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Economic Inequality And Tax Fairness: What Newt Gingrich Doesn’t Want Us To Talk About

Over the last three decades, wealth has become increasingly concentrated at the top. The middle class is struggling with stagnant wages and a growing class gap; poverty rates are soaring; the jobs crisis seems never-ending; and a growing number of Americans are suggesting it’s time for a larger conversation about economic inequalities and tax fairness.

Newt Gingrich believes that conversation must not occur. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate questions the patriotism of those who choose to draw attention to the problem.

“I repudiate, and I call on the President to repudiate, the concept of the 99 and the 1. It is un-American, it is divisive, it is historically false…. You are not going to get job creation when you engage in class warfare because you have to attack the very people you hope will create jobs.”

Even for a candidate who says truly ridiculous things on a daily basis, this is extraordinary.

Let me get this straight. A disgraced multi-millionaire, who’s run an ethically-sketchy “business conglomerate” while spending vast amounts of money on high-priced jewelry for this third wife, feels comfortable lecturing struggling Americans about even noticing the growing class gap.

And no one finds this disqualifying for national office?

When Republicans demand the middle- and lower-classes sacrifice, while shielding millionaires and billionaires from any concessions at all, the American mainstream isn’t even supposed to talk about it? When GOP policies impose a new Gilded Age on society, it’s “un-American” to even debate the propriety of the regressive agenda?

Since when is it consistent with the American tradition to try to shut down a debate over fairness and economic justice? For that matter, since when is it an “attack” on the extremely wealthy to ask them to pay Clinton/Gingrich-era tax rates that allowed the rich to thrive in the 1990s?

What’s more, let’s also not overlook Gingrich’s selective approach to unity. Today in South Carolina, Gingrich said it’s un-American and divisive to pit a majority against a minority. But as my friend Kyle Mantyla noted today, Gingrich said the opposite at the recent “One Nation Under God” event where he told religious right activists “that they are the majority in the country who must stand up and take this nation back from the ‘minority elite’ who are ruining it.”

So to recap, when it comes to the economy, Gingrich believes we’re all one people, and we must pay no attention to the wealth that divides us. When it comes to the culture war, we’re not one people, and those who believe as Gingrich does should target and defeat those Americans who disagree.

If a right-wing voice rails against the “minority elite,” he’s speaking the truth. If an Occupy activist rails against the “minority elite,” he’s an un-American radical.

Got it.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, November 29, 2011

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Middle East, Right Wing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Evangelicals A National Security Threat?

If you have the stomach to listen to enough right-wing talk radio, or troll enough right-wing websites, you inevitably come upon fear-mongering about the Unassimilated Muslim. Essentially, this caricature suggests that Muslims in America are more loyal to their religion than to the United States, that such allegedly traitorous loyalties prove that Muslims refuse to assimilate into our nation and that Muslims are therefore a national security threat.

Earlier this year, a Gallup poll illustrated just how apocryphal this story really is. It found that Muslim Americans are one of the most — if not the single most — loyal religious group to the United States. Now, comes the flip side from the Pew Research Center’s stunning findings about other religious groups in America (emphasis mine):

American Christians are more likely than their Western European counterparts to think of themselves first in terms of their religion rather than their nationality; 46 percent of Christians in the U.S. see themselves primarily as Christians and the same number consider themselves Americans first. In contrast, majorities of Christians in France (90 percent), Germany (70 percent), Britain (63 percent) and Spain (53 percent) identify primarily with their nationality rather than their religion. Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

If, as Islamophobes argue, refusing to assimilate is defined as expressing loyalty to a religion before loyalty to country, then this data suggests it is evangelical Christians who are very resistant to assimilation. And yet, few would cite these findings to argue that Christians pose a serious threat to America’s national security. Why the double standard?

Because Christianity is seen as the dominant culture in America — indeed, Christianity and America are often portrayed as being nearly synonymous, meaning expressing loyalty to the former is seen as the equivalent to expressing loyalty to the latter. In this view, there is no such thing as separation between the Christian church and the American state — and every other culture and religion is expected to assimilate to Christianity. To do otherwise is to be accused of waging a “War on Christmas” — or worse, to be accused of being disloyal to America and therefore a national security threat.

Of course, a genuinely pluralistic America is one where — regardless of the religion in question — we see no conflict between loyalties to a religion and loyalties to country. In this ideal America, those who identify as Muslims first are no more or less “un-American” than Christians who do the same (personally, this is the way I see things).

But if our politics and culture are going to continue to make extrapolative judgments about citizens’ patriotic loyalties based on their religious affiliations, then such judgments should at least be universal — and not so obviously selective or brazenly xenophobic.

By: David Sirota, Salon, November 29, 2011

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Democracy | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Banks May Have Illegally Foreclosed On 5,000 Members Of The Military

For months, major banks have been dealing with the fallout of the “robo-signing” scandal, following reports that the banks were improperly foreclosing on homeowners and, in many instances, falsifying paperwork that they were submitting to courts. Banks have been forced to go back and re-examine foreclosures to ensure that homeowners did not lose their homes unlawfully.

