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“Duck And Cover”: To GOP Swiftboaters, “Democratic Socialism” Is A Politically Correct Term For ‘Handouts’ In The ‘Hood’

Do the folks who are concerned that Bernie Sanders would be swiftboated in a general election have a point?

Just as it is an article of faith among Sanders supporters that Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton is a “corporatist” who will stab progressives in the front if she becomes the 45th president, so too is it received wisdom among Clinton supporters that Sanders would be snapped in half by right-wing media/political operatives if he pulls off a political miracle and upsets Clinton for the Democratic nomination; the usual argument is that right-wing media/political operatives would exploit Sanders’s self-classification as a “democratic socialist” to run roughshod over him on November 8.

Yes, it’s true that right-wing media/political operatives labeled Obama a socialist in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, and the attack failed. However, it’s also true that Obama never labeled himself a socialist, democratic or otherwise.

Would Sanders really be a sitting duck in the fall? Sanders supporters point to polls showing that the Vermonter would be a stronger general-election candidate. However, Clinton supporters would obviously point out that Michael Dukakis was 17 points ahead of George H. W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election before right-wing media/political operatives unsheathed their machetes.

It is not irrational to be concerned that right-wing media/political operatives will exploit Sanders’s difficulties with black voters in a general election, promoting the idea that a Sanders administration will try to curry favor with African-Americans by lavishing largesse upon communities of color at the expense of working-class whites (especially the ones who have gravitated to Donald Trump). Right-wing media/political operatives (with Fox leading the charge, of course) will not hesitate to push the notion that “democratic socialism” is a politically correct term for “handouts in the ‘hood”; one cannot blithely dismiss the idea that a certain percentage of the voters who now say they would support Sanders over a Republican rival in a general election would be successfully seduced by relentless right-wing racial rhetoric in the weeks prior to Election Day.

Right-wing media attacks would not be Sanders’s only problem in a general election. It’s quite likely that mainstream-media outlets will also paint Sanders in the most negative light possible, in retaliation for Sanders’s extensive criticism of corporate-owned media entities. Presumably, the “corporate media” organizations the Vermonter has denounced would not be thrilled with the prospect of a President Sanders spending four to eight years condemning them daily from the bully pulpit of the White House, and encouraging Americans to stop reading and watching publications and programs connected to conglomerates. It’s entirely possible that mainstream-media outlets will be every bit as harsh as the conservative media will be towards Sanders, albeit for different reasons. You can imagine the perspective of the “corporate media” in this respect: Hey, Sanders isn’t being fair towards us; why the heck should we be fair towards him?

Does Team Sanders have a plan in place for dealing with tag-team trashing from conservative media and mainstream media in the event Sanders does the impossible and defeats Clinton for the Democratic nomination? If not, then the general-election savaging of Sanders will be remembered as the political equivalent of the chainsaw scene in Scarface.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 16, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialists, General Election 2016, Right Wing Media | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Republicans To Wealthy; We Just Can’t Quit You”: Giving Equal Benefits To Everyone Would Be Ridiculous

Any marginally aware citizen is familiar with what I like to call the Four Pillars of Conservatism: low taxes, small government, strong defense, and traditional values. The simplicity and clarity of these ideas allows any Republican anywhere to move into politics with a ready-made ideological program, and as long as they stay abstract, it’s reasonably popular. It’s only when you start to get into specifics that the agenda becomes problematic.

The trick is that if you’re proposing something unpopular, to speak about it in the most abstract terms possible. “Low taxes” sounds great, because who wouldn’t like to pay less in taxes? The trouble is that what Republicans actually want is to cut taxes for the wealthy. They’re perfectly happy to cut taxes for other people if the opportunity presents itself, but the value of tax cuts for the wealthy is an absolutely foundational belief.

They know, however, that most Americans don’t agree. So when they talk about taxes, they’re supposed to be circumspect and careful, answering questions about tax cuts for the wealthy by saying that tax cuts in general are good for everybody. Which is why it’s so surprising when one of them is candid, as House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady was in an interview with John Harwood published today.

Brady, who is in charge of tax policy, just comes out and says that Republicans won’t accept any tax reform that doesn’t include reducing the top income tax rate. All that talk of making the tax code simpler is all well and good, but there’s one thing they will absolutely not compromise on, and that’s the top rate, which is currently paid by those making over $415,000 a year:

HARWOOD: Could you envision a tax reform that you could go along with that had many elements that you liked that did not decrease the top rate?

