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“The Perfect Storm”: The Selling Of American Democracy

Who’s buying our democracy? Wall Street financiers, the Koch brothers, and casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

And they’re doing much of it in secret.

It’s a perfect storm:

The greatest concentration of wealth in more than a century — courtesy “trickle-down” economics, Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and the demise of organized labor.

Combined with…

Unlimited political contributions — courtesy of Republican-appointed Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, in one of the dumbest decisions in Supreme Court history, “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission,” along with lower-court rulings that have expanded it.

Combined with…

Complete secrecy about who’s contributing how much to whom — courtesy of a loophole in the tax laws that allows so-called non-profit “social welfare” organizations to accept the unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads.

Put them all together and our democracy is being sold down the drain.

With a more equitable and traditional distribution of wealth, far more Americans would have a fair chance of influencing politics. As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, “we can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.”

Alternatively, inequality wouldn’t be as much of a problem if we had strict laws limiting political spending or, at the very least, disclosing who was contributing what.

But we have an almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and unlimited political spending and secrecy.

I’m not letting Democrats off the hook. Democratic candidates are still too dependent on Wall Street casino moguls and real casino magnates (Steve Wynn has been a major contributor to Harry Reid, for example). George Soros and a few others have poured big bucks into Democratic coffers. So have a handful of trade unions.

But make no mistake. Compared to what the GOP is doing this year, Democrats are conducting a high-school bake sale. The mega-selling of American democracy is a Republican invention, and Romney and the GOP are its major beneficiaries.

And the losers aren’t just Democrats. They’re the American people.

You need to make a ruckus. Don’t fall into the seductive trap of cynicism. That’s what the sellers of American democracy are counting on. If you give up on our system of government, they win everything.

This coming Monday, for example, the Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on the DISCLOSE ACT, which would at least require that outfits like the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s “Crossroads GPS” disclose who’s contributing what. Contact your senators, and have your friends and relatives in other states — especially those with Republican senators (who have been united in their opposition to disclosure) — contact theirs. If the DISCLOSE ACT is voted down, hold accountable those senators (and, when and if it gets to the House, those House members) who are selling out our democracy for the sake of their own personal ambitions.


By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, July 13, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Democracy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Unraveling”: Republican Drooling, Stupid, Transparent, Self Conscious Lying

One of the habits of political spinmeisters that I dislike the most is the tendency to claim that close contests are invariably about to break wide open into a complete debacle, a historic humiliation, a defeat of biblical proportions for their opponent. I don’t know what this sort of stupid, transparent, self-conscious lying is supposed to accomplish. Intimidation? Exciting “the base?” Discouraging the other “team’s” “base?” Working the refs? Beats me.

In any event, we’re getting a lot of this right now from the Romney campaign and its supporters. Here’s an item from The Hill:

A top Romney spokeswoman said the Obama campaign’s allegations that he misled the public over his tenure at Bain Capital are “reckless and wild,” and a sign that the president’s campaign is “unraveling.”

And here’s a post from Michael Walsh at The Corner:

The Obama campaign’s desperate “felony” charge against Mitt Romney ought to serve as a wake-up call for the Romney campaign and for the American public regarding the utter amorality of the president and his functionaries.

Neither of these excited people is offering any rationale for why the Obama campaign should be feeling “reckless and wild” or “desperate,” or should be “unraveling.” Well, actually, the Romney staffer in the Hill story, Gail Gitcho, offered this drooling bit of spin that wouldn’t fool a first grader:

[T]his attack from yesterday has frankly just jumped the shark and it shows that the Obama campaign, they are scared to death of having to run on their own record because they haven’t been able to create jobs and they have no plans in the future to be able to fix the economy, and that’s what the American people care about.”

That, BTW, is an excellent example of another spinmestier habit I absolutely hate, which is making generalizations about what “the American people” think or want.

But anyway, why would anyone actually think the Obama campaign is in extremis right now? Every time I turn around there’s another article about the incredible stability of the polls of this contest, and their utter imperviousness to the events of the campaign. The electorate is so polarized that Obama couldn’t drop to more than a few points behind Romney even if he suddenly came out and said his favorite writer was Frantz Fanon. The actual outcome is likely going to depend on GOTV efforts that aren’t even underway yet. So what, pray tell, is the point of the constant claims that Obama’s panicking or is going to lose as badly as Mondale or has been “rejected by the American people?” Will this change a single vote? I can’t imagine why.

What “the American people” really need are spinmeisters who are a little less shameless.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 13, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Want To See Big Government”: The Insanity Of The Socialism Talk

Kevin Drum notes today that all the overheated Republican rhetoric about the president’s tax proposal, suggesting capitalism is on the very edge of disappearing, is a bout of hysteria over a relatively small amount of money for the wealthy:

I just want everyone to be absolutely clear on what this “narrative of aggrievement” is all about. It’s about Obama’s proposal that the marginal tax rate on income over $400,000 should rise from 35% to 39.6%.

