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April, 2012:

Challenged by fellow Catholics, Ryan lies

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., darling of the pro-rich, pro-corporate radical right, has won the admiration of Republicans nationwide as a principled champion of the laissez-faire capitalism and Robinhood-in-reverse public policies they favor — not coincidentally, the policies that favor so many of them.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee Ryan has burnished his reputation as an unapologetic economic Darwinist with a budget plan that would destroy Medicare as we know it, drastically cut Medicaid and food programs for the poorest Americans, and do incalculable long-term damage to public education, K-college.

Ryan’s budget doubles down on the worst of Bush-era policies that can be succinctly described as rewarding the rich for being rich while punishing the rest for not being rich.

In an overdue but welcome development, some Catholics have called out Ryan for advancing policies that promote not the compassionate values exemplified in Christ’s life and teachings, but the greed-is-good, “we’re all in this apart” rot dispensed by author Ayn Rand. And, Ryan himself has lionized Rand in word and deed.

That is, until fellow Catholics called him out for preaching the false gospel of his beloved goddess of greed. When that happened, this Republican champion of “I got mine, you get yours, devil take the hindmost” took the coward’s way out: he lied.

Not that his lying will do him any good, as MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell points out with damning effect.


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Trying to base budgetary policy on idealized notions about selfishness being both a personal and public virtue is as unchristian as it is perverse. Idolizing a neurotic, morally bankrupt hag because she espoused and romanticized that kind of thing is sick.

But what should keep anyone of any political persuasion from affording Ryan even a shred of credibility or respect is how, when challenged by members of his faith, Ryan went weak in the knees and sought to lie his way out of a glaring conflict of moral interest.

Ryan either lacks the courage of his perverse convictions or he’s just one more dishonest political hero of the far right with feet of clay.

Wisconsin voters are busy taking out the trash this year. We hope for their sake and the nation’s that they will see to it Ryan’s regrettable career in Congress comes to an abrupt end.


Cantor’s small-business tax cut measure
just election-year theater of the absurd

capitol domeW ith a bill as inappropriate as a whoopee cushion in a funeral home waiting room, House Republicans sought this week to set up President Obama and congressional Democrats as being anti-small business.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., authored this election year stunt of a bill, which predictably passed yesterday, 235-73, thanks to the Pavlovian response of House Republicans when their masters speak.

Cantor’s bill would balloon the deficit $46 billion to give “small” businesses – 500 or fewer employees – a one-year 20 percent tax cut. However, in typical Republican fashion, Cantor tailored his measure so that much of the benefits would flow to very wealthy business people, not the couple running a dry cleaning shop, the guy with a two-chair barber shop or the woman who grooms pets for a living.

Cantor claims his handiwork will free up capital so businesses can expand and thus do more hiring.

No one with a clue about business and economics will be fooled by that nonsense. Businesses don’t hire for the sheer joy of handing out more paychecks. They bring in more people because they’re doing more business than the employees they have can handle efficiently. Nor does giving businesses a big tax break cause them to buy more materials and services from suppliers. They buy more when they need more to keep up with demand.

The inescapable fact is that Increased demand, not money in hand, is what spurs employers to hire more people. Those who say otherwise are ignorant of the facts or pursuing political ends in spite of the facts.

Which brings us back to Cantor. This bill of his is the latest in a long list of time-wasting nonsense legislation House Republicans have passed this year knowing full well the bills would die in the Senate or be vetoed by the president. The idea this time is to create something campaigning Republicans can hold up to mom-and-pop business owners, telling them that they could’ve had so much more money to work with if anti-business Democrats hadn’t stood in the way.

You can get an idea of what a load of garbage that is from what some number crunchers have to say about Cantor’s measure (emphasis ours).


The bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said the tax cut’s impact on the economy would be “so small as to be incalculable.” Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, commissioned Gary Robbins, who created Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan, to analyze the business tax cut, which Mr. Cantor drafted. The conclusion was that in the year it would exist, it would create 39,000 jobs, at a cost in tax revenue of $1.2 million per job.

