Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Deficit Plan, Taxes Must Rise, President Warns

WASHINGTON — President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they "need to do their job" and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.

Declaring that an agreement is not possible without painful steps on both sides, Mr. Obama said that his party had already accepted the need for substantial spending cuts in programs it had long championed, and that Republicans must agree to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge funds and other corporate interests.

In a 67-minute news conference, Mr. Obama cast the budget battle as a tug of war between the interests of the rich — like owners of corporate jets, who he said get generous tax breaks — and those of the middle class, the elderly and children.

Directly challenging Republican leaders, Mr. Obama said, "Everybody else has been willing to move off their maximalist position — they need to do the same."

At the same time, Mr. Obama, under assault frfom Republicans on the campaign trail for an unemployment rate that remains above 9 percent, asked voters to understand that the economic recovery would take time but said that Washington, even in its current financial straits, could still do more to help. He expressed support for extending a reduction in payroll taxes for an extra year, providing loans for road and bridge-building and approving trade pacts that could help spur exports.

While the president expressed hope for a budget deal before the government's borrowing authority expires in early August, he scolded Republican lawmakers for putting off hard decisions until the 11th hour, saying that his daughters did not procrastinate that way with their schoolwork.

"Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time," the president said, in a tone of rising exasperation. "They don't wait until the night before. They're not pulling all-nighters."

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, flatly rejected Mr. Obama's call for new tax revenues, saying the "president's remarks ignore legislative and economic reality."

In a toughly worded statement, Mr. Boehner said the House would vote to raise the debt limit, as the White House has demanded, only if the administration agreed to a deal that contained deep spending cuts and no tax increases.

"The American people know tax hikes destroy jobs," Mr. Boehner said. "They also know Washington has been on a spending binge for many years, and they will only tolerate a debt-limit increase if we stop it."

Mr. Obama's news conference, his first extended exchange with reporters since March, also touched on Libya, on which he offered a brisk defense of his decision not to seek Congressional authorization for the NATO-led air campaign, and on same-sex marriage, which he stopped just short of endorsing as a legal right.

But the president's combative remarks on the budget commanded most of the attention, signaling that he had fully entered the fray. On Monday, he took over stalled talks led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., meeting with Senate Republicans and Democrats, and on Wednesday he met with the Democrats.

So far, the president's involvement seems mainly to have dramatized the gulf between the White House and the Republicans on fiscal priorities.

By all accounts, the round of negotiations steered by Mr. Biden made significant progress in identifying spending cuts and revenue-generating items. But with the Aug. 2 deadline looming for the expiration of the government's borrowing authority, the partisan maneuvering on both sides has increased.

Senate Republicans have talked about a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, betting that the White House will accept spending cuts, with no tax increases, rather than face two votes on the issue before the 2012 election. Mr. Obama is taking aim at tax policies that benefit the rich as a way to pressure Republicans. Asserting that chief executives and hedge fund managers are paying the lowest tax rates since the 1950s, before he was born, the president, casting the issue in populist terms that some conservatives said veered into class warfare, said they could afford to pay more.

"You'll still be able to ride on your corporate jet," Mr. Obama said. "You'll just have to pay a little more."

Under Democratic proposals, owners of corporate jets would have to write off the aircrafts' cost in more years, which would generate an estimated $3 billion for the Treasury over a decade. Hedge funds and private equity investors would pay higher capital gains tax on their earnings. Phasing out tax deductions and credits for oil and gas companies could raise nearly $40 billion, economists said.

Even if all these changes to the tax code were accepted, they would still amount to only a sliver of the $4 trillion in savings that Mr. Obama has said he wants to achieve. But refusing to increase revenues, he asserted, would necessitate cuts in programs that award college scholarships, finance the National Weather Service and medical research, and improve food safety.

"I've said to some of the Republican leaders: you go talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents, and ask them, are they willing to compromise their kids' safety so that some corporate-jet owner continues to get a tax break?" Mr. Obama said. "I'm pretty sure what the answer would be."

Citing the hours of meetings he and Mr. Biden had held with leaders from both parties, Mr. Obama seemed particularly piqued by Republican criticism that he had failed to show leadership. Noting that the House is in recess this week, and the Senate is scheduled to be gone next week, he said he had been hunkered down in the White House, "doing Afghanistan and Bin Laden and Greek crisis." If Congress was serious about a deal, he said, it should cancel its breaks.

There were signs on Capitol Hill that his words had struck a nerve. Nine Republican senators announced that they would object to a recess during the Fourth of July week. Late Wednesday it appeared that Democratic leaders would go along and keep the Senate in session next week.

Wary of spooking financial markets, Mr. Obama stopped short of saying that Aug. 2 was a drop-dead date for a deal. But he dismissed those who argue that the government can ignore the debt limit by paying some bills and not others.

"This is the equivalent of me saying, 'You know what, I will choose to pay my mortgage, but I'm not going to pay my car note,' " Mr. Obama said. "Or, 'I'm going to pay my car note, but not my student loan.' "

Jennifer Steinhauer and Carl Hulse contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 30, 2011

An earlier version of this article inaccurately described a Democratic proposal for changing the tax treatment of corporate jets. Under the plan, owners of jets would be required to write off the cost of the jet over a longer period of time, not a shorter one, which would generate extra revenue for the Treasury.

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Why Barack Obama's Hedge Fund Tax Hike Won't Work


Barack Obama's plans to reduce the budget deficit by raising taxes on hedge fund managers show that he's more interested in political theater than responsibly dealing with the budget.

When Obama says he wants to end the "tax break" for hedge funds, what he presumably means is he would tax what's known as carried interest as ordinary income. Currently, it is taxed at the lower capital gains rate.

But the only comprehensive study to look at proposals to tax carried interest as ordinary income found the change would generate very, very little revenue. In fact, because hedge fund managers would change the way they get paid it would likely generate almost no revenue at all.

Before you get all outraged about this, it's important to understand why it is so easy for hedge fund managers to avoid having carried interest taxed as ordinary income. The reason is this: Carried interest isn't ordinary income. It's a capital gain.

Let's use an example to illustrate this point. Suppose NetNet staffer Cadie Thompson decides she's learned enough about markets to become an investment advisor. She tells me that she will invest $1 million of my money for a low 2 percent management fee.

A few years go by. Cadie is a brilliant investor. My portfolio is up 100 percent. My original $1 million investment is now worth $2 million.

Cadie takes 2 percent a year of the total, and that gets taxed as ordinary income. My entire upside is a capital gain—a gain on my investment—and only subject to the 15 percent capital gains tax.

Now imagine that instead of just being an investment advisor, Cadie decided she is going to run a hedge fund and charge both the 2 percent management fee and receive 20 percent of the profits.

