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“Primary Pander Mode”: Severely Conservative Mitt To Rollout New Tax Plan

What do Republican politicians do when they need to pick it up a step?  You’ve got it: they propose more tax cuts.

So it’s no great surprise that Mitt Romney is signaling that he’s coming out with a new, “bold” tax proposal to coincide with his stretch drive towards primaries next week in Michigan and Arizona, not to mention the upcoming Super Tuesday (March 6).

The chosen herald for this news appears to be that intrepid supply-sider, Larry Kudlow of National Review, who reports, with barely restrained excitement, that Mitt’s new tax cuts will be “across-the-board with supply-side incentives from rate reduction, and that it will help small-business owners as well as everyone else.”

You may wonder why Romney didn’t find space for this stuff in his previously released 159-page economic plan.  Looking at that beast for the first time in a while, it already includes  making the Bush tax cuts permanent; abolishing estate taxes; a partial abolition of taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains; and lower corporate tax rates. Ah, but there it is, the placeholder for new goodies: “a conservative overhaul of the tax system over the long term that includes lower, flatter rates on a broader base.”

Now lots of folks in both parties think it might be possible to have lower income tax rates if the lost revenues are offset by aggressive elimination of tax expenditures, from fossil fuel subsidies to the mortgage interest deduction, all of them zealously defended by some powerful lobby. It will be interesting to see if Romney moves in that direction, or instead (as one might guess from Kudlow’s enthusiasm) relies on the old voodoo magic of supply-side economics, and pretends lower rates will pay for themselves. Since he’s in full primary pander mode, it’s unlikely he’ll propose anything a signfiicant number of GOP primary voters will find objectionable.


By: Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 21, 2012

February 22, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates, Taxes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”: House Republicans To Democratic Committee On Women’s Health

First, House Democrats couldn’t get a woman onto the all-male panel at a contraception hearing last week.

Now, they’ve invited her to testify at their own unofficial hearing — and they say the Republicans won’t let them televise it.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is organizing a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee event on Thursday to allow Sandra Fluke, the  Georgetown University law student who tried to testify at last week’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, a chance to talk about the  issue.

Pelosi aides say the House recording studio has denied a request to broadcast the event, “apparently” at the behest of the Republican-controlled Committee on House Administration.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill pointed to a July 2008 decision in which the committee lifted restrictions on use of the studio.

“If Chairman [Dan] Lungren has reversed this policy, he has done so in secret and not consulted with CHA Democrats,” Hammill said in an email. “This leaves us  only to think that the House Republican leadership is acting out yet again to silence women on the topic of women’s health.”

Salley Wood, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the Committee on House Administration, said the policy wasn’t updated in 2008. Instead, she said the recording studio is operating under policies set in 2005.

Wood said the committee did not play a role in the decision not to broadcast this week’s hearing.

Pelosi’s office said this event is the first in which the studio has not covered a hearing or told Democrats that it couldn’t because of other commitments.


By: Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico, February 21, 2012


February 22, 2012 Posted by | Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What If Contraception Could Decimate The Abortion Rate?

In Ross Douthat’s weekend NY Times column, he mediates in the long-running argument  liberals and conservatives have waged over sex, abortion, and contraception. Liberals argue that widespread access to contraception is the surest way to reduce unwanted pregnancies, he writes, whereas conservatives believe “it’s more important to promote chastity, monogamy and fidelity than to  worry about whether there’s a prophylactic in every bedroom drawer or  bathroom cabinet.”
Both narratives are contradicted by the facts, he argues. For example, socially conservative regions feature higher rates of teenage parenthood and unwed pregnancy than the nation as a whole.
He goes on:

Liberals love to cite these numbers as proof that social conservatism is a flop. But the liberal narrative has glaring problems as well. To  begin with, a lack of contraceptive access simply doesn’t seem to be a  significant factor in unplanned pregnancy in the United States. When the Alan Guttmacher Institute surveyed more than 10,000 women who had procured abortions in 2000 and 2001, it found that only 12 percent cited problems  obtaining birth control as a reason for their pregnancies. A recent  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of teenage mothers found similar results: Only 13 percent of the teens reported having had trouble getting contraception.