Much of the debate was on Democratic grounds: Who benefits? The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that 49 percent of the $46 billion in tax breaks would go to households earning more than $1 million.


Earlier in the week, Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ attempt to legislate the Buffett Rule, which holds that multimillionaire CEO’s shouldn’t be subject to lower tax rates than their secretaries. The Democrats’ bill would’ve set a 30 percent minimum tax on households with $1 million or more in annual income. If passed, that measure would’ve yielded an additional $47 billion in sorely needed federal revenues.

Democrats are also pushing a bill that would provide businesses that hire additional workers a 10 percent tax credit and allow immediate deduction of new plant and equipment costs. It’s expected to come up for a vote next month.


House Democrats ahead in Q1 fund raising

We received an ecouraging e-mail a couple of days ago from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, writing for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: first-quarter fund raising broke records, holding out hope for Democrats to retake control of the House.

In all, House Democrats took in $22.1 million, which was about $3 million more than House Republicans raised — especially significant because, unfortunately, there are many more House Republicans than Democrats.

If you’ve compared the dreck, drivel and perverse nonsense House Republicans have perpetrated while in control over the past year and a half with the avalanche of helpful, proactive legislation Democrats produced in the two years preceding, you know all you need to know about why restoring a Democratic majority is crucial.

This DCCC graphic tells the story in a nutshell, but we’ll pass along Pelosi’s message below.


DCCC 1st qtr fund raising graphic



Tea party bullies pick on the wrong Utah senator

“These (tea party) people are not conservatives. They’re not Republicans, They’re radical libertarians and I’m doggone offended by it.

“I despise these people, and I’m not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth.”

—Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during an NPR interview April 12,
quoted by Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog


The six-term senator knows whereof he speaks, having long been one of the Senate’s most-conservative members. Even so, Hatch has occasionally worked across the aisle to get things done — a “weakness” that has made him primary bait in the eyes of the piranhas he’s in the GOP tank with.

Sure enough, up for re-election this year, Hatch is targeted for early retirement by Astro-turf-group manufacturer and high-powered lobbyist Dick Armey (Freedom Works) and his tea party minions. So serious is the effort that $900,000 is being spent to defeat Hatch, according to Kilgore.

Hatch’s former colleague and fellow Republican Bob Bennett went down to defeat two years ago because, in the eyes of the same crackpot extremists, he had been too willing to work with Democrats. Which is to say Bennett had committed the unpardonable sin of working with Democrats at all.

But Hatch isn’t Bennett, this isn’t 2010, and the tea party scourge isn’t having much luck throwing the senior senator from Utah under the bus.

We’re not a Hatch fan. We don’t agree with his politics and resent the lying he did about health care reform. Still, we feel some grudging admiration for the way Hatch is standing up to the tea party scourge, causing them to lose face and waste a lot of money.

There’s something about seeing ignorant bullies get the worst of it that makes our day.


Affordable Care Act could be scuttled
over point not asked about or made clear

rightT he Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23, 2010, after arduous months of vetting and haggling, ultimately on a close vote without a single Republican backer.

Now before the Supreme Court thanks to the subversive efforts of 26 Republican state attorneys general, Obamacare, as the act has come to be known, could be torpedoed because the justices aren’t clear about one of its significant features.

The attorneys general out to kill ACA hung their case on the mandate requiring all who can afford to do so to buy a health insurance plan. The AG’s claimed the federal government overstepped its authority with that.

But in a brilliant piece of reporting, the AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar notes that the justices’ questioning and solicitor general’s defense of the ACA failed to take into account that the mandate could be satisfied with a very low cost, catastrophic-coverage-only “bronze” plan.

“If I understand the law, the policies that you’re requiring people to purchase … must contain provision for maternity and newborn care, pediatric services and substance use treatment,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. “It seems to me that you cannot say that everybody is going to need … substance use treatment or pediatric services, and yet that is part of what you require them to purchase.”

That may be true, but the law’s bronze plan isn’t exactly robust coverage. It would require policyholders to spend thousands of dollars of their own money before insurance kicks in. That’s how catastrophic coverage works now.