Everything else is exactly the same. Cadie is doing the same work, I'm investing the same $1 million, we see the same 100 percent, $1 million gain from our investment activity. But this time I get only $800,000 of the $1 million in profits, while Cadie takes the other $200,000.

The only thing that has changed is how we divide up the gains.

What Obama means when he says he wants to end a "tax break" for hedge funds is that he wants to raise taxes on partnerships that share the upside of capital gains between the investors—who have "purchased interests"—and the fund managers—who have "carried interests," or interests they purchased with their sweat equity.

But because the actual gains—prior to distribution between the outside investor and the fund manager—are capital gains, it is easy enough to avoid this taxation. Instead of granting the manager a carried interest in the fund, it would be simple enough to recharacterize the whole thing as a loan transaction.

Here's how it works. I invest that $1 million but this time only $800,000 goes directly into the fund and $200,000 becomes a loan to Cadie. Cadie uses the $200,000 to buy a 20 percent stake in the fund. So now we both have purchased interests in the fund and our long-term gains can be characterized as capital gains.

Now there are complications. If I charge Cadie interest on the loan, she'll likely increase the management fee to make up for that. She'll have to pay ordinary income taxes on that increase but far less than she would if the entire 20 percent were taxed as ordinary income. (If I don't charge Cadie interest, she'll have to pay taxes on the imputed income.)

But what's clear is the government wouldn't have raised much revenue by shutting down this "tax break." You aren't going to get a lot of deficit reduction out of this change.

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@citibank debt collectors in Jakarta kill man owing approx U.S.$5500 in credit card debt


In life, Irzen Octa ranked among the least significant of Citigroup Inc. (C)'s 200 million customers. In death, the cash-strapped small-businessman from Jakarta has come to haunt the reputation of the world's 8th-biggest bank.

At dawn on an overcast March morning, Octa, 49, left his modest $60,000 row house on the western outskirts of the Indonesian capital and rode off on his Yamaha motor scooter into the frenetic traffic and equatorial heat. His destination: a Citibank office in a smart downtown neighborhood known as the Golden Triangle, where he was to discuss a 48 million rupiah ($5,500) principal debt on his Citibank platinum credit card, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its August issue.

After dropping his younger daughter at school, Octa walked into Citibank's credit card collection department on the fifth floor of the Jamsostek tower just after 10 a.m. Four hours later, he left the 25-story building slumped motionless in a wheelchair -- a victim of what police allege was a violent assault by debt collectors. Driven to a nearby hospital in a Citibank car, Octa was pronounced dead on arrival.

There are starkly conflicting versions of what happened inside the room, barely larger than a broom closet, where Octa spent most of the time from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 29.

Octa's widow is suing Citigroup for $348 million, claiming her husband died inside Citibank's offices after being beaten by debt collectors trying to extract the equivalent of $12,000 from him, including accrued interest.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Elderly woman asked to remove adult diaper during TSA search


A woman has filed a complaint with federal authorities over how her elderly mother was treated at Northwest Florida Regional Airport last weekend.

Jean Weber of Destin filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security after her 95-year-old mother was detained and extensively searched last Saturday while trying to board a plane to fly to Michigan to be with family members during the final stages of her battle with leukemia.

Her mother, who was in a wheelchair, was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search.

"It's something I couldn't imagine happening on American soil," Weber said Friday. "Here is my mother, 95 years old, 105 pounds, barely able to stand, and then this."

Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration in Miami, said she could not comment on specific cases to protect the privacy of those involved.

"The TSA works with passengers to resolve any security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner," she said.

Weber's mother entered the airport's security checkpoint in a wheelchair because she was not stable enough to walk through, Weber said.

Wheelchairs trigger certain protocols, including pat-downs and possible swabbing for explosives, Koshetz said.

"During any part of the process, if there is an alarm, then we have to resolve that alarm," she said.

Weber said she did not know whether her mother had triggered an alarm during the 45 minutes they were detained.

She said her mother was first pulled aside into a glass-partitioned area and patted down. Then she was taken to another room to protect her privacy during a more extensive search, Weber said.

Weber said she sat outside the room during the search.

She said security personnel then came out and told her they would need for her mother to remove her Depends diaper because it was soiled and was impeding their search.

Weber wheeled her mother into a bathroom, removed her diaper and returned. Her mother did not have another clean diaper with her, Weber said.

Weber said she wished there were less invasive search methods for an elderly person who is unable to walk through security gates.

"I don't understand why they have to put them through that kind of procedure," she said.

Koshetz said the procedures are the same for everyone to ensure national security.

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TSA asked 95 year old woman in a wheelchair in terminal stage of leukemia to remove adult diaper for pat-down

N Korean children begging, army starving #p2 #tcot


Footage shot inside North Korea and obtained by the ABC has revealed the extent of chronic food shortages and malnutrition inside the secretive state.

The video is some of the most revealing footage ever smuggled out of the impoverished North Korean state.

Shot over several months by an undercover North Korean journalist, the harrowing footage shows images of filthy, homeless and orphaned children begging for food and soldiers demanding bribes.

The footage also shows North Koreans labouring on a private railway track for the dictator's son and heir near the capital Pyongyang.

Strolling up to the site supervisor, the man with the hidden camera asks what is going on.

"This rail line is a present from Kim Jong-il to comrade Kim Jong-un," he is told.

The well-fed Kim Jong-un could soon be ruling over a nation of starving, impoverished serfs.

The video shows young children caked in filth begging in markets, pleading for scraps from compatriots who have nothing to give.

"I am eight," says one boy. "My father died and my mother left me. I sleep outdoors."

Many of the children are orphans; their parents victims of starvation or the gulag.

But markets do exist - private markets that stock bags of rice, pork, and corn. The state no longer has any rations to hand out.

But the state wants its share of this embryonic capitalism.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matt Tiabbi's great writeup on Michele Bachmann - batshit crazy GOP'er candidate for the US Presidency #p2 #tcot

This is well worth the read for the small bit of info on the large infulx into GW Bush's Justice Dept from one of the worst legal schools int he country, Bachmann's alma matter:

"Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of "the law from a biblical worldview," has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush's presidency might recognize the school's current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department."

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Illinois Regulators Sue Heart Scan Company, Alleging Deceptive Practices

The Illinois Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit today accusing the owner and manager of Heart Check America, a medical imaging company, of pressuring patients into purchasing pricey body scans that many did not need.

Last month, ProPublica published an investigation of Heart Check America, describing its marketing and sales techniques. In our story, medical experts called the company's tactics unethical and said its scans were inappropriate for many patients, exposing them to unnecessary expense and treatment. Health regulators in Colorado and Nevada have cited the company for performing medical scans without doctors' orders.

Now Illinois officials say Sheila Haddad and her son, David Haddad, the owner and manager of the company, used "unfair and deceptive business practices" to manipulate consumers, possibly numbering in the thousands, into 10-year screening contracts costing up to $7,000, plus additional annual dues.

