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“Just Close Your Eyes”: The Right’s 2012 Solution While Systematically Taking Away Your Rights

Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett offered a solution for women who were going to be forced by the government to undergo a completely unnecessary ultrasound against their wills: “You can’t make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes.” The governor’s suggestion would be almost comical, if it weren’t for the tragic fact that forcing women to watch was the whole point of the legislation Corbett supported.

But it seems that Corbett’s suggestion doesn’t just apply to women seeking abortions in the Keystone state. It is, in essence, what the GOP is telling to every woman turned off by the party’s attacks on reproductive rights, equal pay and domestic violence protections: “You just have to close your eyes.”

Mitt Romney’s campaign is banking on the fact that voters of both genders are concerned about the economy in these uncertain times. Polls show that they’re right. But just because you’re concerned with the economy doesn’t mean you ignore it when a group of people are systematically taking away your rights for their own short-term political gain.

Sadly, this is the new normal. The Tea Party’s success has been based on this “just close your eyes” formula. Swept into power on a wave of economic dissatisfaction, Tea Party legislators in Washington and the states asked the country to “close its eyes” as it did everything but fix the economy. “Pay no attention while we roll back decades of progress everything else you care about. Just close your eyes while we bash immigrants, cut essential services, make it very hard to vote, and take away collective bargaining rights”. Many minorities have been affected, particularly in the last two years, but arguably and amazingly, no group has been under attack more than the American majority — women.

A new report from People For the American Way investigates the new landscape that the Tea Party is creating for American women. Mississippi is set to become the only state in the country without a legal abortion clinic. Texas is on the path to denying reproductive health care to 130,000 low-income women. Wisconsin repealed its enforcement mechanism for equal pay lawsuits. Senate Republicans are fighting to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Following an all-male panel speaking on women’s health, a woman who dares speak in front of Congress about the importance of affordable contraception is called a “slut.”

Even with closed eyes, these things are very hard to miss.

The Romney campaign has attempted to distract voters from this train wreck of anti-woman policies by claiming that a second Obama administration will hurt women economically. Last week, they hammered hard on the claim that women have accounted for 92 percent of job losses under President Obama — a mangled statistic that ignores, among other factors, that many of those losses were the result of Republican-led layoffs of teachers and other government employees. Then they decided to accuse Democrats of waging a “War on Moms” — forgetting, perhaps, the candidate’s history of aggressively pushing low-income women to work outside of the home when their children are very young.

Women haven’t bought it. In polls, Romney still trails Obama among women voters by double digits. And in an under-reported fact, among women ages 18 to 29, he’s losing by an astounding 45 points. You don’t need a political science degree that know that that spells disaster.

Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans seem to think they can get away with almost anything because, in the end, their Election Day hopes will be saved by a bad economy. The problem is, the people they attack on a regular basis — women, gays, Latinos, Muslims, you name it — know the Tea Party’s record on the economy and its history of cynical, culture-war attacks that deeply affect the lives of real people. We have our eyes wide open.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, Published in The Huffington Post, April 18, 2012

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Bane” Of His Existance: How Mitt Romney Stiff’s The IRS

Unlike Mitt Romney, most Americans who will pay their taxes today can’t afford fancy accountants. But Romney has reluctantly made public his tax returns, and thus shared valuable strategies to ensure that he pays a far lower rate than, say, Warren Buffett’s secretary. Citizens for Tax Justice recently waded through Romney’s 2010 return—in which his $22 million in income was miraculously taxed at just 13.9 percent—to come up with a handy primer for how you, too, can beat the IRS at its own game. To paraphrase:

1. Don’t work for a living
The tax rate on money earned actually working (“salaries and wages”) can be more than double the rate on money earned sitting around watching your investments go up in value (“capital gains”), thanks to the work of other people. Almost all of Romney’s income is taxed as capital gains.

2. If you work, disguise your compensation as capital gains
About half of the $15 million in capital gains and dividend income Romney reported in 2010 was actually compensation for his work at Bain Capital. But using a tax loophole favored by private-equity guys, he was able to get paid by taking equity stakes in deals that he put together (“carried interest,” in tax parlance) instead of in the proletarian form of a fully taxable salary. Bonus: This allowed Bain to avoid paying Medicare payroll taxes.

3. Give to charity—but not with cash, checks, or money orders
In 2010, Romney was able to write off $1.5 million worth of Domino’s Pizza stock he donated to a charity. It is likely that he originally received the stock as compensation from Bain, in which case the price he paid for it would have been close to zero. In this scenario, by donating the stock instead of selling it and donating the cash, Romney would have saved about $220,000 in taxes.