Is the takeaway really that lack of contraceptive access isn’t a significant factor in unplanned pregnancy? If roughly 1 in 10 unplanned pregnancies is caused by lack of access to birth control, that seems very significant! If I approached Douthat, having devised a way to reduce the American abortion rate by just 5 percent without coercion or significant expense, I suspect he’d be very enthusiastic, and think I accomplished something important. The issue here is that he’s unpersuaded these teens would’ve avoided pregnancy even if they’d been given access to birth control.
As he writes:

…if liberal social policies really led  inexorably to fewer unplanned pregnancies and thus fewer abortions, you  would expect “blue” regions of the country to have lower teen pregnancy  rates and fewer abortions per capita than demographically similar “red”  regions. But that isn’t what the data show. Instead, abortion rates are  frequently higher in more liberal states, where access is often largely  unrestricted, than in more conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws, waiting periods, and so on. “Safe, legal  and rare” is a nice slogan, but liberal policies don’t always seem to  deliver the “rare” part.

But the “liberal social policies” he conflates can be teased apart. What if contraceptive access reduces unplanned pregnancies in some jurisdictions, even as women who do get pregnant in those same places have abortions at higher rates due to unrestricted access or the fact that abortion is less stigmatized? As if in anticipation of that very counterargument, he goes on to write:

What’s more, another Guttmacher Institute study suggests that liberal  states don’t necessarily do better than conservative ones at preventing  teenagers from getting pregnant in the first place. Instead, the lower  teenage birth rates in many blue states are mostly just a consequence of (again) their higher abortion rates. Liberal California, for instance,  has a higher teen pregnancy rate than socially conservative Alabama; the Californian teenage birth rate is only lower because the Californian  abortion rate is more than twice as high.

But California’s higher teenage pregnancy rate is substantially driven by Hispanic immigrants whose religious and cultural background is relatively antagonistic to contraceptives. And if we’re citing numbers generated by the Guttmacher Institute, surely the ones that followare relevant to this subject:

– Publicly funded family planning services help women to avoid pregnancies they do not want and to plan pregnancies they do. In 2008, these services helped women in California avoid 317,900 unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 141,300 unintended births and 132,700 abortions.
– Contraceptive services provided at Title X-supported centers in California helped prevent 200,200 unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 89,000 unintended births and 83,600 abortions.

If you think that abortion is the killing of an innocent human, surely you should regard a contraceptive policy thought to result in tens of thousands of fewer abortions per year as a significant achievement, unless you think that the policy is causing lots of other abortions to occur. The Guttmacher Institute has published analysis that reaches precisely the opposite conclusion.
And increasing the availability and effectiveness of contraception seems like a more achievable task than reducing abortions by re-establishing bygone norms of chastity, monogamy and fidelity (none of which, by the way, are incompatible with widespread access to effective birth control).


By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, February 21, 2012

February 22, 2012 Posted by | Abortion, Birth Control | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shadowy Billionaires”: The Men Who Own The GOP And Your Democracy

Have you heard of William Dore, Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Peter Thiel or Bruce Kovner? If not, let me introduce them to you. They’re running for the Republican nomination for president.

I know, I know. You think Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are running. They are – but only because the people listed in the first paragraph have given them huge sums of money to do so. In a sense, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul and Romney are the fronts. Dore et al. are the real investors.

According to January’s Federal Election Commission report, William Dore and Foster Friess supplied more than three-fourths of the $2.1 million raked in by Rick Santorum’s super PAC in January. Dore, president of the Dore Energy Corp. in Lake Charles, La., gave $1 million; Freiss, a fund manager based in Jackson Hole, Wyo., gave $669,000 (he had given the Santorum super PAC $331,000 last year, bringing Freiss’ total to $1 million).

Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, provided $10 million of the $11 million that went into Gingrich’s super PAC in January. Adelson is chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Texas billionaire Harold Simmons donated $500,000.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, provided $1.7 million of the $2.4 million raised by Ron Paul’s super PAC in January.