Heart Check America officials have not yet responded to calls and emails asking for comment on the lawsuit. In our previous story, David Haddad acknowledged that the company had made some missteps, but said the company was taking steps to bring all of its centers into compliance with government standards.

He defended the value of the company's services, saying its scans gave patients peace of mind and had even saved lives. "People come back and say, 'Thank you, my wife will be [alive] because we found this,'" Haddad said. "I made my mom and sister go. People hug and kiss us goodbye in these clinics."

The Attorney General's complaint, filed in state court in Chicago, alleges a list of problems with the Heart Check America's tactics:

  • Multiple scans may not be medically appropriate and sales were based on a false premise that early detection of disease always leads to better outcomes.
  • The people selling the scans were not medically trained and no medical provider evaluated patients before they received the scans.
  • Consumers were not informed of risks, including radiation exposure, false-positive tests and a false sense of security from false-negative tests.
  • Some test results were inaccurate.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Obama Administration Caved On For-Profit College Regulations, Insiders Say #p2 #tcot

A year ago, the Obama administration crafted a set of proposed regulations aimed at limiting abuses by the swiftly growing for-profit college industry.

The initial draft threatened severe consequences for institutions that churned out large numbers of graduates with outsized debts and meager job prospects: Schools would quickly lose access to the multi-billion dollar pool of federal student aid dollars that supplies the vast majority of their profits.

But when the Department of Education delivered the final rules earlier this month, they were substantially weakened from the initial draft, adding a three-year grace period before severe sanctions will kick in -- a major triumph for the industry's lobbyists and their relentless pressure campaign on the Obama administration.

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Blue Shield of California's refund is peanuts compared to its profits #p2 #tcot

As the head of communications for two of the country's largest health insurers for almost 20 years, I recognize an orchestrated spin campaign when I see one. And boy oh boy did I see an award-winning one this week in San Francisco.

The supposedly nonprofit Blue Shield of California went to extraordinary lengths Tuesday to unveil its "bold move to address the health care affordability crisis" by pledging to limit its annual profit to no more than 2 percent of revenue. And not just going forward, mind you, but all the way back to 2010 when the nonprofit's profits were considerably more than 2 percent—so much more that Blue Shield of California says it will refund $180 million to its policyholders.

The company is so proud of its bold move that it arranged for its CEO, Bruce Bodaken, to make the announcement in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle and in a speech the same day at the Commonwealth Club, one of the premier public affairs forums in the country. I know from years of trying to get the Commonwealth Club to even consider CIGNA's CEO as a guest speaker that coordinating Bodaken's appearance at the club on the same day that his op-ed would appear in the Chronicle was quite a PR coup.

While I'm happy for the policyholders who might get a few bucks back from their insurer, the timing of the Blue Shield campaign is, to me at least, a tad suspicious. A few things have been going on in California in recent weeks that undoubtedly have been keeping Bodaken up at night, making me think that this announcement just might be more PR than substance.

Here's the context.

The California Assembly last week passed a bill that Bodaken's company and the state's other health insurers have been lobbying hard to kill. The bill, which is now on its way to the Senate, would give the state's insurance commissioner the authority to reject "unreasonable" premium increases.

Commissioners in more than half the states now have that authority, and some have recently been denying rate increases they felt were unjustified.

Although California is not yet one of those states, rate regulation is not a novel concept in California. Home and auto insurers must get permission from state regulators before increasing premiums. Since the state's voters approved a ballot initiative in 1988 requiring auto insurers to get prior rate approval from regulators, California drivers have saved more than $62 billion, according to Consumer Watchdog and the Consumer Federation of America.

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Obama rewards big bundlers with jobs, commissions, stimulus money, government contracts, and more #p2 #tcot

Telecom executive Donald H. Gips raised a big bundle of cash to help finance his friend Barack Obama's run for the presidency.

Gips, a vice president of Colorado-based Level 3 Communications LLC, delivered more than $500,000 in contributions for the Obama war chest, while two fellow senior company executives collected at least $150,000 more.

After the election, Gips was put in charge of hiring in the Obama White House, helping to place loyalists and fundraisers in many key positions. Then in mid-2009, the new president named him ambassador to South Africa. Level 3 Communications, in which Gips retained stock, meanwhile received millions of dollars of government stimulus contracts for broadband projects in six states—though Gips said he was "completely unaware" of the stimulus money.

More than two years after President Obama took office vowing to banish "special interests" from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found.

These "bundlers" raised at least $50,000 and sometimes more than $500,000 in campaign donations for Obama's campaign. Many of those in the "Class of 2008" are now being asked to bundle contributions for Obama's re-election, an effort that could cost $1 billion.

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Anthony Weiner is reportedly resigning yet Sen David Vitter who slept with prostitutes is still in office #p2 #tcot

batshit crazy: Top 10 Craziest Things Michele Bachmann Has Ever Said #p2 #tcot


(1) BACHMANN WARNED 'THE LION KING' WAS GAY PROPAGANDA: At the November 2004 EdWatch National Education Conference, Bachmann said the "normalization" of homosexuality would lead to "desensitization": "Very effective way to do this with a bunch of second graders, is take a picture of 'The Lion King' for instance, and a teacher might say, 'Do you know that the music for this movie was written by a gay man?' The message is: I'm better at what I do, because I'm gay."

(2) BACHMANN CLAIMED ABOLISHING THE MINIMUM WAGE WOULD CREATE JOBS: While testifying in front of the Minnesota Senate in 2005, Bachmann said, "Literally, if we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level." This isn't remotely true. Even simply reducing the minimum wage would, as Paul Krugman noted, "at best do nothing for employment; more likely it would actually be contractionary."

(3) BACHMANN CLAIMED THAT SCIENTISTS ARE SUPPORTERS OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN: During a 2006 debate, Bachmann said,"There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design." This was, and is, not true.

(4) BACHMANN CLAIMED TERRI SCHIAVO WAS 'HEALTHY': Not long after Terri Schiavo died, Bachmann said she would have voted for the Palm Sunday Compromise because Schiavo "was healthy. She had brain damage — there was brain damage, there was no question. But from a health point of view, she was not terminally ill." An autopsy found that Schiavo had suffered irreversible brain damage and her brain, said the medical examiner, was "profoundly atrophied."

(5) BACHMANN LIKENED VISITING IRAQ TO VISITING MALL OF AMERICA: In 2007, Bachmann returned from a junket to Iraq and told her colleagues, "[T]here's a commonality with the Mall of America, in that it's on that proportion. There's marble everywhere. The other thing I remarked about was there is water everywhere." As ThinkProgress documented at the time, the comparison was preposterous.