4. Give to charity—but not now
Romney’s return reports income from the W. Mitt Romney 1996 Charitable Remainder UniTrust. Not only is the trust tax exempt, but when Romney set it up 16 years ago, he got a tax deduction for making a charitable donation. Though the money in the trust is eventually supposed to go to charity, Romney can receive income from the trust for a number of years—quite possibly for the rest of his life.

5. Give to charity—your own
In 2010 Romney made a tax-deductible, $1.5 million donation to the Tyler Charitable Foundation, which he controls. Commanding your own foundation allows you to curry favor with political and business allies by donating money to their pet organizations and causes. For instance, in 2010 the Tyler Charitable Foundation donated $100,000 to to the George W. Bush Library.

6. Do not invest in America
Certain foreign investment vehicles allow you to avoid certain taxes. For example, Romney’s Individual Retirement Account could bypass the Unrelated Business Income Tax by investing through a foreign corporation. Though it’s hard to know whether Romney availed himself of those kinds of savings, he has invested substantially in foreign entities, including ones based in offshore tax havens such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Luxembourg.

7. Invest in sexy financial instruments
Romney earned $415,000 from an investment that gets special tax treatment: Through an accounting loophole, 60 percent of the profits from the investment are treated as long-term capital gains, a designation that has tax benefits, no matter how long the investment is held.

8. Borrow money to invest
While you can’t deduct interest from car loans or credit cards, you can write off interest on the money you borrow to make certain types of investments—for instance, if you borrow from a broker to buy stock (a “margin loan”). Portfolio management fees are also write-offs. A fellow like Romney, who makes his millions mainly from investments, could probably deduct a fair sum.

9. Push the limits of the law
When you engage in a type of transaction that the IRS views as potentially abusive, you must disclose it in a separate form. In 2010, Romney filed six such forms.

10. Be part of the 1 percent
When it comes to taxes, it costs money to save money. You’ll need to hire lawyers to help you set up tax-exempt charities and trusts or exploit offshore tax havens—and a professional money manager if you plan to invest in sexy financial instruments. It probably won’t be cost effective if you aren’t already rich, but any hard-working son of a governor can land a job at a private-equity firm and start getting paid in carried interest. Bonus: You might make enough money to one day run for president.

 

By: Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, April 17, 2012

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Taxes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tantruming Toddlers”: President Romney And The Republican Congress

As we’ve discussed here many times, there a number of factors that make it more likely than not that Barack Obama will win re-election in November. But it’s also quite possible that Obama will lose, and Mitt Romney will become president in January. If Romney does win, chances are that he’ll come into office with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. That’s because whatever conditions produce a Republican win at the top will also probably allow Republicans to hold on to the House and take the Senate. It’s even possible that Obama could win and Republicans wind up with both houses, since Democrats right now hold only a 53-47 lead in the upper chamber, and they are defending 23 seats in this year’s election, while Republicans are defending only ten.

There’s an outside chance that a big Obama win could allow Democrats to hold the Senate and take back the house, but for now let’s focus on the possibility of a Romney win, which will probably leave him with the benefit of total Republican control. This is an eventuality that we really need to start thinking about, since a Romney presidency would be shaped in large part by his relationship with Congress.

The thought of finding ourselves nine months from now with a President Romney, Speaker Boehner, and Majority Leader McConnell is … let’s say unsettling. But I’m sure they’ll greet their newfound power with humility and restraint, not moving too quickly to roll back regulations, cut taxes for the wealthy, or dismantle social programs. Hah! Kidding, of course—the only question is whether they’ll be literally firing their guns in the air on the floor of the House and Senate, leaving holes in the ceiling that will be a testament in plaster to their triumph for years to come. At that point, Democrats will discover that the filibuster is a really, really good thing.

But there’s only so much they’d be able to stop, and congressional Republicans will be sending a stream of reactionary bills to President Romney’s desk. And let’s be honest: He’s going to sign every one of them. You will not see Romney veto a bill passed by a Republican Congress because it went too far in achieving conservative goals. Not gonna happen.

Which is why, if Democrats are smart, they’ll start a discussion now about how Romney is going to deal with the congressional nutballs in his party. They’ve already started tying Romney to Paul Ryan’s budget plan, but the larger question is how he’ll handle this unruly collection of extremists, who have shown themselves quite happy to hold the government hostage and bring America to the brink of default to serve their agenda.

The White House is now warning Republicans not to renege on the deal they made last year on the budget (which they are showing signs they want to do, by cutting domestic spending more than they agreed to); if they do, there could be a government shutdown in September. That would put all kinds of pressure on Romney to show he can rein in his party’s extremists. If he handles it well, he can demonstrate that he’s a responsible adult who is capable of restraining the collection of tantruming toddlers that is the Republican caucus in the House. If he doesn’t, he’ll show everyone just how chaotic and dangerous a government with Republicans in control of all three branches could be.

