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“Being Rich In America Is Tough”: The Continuing Agonies Of The Super-Rich

As we well know by now, being rich in America is tough. Imagine driving your Porsche out the Goldman Sachs garage, intent on a relaxing weekend at your Hamptons retreat, only to find some wretched Occupy sympathizer giving you a dirty look through the haze of patchouli and resentment that surrounds him. Who could endure it? No wonder they keep comparing their fearful existence to that of the Jews of late-1930s Germany.

But now, according to the Washington Examiner, America’s plutocrats have a new worry:

Democratic super PACs have outraised their Republican counterparts by millions, a factor attributed in part to GOP donors’ fear of being targeted by the Internal Revenue Service—or “getting Koch’ed.”

Republican political operatives concede that there are multiple reasons for the Democrats’ advantage in super PAC money raised.

Among them: Labor unions have become among their largest and most consistent donors. But this election cycle, two new challenges have chilled GOP super PACs’ effort to raise cash from wealthy individuals and corporate donors: anxiety that they could get slapped with an IRS audit and unease that donating could lead to public demonization.

Not to let facts intrude on their paranoid fantasies, but let’s not forget what the IRS scandalette actually involved. There’s never been any credible allegation that anyone was audited because of their political beliefs. There’s never been any allegation that the IRS “targeted” donors to Republican super PACs. The worst thing that happened was that some Tea Party groups that had applied for 501(c)(4) status—claiming, utterly falsely, that they were charitable, non-political organizations, I might add—had to wait longer than they should have to get approval on their applications. (And, I have to repeat, when you’re waiting for your approval, you’re permitted under the law to act as though you’ve gotten your approval. You can raise and spend money, which they did.)

On the second point, I suppose one might be concerned that Harry Reid would go to the Senate floor and denounce you for undermining our democracy with your donations, even if those donations are perfectly legal. But in order for that to happen, you’re really going to have to get into the first rank of donors. A couple hundred thousand dollars isn’t going to do it; in order to be “demonized,” your contributions are going to have to reach at least eight figures.

Nevertheless, I’m sure it’s unpleasant for the Kochs to get criticized by politicians. But being criticized—even vigorously, and even sometimes unfairly—is the price you pay for certain choices you make. If you decide to do anything that puts your efforts in front of the public—running for office, becoming an actor, or being a writer, among other things—people who don’t like that work are going to tell you so. They may even say rude things, like “You’re an idiot” or “You suck,” or whatever other insults their limited creativity can produce. People track me down to tell me things like that all the time. It certainly isn’t fun to hear, but since I’ve chosen a profession where my work is public, it’s just part of the deal.

Spending large amounts of money on politics is both a right and a privilege. Some rights, like the right to practice your religion, are available to everyone. The right to spend significant political money is technically available to everyone, but in practice is only open to those who have large amounts of money to spend. In the same way, Lebron James and I are both free to dunk basketballs, but because the cruel genetic lottery left me a couple of ticks under six feet, I can’t actually exercise that freedom.

Obviously, the IRS shouldn’t audit anyone because of their political beliefs, and fortunately, we have no reason to think it does. Part of me suspects that a lot of conservative donors are using the fear of “demonization” and audits as an excuse to brush off requests for contributions, since once you become a big donor, you’re going to get besieged by candidates and organizations asking you for money. But if super-rich conservatives are sincerely afraid of the fallout from giving, they have two choices: they can make contributions that don’t put them quite on par with the Kochs, and thereby be ignored, or they can just decide to suffer the slings and arrows bravely in the cause of liberty. It’s up to them.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 16, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Plutocrats | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unnecessary Deportations”: Ted Cruz’s New ‘Top Priority’

The humanitarian crisis at the border has clearly riled the political landscape in ways that are still unfolding, but which have changed the calculus of the immigration debate. Most notably, Democrats who were united behind a comprehensive solution, unified against Republican intransigence, are now splintered on how best to deal with these migrant children.