(6) BACHMANN CLAIMED THAT CARBON DIOXIDE IS 'HARMLESS': In 2008, a Stanford scientist revealed "direct links" between increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and "increases in human mortality" — globally, he found that as many as "20,000 air-pollution-related deaths per year per degree Celsius may be due to this greenhouse gas." The next year, Bachmann, who is not a scientist, said that "carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas."

(7) BACHMANN CALLED FOR A CONGRESSIONAL WITCH HUNT: Pivoting off the news of Barack Obama's alleged relationship to former Weather Underground member William Ayers, and his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bachmann accused the candidate of having "anti-American views." She then suggested that Congressional liberals — including Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — ought to be subject to "an exposé" by the media because of their views. "I think people would love to see like that," she told a stunned Chris Matthews.

(8) BACHMANN SUGGESTED GAY SINGER SHOULD REPENT AFTER GETTING CANCER: Bachmann saw Melissa Etheridge's cancer as a teachable moment: "Unfortunately she is now suffering from breast cancer, so keep her in your prayers," she said in November 2004. "This may be an opportunity for her now to be open to some spiritual things, now that she is suffering with that physical disease. She is a lesbian."

(9) BACHMANN BOASTED ABOUT BREAKING THE LAW: In advance of the 2010 national Census, Bachmann told The Washington Times that she would break the law by not completing the forms. "I know for my family, the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home," she said. "We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

(10) BACHMANN CLAIMED THAT GLENN BECK COULD SOLVE THE DEBT CRISIS: During a February trip to South Carolina, Bachmann told a South Carolina audience, "I think if we give Glenn Beck the numbers, he can solve this [the national debt]."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Boehner Claims Obama Is Violating War Powers Act Two Weeks After Saying He Met Act’s Requirements #p2 #tcot

Missing 6.6 billion Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say #p2 #tcot,0,4414060.story

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the George W. Bush administration flooded the conquered country with so much cash to pay for reconstruction and other projects in the first year that a new unit of measurement was born.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."

The mystery is a growing embarrassment to the Pentagon, and an irritant to Washington's relations with Baghdad. Iraqi officials are threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program.

It's fair to say that Congress, which has already shelled out $61 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for similar reconstruction and development projects in Iraq, is none too thrilled either.

"Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can't account for, and can't seem to find," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who presided over hearings on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq six years ago when he headed the House Government Reform Committee.

Theft of such a staggering sum might seem unlikely, but U.S. officials aren't ruling it out. Some U.S. contractors were accused of siphoning off tens of millions in kickbacks and graft during the post-invasion period, especially in its chaotic early days. But Iraqi officials were viewed as prime offenders.

The U.S. cash airlift was a desperation measure, organized when the Bush administration was eager to restore government services and a shattered economy to give Iraqis confidence that the new order would be a drastic improvement on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The White House decided to use the money in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq, which was created by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to hold money amassed during the years when Hussein's regime was under crippling economic and trade sanctions.

The cash was carried by tractor-trailer trucks from the fortress-like Federal Reserve currency repository in East Rutherford, N.J., to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, then flown to Baghdad. U.S. officials there stored the hoard in a basement vault at one of Hussein's former palaces, and at U.S. military bases, and eventually distributed the money to Iraqi ministries and contractors.

But U.S. officials often didn't have time or staff to keep strict financial controls. Millions of dollars were stuffed in gunnysacks and hauled on pickups to Iraqi agencies or contractors, officials have testified.

House Government Reform Committee investigators charged in 2005 that U.S. officials "used virtually no financial controls to account for these enormous cash withdrawals once they arrived in Iraq, and there is evidence of substantial waste, fraud and abuse in the actual spending and disbursement of the Iraqi funds."

Pentagon officials have contended for the last six years that they could account for the money if given enough time to track down the records. But repeated attempts to find the documentation, or better yet the cash, were fruitless.

Iraqi officials argue that the U.S. government was supposed to safeguard the stash under a 2004 legal agreement it signed with Iraq. That makes Washington responsible, they say.

Abdul Basit Turki Saeed, Iraq's chief auditor and president of the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, has warned U.S. officials that his government will go to court if necessary to recoup the missing money.

"Clearly Iraq has an interest in looking after its assets and protecting them," said Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq's ambassador to the United States.

Missing Iraqi War Cash May Be Biggest Heist in History #p2 #tcot


For the first time, investigators are speculating that the $6.6 billion in cash we lost in the wake of the invasion of Iraq may have actually been stolen.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the seven-year effort to figure out where nearly $7 billion in cash—out of a total of $12 billion that was airlifted in cargo planes to Iraq to help rebuild the county after the war—that remains unaccounted for went:

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash - enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."

Fun fact: One C-130 Hercules plane can carry "$2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills." We sent twenty cash-filled C-130s to Iraq. Luckily, the money wasn't ours: It came from the Development Fund for Iraq, an account administered by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and funded by Iraqi oil revenues, money seized from Saddam Hussein and his family, and other Iraqi sources. Sorry we lost your money Iraq!

.@gop Gays not welcome in the GOP - oped #p2 #tcot

American Media Ignores Popular Greek and Spanish Assemblies: Is This Censorship? #p2 #tcot

Major media are neglecting the major historic uprisings in Greece and Spain. Why?  It might inspire protesters and rebels in other parts of the globe, including America.

Greek citizens meet for a popular assembly at Syntagma Square. [AP/Getty]

Major networks and newspapers might be turning a relative blind eye to events in Spain and Greece, but Death and Taxes will not.

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House GOP Uses ‘Flatly False’ Administrative Cost Estimate To Justify Cutting Nutrition Assistance #p2 #tcot @gop

Michele Bachmann’s Top 10 Attacks On The LGBT Community #p2 #tcot

Monday, June 13, 2011

Protesters Outside Of CBS’s GOP Town Hall: ‘No News Here, Republicans Want To Eliminate Medicare’ #p2 #tcot @gop

Pawlenty Stands Against Clean Air and For Asthma Attacks: “I Will Require Sunsetting of all Federal Regulations” #p2 #tcot

Pawlenty Hammered on Unrealistic Economic Plan – on Fox News #p2 #tcot

There's No Such Thing as a Temporary U.S. Default #p2 #tcot

What if the debt ceiling debate causes the U.S. to miss just a couple of interest payments, say for the months of August and September? As long as the Treasury resumes payments in October, then no harm done, right? This misconception was put to rest by the rating agency Fitch in a statement yesterday. The firm makes clear that there's effectively no such thing as a temporary default: the nation's rating will not quickly bounce back.

At this time, the Treasury is already taking "extraordinary measures" to meet its debt obligations, since the debt ceiling needed to be raised in May. In August, those extraordinary measures won't be enough, and the Treasury must prioritize debt payments above its other obligations to avoid default. At that time, the U.S. will be in "technical default" even if it doesn't miss a payment.