 

By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, April 19, 2012

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Gathering Of The Puritans”: Mitt Romney To Deliver Commencement At Anti-Gay Liberty University

Mitt Romney — who at an earlier point in his career had promised to advance the equality of gay and lesbian people — is scheduled to deliverthe Commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University on May 12, an Evangelical Christian college that refuses to recognize people or ideas that don’t adhere to its social conservative worldview.

The university — founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1971 — seeks to impress on its students a “commitment to the Christian life” that “leads people to Jesus Christ as the Lord of the universe and their own personal Savior” and forbids openly gay enrollees. Students are required to abide by a strict Code of Conduct, which prohibits them from engaging in “[n]on-marital sexual relations,” drinking, smoking, watching R-rated movies, dancing, cursing or hugging for longer than three seconds. In 2009, the school attracted controversy after it revoked its recognition of a Democratic club, because “[t]he Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine.” The school condemned the party for supporting abortion rights, “same-sex marriage, hate crimes, LGBT rights, and socialism.”

To that end, Liberty is heavily invested in the anti-gay and ex-gay movement. The school withdrew from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2010 to protest the inclusion of a gay rights group and hosted a one-day symposium to address the consequences of being gay. The event offered sessions on “[u]nderstanding Same-sex Attractions and Their Consequences” and “Homosexual Rights and First Amendment Freedoms: Can They Truly Coexist?” Liberty University law professors Matt Barber and Judith Reisman have also linked gay and lesbian rights to “the pedophile movement,” while the school’s affiliates describe marriage equality as a “rebellion against God” and claim that gay people are more likely to commit suicide because they know “what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, [and] is immoral.”

Significantly, this isn’t the first time Romney has embraced conservative Christian Evangelicals in an effort to endear himself to Republican voters. In 2007, he addressed Regent University, the school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.

 

By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, April 19, 2012

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Larger Deficits, More Inequality”: The House Republicans’ Head Scratching Economics

Whether you worry about the sluggish recovery, budget deficits, or widening inequality, you should be scratching your head at what the House of Representatives is up to this week.

On the one hand, the House will likely pass the small business tax cut sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, which adds $46 billion to the deficit, largely benefits very high-income taxpayers, and has little potential for creating jobs. On the other hand, the House Agriculture Committee has approved a proposal, as part of its deficit reduction mandate, to cut $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—formerly food stamps—a program that goes mainly to low-income households and is one of the best policies we have for creating jobs in a weak economy.

In Tuesday’s post on the New York Times Economix blog, Bruce Bartlett, who held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Reps. Jack Kemp and Ron Paul, asks the question, “Do small businesses create jobs?” He appropriately cites the research showing that politicians’ worship of small businesses as jobs creators is misguided, and that it is start-up firms, not small firms per se, that are the job creators. Moreover, many of those who would benefit from the tax cut are affluent doctors, lawyers, and stockbrokers—hardly the local mom and pop store that most people imagine when they hear the phrase “small business.”

Bartlett is scathing on the Cantor bill:

There may be policies that would increase the number of business start-ups and aid employment this way. But an across-the-board tax cut for every small business, defined only in terms of employment, is nothing but …[a] giveaway unlikely to create any jobs whatsoever.

Bartlett’s indictment is backed up by standard “multiplier” or “bang-for-the-buck” analyses from the Congressional Budget Office and private analysts like Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. In contrast to an increase in SNAP benefits, which they find to be among the most cost-effective measures for stimulating economic growth and job creation in a weak economy, both the Congressional Budget Office and Zandi find business tax cuts similar to the Cantor bill to be among the least effective. The economic growth and job creation impact per dollar of nutritional assistance spending is six to eight times larger than that of an across-the-board tax cut.

Here is what the House is doing with these two measures: It is adding $46 billion of tax cuts, nearly half of which will go to those making more than $1 million, to the budget deficit. According to the official Joint Committee on Taxation estimate, about $45 billion of it will be received in 2012-13, when the economy could in fact use a boost to jobs. At the same time, any stimulus from the tax cut will be wiped out by the $8 billion of the $36 billion SNAP cut that also would occur in 2012-13.

The bottom line on these actions is that they produce larger budget deficits, more inequality, and no net new jobs. So when I see the House moving in exactly the opposite direction of what is fair and makes economic sense, I’m inclined to ask: “Is it really more politically appealing to cut taxes for millionaires and increase the budget deficit than to maintain food benefits for the poor that also give an extra boost to the economic recovery?”

 

By: Chad Stone, Chief Economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 19, 2012

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Deficits | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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