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“We Are The Whiners”: About Those ‘53 Percent’

Republicans have been preoccupied for much of the year with those Americans who don’t make enough money to qualify for a federal income tax burden. Some are working-class families who fall below the tax threshold; some are unemployed; some are students; and some are retired. These Americans still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes, but not federal income taxes.

This, apparently, annoys the right to no end. It’s why all kinds of Republican officials — including Mitt Romney and Rick Perry — want to “fix” what they see as a “problem,” even if it means raising taxes on those who can least afford it.

This argument is even manifesting itself in a new “movement” of sorts, intended to respond to progressive activists calling for economic justice.

Conservative activists have created a Tumblr called “We are the 53 percent” that’s meant to be a counterpunch to the viral “We are the 99 percent” site that’s become a prominent symbol for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Tumblr is supposed to represent the 53 percent of Americans who pay federal income taxes, and its assumption is that the Wall Street protesters are part of the 46 percent of the country who don’t. “We are the 53 percent” was originally the brainchild of Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.org, who worked together with Josh Trevino, communications director for the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, and conservative filmmaker Mike Wilson to develop the concept, according to Trevino.

The overriding message is that the protesters have failed to take personal responsibility, blaming their economic troubles on others.

There are all kinds of problems with the right’s approach here, including the fact that they seem to want to increase working-class taxes and also seem entirely unaware of the fact that it was Republican tax cuts that pushed so many out of income-tax eligibility in the first place. There’s also the small matter of some of those claiming to be in “the 53 percent” aren’t actually shouldering a federal income tax burden at all, but are apparently unaware of that fact.

But putting that aside, take a look at Erick Erickson’s argument, presented in a hand-written message posted to the Tumblr blog: “I work three jobs. I have a house I can’t sell. My family insurance costs are outrageous. But I don’t blame Wall Street. Suck it up you whiners. I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain.”

Just for heck of it, let’s take this one at a time.

The very idea that Erickson works “three jobs” is rather foolish.

Blaming financial industry corruption and mismanagement for Erickson’s troubles selling his house is actually quite reasonable.

If Erickson’s reference to “family insurance costs” is in reference to health care premiums, he’ll be glad to know the Affordable Care Act passed, and includes all kinds of breaks for small businesses like his.

And the notion that victims of a global economic collapse, who are seeking some relief from a system stacked in favor of the wealthy, are “whiners” is so blisteringly stupid, it amazes me someone would present the argument in public.

If there are any actual “whiners” in this scenario, shouldn’t the label go to millionaires who shudder at the idea of paying Clinton-era tax rates?

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, October 11, 2011

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Capitalism, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Income Gap, Middle East, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Teaparty, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Koch Brothers’ Big Bucks

In case anyone needed a reminder about the kind of forces Democrats will be up against next year, the Koch brothers are putting together their plan to help buy the 2012 elections.

The billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million — potentially much more — to conservative groups ahead of Election Day, POLITICO has learned. That puts their libertarian-leaning network in the same league as the most active of the groups in the more establishment-oriented network conceived last year by veteran GOP operatives Rove and Ed Gillespie, which plans to raise $240 million.

That’s financing for an awful lot of attack ads, nearly all of which will be dishonest, and which a whole lot of voters will believe.

It’ll be interesting, though, to see whether Democrats are able to make the Koch money toxic. We learned last week that there’s ample evidence that Koch Industries made “improper payments” (read: bribes) to “secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002.” One of those countries, it turns out, is Iran, which has purchased millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment from the Kochs’ company, despite a trade ban and the U.S. labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. The Kochs’ business also stand accused of having “rigged prices with competitors, lied to regulators and repeatedly run afoul of environmental regulations, resulting in five criminal convictions since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada.”

This is the money that’s going to buy elections for Republicans?

Over the summer, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared, “Plain and simple, if you do business with Iran, you cannot do business with America.”

Follow-up question for Cantor, who’s accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Koch Industries: those who do business with Iran cannot do business with America, but can they partner with the Republican Party to swing an election cycle?

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, October 10, 2011

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Corporations, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Republicans, Right Wing, Super PAC's, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Occupy Protests: A Timely Call For Justice

Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.

I love every little thing about these gloriously amateurish sit-ins. I love that they are spontaneous, leaderless and open-ended. I love that the protesters refuse to issue specific demands beyond a forceful call for economic justice. I also love that in Chicago — uniquely, thus far — demonstrators have ignored the rule about vagueness and are being ultra-specific about their goals. I love that there are no rules, just tendencies.

I love that when Occupy Wall Street was denied permission to use bullhorns, demonstrators came up with an alternative straight out of Monty Python, or maybe “The Flintstones”: Have everyone within earshot repeat a speaker’s words, verbatim and in unison, so the whole crowd can hear. It works — and sounds tremendously silly. Protest movements that grow into something important tend to have a sense of humor.

I can’t help but love that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called the protests “growing mobs” and complained about fellow travelers who “have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.” This would be the same Eric Cantor who praised the Tea Party movement in its raucous, confrontational, foaming-at-the-mouth infancy as “an organic movement” that was “about the people.” The man’s hypocrisy belongs in the Smithsonian.

Most of all, I love that the Occupy protests arise at just the right moment and are aimed at just the right target. This could be the start of something big and important.

“Economic justice” may mean different things to different people, but it’s not an empty phrase. It captures the sense that somehow, when we weren’t looking, the concept of fairness was deleted from our economic system — and our political lexicon. Economic injustice became the norm.

Revolutionary advances in technology and globalization are the forces most responsible for the hollowing-out of the American economy. But our policymakers responded in ways that tended to accentuate, rather than ameliorate, the most damaging effects of these worldwide trends.

The result is clear: a nation where the rich have become the mega-rich while the middle class has steadily lost ground, where unemployment is stuck at levels once considered unbearable, and where our political system is too dysfunctional to take the kind of bold action that would make a real difference. Eventually, the economy will limp out of this slump, and things will seem better. Fundamentally, however, nothing will have changed.

Does that sound broad and unfocused? Yes, but it’s true.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters saw this broad, unfocused truth — and also understood that the place to begin this movement was at the epicenter of the financial system.

For most of our history, it was understood that the financial sector was supposed to perform a vital service for the economy: channeling capital to the companies where it could be most effectively used. But the rapid technological, economic and political change the world has witnessed in recent decades created myriad opportunities for Wall Street to channel capital to itself, often by inventing exotic new securities whose underpinnings may not exist. The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated the urgent need for reform.

It’s not that investment bankers should be held responsible for all the ills of the world. It’s that Wall Street is emblematic of an entire economic and political system that no longer seems to have the best interests of most Americans at heart.

So a ragtag group — not huge, but idealistic and determined — camps out in Lower Manhattan. A similar thing happens in two dozen other cities. And maybe a movement is born.

Already, after less than a month, commentators are asking whether the Occupy protests can be transformed into a coherent political force. For now, at least, I hope not.

We have no shortage of politicians in this country. What we need is more passion and energy in the service of justice. We need to be forced to answer questions that sound simplistic or naive — questions about ethics and values. Detailed policy positions can wait.

At some point, these protest encampments will disappear — and, since the nation and the world will not have changed, they’ll be judged a failure. But I’ve got a hunch that this likely judgment will be wrong. I think the seed of progressive activism in the Occupy protests may grow into something very big indeed.

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 10, 2011

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Congress, Consumers, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideology, Income Gap, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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