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The Republican Supreme Court Sticks It To The Little Guy (Again)

Once again the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has shown the nation it will always favor corporations over people even if it means conjuring new law out of thin air.  Like Citizens United, the recent 5-4 ruling in AT&T’s favor gutting the power of consumers to file class-action lawsuits against giant corporations tips the scales of justice against the people and renders the enormous power of corporations even more enormous.

When I first heard about the case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion there was little doubt in my mind that the Gang of Five — John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas would figure out a way to ignore Supreme Court precedent and again apply their judicial activism in service to the corporations, and by extension, to the oligarchy they apparently believe the “founders” intended.

It’s kind of funny when we see Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romeny, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich pandering to the “little guy” denouncing “elites” who are trampling on their rights only to remain mute on the fact that their beloved Republican Supreme Court never, ever rules in favor of the “little guy.”

The Republican president Ronald Reagan gave us Scalia and Kennedy; the Republican president George Herbert Walker Bush gave us Thomas; and the Republican president George W. Bush gave us Roberts and Alito.  This cabal has shown over and over again where its true loyalties lie, not to “the law,” not to “the Constitution,” not to “calling balls and strikes,” but to a 21st century version of corporate feudalism.  This new corporate feudalism that the High Court is determined to thrust on the nation is even more exploitative than the earlier brand of Medieval feudalism because it is absent noblesse oblige.

The serfs toiling on the corporate plantation can only continue to pay Chase and Bank of America for their underwater mortgages, ExxonMobil and Chevron for their $4 a gallon gas, and AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile and the rest for the privilege of communicating in a modern society.  And if the serfs seek redress the High Court will slap them down before they can get anything substantial off the ground.  With Citizens United placing a stranglehold of corporate power over our state, local, and federal system of elections, we cannot turn to our political “leaders” for redress, we can’t turn to the courts, and we certainly can’t turn to trying to morally persuade sociopathic non-human entities called corporations — so where does that leave us?

In the current context of unrestrained corporate dominance it’s unconscionable that the Obama administration has not done more to blunt its disastrous effects.  The Justice and Treasury Departments, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. could be doing a hell of a lot more in bringing balance to the equation of corporations versus people.  The administration’s lagging performance in holding Wall Street accountable is well known, but it won’t even lift a finger to block grotesque mergers like the one between Comcast and NBC Universal, and AT&T and T Mobile.  In all these mergers and acquisitions it’s always the consumers and the employees who lose, while the CEOs and a select few of shareholders and financiers make out like the bandits they are.

Nothing illustrates the corruption rampant in Washington more than the recent resignation of Federal Communications Commission member, Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican who Obama appointed to show how “bipartisan” he can be, who is now going to work as a lavishly paid shill for the very industry she was supposedly “regulating.”  Ms. Baker will now make the big bucks serving Comcast/NBC Universal after she voted for the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.  Sweet.   And few in the Beltway see anything unsavory about it.

Our political leaders, our Supreme Court, our captains of industry and finance, are so out of touch it’s going to be a long, long time before ordinary working people see any relief.  All of our institutions, political, economic, even religious, social, and cultural, all of them, are failing the people miserably in pursuit of the Almighty Buck.  The cunning game of appointing young ideologues to the bench has paid off handsomely for the corporate power structure.  Someone should tell those people running around in tri-cornered hats and talking about the “founders” that it might be wise to save an ounce of their collective wrath for the Republicans who have appointed five Justices who are trampling on individual freedoms in service of corporations.

By: Joseph A. Palermo, The Huffington Post, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Businesses, Congress, Consumers, Corporations, Elections, Justice Department, Lawmakers, Politics, Regulations, Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newt Gingrich And “The Food Stamp President”

Newt Gingrich doubled down on his clever new slur against President Obama as “the food stamp president.” He tried the line in a Friday speech to the Georgia Republican convention, and he used it again on “Meet the Press Sunday.” It’s a short hop from Gingrich’s slur to Ronald Reagan’s attacks on “strapping young bucks” buying “T-bone steaks” with food stamps. Blaming our first black president for the sharp rise in food-stamp reliance (which resulted from the economic crash that happened on the watch of our most recent white president) is just the latest version of Rush Limbaugh suggesting that Obama’s social policy amounts to “reparations” for black people.