In the latest episode of this mess, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has found that banks — including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup — may have improperly foreclosed on up to 5,000 active members of the military:

Ten leading US lenders may have unlawfully foreclosed on the mortgages of nearly 5,000 active-duty members of the US military in recent years, according to data released by a federal regulator. […]

The data released by the OCC are based on estimates prepared by lenders and their consultants. BofA said it is reviewing 2,400 foreclosures involving active-duty military families to see if they were conducted properly. Wells Fargo is reviewing 870 foreclosures and Citigroup is looking at 700 cases.

Also under review are 575 foreclosures at OneWest, formerly known as IndyMac; 87 at HSBC; 80 at US Bancorp; 56 at Aurora, formerly known as Lehman Brothers Bank; 25 at MetLife; six at Sovereign; and three at EverBank.

Back in April, JPMorgan Chase, which was not one of the 10 banks that the OCC examined, agreed to a $56 million settlement over allegations that it had overcharged members of the military on their mortgages. Chase Bank has even auctioned off the home of a military member the very day that he returned from Iraq. Two other mortgage servicers agreed in May to settle charges of improperly foreclosing on servicemembers.

Even without the banks illegally foreclosing, military members have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. Last year alone, 20,000 members of the military faced foreclosure, a 32 percent increase over 2008. The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked with ensuring that military members are treated fairly by financial services companies — a job that is obviously necessary — but Republicans in Congress have, so far, refused to confirm a director for the agency, leaving it unable to fulfill all of its responsibilities.

By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, November 29, 2011

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Misquoting Obama Is A Big Gamble for Mitt Romney

As anyone who pays much attention to politics or watches  late night TV or reads the Fact Checker portion of the paper knows, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney  is getting blasted for an ad that uses a quote from Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign (“If  we keep talking about the economy we are going to lose”) and attributes it to  President Obama.

The original ad has become a several-day news story,  resulting in  dueling TV spots, and numerous punch/counter-punch action from the   campaigns and party committees.

It plays into the narrative that Romney is prepared to say  anything  or do anything to become president. Flip flops have become one big   character flop, as have misleading ads.

But here’s the question:  is Romney willing to do anything he can  right now to engage Obama in a  one-on-one confrontation, even if he  gets criticized by the mainstream media? Is he sacrificing his rook to  get a chance at  the king?

Here is the cynical view:  the Romney campaign knew exactly what it  was doing with this ad. It focused on the one issue where Romney  seems  to have an advantage with Republican primary voters, the economy, and  it  took on the person they hate the most, Obama.  But they needed  something extra to see to it that the ad went viral and  became  controversial.

Without this quote taken out of context, edited and made to  sound as  though it was an Obama statement, the ad probably would have gone   nowhere. Ho-hum.

In my many years in campaigns I have seen the tactic over  and over  again. A candidate and his or  her consultants deliberately mislead to  get the opponent to take the bait. For example, one cynical tactic is  to  misrepresent the facts deliberately. You  accuse candidate X, who  was a prosecutor, of “plea bargaining” over 200 cases  and letting  criminals go free. So, the  number may be 120—your hope is to have an  argument over the number, thereby  “winning” the message debate. Pretty   horrendous.

My guess is that the Romney campaign knew they were going to  get  attacked for butchering the quote (they even had the full quote  mentioning  McCain in their material) but figured that they would rather  create the  firestorm with Obama and the Democrats.  It was a gamble,  to be sure.

The problem is that the DNC is staying on this and feeding  it into  the narrative of Romney’s character (along with the flip flops) and   this is probably hurting Romney even among Republicans. So, in the end, the ad is a  gamble that may not pay off,  especially if former Speaker of the House  Newt Gingrich begins to suck the oxygen out of the room in  debates and  taps into the demise of Herman Cain and Gov. Rick Perry.

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, November 29, 2011

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rick Perry’s Freudian Slip On The Voting Age

America had a good laugh at Rick Perry’s expense on Tuesday after the Texas Governor told students at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire to vote for him next November—but only if they’re over 21. Zut alors! Le gaffe! The federal voting age is 18, not 21; 21 is the legal drinking age. Perry also managed to get the date of the election wrong.

But maybe he had a point. In Perry’s Texas, as in various states across the country, Republicans have made a concerted push over the last half decade to make it harder and harder for certain Democratic-leaning constituencies—namely young people, senior citizens, and minorities—to vote. It’s an attempt to suppress voter turnout in the name of cracking down on voter fraud (Ari Berman can explain it all for you).

Texas’ new voter I.D. law, signed into law by Perry this summer, is a great example of that strategy. The law accepts concealed handgun license permits as a valid form of identification, but not student identification cards issued by state universities. The Department of Justice has blocked implementation of the law out of concerns that it discriminates against specific groups:

Democrats countered that there is no evidence of voter impersonation  in Texas and that the bill simply was an effort to make voting more  difficult for low-income Texas, students and the elderly, who typically  vote for Democrats.

The new law would require voters to show a Texas driver’s license, a  Texas concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, citizenship papers, or  a military identification card before they could cast a ballot.

Student ID cards issued by state universities, out-of-state driver’s  licenses, or ID cards issued to state employees would not be accepted.

Really, Perry’s gaffe was that he asked college students to vote.

By: Tim Murphy, Mother Jones, November 29, 2011

November 30, 2011 Posted by | States | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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