions.

Massive 83% corporate tax cut hurts the young, old and poor

From 1/5/12 The Detroit Free Press op-ed by Rudy Hobbs

Last year, we saw a massive 83% corporate tax cut to replace the Michigan Business Tax without a shred of proof offered that it will create jobs. Yes, the MBT was broken, but, no, it should not have been fixed at the expense of the elderly, low-income residents and Michigan's homeless shelters and other nonprofits.

U.P. attorney says (R) Congressman Benishek's Norquist pledge tied to special interests

From 1/3/12 Daily Press op-ed by Richard Clark

Congressman Benishek pledged fealty to a Harvard graduate [Grover Norquist] who is the stereotypical Washington, D.C. insider. The congressman signed a loyalty pledge to this ultimate insider and his special interest group [ATR] before he was elected.

What seems plausible is that the pledge made to the ATR connects a candidate to money coming from special interests with ties to Mr. Nordquist.

One must question Congressman Benishek's commitment to special interests who do not reside in his district. Congressman Benishek follows all ATR's positions, even those not involving taxes, but that do increase the power of the wealthy. www.atr.org/issues

In support of the ATR agenda Congressman Benishek voted to reduce Medicare benefits, to increase the tax burden on small businesses that provide their employees with health insurance, to revoke health insurance for young adults, and to permit insurance companies to deny children health insurance for preexisting conditions.

The 1st Congressional District deserves better. It deserves someone whose soul is not in bondage.

Lockouts a record percentage of work stoppages

From 1/22/12 The New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse

America’s unionized workers, buffeted by layoffs and stagnating wages, face another phenomenon that is increasingly throwing them on the defensive: lockouts.

“This is a sign of increased employer militancy,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University. “Lockouts were once so rare they were almost unheard of. Now, not only are employers increasingly on the offensive and trying to call the shots in bargaining, but they’re backing that up with action — in the form of lockouts.”

The number of strikes has declined to just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago. Lockouts, on the other hand, have grown to represent a record percentage of the nation’s work stoppages.

Recovery obstructed by Republicans

From 1/23/12 The New York Times op-ed artile by Dr. Paul Krugman

[T]here are reasons to think that we’re finally on the (slow) road to better times. And we wouldn’t be on that road if Mr. Obama had given in to Republican demands that he slash spending, or the Federal Reserve had given in to Republican demands that it tighten money.

[T]here’s evidence that the two great problems at the root of our slump — the housing bust and excessive private debt — are finally easing.  

That’s not what you hear in public debate, of course, where all the focus is on rising government debt. But anyone who has looked seriously at how we got into this slump knows that private debt, especially household debt, was the real culprit: it was the explosion of household debt during the Bush years that set the stage for the crisis. And the good news is that this private debt has declined in dollar terms, and declined substantially as a percentage of G.D.P., since the end of 2008.

But things could have been worse; they would have been worse if we had followed the policies demanded by Mr. Obama’s opponents. For as I said at the beginning, Republicans have been demanding that the Fed stop trying to bring down interest rates and that federal spending be slashed immediately — which amounts to demanding that we emulate Europe’s failure.

And if this year’s election brings the wrong ideology to power, America’s nascent recovery might well be snuffed out.

In 2008, 400 wealthiest paid 18.1% of income to I.R.S., in 2007 16.6%

From 1/20/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

Mr. Romney’s tax dance is doing us all a service by highlighting the unwise, unjust and expensive favors being showered on the upper-upper class. At a time when all the self-proclaimed serious people are telling us that the poor and the middle class must suffer in the name of fiscal probity, such low taxes on the very rich are indefensible.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has been releasing income and tax data for the 400 highest-income filers. In 2008, the most recent year available, these filers paid only 18.1 percent of their income in federal income taxes; in 2007, they paid only 16.6 percent. When you bear in mind that the rich pay little either in payroll taxes or in state and local taxes — major burdens on middle-class families — this implies that the top 400 filers faced lower taxes than many ordinary workers.

The main reason the rich pay so little is that most of their income takes the form of capital gains, which are taxed at a maximum rate of 15 percent, far below the maximum on wages and salaries. So the question is whether capital gains — three-quarters of which go to the top 1 percent of the income distribution — warrant such special treatment.

A "pro-life" candidate?