GOP officials would like nothing more than to keep Democrats off-balance and arguing among themselves, though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) might have missed the memo.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to take a hard-line stand that could rile up conservatives just as lawmakers – including two from his home state – are struggling to address the growing humanitarian crisis along the southern border.

The conservative firebrand believes that any bill to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border must also include language to stop a 2012 immigration directive from President Barack Obama – a proposal unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The senator’s spokesperson told Politico that ending the White House’ deferred action plan is now Cruz’s “top priority.”

There are two broad angles to this: the policy and the politics. Cruz, true to form, is managing to screw up both.

Substantively, the far-right Texan, who’ll presumably find some allies in his new crusade, is pushing for unnecessary deportations for no particular reason. Remember, at issue here are two very different groups of young immigrants: one is the recent influx of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America; the other is the group of undocumented youths known as Dream Act kids – or “Dreamers” – who’ve been living, working, and studying in the United States for most of their lives.

This latter group is protected against deportation by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, unveiled two years ago. Cruz’s “top priority” is to identify these young people, for whom the United States is the only country they’ve ever known, and kick them out of the country. Indeed, the Texas Republican is saying any solution to the humanitarian crisis involving the migrant children must undo the DACA policy.

For the far-right, DACA is to blame for the recent influx, which makes mass deportations necessary. Reality paints a very different picture.

As for the politics, Cruz’s new “top priority” does Democrats a favor: it gives Dems something to rally against, while reminding the public that many Republicans are pushing an aggressive and unpopular anti-immigrant campaign.

If the American mainstream opposed the Dream Act, this might be a smarter move, but all available evidence suggests the exact opposite: the Dream Act has traditionally been a bipartisan policy, and there’s no public appetite to kick these young people out.

If Democrats are really lucky, Cruz will rally the right to his cause.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Deportation, Humanitarian Crisis, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Are We, Anyway?”: A Moral Issue Of How We Choose To Define Ourselves As A Country

Something extraordinary is happening at our southern border. Thousands of children, most unaccompanied by adult relatives, are crossing from Mexico and immediately turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. They come principally from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

What must be going on in those countries that impels their most precious legacy, their children, to make such a journey? What are we, as a nation, going to do about it?

Reports from Central America center on two issues: poverty and gang violence. Poverty in that region is not new, nor has it ever been the stimulus for a mass migration of children. Gang violence has increased, driven in part by the trade in illegal drugs and perhaps by some success in Mexico in confronting drug gangs.

The more important question is what we’re going to do about it? Texas Governor Perry advocates a military response, perhaps by the National Guard. What exactly does he anticipate that the National Guard would do? Are they supposed to shoot at children as they cross a bridge or a river? Doesn’t sound right to me.

The Administration’s response to the problem is financial and legal. Appropriate 3.7 billion dollars to house these children until their cases can be heard by a (hopefully more efficient) adjudication process to determine whether each child is legitimately a refugee. But there aren’t lawyers to represent most of these children, so the legal process is likely to be a farce.

Some in Congress want to change the applicable laws to make it easier to expel these children without a legal process. I suppose such a course might relieve the government of some costs, but does such a policy square with our values?

The arrival of large numbers of children on our doorstep is not a physical menace to us. Nor is it an unsustainable financial burden. It is not a legal or bureaucratic matter either. Instead, it is a moral issue of how we choose to define ourselves as a country.

We need to move these children out of mass holding pens and into homes of people who will care for them and raise them. Then we can let the legal process grind away.


By: Joseph B. Kadane, Leonard J. Savage University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Carnegie Mellon University; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Immigration Reform, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Calling It What It Is”: Holder Sees Racism In Obama Opposition — He’s Right

Right-wing pundits are jumping all over Attorney General Eric Holder for daring to suggest on Sunday that “racial animus” plays a role in the “level of vehemence” that’s been directed at President Obama. They’re denouncing him for “playing the race card” and “stoking racial divisions.”

Who do they think they’re fooling?

The rhetoric is what’s hateful. Calling people out for it is not.

The racism Holder described has been obvious since the 2008 campaign, when Obama was portrayed as someone who was not a “real American” — a Muslim, a Kenyan, a communist, even a terrorist sympathizer.