BRADY: That’d be difficult to accept, because I think that holds back investment, both by businesses, small businesses, and by families.

HARWOOD: Because there are some conservatives who are arguing that in the environment that we’re in now, that conservative tax reformers ought to focus on things other than the top rate.

BRADY: I’d have to disagree, and here’s why. Besides businesses investing, when individuals, after they make that dollar, they have three choices. They can spend it, they can save it, which is good as well, but they can reinvest it back in the economy. And earners, not just high earners, all along the scale do that. I want to encourage families and environments to do more of that. And so on that side of the ledger, let’s look at those pro-growth packages.

There’s a rationale here, which is that when you give rich people more money, they’re more likely to invest it, which helps grow the economy over the long run. But conservatives sell this idea not as a long-term way to sustain investment, but as a short-term strategy to bring prosperity to all. This year, every Republican running for president essentially pledged to bring back George W. Bush’s economic policies. There were differences in the details of their plans, but all of them centered on large tax cuts for the wealthy, and all promised that the effects would be spectacular.

But here on Planet Earth, there is zero real-world evidence that large tax cuts for the wealthy super-charge the economy. If it were true, then Bush would have been the most economically successful president in American history. But he was actually one of the worst, and when it comes to job creation, the last two presidents who raised taxes on the wealthy — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — were among the best. The economy created 22 million jobs while Clinton was president, and Obama is on pace to see around 16 million new jobs created since the trough of the Great Recession in his first months in office (I discussed this at length here — with charts!).

Meanwhile, media coverage continues to suggest that Paul Ryan represents some kind of sober alternative to the presidential candidates. But he has long advocated slashing the top rate from its current 39.6 percent down to 25 percent, which would represent an enormous giveaway to the wealthy (he says it’ll be paid for by “cutting loopholes,” which are never specified). Just a month ago, Ryan was asked whether he might consider a plan that’s “distributionally neutral,” in other words, one that gives equal benefits to every income group. Here’s what Ryan said:

So I do not like the idea of buying into these distributional tables. What you’re talking about is what we call static distribution. It’s a ridiculous notion. What it presumes is life in the economy is some fixed pie, and it’s not going to change. And it’s really up to government to redistribute the slices more equitably. That is not how the world works. That’s not how life works. You can shrink or expand the economy, and what we want to maximize is economic growth and upward mobility so that everybody can get a bigger slice of the pie.

To translate: Giving equal benefits to everyone would be ridiculous. The only way to expand the economy for all is to shower benefits on the rich. But most people don’t quite understand what Ryan is talking about; all they hear is that he wants more pie for everybody. That’s how you’re supposed to talk about taxes.

And this is the key thing to understand: no matter which Republican ends up being the presidential nominee, cutting taxes for the wealthy will be at the absolute top of the agenda. Even Donald Trump, who has been happy to buck Republican orthodoxy on a variety of issues, issued a tax plan the greatest benefits of which went to the wealthy — just like every other candidate.

In this election, just like in every other election, Democrats will charge that Republicans only want to help the rich. It’s an effective attack, mostly because it’s true. Or to be more generous, Republicans want to help everyone, it’s just that they really want to help the rich, and they see helping the rich as the best way to help everyone else. But it’s possible that the Democratic attack could be particularly potent this year in winning over independents and even a few Republicans. The Republican Party has spent the last year in a brutal argument about their own perfidious elites, who supposedly look with scorn on the masses in their party. And after all that, the centerpiece of their economic plans for the future is still cutting taxes at the top.

When a party advocates something that politically dangerous, it isn’t because they’re stupid. It’s because they believe in it, down the marrow of their bones.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 12, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Kevin Brady, Tax Cuts for The Wealthy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Elephant In The Room”: Southern States Do Not Distort The Primary

At the end of last night’s Democratic debate, Dana Bash asked Sanders whether he will take the contest to the convention in Philadelphia if neither candidate clinches the nomination via pledged delegates. Sanders responded by saying that he plans to win the nomination outright. But then he injected something that both he and his campaign staff have said frequently.