But if the Treasury is forced to (or chooses to) skip a debt payment at that time, serious consequences will follow. If that occurs, real, tangible, lasting harm to the U.S. economy will follow. In past weeks, the rating agencies Moody's and Standard and Poor's have both cautioned that the debt ceiling fight could have serious consequences. But no warning has been quite as clear as that issued on Wednesday by Fitch. Walter Brandimarte at Reuters reports:

"Even a so-called 'technical default' would suggest a crisis of 'governance' from a sovereign credit and rating perspective," Fitch said in a statement.

"Clearly the political signals which are coming (from Washington) are a source of concern," David Riley, head of sovereign ratings at Fitch, told Reuters in an interview.

Treasury bonds could be rated "junk" by Fitch Ratings if the government misses some $82 billion in debt payments by Aug. 15 due to disagreement over the debt ceiling.

The ratings would go back up once the government fulfills its debt obligations but probably not to the current AAA level, Fitch said.

Technical default would worry the agencies, but a missed payment would result in disastrous consequences. That wouldn't be a temporary problem: Treasuries will not revert back to their AAA-status immediately after the debt ceiling is raised.

According to a report yesterday, a number of mainstream Republicans now openly embrace the possibility of technical default. As explained here about a month ago, Republicans may see default as positive, in a sense. It carries their "starve the beast" strategy to the extreme. The beast -- that is, the federal government -- will be forced to begin consuming its own flesh, and a diet -- spending cuts -- will inevitably follow.

But it also pushes the Treasury into crisis mode and puts the nation on the brink of missing an interest payment. While the Obama administration will likely prevent that from happening for as long as possible, Republicans must have a lot of faith that it's both willing and able to do so indefinitely.

If an interest payment is missed, the U.S. will have more expensive debt for years, until it manages to convince the agencies to restore its top rating. For that time period, it will be even harder for the U.S. to get its fiscal house in order, because some of its tax revenue that could have been used to pay down debt will instead have to go towards higher interest payments than would have been required on AAA-rated debt.

In other words, taxes would have to be even higher to pay down the debt. Surely, Republicans don't want that. While they might argue that they could just cut spending more aggressively, there may come a point at which even Republicans become uneasy cutting too deep into popular entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

These messages from the rating agencies should encourage Congress to work harder and for each side of the debate to give a little more up to reach a compromise quickly. A default is in no one's best interest.

scary book on debt crisis in Argenting - is can happen in the US - don't mess with defaulting on debt payments #p2 #tcot

jerkoff: Ohio GOP Sen. Defends Budget That Favors The Rich: Wealthy ‘Suffer Along With The Rest Of Us’ #p2 #tcot


With Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) at the helm, the Ohio GOP is successfully kneecapping the legs of Ohio's middle class. The party's first six months in power brought collective bargaining rights, the minimum wage, the prevailing wage, and education under the knife in the name of an $8 billion state budget deficit and "shared sacrifice." Last week, the GOP-led state Senate passed Kasich's $55.7 billion budget — the chief weapon in Kasich's arsenal "that whacks schools, local governments, higher education, nursing homes, day care for children of low-income parents, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, children's hospitals and work-support programs for the poor."

However, as the Columbus Dispatch noted, one group is notably exempt from this "shared sacrifice": the wealthy. State Republicans coupled massive program cuts with an elimination of the estate tax for Ohio's richest 8 percent of estates, restored $85 million in school funding for mostly affluent districts, and cut the state income tax so that "the largest dollar reductions" will go to "those with an annual income above $200,000." TP Economy editor Pat Garofalo noted that measures like the estate tax elimination actually shift taxes on to the middle class.

When asked exactly "how the rich are being asked to sacrifice in the budget," GOP lawmakers struggled to justify their lopsided favoritism. Kasich simply asked, "Why we would want to punish success?" and House Speaker William Batchelder (R) simply didn't answer. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) "searched for an answer" and landed on the idea that though the wealthy are receiving significant tax breaks, "they still suffer along with the rest of us":

"There are no specific policies targeting the wealthy, but as taxpayers of the state of Ohio, they suffer along with the rest of us," the New Richmond Republican said. "Some might argue they suffer less, but they still suffer along with the rest of us, whether it's in opportunities that exist, and inability to expand businesses in a tough economic climate."

When House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, was asked about the burden on the rich, he gave a long reply that didn't answer the question.

However, Gov. John Kasich did have a response for sparing the rich.

"What we've been doing is driving successful people out of Ohio, which has put Ohio in a ditch," Kasich said. "I don't know why we would want to punish success in Ohio."

Athens County Jobs and Family Services director Jack Frech failed to see the "shared sacrifice" Kasich insisted upon to hustle through his budget. Overseeing programs for the poor in an Appalachian county with a 33 percent poverty rate, Frech said Republicans "consider themselves to have done a great job because they haven't raised taxes and they didn't cut human services as much as they could have." "But they're bad. They're terrible," he said. "There are people struggling to survive out there every day."

Senate Republicans, however, nodded to the budget's 5 percent pay cut for lawmakers beginning in 2013 as a sign of communal suffering. According to the Dispatch, the lawmakers "called that a gesture of 'shared sacrifice' to the people throughout the state affected by budget cuts."

Greek Default Threatens Money Market Run That Treasury May Be Unable To Halt This Time #p2 #tcot

NRA Shrugs Off Private Sale Gun Show Loophole Dangers After Al Qaeda Urged Its Supporters To Exploit It

FL Gov Rick Scott Dismantling Florida Water Policy #p2 #tcot

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Institutions including Harvard and Vanderbilt reportedly use hedge funds to buy land in deals that may force farmers out


Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land, according to a new study.

Researchers say foreign investors are profiting from "land grabs" that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, and can lead to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world.

The new report on land acquisitions in seven African countries suggests that Harvard, Vanderbilt and many other US colleges with large endowment funds have invested heavily in African land in the past few years. Much of the money is said to be channelled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa's largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers.

Researchers at the California-based Oakland Institute think that Emergent's clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.

Emergent said the deals were handled responsibly. "Yes, university endowment funds and pension funds are long-term investors," a spokesman said. "We are investing in African agriculture and setting up businesses and employing people. We are doing it in a responsible way … The amounts are large. They can be hundreds of millions of dollars. This is not landgrabbing. We want to make the land more valuable. Being big makes an impact, economies of scale can be more productive."

rest at

Viral Wildfire: Terrified Debtors Spread The Word About Department of Education's SWAT Team #p2 #tcot


Yesterday morning few people were aware of what had happened to Kenneth Wright's rights in Stockton, California. Thanks to the hard work of numerous advocates, however, that changed within hours of a local news story about the use of excessive force.