Romneylies at 1/19/12 South Carolina Republican Debate

From 1/20/12 The Washington Post Fact Checker article by Glenn Kessler  

“Four [Bain investments] in particular created 120,000 jobs as of today. We started them years ago. They’ve grown well beyond the time I was there, to 120,000 people that have been employed by those enterprises. There are others we’ve been with, some of which have lost jobs. People have evaluated that since — well, since I ran four years ago, when I ran for governor. And those that have been documented to have lost jobs lost about 10,000 jobs.”

— Mitt Romney

Romney’s math gets a little funny here. In defending his tenure at Bain, he focuses on four companies that now employ 120,000, even though Bain’s investment ended years ago. His number of 10,000 jobs appears to mostly count losses when Bain owned the companies, or shortly after it sold them. But it is really an apples and oranges accounting.

In any case, Romney’s role at Bain was not to create jobs but to provide for good returns for his investors.


   The Obama plan is “a 2,700-page massive tax increase, Medicare-cutting monster.”

— Romney

Here, the former governor melds together two of his favorite, but misleading, talking points. The size of the health care law actually tells you very little, and the number of pages is inflated because Congress had to pass two bills for parliamentary reasons. (There were also non-health care related items in the bill.) The actual consolidated bill is much smaller, probably about 907 pages.

As we have previously examined, the claim of “cutting” Medicare is dubious too. If the cuts were so bad, why have virtually all of them been adopted in the House GOP budget?   


“I stood as a pro-life governor and that’s why the Massachusetts Pro-Life Family Association supported my record as governor, endorsed my record as governor.”

— Romney

Almost verbatim, Gingrich recited charges from a TV ad for which we had previously given two Pinocchios. Some of Romney’s actions after he announced he was “pro-life” caused angst among anti-abortion forces but by and large Gingrich’s claims are exaggerated.

As for Romney, he now touts the endorsement from the pro-life groups but when he was running for governor in 2002 he adamantly rejected it, as this video clip [below] shows.

Who's the more successful investor and capitalist: Romney or Obama?

Brendan Curran announces run for Otsego County Prosecutor

From 1/18/12 E-mail announcement

Curran for Prosecutor

I am pleased to announce that, having obtained and filed with the county clerk’s office the maximum number of nominating petition signatures, I am a candidate for the upcoming election for Otsego County Prosecutor.

Please visit my website and share with your family and friends.
www.curranforprosecutor.com

Your support is very much appreciated.

Brendan

Paid for by the Committee to Elect Brendan Curran for Otsego County Prosecutor, P.O. Box 699, Gaylord, MI 49734

TV Made in U.S.A.

From 1/17/12 The Detroit Free Press article by Katherine Yung

A small Minnesota electronics company aims to bring TV manufacturing back to the U.S., hiring 100 workers at a plant in Canton [Michigan].

Element Electronics, which sells TVs made in China to big-box stores like Walmart and Target, has teamed up with a Michigan company, Lotus International, to produce low-priced flat-screen TVs that are 46 inches and larger.

The first large TVs could start rolling off an assembly line in March.

Romney's income tax 15%, speaker's fees "not much"

From 1/17/12 huffingtonpost.com article

Mitt Romney has a new definition of "not much": $374,327.

On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate finally admitted that the effective tax rate he has been paying for the last several years is likely below that of middle-class workers, which would also include military service members.

In Greenville, S.C., Romney was asked directly what his effective tax rate is. It was a hot topic of discussion at Monday night's debate, at which Romney repeatedly declined to fully commit to release his tax returns.

"It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything," said Romney on Tuesday. "For the past 10 years, my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income or earned annual income. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. Then, I get speakers fees from time to time, but not very much."

Not very much? According to his personal financial disclosure, from February 2010 to February 2011, Romney earned $374,327.62 in speaking fees.

Romneylies at 1/16/12 South Carolina Republican Debate

From 1/17/12 The Washington Post Fact Checker article by Glenn Kessler

    “I was also proud of the fact that we balanced the budget every year I was in office. We reduced taxes 19 times.”

— Romney

Somehow, he always fails to mention that, in order to balance the budget, he created hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new fees and closed as much as $1.5 billion worth of corporate tax loopholes.



    “My firm invested in that steel mill [Georgetown Steel] and another one in Kansas City, tried to make them successful — invested there for seven or eight years. And ultimately what happened from abroad, dumping steel into this country, led to some 40 different steel mills being closed.”

— Romney

Steel dumping was certainly a factor, but former workers told the local media that Bain Capital’s management practices left the company in a weakened state and less able to compete with overseas steel producers.



    “We’ve got a president in office three years, and he does not have a jobs plan yet.”

— Romney

This is a strange comment, given that President Obama has just spent several months demanding that Congress pass his jobs plan.