That’s your aggrievement. That’s your entitlement. That’s your socialism. That’s your class warfare. An increase in the top marginal tax rate of 4.6 percentage points.

Four. Point. Six.

This is what America’s most prosperous citizens are up in arms about. This is why Barack Obama is an enemy of capitalism. These are the spiteful shackles he proposes to use to subjugate America’s engines of job creation. It’s the reason America’s wealthiest citizens are so frightened about the future of their country.

4.6 percentage points. Just let that sink in.

Add in the fact that Obama is simply trying to restore the top tax rate under which the most rapid accumulation of private wealth in human history–in the late 1990s–occurred, and the insanity of the “socialism” talk becomes especially apparent.

Look, folks, I’m not that old, and I can remember the time a Republican president unilaterally created a policy that was vastly more disruptive of the private-sector economy than anything Barack Obama has even dreamed of: Richard Nixon’s imposition of wage and price controls in 1971. Top tax rates were much higher then, too. Somehow or other, liberty survived.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 13, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Big Government, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Trial Baloon Leak”: Social Conservatives Won’t Let Romney Pick Condi, Christie or Daniels

The Romney campaign played the media for a bunch of saps last week. After The Boston Globe revealed that Romney had continued to work for Bain Capital for several years longer than he claimed, they wanted to change the conversation. Talking about how he may have lied to either the Federal Election Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission about his time with Bain is not what he wanted to do.

So on Thursday his campaign leaked to the Drudge Report that former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was at the top of his vice-presidential shortlist. The national media started chattering about this ostentatiously false claim. The Beltway media has apparently never met any actual Republicans. Beltway Republicans, of course, are fiscal and social conservatives but, being educated people, they are much less likely to oppose abortion rights and gay rights, and even less likely still to care deeply about the issues than are average Republican voters. Being apparently too lazy to do any reporting on whether the Republican Party could conceivably nominate a pro-choice woman to be Vice-President, or to just read Game Change which reports that John McCain and his staffers did not mind at all that Joe Lieberman is pro-choice but ultimately accepted that they could not pick as running mate because the Republican National Convention would be in revolt, they took this preposterous notion about Rice seriously. As Media Matters noted, ABC, NBC and The Wall Street Journal reported the Rice rumor as if it were a serious possibility.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl noted that Drudge “has been accurate on Romney before.” Well, how is Drudge’s accuracy on previous vice-presidential selections? Not too good, as The American Spectator’s Jonathan Tabin points out: “Four years ago, Matt Drudge reported that Barack Obama was likely to select Evan Bayh as his running mate. Eight years ago, Drudge reported that John Kerry was likely to select Hillary Clinton as his running mate. Twelve years ago, Drudge reported that George W. Bush’s likely pick was Frank Keating.”

Romney has pledged to select a reliable conservative on social issues, and his campaign has privately reassured conservative pundits that this is the rare promise he will actually keep. Erick Erickson. “We’ve gotten assurance that he’ll stick to his pledge,” says Bryan Fischer, director of issue advocacy for the American Family Association. Erick Erickson, editor of the blog Red State, tweeted on the very night of Drudge’s report, “Multiple assurances from Team Romney tonight that Condi is not happening for Veep.”

“I’m guessing the Romney campaign leaked it as a trial balloon to see how social conservatives react,” Fischer speculates.

They reacted with horror. The word “non-starter” comes up repeatedly. “She’s a non-starter because she’s pro-abortion and soft on homosexual unions,” says Fischer.

“The former Secretary of State would be a non-starter choice mainly because she doesn’t fit the criteria that Governor Romney set for his VP pick,” wrote Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a statement. “During the primaries, Romney made very clear that his vice president would be pro-life, pro-marriage and a strong defender of religious liberty – and while Ms. Rice is many things, her record shows those three she is not. When you look at the Republican Party, there is no doubt that the pro-life position is a non-negotiable.”

Richard Viguerie, one of the founders of the Moral Majority, picking Rice would be a “slap in the face” to conservatives.

Romney has even less room to maneuver on social issues when choosing a running mate than McCain did. Besides being a Mormon, Romney supported gay rights and abortion rights when he ran for office in Massachusetts. Evangelicals remained skeptical of him throughout the primaries. As long as the race was competitive, Romney was virtually guaranteed to lose the Evangelical vote in each state to Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum.

Social conservative leaders also emphasize that they want to see the ticket balanced by adding a vociferous social conservative to balance Romney’s squishiness. “Romney needs an unapologetic and unwavering defender of the right to life and traditional marriage,” says Fischer. “He cannot afford a pro-abortion running mate. That’s suicidal. Social conservatives have enough doubts about him. He needs a running mate who strengthens his social conservatives.”