But when host David Gregory suggested the term had racial overtones, Gingrich replied “That’s bizarre,” and added, “I have never said anything about President Obama which is racist.” That’s not quite as extreme or silly as Donald Trump declaring “I am the least racist person there is,” but it’s up there. He also told Georgia Republicans Friday that 2012 will be the most momentous election “since 1860,” which happens to be the year we elected the anti-slavery Abraham Lincoln president, and he suggested the U.S. bring back a “voting standard” that requires voters to  prove they know American history — which sounds a lot like the “poll tests” outlawed by the Voting Rights Act.

Just last week Gingrich said Obama “knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit,” which just happens to be home to many black people. And last year Gingrich accused Obama of “Kenyan anti-colonialist behavior” that made him “outside our comprehension” as Americans, spreading Dinesh D’Souza’s idiocy that Obama inherited angry African anti-colonialism from the Kenyan father he never knew. “This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,” Gingrich told the National Review Online last year.

All this from the guy who’s supposed to be the “smart” candidate for the GOP nomination?

Republicans have done well with their quest to stigmatize social welfare programs as handouts to the undeserving, and to pretend that most of the undeserving are black people. But it may not be working as well today. Paul Ryan’s class-war budget is going down in flames, largely because seniors are up in arms over Ryan’s attacks on Medicare. Ryan and his GOP allies tried to be clever, making sure his plans to phase out Medicare wouldn’t apply to today’s seniors, who happen to be disproportionately white and disproportionately Republican. But seniors are seeing through the ruse, telling Ryan and the GOP that they want to protect Medicare for their children, too. Even Gingrich is now backing away from the Ryan budget, telling Gregory it’s too “radical” and “too big a jump.” A jump off a political cliff for Republicans, that is.

Let’s hope Gingrich’s attacks on our “food stamp president” backfire, too. I learned about the ex-GOP speaker’s latest use of the term from the group Catholic Democrats, which Tweeted Sunday morning that the twice-divorced Catholic convert ought to have a look at Catholic social teaching if he’s going to call himself a Catholic. The American bishops have lately been trying to remind Americans (and themselves, perhaps) that Catholic social teaching is about more than abortion. The church has long been a force on behalf of the poor and powerless, going back to Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor) at the height of the Gilded Age in 1891, which put the church on the side of labor organizing, through Pope Benedict’s “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth) of 2009, which restated the church’s commitment to support for workers and the poor worldwide, in the wake of the greed-driven financial crisis of 2008.

House Speaker John Boehner got a taste of the rising Catholic concern for social justice when 83 Catholic scholars wrote to Boehner protesting his attacks on programs for the poor, after Boehner was chosen as Catholic University’s commencement speaker. They didn’t call on the university to cancel Boehner’s address, unlike Catholic conservatives who protested Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame in 2009). They wrote:

Your voting record is at variance from one of the church’s most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policymakers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.

The scholars also noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Boehner-promoted Ryan budget as “anti-life” for its cuts to programs for pregnant women and children. Boehner’s commencement address went on Saturday with a quiet protest from students who wore green placards reading “Where’s the compassion, Speaker Boehner?” over their graduation gowns. Of course the Catholic Boehner didn’t address the controversy; instead he shed tears remembering how his high school football coach called him the morning he became speaker to tell him “you can do it,” which he considered an answer to his prayers.

Boehner may have been crying about what his support of the Ryan budget is doing to House GOP re-election chances. Gingrich could find that his racially coded attacks on Obama backfire as well. Both the poverty rate and the unemployment rate for white Americans have doubled since the start of this recession. Maybe Republican policies will succeed in uniting Americans across racial lines for a change, as more people see them as favoring one minority — the super-rich — over the rest of us.

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Racism, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Boehner’s Unreality Check On The Deficit

The news out of House Speaker John Boehner’s speech to the New York Economic Club was his demand for “cuts of trillions, not just billions” before the debt ceiling can be raised. Not just broad deficit-reduction targets, the Ohio Republican insisted, but “actual cuts and program reforms.”

That’s alarming enough. It is all but impossible to get this done in the available time. It certainly can’t be accomplished on Boehner’s unbending, no-new-taxes terms. And if the speaker truly believes that it would be “more irresponsible” to raise the debt ceiling without instituting deficit-reduction measures than not to raise it at all, we’re in a heap of trouble.