People across the country - and even the globe (my own work was being retweeted by people in Stockholm and London)  - learned that Wright's door was broken down by federal agents, he was handcuffed in his underwear, and thrown into a patrol car for 6 hours. Although the initial report from News10 suggested that the warrant for Wright's estranged wife was for her defaulted federal loans, the story quickly changed over the course of the day. (News10 took the story down once it went viral and has provided an updated version that discusses the use of excessive force. There is no mention of defaulted loans. In addition, News10 released the warrant that indicates that fraud was being committed. However, it is truncated and the entire warrant remains sealed).

It is common knowledge among higher education finance experts that the Department of Education's Office of Inspector's General (OIG) conducts search warrants. Moreover, these cases, as Press Officer Sara Gast explained to me in a recent email, are generally related to investigations of "bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds." Such investigations are generally limited, Gast told me, to 30 - 35 search warrants a year. But the general public is not privy to this type of activity. (When I followed up with Gast by phone, she provided me with Press Secretary Justin Hamilton's direct line. As of this writing, a call from Hamilton has not been returned).

While Wright's estranged wife may be involved in fraudulent activity, there are two crucial points about this unfolding story. First, it spread like wildfire throughout the blogosphere because it was fueled by fear. Bloggers on the left and the right picked up on the story, and that led to major media outlets putting out reports, too. There is good reason for why it became so hotly discussed. There is a growing number of indentured educated citizens who are fast approaching financial disaster. Thousands and thousands of them have shared their stories with me over the past 2 years. The use of force by the Department resonated with countless readers. Many of them wrote on Facebook pages and tweeted, "It's scary. What if that happened to me?" . . . "I'm close to defaulting on my loans. Will the Department break down my door?"

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Ryan flip-flops, says cutting spending 'more important' than avoiding default #p2 #tcot


Paul Ryan
Ryan also thinks he can fly (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Via Think Progress, check out Paul Ryan's latest position on raising the debt limit:

If a bondholder misses a payment for a day or two or three or four—what is more important is you are putting the government in a materially better position to better pay its bills going forward.

He's not exactly endorsing a default on our fiscal obligations, but he is saying it would be preferable to go into default for a short period of time than to compromise on the GOP's demands for massive spending cuts. His argument is that financial markets care more about U.S. long-term fiscal policies than about whether or not we pay our bills. That's absurd; bond yields are at historical lows, despite our large deficit. If Ryan were right, borrowing would be far more expensive than it is today.

But while the situation couldn't get much better than it is, going into default would be a disaster. Just look at what happened in 1979 when we had a very brief default driven by technical factors:

When the country had a very short-lived default in 1979 -- due to a technical glitch among other things -- bond yields spiked 60 basis points and, according to those who studied the event, remained elevated thereafter.

Keep in mind that default wasn't a result of political stalemate; it was a technical screwup—yet it still had a big impact, and the impact would be bigger this time around. But even if a short-term default weren't a big deal, it's folly to believe that the default would in fact be short-term. Once you enter default, all bets are off—who knows what will happen. And there certainly isn't a any guarantee that you can depend on anything Paul Ryan says. Remember, this is the same guy who once said "you can't not raise the debt ceiling," adding that "default is the unworkable solution." Now he says default would be preferable to simply raising the debt limit. There's no telling what his position will be seven weeks from now.

U.S. recovery, rest in peace #p2 #tcot

The recovery is over.

So says UCLA economist Ed Leamer. He notes that May brought the first year-over-year decline in the Pulse of Commerce Index of domestic diesel fuel use since the end of 2009 – the latest yellow flag to be raised over the sputtering U.S. economy.

The index, which indirectly tracks industrial production via trucking mileage, has now declined in four of the five months this year and in eight of the past 12. The weak showing doesn't say a recession is at hand, but it means the economy has stopped closing the gap between its actual output and its pre-recession potential growth trend, Leamer says.

That gap, currently around 11% of potential gross domestic product, is not going to get any narrower till we see U.S. output expanding at a rate above 3% -- something that doesn't seem to be in the cards this year. Even skeptics of the U.S. growth story such as Leamer had hoped to see a little better performance in May.

"I was optimistic we'd have a better month," says Leamer, who oversees the Pulse of Commerce Index along with data provider Ceridian. "But it looks now like the recovery ended last summer, which means we're just idling."

Weak wages, slow job growth and heavy debt continue to weigh on consumer spending and the housing industry, which are typically two strong drivers in the early stages of recovery. Leamer says that with those engines sputtering, the U.S. economy is now much more dependent on a strong export performance than it has been before.

And though the second half of the year may bring some welcome relief in the form of lower fuel prices and a rebound in auto sales as Japan rebounds from quake-related damage, there is the risk that the dollar will stop falling against the euro – which could make U.S. exports costlier. It will be interesting to see them blame that one on Bernanke.

In any case, it is a movie none of us has seen before, which stands to make the ending interesting if not probably in a good way.

"U.S. demand has been such a key for the rest of the world for so long," says Leamer. "This is sort of uncharted territory."

The US recovery is over so says UCLA economist Ed Leame #p2 #tcot

The recovery is over.

So says UCLA economist Ed Leamer. He notes that May brought the first year-over-year decline in the Pulse of Commerce Index of domestic diesel fuel use since the end of 2009 – the latest yellow flag to be raised over the sputtering U.S. economy.

The index, which indirectly tracks industrial production via trucking mileage, has now declined in four of the five months this year and in eight of the past 12. The weak showing doesn't say a recession is at hand, but it means the economy has stopped closing the gap between its actual output and its pre-recession potential growth trend, Leamer says.

That gap, currently around 11% of potential gross domestic product, is not going to get any narrower till we see U.S. output expanding at a rate above 3% -- something that doesn't seem to be in the cards this year. Even skeptics of the U.S. growth story such as Leamer had hoped to see a little better performance in May.

"I was optimistic we'd have a better month," says Leamer, who oversees the Pulse of Commerce Index along with data provider Ceridian. "But it looks now like the recovery ended last summer, which means we're just idling." …

U.S. recovery, rest in peace

Santorum Admits Privatizing Social Security Would Be Very Expensive, But He’d Still ‘Love To Be Able To Do It’ #p2 #tcot

Gingrich presidential campaign implodes #p2 #tcot

Love it: @gop Breaking News: Gingrich's senior campaign staff reportedly resigns en masse #p2 #tcot

Virtually the entire staff to Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich resigned en masse Thursday afternoon following a staff meeting, individuals close to the campaign said Thursday. Those resigning included campaign manager Rob Johnson, and campaign advisers Dave Carney and Katon Dawson.

For more information, visit

GM CEO Calls For $1 Gas Tax Hike: U.S. Falling Behind In Trillion-Dollar Clean Energy Business #p2 #tcot

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Glenn Beck Uses Auschwitz To Promote His New Media Venture #p2 #tcot

Media Matters for America

Glenn Beck Uses Auschwitz To Promote His New Media Venture

Despite repeated condemnations by Jewish groups for his history of using anti-Semitic stereotypes and trivializing the Holocaust, Glenn Beck is using a tour of Auschwitz to promote his new subscription-based online media platform.