    “The most extraordinary thing that’s happened with this military authorization is the president’s planning on cutting a trillion dollars out of military spending.”

— Romney

Romney failed to mention that this figure is the result of a budget deal reached with Republican leaders — and that Obama has said he will seek to achieve the required deficit reduction though other means (ie. higher taxes).



    “But don’t forget who it was that cut Medicare by $500 billion. And that was President Obama, to pay for Obamacare.”

— Romney

As we have explained before, this is technically correct but misleading.

The savings actually are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries. These spending reductions presumably would be a good thing, since virtually everyone agrees that Medicare spending is out of control.

In the House Republican budget, lawmakers repealed the Obama health care law but retained all but $10 billion of the nearly $500 billion in Medicare savings, suggesting the actual policies enacted to achieve these spending reductions were not that objectionable to GOP lawmakers.

Democrats planning to help Michigan college students

From 1/11/12 mlive.com article by the Associate Press

Democrats in the Michigan Senate said Wednesday they're developing a proposal that would allow Michigan high school graduates to get grants of up to roughly $9,500 a year for attending college by ending some business tax credits and other revenue changes.

The grants could be used to pay tuition or associated costs at public universities and community colleges in the state. The money would be raised by closing what Democrats call tax loopholes and ending some business tax credits, collecting sales tax from out-of-state Internet retailers and saving money on state contracts.

The proposals, which could soon be formally introduced in the Senate, likely would face long odds against passing in the Republican-led Legislature...

Republican Michigan State House Representative Gary MacMaster supports union busting statewide Right to Work legislation

From 1/11/12 petoskeynews.com article by Brandon Hubbard

One of the largest debates likely to get attention in Lansing in 2012 will be a growing Republican and Tea Party intent to pass Right to Work legislation -- effectively eliminating laws requiring employees to belong to a union as a condition of employment.

MacMaster, a former television meteorologist, supports a statewide Right to Work plan...

Vote at caucus, primary, both?

From 1/12/12 petoskeynews.com article by AP political writer Kathy Barks Hoffman

Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer says Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is creating "partisan mischief" by putting President Barack Obama's name on the Feb. 28 presidential primary ballot.

Michigan Democrats plan to nominate their candidate at a May 5 caucus, so votes for Obama in the primary won't count.

The date for presidential primaries was set by Senate Bill 584 and signed into law by Governor Snyder 10/4/11. The bill received no support from Democratic legislators in either the Michigan House or Senate. The date was supported by both our representatives in Lansing: Republican Senator Moolenaar and Republican Representative MacMaster. The date set, the last Tuesday in February, is at odds with both Republican National Committee (RNC) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules, which do not allow a presidential primary in Michigan this early. The penalty for holding a presidential primary this early is forfeiture of half of Michigan's delegates at the national conventions.  Senate Bill 584 requires a "closed primary" which means that voters must declare their party before receiving a ballot and this declaration becomes public information. Candidates for other political parties are not on the February 28th ballot because Senate Bill 584 requires that a political party must receive more than 5% of the presidential votes in the previous presidential election to appear on this ballot and no other parties in Michigan met this requirement. $10 million has been budgeted for the Michigan February 28th presidential primary.

Elizabeth Warren quote in article about class warfare

From 1/13/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Charles M. Blow

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But, I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

College increasingly unaffordable

From 1/12/12 Bridge Magazine article by Ron French

A Bridge Magazine analysis revealed that student loans at Michigan’s 15 public universities increased an incredible 49 percent in four years. From the 2007 to the 2010 academic year, the annual amount of loans taken out by college students jumped $600 million, reaching $1.8 billion [per year] at the state’s public universities in the 2009-10 academic year, the last year for which data is available from Michigan’s House and Senate fiscal agencies.

The average graduate with a bachelor’s degree left campus in 2010 with $25,675 in student loans, according to the Project on Student Debt. That’s the 11th highest student debt load in the country.

Michigan families already pay more to send their children to state universities than families in almost any other state, according to a Bridge Magazine analysis. Michigan’s “college tax” of exploding student debt has materialized in concert with disinvestment in public funding for Michigan universities and tuition increases that have far outpaced inflation. As Eastern Michigan University President Sue Martin explains, as state budgets tightened, higher education was an easy place to cut because universities had the “safety valve” of tuition to make up for lost state funding. As state funding dropped, tuition rose. And, of course, increased tuition and fees led to increased student loans.