Mitt Romney’s super PAC raised $6.6 million last month – almost all from just 40 donors. Bruce Kovner, co-founder of the New York-based hedge fund Caxton Associates, gave $500,000, as did two others. David Tepper of Appaloosa Management gave $375,000. J.W. Marriott and Richard Marriott gave a total of $500,000. Julian Robertson, co-founder of hedge fund Tiger Management, gave $250,000. Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman gave $100,000.

Bottom line: Whoever emerges as the GOP standard-bearer will be deeply indebted to a handful of people, each of whom will expect a good return on their investment.

And this is just the beginning. We haven’t even come to the general election.

Nonprofit political fronts like Crossroads GPS, founded by Republican political guru Karl Rove, are already gathering hundreds of millions of dollars from big corporations and a few wealthy individuals like billionaire oil and petrochemical moguls David and Charles Koch. The public will never know who or what corporation gave what because, under IRS regulations, such nonprofit “social welfare organizations” aren’t required to disclose the names of those who contributed to them.

Before 2010, federal campaign law and Federal Election Commission regulations limited to $5,000 per year the amount an individual could give to a PAC making independent expenditures in federal elections. This individual contribution limit was declared unconstitutional by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in a case based on the Supreme Court’s grotesque decision at the start of 2010, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission.

Now, the limits are gone. And this comes precisely at a time when an almost unprecedented share of the nation’s income and wealth is accumulating at the top.

Never before in the history of our Republic have so few spent so much to influence the votes of so many.


By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, Published in The Huffington Post, February 21, 2012

February 22, 2012 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Girl Scouts: “A Radicalized Organization Promoting Homosexual Lifestyles And Funding Planned Parenthood”

Next time you buy a box of Tagalongs, you might be helping to fund an abortion.

Or, at least, that’s what one Republican lawmaker in Indiana might have you believe. State Rep. Bob Morris (R) wants to kill a resolution honoring the Girl Scouts because they are a “radicalized organization” that promotes “homosexual lifestyles” and funds Planned Parenthood.

In a letter to his fellow Republicans on Saturday, Morris said he would refuse to support a resolution celebrating 100 years of the organization because “after talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing.”

The letter, obtained by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, says that the Girl Scouts of America and the World Association of Girl Guides “have entered into a close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood,” though “you will not find evidence of this on the GSA/WAGGGS website—in fact, the websites of these two organizations explicitly deny funding Planned Parenthood.”

“Nonetheless, abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood,” Morris wrote. “Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars.”

He continues that the Girl Scouts also let in boys “who decide to claim a ‘transgender’ or cross-dressing life-style” and, in general, promote being gay. “Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles,” Morris said. “In fact, the Girl Scouts education seminar girls are directed to study the example of role models. Of the fifty role models listed, only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background – all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists.”

“As members of the Indiana House of Representatives, we must be wise before we use the credibility and respect of the ‘Peoples’ House’ to extend legitimacy to a radicalized organization,” he continued. “The Girl Scouts of America stand in a strong tradition that reflects with fidelity the traditional values of our homes and our families.”

Cathy Ritchie, of the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, laughed off Morris when she heard about his letter. “I think perhaps he hasn’t done all of his research,” Ritchie told Eagle Country Online. “There is no relationship between Girls Scouts of the U.S.A. or Girl Scouts of Central Indiana to Planned Parenthood.”

Morris was the only one to refuse to sign the resolution, the Associated Press reports.

This is not the first time the Girl Scouts have been accused of a nefarious liberal agenda. In December, Fox News and some right-wing bloggers charged them with being part of a lefty conspiracy because of a section in the Girl Scouts’ media guide that advises readers to use sites like MediaMatters (“clearly a lefty blog,” as Steve Doocy of Fox & Friends put it) to fact-check what they read on the Internet.


By: Jillian Rayfield, Talking Points Memo, February 21, 2012

February 22, 2012 Posted by | Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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