Look, let me acknowledge what is absolutely true. Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South. No question about it. We got murdered there. That is the most conservative part of this great country. That’s the fact.

For the last several weeks, this is a contention the Sanders campaign has made in various forms. Most recently, the candidate told Larry Wilmore that having the Southern states vote early in the primary “distorts reality.” If we combine that statement with what he said last night, the argument becomes: having Southern states vote early in the primary distorts reality because it is the most conservative part of the country. Of course, if that were true, it would hurt Sanders as the candidate who consistently lays claim to being the more progressive of the two.

I would propose that the Mountain West (where Sanders has notched up big wins lately) could challenge the claim that the Deep South is the most conservative part of the country. An analysis by The Hill on the five most conservative states turns up a mix of these two regions, giving us: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Mississippi. Were the primaries in Alaska, and Idaho distorted by their conservatism? The other question this assertion raises is: do more conservative Republicans in a state mean that Democratic primaries there are “distorted?”

Ultimately, the elephant in the room about this claim is that the difference between conservative Mountain and Southern states is that the Democratic electorate in the latter is made up largely of people of color – with whom Sanders performs poorly. Do people of color distort reality because they are more conservative?

It is very possible that the answer to that question is “yes.” The truth is…we don’t have a lot of data on that. But I would suggest that anyone who asserts that argument is assuming that a political continuum from conservative to liberal is, by default, based on how white people would construct it. For example, I would imagine that liberals in the Mountain West states would prioritize things like repealing Citizens United and challenging Wall Street, whereas African Americans in the South would prioritize voting rights, ending systemic racism and programs to lift people out of poverty. How progressive one is would be measured by their record and platform on those issues.

The whole dismissal of the South by some Democrats is also very short-sighted. Not only are Hispanics becoming a key voting bloc in many of those states, it ignores the fact that the great migration of African Americans out of that area during the Jim Crow days is now being reversed.

The quiet return of African-American retirees and young professionals has the potential to reshape the South again over the next few decades, much as the exodus to northern cities reshaped it in the 20th century.

Years ago I was taught a lesson in the different ways that white and black liberals view the South. After having been raised primarily in Texas, I decided to settle in Minnesota. That decision was influenced by a desire to escape the racism that was so blatant in the South. I was shocked and confused when my African American friends up here talked about longing to return to the South. They patiently explained two things to me. First of all, the South is “home.” It’s where their people are. And they long to return to that sense of community. Secondly, many of them actually prefer to deal with the outright racism of the South rather than the subtle form they experience from so-called friends and allies in the North.

The fact that Bernie Sanders insinuates that Democratic voters in the South are more conservative and distort the primary process indicates that he hasn’t spent much time hearing from or thinking about the perspective of African Americans in that part of the country. That is probably true for a lot of Northern liberals. But if he’s looking for an answer to the question about why he is not winning their support, this is part of the reason.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 15, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Deep South, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Real Welfare Cheats”: The Big Problem Of Welfare Dependency In America Now Involves Entitled Corporations

We often hear how damaging welfare dependency is, stifling initiative and corroding the human soul. So I worry about the way we coddle executives in their suites.

A study to be released Thursday says that for each dollar America’s 50 biggest companies paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2014, they received $27 back in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.

Goodness! What will that do to their character? Won’t that sap their initiative?

The study was compiled by Oxfam and it comes on top of a mountain of evidence from international agencies and economic journals underscoring the degree to which major companies have rigged the tax code.

O.K., O.K., I know you see the words “tax code” and your eyes desperately scan for something else to read! Anything about a sex scandal?

But hold on: The tax system is rigged against us precisely because taxation is the Least Sexy Topic on Earth. So we doze, and our pockets get picked.

John Oliver has a point when he says, “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” The beneficiaries of tax distortions are counting on you to fall asleep, but this is a topic as important as it is dry.

It’s because the issues seem arcane that corporate lobbyists get away with murder. The Oxfam report says that each $1 the biggest companies spent on lobbying was associated with $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.

And why would a humanitarian nonprofit like Oxfam spend its time poring over offshore accounts and tax dodges? “The global economic system is becoming increasingly rigged” in ways that exacerbate inequality, laments Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

One academic study found that tax dodging by major corporations costs the U.S. Treasury up to $111 billion a year. By my math, less than one-fifth of that annually would be more than enough to pay the additional costs of full-day prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds in America ($15 billion), prevent lead poisoning in tens of thousands of children ($2 billion), provide books and parent coaching for at-risk kids across the country ($1 billion) and end family homelessness ($2 billion).