The student debt mountain is made even more treacherous by the interest rates attached to many student loans — rates higher than what you find advertised now for mortgages and car loans. A commercial website, staffordloans.com, quotes a current rate of 6.8 percent on unsubsidized Stafford Loans. That’s 70 percent higher than current 30-year mortgage rates for home buyers with good credit. Student loans also are difficult to abandon; unlike credit card debt, student loans are almost never erased in a bankruptcy. [T]he rule of thumb on student loans is, by the time they are paid off, college grads will have paid double the amount they original borrowed, creating even more of a drag on the Michigan economy.

Twenty years from now, there will be a cascading effect of this debt. Parents won’t have saved for their children’s education because they will still be paying for their own. That will create an acceleration of a loss of affordability.

Cost of Michigan higher education higher than nearly every other state

From 1/10/12 Bridge Magazine article by Ron French

Caroline Robinson and Barbara Twist are cousins who share far more than bloodlines. They are both seniors in college; each attends one of the top public universities in the nation.

The similarities stop, however, when the tuition bills arrive. Barbara is paying twice as much for her education at the University of Michigan as Caroline must pay at the University of North Carolina.

Michigan families pay more to send their children to state universities than families in almost any other state, according to a Bridge Magazine analysis. Not coincidentally, Michigan also gives less money to its public universities than almost any other state.

“Grand Valley has essentially been privatized,” said Matt McLogan, vice president for university relations at GVSU*. “It’s publicly owned, but is no longer publicly supported in any way that people would recognize.”

In the early 1970s, three-quarters of university funding came from the state and one quarter from tuition. Today, those numbers are reversed.Michigan’s public universities now get a greater share of their funding from tuition than public universities do in 44 other states.

Who can vote in February Michigan Republican primary, 50% delegate forfeiture and $10M cost

From 1/8/12 The Green Papers

On 4 October 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (Republican) signed Senate Bill 0584 into law. The bill moves the Presidential Primary to the 4th Tuesday in February-- 28 February 2012.

State law currently calls for a 28 February 2012 primary. Republican Party rules would require Michigan to forfeit half of its National Convention delegates if the party begins the process of binding National Convention delegates before 6 March 2012.

Any Michigan Republican is eligible to participate in the primary. A registered voter declares her or his party designation by selecting a Republican ballot at the polls. The voter's choice becomes public information.

Mark Brewer, Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, says the February Michigan Republican primary will cost Michigan taxpayers $10 million. Michigan Democrats will chose their presidential candidate at May 5th caucuses at no expense to taxpayers and this date complies with Democratic National Committee rules. Brewer states --

The Michigan presidential primary is set under existing law for February 28, 2012, a date that is in violation of the rules of both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee (“RNC”). If Michigan Republicans use this February 2012 presidential primary, the RNC automatically will cut the number of delegates from Michigan to the Republican National Convention in half – with absolutely no possibility under RNC rules that these lost delegate positions can be restored.

A 1/10/12 N.H. primary interlude -- How to make a baseball

Short essay on populism and progressivism

From 1/8/12 Huffington Post op-ed article by Robert Kuttner

As for class warfare, it's here. The policies of the past three decades, whether on taxes, de-regulation, outsourcing, the assault on unions, or the deliberate weakening of social insurance, have been top-down class warfare. It's just charming that when progressives begin to show some spine and start fighting back, the Right screams "class warfare!" They should know.

The French have a nice rhyming couplet that describes this gambit: Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l'attaque, il se defend. ("This animal is very wicked. When you attack it, it defends itself.")

The only thing wrong with Obama's populism, excuse me, his economic progressivism, is that it took him until nearly the year of his re-election to practice it resolutely. More, please.

State Senator Moolenaar supports bill (SB 248) prohibiting expansion of recreation areas in Northern Michigan

From 1/6/12 Gaylord Herald Times article by Chris Engle

You and I are the new, proud owners of 517 acres of rolling hills, forests, cedar swamps and the headwaters of the Black River.

Michigan’s latest land acquisition lies in Charlton Township of Otsego County. Here, at the fringe of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, a once private piece of land has become public, bringing the total acreage of the Pigeon Forest closer to 106,000 state-owned acres — all touching each other in the most contiguous sprawl of state land in the Lower Peninsula.

Hopefully, this latest purchase won’t be the last.

Senate Bill 248, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, would limit purchases to 80 acres or less and cap state land ownership at 4.65 million acres — not much more than the 4.4 million acres it currently owns. Casperson’s idea is to tap the fund to pay for other “resource-based infrastructure” which, in my [DNR fisheries biologist Tim Cwalinski] mind, could mean just about anything. Considering legislators just chopped $1 billion off its budget, that $500 million [trust fund] probably looks pretty nice.