“Mitt Romney needs someone who undergirds the social policy positions that he has taken since he was governor of Massachusetts,” wrote Perkins. “He needs someone who has an impeccable pro-life record, not just someone who checks the ‘pro-life box.’ There are a number of better qualified individuals out there who have led on the life issues and would not deflate enthusiasm from his base.”

Which other rumored running mates would be considered too passive on social issues by the religious right? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. “Christie is just not strong on the homosexual agenda,” says Fischer. “Mitch Daniels would be a disaster because he’s the guy who called for ‘a truce’ on social issues. If you call for a truce and the other side doesn’t, that’s not a truce, that’s surrender.”

Among the names that top social conservatives privately toss around? Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Allen West (R-FL). Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist pastor who now hosts a weekend talk show on Fox News and a new radio program, is also frequently mentioned. But, according to Huckabee, he is not being vetted. “There’s no indication whatsoever that I’m even on the list of consideration,” says Huckabee. “I assume I’m not. I think if I had been, there would have been some inquiry at this point, there hasn’t been.”

Regarding Rice, Huckabee shares the concerns voiced by other conservatives. “I have great admiration for Condoleeza Rice, and I think she served her country well,” says Hucakbee. (Huckabee is always more diplomatic towards those he disagrees with than most conservative leaders.) “I do think her selection would be problematic for a number of conservatives. Governor Romney made it clear his vice-presidential selection would be a pro-life person. [Rice’s] comments in the past would make it very very difficult for people like me to be supportive. [I could be] supportive of her maybe as Secretary of State or ambassador to any place, but not vice president.” Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention expressed a similar sentiment to CNN, saying, “I love Condi Rice, I’d love to see her in any role in Romney administration except vice president.”

Huckabee also issues a stern warning to Romney about the risk he would entail in picking someone who is not sufficiently conservative on social issues, although he avoids naming other names. “I think [Romney] is going to make his own decision and calculate the risk of picking someone who may cause the base of the party, which really is those social conservatives, to just not be that enthusiastic,” says Huckabee.

“What he can not risk, in my opinion, is anything less than high intensity. He needs someone who will rally those voters, not chill them. They’re highly motivated to replace Barack Obama. But I think it’s a great mistake to believe they’re automatically going to be as enthusiastic about knocking on doors and working phone banks if he were to place somebody in the position who wasn’t a stalwart leader and has all the credentials to give some comfort that those issues are not going to be set aside.”

Huckabee also suggested that a disappointing vice-presidential selection would signal to social conservatives that they will just be ignored after Romney has used them to win the election. “Conservatives have been burned way too many times,” says Huckabee. “Social conservatives get used every four years, trotted out at the rallies to stand there for five hours, scream and yell for the candidate, knock on doors, make the phone calls, carry signs. When the election is over, they’re promptly forgotten, put up in the attic and asked not to come out in public again for another four years. I think a lot of people have grown tired of that, so hopefully that’s not going to be the case this year.”


By: Ben Adler, The Nation, July 15, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Convoluted Excuse”: Romney Campaign Revives Misleading Claim About Kerry’s Tax Returns

When the it comes to the contentious topic of Mitt Romney’s tax returns, the Romney campaign has invoked precedent, defending their decision to release just two years worth of returns as the standard set by the campaigns of John McCain and John Kerry. The Romney campaign renewed this argument on Sunday.

In fact. Sen. Kerry (D-MA) had released 20 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 2004.

On Sunday, Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie promised that Romney would release a total of two years worth of tax returns, following in the footsteps of McCain and Kerry.

“He is going to release them, Candy, we’ve made that clear,” Gillespie said to host Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And that’s the standard that Senator McCain, Republican nominee in the last election said was the relevant standard. It’s the standard that Senator John Kerry as the Democratic nominee said was the standard.”

In April, Romney himself held up Kerry as an example, telling CNBC that “John Kerry released two years of taxes.”

During the Republican primary, Romney released his 2010 tax returns and an estimate of his 2011 returns. Though Gillespie’s language was somewhat vague on Sunday, he seemed to be referring to fact that Romney would release his 2011 returns, bringing Romney’s total to two years of returns.

While McCain did release two years of returns, Kerry released more. As the Huffington Post and ThinkProgress previously reported, Kerry made it a habit to release his returns to the Massachusetts press during each of his Senate campaigns. The reason Kerry only released a few years worth of returns in 2004 is because his past returns had already been released.

Kerry spokesperson Jodi Seth chastised the Romney campaign for the false allegation.

“Months ago, the Romney team began making this false and convoluted excuse — the media investigated it and promptly reminded them that as a presidential candidate John Kerry had released twenty years of tax returns,” Seth said in a statement to TPM. “Still, months later they’re falling back on this same disproven excuse. In fact, if the Romney standard was the same as the Kerry standard for disclosure, the media would have the chance to review twenty years of Romney tax returns. Ed Gillespie should know better.”


By: Pema Levy, Talking Points Memo, July 15, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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