Since then, an entire movement has been built around the thoroughly discredited notion that the president’s birth certificate is a fake. And that’s just the beginning.

Newt Gingrich has called Obama the “food stamp president” and referred to his “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”

Rush Limbaugh has said Obama — and Oprah Winfrey, too, by the way — have reached the pinnacle of their professions only because they’re black. He added this week that “so-called conservative media types” praised Holder’s nomination only because he’s black.

Glenn Beck has said the president, whose mother was white, has a “deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.”

Conservative hero and former rock star Ted Nugent, who was invited to campaign with the GOP nominee for Texas governor, called the president a “subhuman mongrel.”

A Confederate flag was waved in front of the White House during last year’s “Million Vet March.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed “You lie!” during the president’s address to Congress in September 2009. When has that happened to a president before?

All manner of overtly racist posters have been seen at tea party rallies, including one depicting the president as a “witch doctor.”

We’ve repeatedly seen stories about conservative politicians sharing racist jokes about Obama.

And, we’ve seen an explosive growth of radical-right groups, including armed militias, since Obama was elected, and repeated threats that violence is needed to “take our country back” from the “tyranny” of Obama. This is part of a backlash to the growing diversity in our country, as symbolized by the presence of a black man in the White House.

I grew up in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow years and lived through the civil rights movement, when white supremacists did everything they could, including committing violent atrocities, to turn back the tide of progress. And I’ve stared across the courtroom at some of America’s most vicious hatemongers — men like neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Cross, who recently killed three people and once targeted me. I know racism when I see it.

No one, of course, is suggesting that merely disagreeing with Obama is evidence of racism. That’s clearly not true.

But we have a political party and a right-wing media machine that pander incessantly to the racist reactionaries in our society, often through code words. It’s been going on since Nixon implemented his “Southern strategy” of appealing to white resentment in the wake of the civil rights movement.

I wish it weren’t so. But it is simply undeniable. We should call it what it is.


By: Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Eric Holder, Racism, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Extreme To Extreme-Lite?”: “Religious Liberty” Campaign Not Working Out That Well

In the wake of a predictable GOP filibuster of a Senate bill seeking to reverse the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, Republicans are publicly complaining that Democrats are trying to “change the subject” from this or that issue (real or imaginary) they want to talk about, but are privately conceding the peril for their team of any extended conversation involving reproductive rights. At National Journal Sophie Novack reports they’d just as soon not go there:

Republican strategists who were around for [Todd] Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment in 2012 warn candidates to tread carefully on the issue. The GOP’s continued meetings on how to connect with women show the party is still haunted by his loss, and members have denounced his return to the political scene with the release of his new book.

“The fact that the Supreme Court made the decision—Republicans should let that stand and not engage in the debate. It will get them nowhere and take them off the message of real issue Americans are concerned about,” said Ron Bonjean, a GOP strategist and former spokesman for House and Senate leadership. “I think Republicans saw what happened with Todd Akin—it was a stupid and bad campaign strategy. It would be political malpractice for Republicans to engage with that kind of conversation.”

This is another way of admitting that the effort begun in 2012 to reframe the GOP’s extremist position on reproductive rights as a defense of “religious liberty” hasn’t worked as well as party strategists had hoped. Indeed, by shifting the focus from abortion to “abortifacient” birth control, the “religious liberty”-driven attack on Obamacare’s contraception coverage mandate has actually increased opportunities for Republican pols to say things that sound stupid or crazy to a big percentage of the population.

Was Akin’s disastrous “legitimate rape” commentary really any farther from the mainstream than talk about IUDs being little Holocaust machines? Is there really any way to frame the unchanging extremist position on abortion (life begins when ovum fertilized; ban all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest) most Republicans embrace in a way that doesn’t hurt the party with swing voters generally and single women in particular? I don’t think so. But I also think “don’t talk about it” demands like Bonjean’s will infuriate the antichoice activists who set the GOP’s position in the first place and convince them to demand even more demonstrations of loyalty.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Religious Liberty, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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