He’s referencing Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund, established solely to buy land or develop state or local recreational areas and funded entirely by mineral leases and royalties — gas and oil revenue, essentially.

Researchers say upward mobility in U.S. less likely than in Canada or Europe

From 1/4/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Jason DeParle

WASHINGTON — Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. “Movin’ on up,” George Jefferson-style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion.

But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe.

One reason for the mobility gap may be the depth of American poverty, which leaves poor children starting especially far behind. Another may be the unusually large premiums that American employers pay for college degrees. Since children generally follow their parents’ educational trajectory, that premium increases the importance of family background and stymies people with less schooling.

Is opportunity in Europe better than U.S.?

From 1/3/12 The Washington Post op-ed article by Harold Meyerson

“Over the past three years, Barack Obama has been replacing our merit-based society with an Entitlement Society,” Mitt Romney wrote in USA Today last month. The coming election, Romney told Wall Street Journal editors last month, will be “a very simple choice” between Obama’s “European social democratic” vision and “a merit-based opportunity society — an American-style society — where people earn their rewards based on their education, their work, their willingness to take risks and their dreams.”

Romney’s assertions are the centerpiece of his, and his party’s, critique not just of Obama but of American liberalism generally. But they fail to explain how and why the American economy has declined the past few decades — in good part because they betray no awareness that Europe’s social democracies now fit the description of “merit-based opportunity societies” much more than ours does.

Disposing of unused prescription pills is easy in Otsego County

1/2/12 GAYLORD

Are unused prescription drugs tempting to people in your house? Are they an attraction to criminals? Are they an environmental hazard if they're flushed or put in the trash? Is someone going through your trash looking for drugs?

We sometimes don't know the answer to these questions, but we don't need to know, if, we dispose of unused drugs at the Otsego County Sheriff Department.

It's easy to do. Walk in the door near the pavillion in Gaylord. Give your pills (liquids not accpepted) to the deputy on duty. There's a metal trash can near the counter with a funnel inserted in a hole in the can's locked lid. The deputy dumps the pills in the funnel, hands you back the empty bottles and wishes you a fine day. It's that easy and takes less than a minute. The sheriff turns the drugs over to the DEA for disposal.

Biggest threat to middle class: the over-class or underclass?

From 1/2/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The middle class looks nervously up, then down. Which is the greater economic threat, the overclass or the underclass? Perceived answers to this question now shape political allegiances in the United States.

Those on the left argue that the overclass threatens the country’s well-being, while those on the right point their fingers at the underclass. President Obama wants to raise taxes on millionaires; Republicans want to cut social programs directed at the poor.

Congressmens' wealth and life in Washington D.C. distorts their view of constituents

From 1/2/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Columbia University journalism professor Thomas B. Edsall

Last week, both The Washington Post and The Times published illuminating stories on the growing affluence of members of Congress. Both stories — Peter Whoriskey’s in the Post and Eric Lichtblau’s in the Times — demonstrate how the economic fortunes of those elected to Congress have diverged radically from those of the men and women they represent.

The distortion of economic and racial reality for members of Congress living and working in Washington contributes to their tendency to view the consequences of budget cuts and austerity measures as affecting primarily individuals and families with whom they believe they have little in common. They often see or choose to see these people as separate and apart from both themselves and from the mainstream of the United States.

XL Pipeline vs. conservation and alternative energy development

From 1/1/12 The New York Times editorial

The Republicans believe they have President Obama in a box: either he approves a controversial Canadian oil pipeline or they accuse him of depriving the nation of jobs. Mr. Obama can and should push back hard.

This is precisely the moment for him to argue the case for alternative fuel sources and clean energy jobs — and to lambaste the Republicans for doubling down on conventional fuels while ceding a $5 trillion global clean technology market (and the jobs that go with it) to more aggressive competitors like China and Germany.

The Republicans’ claim that the pipeline will create tens of thousands of new jobs — 20,000 according to House Speaker John Boehner and 100,000 according to Jon Huntsman — are wildly inflated. A more accurate forecast from the federal government, one with which TransCanada, the pipeline company, agrees, says the project would create 6,000 to 6,500 temporary construction jobs at best, for two years.

Jobs are the problem, not debt

From 1/1/12 The New York Times op-ed article by Paul Krugman

So yes, debt matters. But right now, other things matter more. We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrongheaded, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in the way.




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