Beck To Use Tour Of Auschwitz To Sell GBTV Subscriptions ...

Beck Promises To Broadcast Tour Of Auschwitz To Paid GBTV Subscribers. Peddling subscriptions to his new GBTV media service, Glenn Beck promoted content that would be exclusive to paid subscribers, including his upcoming tour of Auschwitz:

BECK: I am going to take a tour, and I will announce who I am going on this tour with. But I think it is pretty stunning who's hopefully taking me on this tour. I have never wanted to go because I know the story. I - this is going to be a train wreck, an absolute train wreck. But I think it is important, it's an important part of the story of 8-24. I'm going to Poland in a few weeks and I'm going to take you to Auschwitz, live, as I am taken on a tour of Auschwitz, as I prepare mentally and prepare the story for 8-24. I don't even know what that's going to be like. I have no idea what that's going to be like.

But there are going to be things, live events, including 8-24, with behind the scenes access, documentaries that you won't see anywhere else, interviews and things with world leaders, right there as they happen. It's going to be quite a wild summer. And you can sign up now at [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 6/7/11]

... Even After Jewish Groups Have Criticized Beck For Anti-Semitic Smears Of Soros

Beck Repeatedly Used Anti-Semitic Stereotypes To Vilify Soros. Beck used anti-Semitic stereotypes to denigrate Jewish philanthropist George Soros, calling Soros "the puppet master" and "the head of the snake." [Media Matters, 11/9/10]

Beck Falsely Smeared Holocaust Survivor Soros As A Nazi Collaborator. Beck claimed that Soros took "the lands from the people, his Jewish friends and neighbors who were being sent to the gas chambers."  He repeated this claim several days later, saying that Soros "confiscat[ed] the goods and the lands of Jews as a 14-year-old boy as they went to their death." Beck previously said Soros "saw people into gas chambers." [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 11/9/10; Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 11/12/10; 11/2/10]

Jewish Groups Condemned Beck's Smears Against Soros. Several prominent Jewish organizations expressed outrage at Beck's false smears against Soros:

  • Anti-Defamation League Called Beck's Smears Of Soros "Horrific" And "Repugnant." [Anti-Defamation League, 11/11/10]
  • Jewish Funds For Justice: Beck "Grotesquely" Mischaracterized Soros. [The Jewish Week, 11/11/10]
  • Holocaust Survivors Organization VP: Beck's Accusations Are "Monstrous." [The Jewish Week, 11/11/10]
  • Conservative Jewish Magazine Commentary: Beck's Soros Smears Are "Off-Limits" And "Offensive." [Media Matters, 11/13/10]

... And After Beck's Controversial History Of Trivializing The Holocaust

Beck Compared Fox News To Jews During Holocaust, Other News Organizations To Silent Bystanders. Beck compared Fox News to the Jews during the Holocaust, telling other media outlets, "When they're done with Fox, and you decide to speak out on something. The old, 'first they came for the Jews, and I wasn't Jewish.' " [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 10/13/09]

Beck Invoked "First They Came For The Jews" Poem To Respond To Ad Boycotts. Beck portrayed ad boycotts of his Fox News show as being orchestrated by the Obama administration and said to the media: "Is there absolutely no chance whatsoever that you might be a target at some point in the future? What is that poem? First they came for the Jews, and I stayed silent?" [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 4/7/10]

Beck Compared Limited Junk Food To The Holocaust. Criticizing a Boston proposal to ban soda vending machines from city buildings, Beck said, "[f]irst they came for the sugary beverages, and I said nothing." Another time, while speaking about rising food prices, Beck said: "May I just say? First, they came after my cigarettes, but I didn't smoke, so I said nothing. Then they came after my trans fats, but I didn't know what the hell that was, so I said nothing. But then they came after my ice cream -- damn the torpedoes, I rise up for this." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 9/21/10; Fox News, Glenn Beck, 1/6/11]

Beck: Putting "The Common Good First" "Leads To Death Camps." Beck attacked a Washington Post op-ed by Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice, who wrote that "[g]overnment is one way which we care for our neighbors, and tradition tells me to care for my neighbor as I care for myself. Here's what we do for each other as Americans: We grow food, we create jobs, we build homes, pave roads, teach our children, care for our grandparents, secure our neighborhoods. Government makes our country function. To put God first is to put humankind first. To put humankind first is to put the common good first." Beck responded:

BECK: This leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany. Put humankind and the common good first. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 5/28/10; The Washington Post, 4/14/10]

Jewish Organization Criticized Beck For "Recklessly Invoking" The Holocaust. Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice responded to Beck's attack, saying: "Glenn Beck has a history recklessly invoking Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in order to advance his political agenda. But never before has Beck accused Jews - including survivors of the Holocaust and their children and grandchildren - of paving the way for fascism. Through his comments, Beck has demonstrated that he has no idea what leads to fascism." [Media Matters, 5/28/10]

... And On The Heels Of Beck's Record Of Promoting Anti-Semitic Authors And Books

Beck Cited Anti-Semitic Book From Nazi Supporter Elizabeth Dilling. Beck promoted The Red Network by Elizabeth Dilling, a book that contains numerous passages espousing anti-Semitism and racism. Dilling was a Nazi sympathizer who visited Germany in the late 1930s, attended Nazi party meetings, and praised Adolf Hitler's leadership. Dilling also spoke at rallies hosted by the leading U.S. Nazi organization, the German-American Bund. [Media Matters, 10/14/10]

Beck Pushed Book From "Nationally Known White Supremacist And Anti-Semite" Eustace Mullins. On his Fox News show, Beck cited Eustace Mullins' book Secrets of the Federal Reserve. Mullins was a 9-11 truther who has been described as an "anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist" and a "nationally known white supremacist"; the ADL called the book "a re-hash of Mullins' anti-Semitic theories about the origins of the Federal Reserve." In addition, in an obituary for Mullins, the Daily News Leader of Staunton, Virginia, described Mullins as a "[n]ationally known white supremacist and anti-Semite." [Media Matters, 9/22/10]

... And After Beck Has Suggested That Another Holocaust Is Imminent

Beck Warns Against Inaction On Supposed Upcoming Holocaust. Suggesting that another Holocaust was approaching, Beck said: "Well damn it, are we going to be the people who stand here and do nothing until it starts again, and our lives, and our country, and our world is so out of control we are afraid to act? The longer we wait, the worse it will become." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 5/19/11]