Even more alarming, because it has consequences beyond the debt-ceiling debate, is the incoherent, impervious-to-facts economic philosophy undergirding Boehner’s remarks.

Reporters naturally tend to ignore this boilerplate. Journalistically, that makes sense. Boehner’s economic comments were nothing particularly new. Indeed, they reflect what has become the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party. But that’s exactly the point. We become so inured to hearing this thinking that we neglect to point out how wrong it is.

My argument with Boehner is not that he believes in a more limited role for government than I do, not that he is more skeptical of government intervention and regulation, and not that he is more worried about the economically stifling implications of tax increases. Those are legitimate ideological differences. American politics is better off for them.

I’m talking about statements that are simply false.

“The recent stimulus spending binge hurt our economy and hampered private-sector job creation in America.”

Reasonable economists can disagree about the effectiveness of the stimulus spending and whether it was worth the drag of the additional debt, but no reasonable economist argues that it hurt the economy in the short term.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the stimulus added, on average, about one percentage point annually to economic growth and reduced the unemployment rate by half a point between 2009 and 2011. And that’s the low-end estimate. The high-end numbers show the stimulus spending adding more than 2 percentage points annually to economic growth and cutting the unemployment rate by more than 1 percentage point.

The CBO is not alone. Economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi estimated in a July 2010 paper that without the stimulus spending, the unemployment rate would be 1.5 percentage points higher.

“The massive borrowing and spending by the Treasury Department crowded out private investment by American businesses of all sizes.”

Crowding out occurs when government spending drives up interest rates and makes borrowing unattractive to the private sector. As economist Joseph Minarik of the Committee for Economic Development explains, “When interest rates are on the floor, you can’t say federal government borrowing is crowding out business investment.” The lackluster investment climate reflects low consumer demand and underutilized capacity. You can’t be crowded out of a room you’re not trying to enter.

“The truth is we will never balance the budget and rid our children of debt unless we cut spending and have real economic growth. And we will never have real economic growth if we raise taxes on those in America who create jobs.”

Never? Under President Clinton, taxes were raised, primarily on the wealthy. During the eight years of his administration, the economy grew by an average of close to 4 percent.

“I ran for Congress in 1990, the year our nation’s leaders struck a so-called bargain that raised taxes as part of a bipartisan plan to balance the budget. The result of that so-called bargain was the recession of the early 1990s. It wasn’t until the economy picked back up toward the end of that decade that we achieved a balanced budget.”

Boehner blames the budget deal for tanking the economy, but the recession actually started in July 1990, two months before the agreement was reached. And that revived economy? It came despite the supposed dead weight of the Clinton tax increase.

“A tax hike would wreak havoc not only on our economy’s ability to create private-sector jobs, but also on our ability to tackle the national debt.”

During the early 1980s, taxes were cut and public debt ballooned, from 26 percent of GDP in 1980 to 40 percent by 1986. In 1993, taxes were increased (and spending cut); debt as a share of the economy fell, from 49 percent to 33 percent. In 2001 and 2003, taxes were cut. By the time President Obama took office, debt had climbed to 40 percent of GDP.

Listening to Boehner, I began to think the country suffers from two deficits: the gap between spending and revenue, and the one between reality and ideology. The first cannot be solved unless we find some way of at least narrowing the second.

By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 10, 2011

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Journalists, Lawmakers, Media, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Press, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Taxes, Unemployment, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Senate Report: Sen. Tom Coburn Actively Negotiated Multi-Million Dollar Hush Money Package For Ensign’s Mistress

After a 22-month investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee released a report on the conduct of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who resigned early this month. The report contains voluminous evidence suggesting Ensign may have violated several laws in an effort to cover up an affair with a member of his staff. The committee has referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

Contained in the 67-page report, however, is troubling evidence of the central role that current Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) played in trying to keep Ensign’s mistress and her husband quiet — evidence that contradicts Coburn’s previous public statements on the matter.

In July 2009, Coburn said he was consulting with Ensign “as a physician and as an ordained deacon” and he considered it a “privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody.” Asked about the claim from Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign’s mistress, that he “urged Ensign to pay the Hamptons millions of dollars,” Coburn said, “I categorically deny everything he said.”