The Panama Papers should be a wake-up call, shining a light on dysfunctional tax codes around the world — but much of the problem has been staring us in the face. Among the 500 corporations in the S.&P. 500-stock index, 27 were both profitable in 2015 and paid no net income tax globally, according to an analysis by USA Today.

Those poor companies! Think how the character of those C.E.O.s must be corroding! And imagine the plunging morale as board members realize that they are “takers” not “makers.”

American companies game the system in many ways, including shifting profits to overseas tax havens. In 2012, American companies reported more profit in low-tax Bermuda than in Japan, China, Germany and France combined, even though their employees in Bermuda account for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of their worldwide totals.

Over all, the share of corporate taxation in federal revenue has declined since 1952 from 32 percent to 11 percent. In that same period, the portion coming from payroll taxes, which hit the working poor, has climbed.

Look, the period of the Oxfam study included the auto and banking bailouts, which were good for America (and the loans were repaid); it’s also true that the official 35 percent corporate tax rate in the U.S. is too high, encouraging dodging strategies. But we have created perverse incentives: C.E.O.s have a responsibility to shareholders to make money, and tax dodging accomplishes that. This isn’t individual crookedness but an entire political/economic system that induces companies to rip off fellow citizens quite legally.

It’s now widely recognized that corporations have manipulated the tax code. The U.S. Treasury, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and professional economic journals are all trying to respond to issues of tax evasion.

Bravo to the Obama administration for cracking down on corporations that try to move abroad to get out of taxes. Congress should now pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, and it should stop slashing the I.R.S. budget (by 17 percent in real terms over the last six years).

When congressional Republicans like Ted Cruz denounce the I.R.S., they empower corporate tax cheats. Because of I.R.S. cuts, the amount of time revenue agents spend auditing large companies has fallen by 34 percent since 2010. A Syracuse University analysis finds that the lost revenue from the decline in corporate audits may be as much as $15 billion a year — enough to make full-day pre-K universal.

Meanwhile, no need to fret so much about welfare abuse in the inner city. The big problem of welfare dependency in America now involves entitled corporations. So let’s help those moochers in business suits pick themselves up and stop sponging off the government.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Columnist, The New York Times, April 14, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Corporate Welfare, Tax Code, Tax Evasion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Despicable Goals”: ISIS And The Far-Right Have The Same Enemies’ List

ISIS and certain American conservatives have something in common: They both hate the same Muslim Americans. This became apparent Wednesday when the new issue of ISIS’s magazine, Dabiq, was released.  (I downloaded it on my home computer—which likely means hello no-fly list.)

In this issue of Dabiq, ISIS identifies Muslim Americans they believe should be targeted for death because they have become apostates per ISIS’s own made up version of Islam. Did any of these Muslims actually leave the faith? No, but ISIS claims that if a Muslim American is involved in American society, and especially in U.S. politics, he or she has become an apostate—even if that person is an imam who has dedicated his life to Islam.

Not that this matters to ISIS, but there’s no death penalty called for in the Quran for a person leaving the faith. But ISIS would never let the principles of Islam get in the way of its political goals.

And ISIS targeting Muslims for death is nothing new. As I have pointed out time and time again, ISIS’s mantra is submit to ISIS or die. They don’t care if you are the most devout Muslim in the world, they will kill you if you don’t do exactly what ISIS demands. That’s why experts note that 90 percent plus of the victims of ISIS are Muslims.

Now here’s the interesting part. Every person ISIS wants targeted, without exception, has already been targeted by American conservatives. Granted, not for death; things aren’t that bad yet. But they have been the targets of sustained political attacks. It appears that ISIS and many on the right in American politics both view the same Muslim Americans as a threat, but for different reasons.

ISIS has marked a diverse group of Muslim Americans for death, from white converts who are now leading imams to an African-American member of Congress to leaders of Muslim American organizations. These people are all very visible Muslim Americans who have also trashed ISIS countless times in the media. I will only list the names of the people targeted by ISIS if the person has agreed to my including their name or issued a public statement. (I don’t want to help ISIS terrorize people.) So here they are and here’s also a taste of the right-wing attacks waged against these very same people.