It means anyone — particularly younger, healthy people — can satisfy the health care law’s insurance requirement without paying full freight for comprehensive coverage they may not need.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli did not highlight the bronze plan in his defense of the law, an omission that may prove significant.

Significant indeed, if after decades of growing need, of increasing millions priced out of insurance and medical care, this historic breakthrough of hopeful, helpful legislation goes down to defeat because the justices lack a clear understanding of how it works.

Should the court decide against the ACA, this oversight is sure to stigmatize its decision. The justices and their clerks will get — and deserve — the scorn of millions for not having done their homework before hearing this case. Verrilli will be due for a big share of the blame as well.


Acrimony, lawsuits mark Olbermann-Current TV split

brass screwFired by Current TV last Friday, Keith Olbermann filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking up to $70 million from the cable network, claiming breach of contract and citing a lengthy list of grievances that amounted to sabotaging him and his Countdown program.

Today, Current TV co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt responded with a lawsuit of their own, citing Olbermann for repeatedly failing to show up for work and being uncooperative in various ways. The network’s lawsuit asks for a ruling that Olbermann is owed nothing and seeks unspecified damages.

The acrimonious breakup comes about 14 months after Olbermann abruptly left MSNBC on less than cordial terms. He reportedly had a five-year, $50 million contract with Current.

Eliot Spitzer’s Viewpoint program now runs in the Countdown time slot.

It takes two: We ‘re sure there’s plenty of blame to go around on both sides of this ugly, unfortunate dispute. We expect it will do nothing but harm to Olbermann and to Current no matter which side prevails in court.

Olbermann’s complaint that Current failed to provide an adequate studio and equipment for a first-rate news commentary program rings true. But so do the network’s complaints about Olbermann being aloof, erratic and temperamental.

We didn’t watch the show but a few times in recent weeks because, frankly, it wasn’t very good. And, we got tired of seeing Olbermann looking like this.

Considering how much it apparently invested in bringing Olbermann on board, Current should have provided him with a decent studio, proper equipment and capable behind-the-camera technicians and editorial staff, right from the start.

For his part, Olbermann should’ve known he was going to a diamond-in-the-rough operation, one that would require lots of dedicated effort on his part to bring to a shine. That’s a job for a can-do leader, not a can-sue prima donna.

So now, during an especially important presidential election year, one of the strongest voices in the comparatively small universe of progressive media stars will do his talking about this blowup with another network instead of about crucially important issues, events and political figures.

As Bill Bendix used to say in his 1950’s sitcom, The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development this is.”


5 SCOTUS justices show their collective butt
with outrageous strip searches-for-all decision

Supreme CourtIn their infinite legal wisdom, four conservative Republican Supreme Court justices and one who swings both ways have ruled it’s OK for any suspect arrested and taken to jail for any infraction, no matter how minor, no matter the person’s age or likelihood of harboring contraband, can be subjected to a strip search.

So, some 17-year-old girl does a dumb-kid thing, shoplifting some mascara. She gets caught, is taken downtown, made to strip, turn around, bend over and spread her cheeks.

So, a retired schoolteacher who’s getting up in years and feeling cranky because of arthritis reacts with sarcasm when a policeman young enough to be his grandson pulls him over for failing to signal a lane change. The cop, channeling Barney Fife, decides this miscreant’s display of attitude warrants a trip downtown, booking and a strip search for obstructing an officer.

Then, there’s a whole lot of poor souls who get caught up in the fight against one of the nation’s leading “crime” problems: driving while black. For those members of the thin blue line blighted by bigotry, already empowered to do impromptu pat-downs and car searches as passers-by gawk, what better additional humiliation to bestow than sending their prey downtown for a strip search?

Sure, most law enforcement officers are decent, well-trained, disciplined and not given to abusing their authority. Trouble is, there’s always a few who are nothing more or better than poorly trained, badly behaved bullies with badges — and batons, guns and cuffs.

Now, thanks to conservative justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and swing-vote Anthony Kennedy, those bullies with badges have a new power tool they can abuse citizens with.