Coburn was similarly blunt in a November 22, 2009 interview with George Stephanopoulos:

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told me flatly that he did not offer to broker a million-dollar deal between his Senate colleague, John Ensign, R-Nev., and the family of Ensign’s mistress.

Doug Hampton, the husband of a staffer with whom Ensign had an affair, makes the explosive allegation in an interview with “Nightline’s” Cynthia McFadden that will air on Monday.

…When I asked Coburn on This Week if Hampton is telling the truth, he said, “There was no negotiation,” but acknowledged that he had worked to “bring two families to a closure of a very painful episode.”

Coburn eventually agreed to cooperate with the Ethics Committee; their findings on the level of his involvement are startling. According to the committees report, Coburn actively assisted in the discussions of a hush money package, negotiating a proposed package from $8 million down to $2.8 million. The ethics committee report, on pages 37 to 38, describes the negotiation between Mr. Albregts, an attorney for the husband of Ensign’s mistress, and Sen. Coburn:

Mr. Albregts tried to get a ballpark estimate from Senator Coburn as to the amount he would be comfortable with. Mr. Albregts proposed $8 million based on a document Doug Hampton prepared. According to Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn said that the figure was absolutely ridiculous. Senator Coburn then stated that the Ensigns should buy the Hamptons home because it is so close to the Ensigns, and the Hamptons should receive an amount of money above and beyond that to start over, buy a new home, have some living money while they were looking for new employment, and possibly some seed money to send the children off to college. Senator Coburn stated that that’s what I’ve thought from day one would be fair, but said that $8 million was nowhere close to a reasonable figure. Senator Coburn told Mr. Albregts to figure out what those amounts would be, and call him back.

Mr. Albregts then spoke with Mr. Hampton, and asked him how much it would cost to get the house paid for, and how much he needed above that figure to get started somewhere new. Mr. Hampton then came back with some figures, and estimated $1.2 million for the home, and another $1.6 million to get started somewhere new. Mr. Albregts called Senator Coburn back for the final time with this revised figure on the same day in a five-minute call. Per Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn responded by stating that okay, that’s what I had in mind and I think is fair and said he would take the figure to the Ensigns.

The Ensigns rejected the new offer. Previous reports referenced Coburn’s role as a go-between but did not reveal the extent of his inovlement in the negotations. The report notes that “Mr. Albregts testified that Senator Coburn took an active role in the negotiations between Mr. Hampton and Senator Ensign, and this role included proposing specific resolutions.” Coburn told the committee that he was “simply going to pass information” to Ensign.

One thing is certain: Tom Coburn has a lot of explaining to do.

By: Judd Legum, Think Progress, May 12, 2011

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, DOJ, GOP, Politics, Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberal Media Bias?: The Sunday Shows Can’t Help Themselves

I promise not to do this every Sunday morning — it only seems like I will — but take a look at today’s guest lists for the five major Sunday shows.

* NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)

* CBS’s “Face the Nation”: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

* ABC’s “This Week”: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R)

* Fox News’ “Fox News Sunday”: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) [Update: Mike Huckabee (R) is a late edition to the line-up]

* CNN’s “State of the Union”: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former Bush administration officials Dennis Blair and John Negroponte

For those keeping score at home, that’s two Republican presidential candidates, two House Republican leaders, two Senate Republican leaders, one Republican governor, one former Republican governor, two Bush administration officials, and one Democrat.

Liberal media, indeed.

In fairness, it’s worth noting that after these headliner guests, the shows will feature panel discussions, and some of the voices will be center-left. Paul Krugman will be on ABC, E.J. Dionne Jr will be on NBC, and Joe Lockhardt will be on CNN.

But (a) this doesn’t make up for the seven-to-one imbalance among officeholders and candidates; and (b) each of the center-left guests will be featured alongside a conservative, presumably to offer the kind of “balance” viewers won’t get with the headline guests.

Rachel Maddow noted the other day, “The Sunday shows are supposedly the apex of political debate — the pulsing, throbbing heart of what’s going on in American politics.”

Right, and week in and week out, this debate is dominated by voices from only one party.

A couple of years ago, Josh Marshall talked about how the Washington establishment is simply “wired” for Republicans. It’s GOP ideas that get attention; it’s GOP talking points that get internalized; it’s GOP voices that get aired.

The Sunday show guest lists help drive the point home nicely.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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