  1. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has been targeted for death by ISIS because as one of the two Muslims in Congress, he’s a visible role model for Muslims, inspiring them to become active in American politics and serve in our government.  Oddly enough, Ellison is also hated by the right for the same reason ISIS hates him, namely because he’s both very visible and effective. Just a few of the attacks include Former Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who claimed Ellison was part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Glenn Beck infamously questioned Ellison’s patriotism, demanding of Ellison on national television, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” And the bottom-feeding website Breitbart.com (Trump’s biggest cheerleader) has attacked Ellison numerous times, alleging that he has nefarious (but fabricated) ties to terrorism.

Ellison issued a defiant statement in response to ISIS’s threat that truly sums up how Muslims view this murderous cult. Referring to ISIS as Da’esh, Ellison called it “a collection of liars, murderers, torturers, and rapists. No Muslim I know recognizes what they preach as Al-Islam.” Ellison added that he was in essence proud that Da’esh targeted him because it “means I am fighting for things like justice, tolerance, and a more inclusive world.”

  1. Imam Suhaib Webb. ISIS has attacked him as being the “All-American imam” who connects with young Muslim Americans by using “thug life vocabulary and the latest pop culture references.” And they blast Imam Webb for publicly praising President Obama after he offered blessings on the Muslim Eid holiday. ISIS hates any Muslim leader who, like Webb, is encouraging American Muslims to become part of the fabric of our nation. The guys in ISIS are in “great” company because both Fox News and Breitbart.com have also attacked Webb, making unsubstantiated claims that the imam has a history of “ties to radicalism.” And many in the anti-Muslim circle of hate from Robert Spencer to Front Page.com have led a campaign to smear Webb as a radical linked to terrorism.

Webb responded in a phone conversation that ISIS targeting this group of visible Muslim Americans is proof that they are having an impact in both countering ISIS’s efforts to recruit Muslims and ISIS’s lies.  “No one can ever say again that Muslim Americans aren’t speaking out against ISIS after this because there’s now proof with these threats that we are and that it’s both effective and angering ISIS,” Webb explained.

  1. Mohamed Elibiary. ISIS claimed that Elibiary was an apostate because he had worked in the Department of Homeland Security. Well, guess who else has attacked Elibiary? Ted Cruz’s new national security adviser, Frank Gaffney, who claimed Elibiary was part of “The Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltration of the Obama administration.” And Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) waged a jihad on Elibiary while he worked in DHS, apparently at the urging of people like Pam Geller.

Elibiary’s response to ISIS via Twitter was also defiant, noting proudly that ISIS targeted him for his “service enforcing American laws 2 protect all Americans, Muslims included.”

  1. Nihad Awad. The executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Awad was pictured at the top of the article in the ISIS magazine in the crosshairs of a gun sight. ISIS wants him dead for his work in defending the civil rights of American Muslims to ensure they have the same rights as all other Americans and feel welcomed in America. (ISIS wants Muslim Americans to be alienated to make it easier to recruit them.) Yet, as most are likely aware, CAIR and Awad has long been attacked by people on the right, from GOP politicians like Ben Carson, who just a few months claimed CAIR is a “supporter of terrorism” to Fox News, to of course Cruz’s adviser Gaffney, who has smeared Awad as a “Hamas lover.”

Awad responded to being on ISIS’s hit list with a statement that read in part, “The best response to such threats is to continue challenging extremism, whether it is espoused by organizations like ISIS or by Islamophobes who seek to demonize Islam based on that group’s brutality. “

The big takeaway is that ISIS and the right in America have much in common on this subject. They both attack American Muslims who serve in our government and want to encourage other Muslims to do the same. They both ridicule those working to defend the rights of American Muslims to ensure that Muslims feel welcomed in our country. And they both fear that the more visible American Muslims become in contributing to our nation, the more it will undermine the vision they both share for how Islam should be defined.

Of course, there’s one big difference. ISIS wants these Muslims killed. The right in America only wants these Muslim Americans to be demonized, scorned, and marginalized.  Let’s hope that neither group will succeed in achieving their despicable goals.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah,  The Daily Beast, April 14, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Conservatives, ISIS, Keith Ellison | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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