Beck Asks: "Are You Willing" To "Hide [A Jew] Behind A Wall In Your House?" Promoting his 8-24 event taking place in Israel, Beck asked: "And will you stand not only with Israel, but with a Jew? How do you feel about Jews? It's one thing, and I'm not asking you. I'm asking a rhetorical question. How do you feel about Jews? Are you willing to put one and hide one behind a wall in your house? Because people should have had that conversation in 1933. I think we're headed down that same path in the Middle East." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/20/11]

Beck: "Would You Hide Anne Frank?" Promoting his event in Israel, Beck said: "Would you hide Anne Frank? I want you to seriously consider this. Would you hide Anne Frank?" He continued, "Would you risk it? Would you be Oskar Schindler?" [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 5/25/11]

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck

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Glenn Beck Program

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House WIC Cuts Would End Food Assistance for 200,000 to 350,000 Low-Income Women and Children #p2 #tcot

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

House WIC Cuts Would End Food Assistance for 200,000 to 350,000 Low-Income Women and Children

By Zoë Neuberger and Robert Greenstein

"A large cut in the WIC nutrition program that the House Appropriations Committee approved last week would force WIC to turn away 200,000 to 350,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year. This cut, part of the 2012 appropriations bill that the Committee approved May 31, would break a 15-year commitment by Administrations and Congresses of both parties to provide enough WIC funding to serve all eligible women, infants, and children who apply."

Note: The report contains state-by-state data on estimated participation cuts in FY 2012 relative to participation in March 2011.

View the full report: 3pp.

fair? @gop Pawlenty Plan Would Cut Income Taxes for Richest 400 Americans by 73 Percent #p2 #tcot


Former Minnesota governor and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has released his proposed tax plan, including very specific rate cuts and exemptions for investment income, and vague promises to eliminate tax loopholes. Even if he eliminates all itemized deductions and credits, millionaires would still receive an enormous income tax break under the plan.
Download the PDF

Pawlenty Plan Would Cut Income Taxes for Richest 400 Americans by 73 Percent

assholes: Delta Charges U.S. Troops Returning From Afghanistan $2,800 In Baggage Fees (VIDEO) @delta @DELTAAIRLINES

WASHINGTON -- Delta Air Lines is facing intense criticism after charging 34 U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees.

The incident came to light on Tuesday after a couple of the new-media savvy soldiers recorded a video about their ordeal and posted it on YouTube.

"We showed up and found out we had too many bags," said Army Staff Sgt. Robert O'Hair in the video, which was shot on their flight. "We had four bags, and Delta Air Lines only allows three bags. Anything over three bags you have to pay for, even though there's a contract between the United States government and Delta Air Lines: When returning from Afghanistan on military orders, you're authorized up to four bags."

O'Hair added that all the soldiers with a fourth bag had to pay $200 out-of-pocket. The total for the 34 soldiers was more than $2,800. O'Hair's fourth piece of luggage was his weapons case, carrying the tools he used, in his words, to "protect myself and Afghan citizens while I was deployed in the country."

rest at

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pawlenty argues for tax cuts without acknowledging Bush years #p2 #tcot

Health Advocates, Govt Officials Surprised By Obama’s Efforts To Prevent Residents From Suing States Over Unfair Medicaid Cuts #p2 #tcot

As states across the country cut back on Medicaid spending — leaving many Americans with nowhere to go to get proper medical care — health care advocates in states like Washington, North Carolina, and Arizona are filing lawsuits to try to reverse the reductions. But the Obama administration is standing in the way.

On May 26, acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case "arguing against Medicaid patients and providers suing California over changes to its Medicaid program." As Lester Feder reports in the Politico, the move shocked many in the health care policy community, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Katheleen Sebelius, who had been working behind the scenes to head off the opinion:

Advocates for Medicaid beneficiaries say the case, Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, is important because it will be very difficult to enforce states' obligations under Medicaid if the Supreme Court accepts Katyal's argument. This could not only hurt beneficiaries who would have little recourse if Medicaid denies life-saving benefits, but it could also undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which relies on states to implement key components. The court will hear the case in the next term. [...]

The ACA will add an estimated 16 million people to Medicaid rolls. If the court follows Katyal's argument, Rosenbaum said, "It would be like having an insurance policy on paper and no real way to enforce the kind of assistance that real people in the real world are supposed to get."

And, she added, there's "no stopping point … in terms of its spillover effects" if the Supreme Court broadly restricts individuals' access to the courts over state implementation of such a federal program.

The administration says that it is opposing the right of individuals to challenge state because that would create "unmitigated litigation clogging up the courts," but such lawsuits are already restoring health care cuts to the neediest Americans.

Last week, the Washington Supreme Court court found that the state Department of Social and Health Services "made broad assumptions based on children's age and living conditions instead of examining the need in each individual case" and unfairly cut benefits. The ruling will restore care to as many as 3,000 children who are served by the state's children's health care program. The court also affirmed a lower court decision that reversed cuts to 1,000 seniors receiving in-home care.

ANALYSIS: Pawlenty’s Tax Plan Would Cost $7.8 Trillion Over Ten Years, Triple The Size Of Bush Tax Cuts #p2 #tcot

Our guest blogger is Michael Linden, Director of Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Earlier today, presidential candidate and former governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) outlined his economic policy "vision," which included several major proposals to cut taxes. Pawlenty called for:

– Cutting the top individual income tax rate down to 25 percent;

– Having just two income tax brackets, 10 percent and 25 percent;

– Eliminating all taxation on capital gains, dividends, and estates;

– Cutting the corporate tax rate down to 15 percent

These proposals, taken together would bestow a massive tax cut on the wealthiest people in the country. They would also reduce overall federal revenues to a such a low level that even if Pawlenty's draconian, radical spending targets were achieved, deficits and debt would still soar out of control.

All together, Pawlenty's tax proposal would generate an average revenue level of just 13.6 percent of GDP from 2013-2021. That translates to a tax cut of $7.8 trillion, and that's on top of $2.5 trillion cost of extending all of the Bush tax cuts (see below for details on how this estimate was calculated).

Pawlenty also says that he will balance the budget, and cap spending at 18 percent of GDP. Unfortunately for Pawlenty, his tax plan leaves him about $8.4 trillion short. Given that reality, he can either embrace a huge middle-class tax increase, or give up his claims to a balanced budget. If he doesn't make up that revenue, deficits and debt will skyrocket, even if he does slash spending back to levels not seen in half a century.

Read how we got our numbers after the jump.

The Tax Policy Center estimated the revenue effect of the certain revenue proposals in the House passed budget plan, including reducing the top rate to 25 percent, and cutting the corporate rate to 25 percent. To get the additional cost of reducing the corporate rate further to 15 percent, we simply doubled the TPC estimate of this provision.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates how much revenue the government is expected to collect from capital gains and from estate and gift taxes.

We estimated the revenue effect of removing the 15 percent bracket based on data from the Internal Revenue Service for 2007 and extrapolating forward.