Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cyprus President’s Family Transferred Millions to London Days Before Bank Confiscations


Over the weekend it was reported that people in Cyprus may lose as much as 60 percent of the money in their savings accounts.

The president of Cyprus, acting on behalf of the people, rolled over to the EU and agreed to go along with their plan and continue to mandate the EU currency under his jurisdiction.

Just days before the confiscations were announced to the public, a company closely connected to the president of Cyprus transferred millions of dollars to London.

RT reported that:

During two days, 12 and 13 of March, the company A.Loutsios & Sons Ltd., co-owned by Loutsios John, the husband of Nikos Anastasiadis' daughter, Elsa, took five promissory notes worth €21 million from Laiki Bank. The money was then transferred to London, reported Cypriot newspaper Haravgi, affiliated to the communist-rooted AKEL party.  The withdrawal was fulfilled just three days before the Eurogroup meeting when euro finance ministers agreed a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout for Cyprus. The newspaper recalls that Cyprus Finance Minister, Michalis Sarris, publicly admitted that the government was aware in advance about the Eurogroup's intentions to impose a "haircut" on bank deposits of more than 100,000 euros.

Responding to the allegations, Anastasiades said: "The attempt to defame companies or people linked to my family… is nothing but an attempt to distract people from the liability of those who led the country to a state of bankruptcy."

Yet as president of a country involved in central banking, Anastasiades is absolutely complicit in the countries state of bankruptcy.  In addition,  a list of companies and politicians that had loans written off by banks at the heart of Cyprus' bailout crisis was published in Greece and was subsequently handed to the Cypriot parliament's ethics committee.

This situation has caught the attention of people worldwide, who are now wondering if their savings accounts are at risk, considering that Cyprus is not much different from any other central banking government.  These measures are not just possible in other places, they have actually already been planned, Cyprus just happens to be the first place in the EU to get robbed.

Earlier last week Anastasiades admitted that the measures in Cyprus were simply an "experiment" concocted by the European Union in an attempt to deal with their current debt crisis.

It was also revealed in plans dating back to last year that

"Confiscation of the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone "troika" officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland; and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds."

It was also reported last week that a Cyprus style "bail in" was proposed in the new 2013 Canadian budget.

There has been a rush towards precious metals and Bitcoin because people are attempting to retain as much of their wealth as possible, but for many who have had their funds seized it was too late.

To help the people of Cyprus get their assets off the grid, Jeff Berwick has announced that he will be opening a Bitcoin ATM in Cyprus in the coming weeks.


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Friday, March 29, 2013

Chicago: no $ for schools yet we're ok spending $100mil to pretty up riverwalk. get a clue @ChicagosMayor @RahmEmanuel


Former Mayor Richard M. Daley's dream of turning a six-block stretch of the downtown Chicago riverfront into an enticing riverwalk that rivals San Antonio's will finally become a reality, thanks to a $100 million federal loan awarded Thursday.

In one of his final acts as U.S. Transportation secretary, former Illinois congressman Ray LaHood came back home to announce the $100 million loan that Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes will transform the riverwalk into Chicago's next great public space that will rival Millennium Park.

LaHood described the project as a "done deal" and said he was absolutely confident in the city's plan to retire the $100 million loan.

"The financial stability of this project is solid. It's a matter now of finishing up the paperwork," LaHood said.

"This riverwalk will become another economic corridor in downtown Chicago for small business."

Emanuel said it's time to "re-introduce" Chicagoans to the Chicago River and realize the riverfront's true potential to become the city's next recreational frontier.

"It's no longer just a dream or a drawing on the board. It's now becoming a reality," the mayor said.

Emanuel and his Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein were somewhat sketchy on where the revenues will come from to repay a 35-year loan with no payment schedule until construction that is scheduled to start in 2014 is completed two years later.

"A little over 70 percent of the revenues will come from … the existing tour boat fees, which were re-bid last year. Right there, we've got the bulk of it covered," Klein said.

"We've got retail leasing. We've got various other advertising and sponsorship opportunities, which we're not even heavily counting on. And we've been extremely conservative in our estimates on revenues purposely because we knew we'd have to go through a very rigorous process, which we have, with" the U.S. Transportation Department."

Asked whether the Chicago River was likely to see a lot more advertising and boat traffic to repay the loan, Klein said, "No. Any additional advertising would be very tasteful and very limited. … [And] right now, it's just using the existing two [boat] slips."

Emanuel predicted that 400 people would be put to work building the riverwalk from State Street west to Lake and that 400 permanent jobs would be created to operate the restaurants, bars and entertainment space that will be created.

"Our downtown has changed. It's the fastest growing commercial-residential area in the country — by a factor of three. Nobody's even close. And the riverwalk will now create and complement what's gonna be a 500-apartment building right there on the riverfront. It will change all the [property] values here — both commercial and residential," the mayor said. "Our city is changing and we need to change with it to accentuate the economic opportunity and potential of the city."

On display at Thursday's news conference were "conceptual ideas" and catchy names for each of the six blocks between State and Wells that run along Wacker Drive and the Chicago River.

State to Dearborn would be known as "The Marina," with restaurants and public seating that allows people to while away their time watching commercial and recreational boat traffic along the river.

Dearborn to Clark would be turned into "The Cove," featuring kayak rentals and a dock for "human-powered watercraft." Clark to LaSalle would be turned into a heavily landscaped "River Theater" with a wide staircase to Upper Wacker Drive.

Kids who love to splash around in chlorinated and "zero-depth" public fountains would be able to do just that in the one-block stretch from LaSalle to Wells, to be known as, "The Swimming Hole."

Wells to Franklin would be turned into "The Jetty," described as a place to learn about the "ecology of the Chicago River" complete with floating gardens and piers for fishing.

And Franklin to Lake would be known as "The Boardwalk," described as the site of an "iconic bridge" that would bring people from Upper Wacker down to the riverwalk level while surrounded by "floating gardens and landscaping."

Daley's plan to build a San Antonio-style riverwalk initially called for the city to spend up to $50 million in federal funds to build a river-level boardwalk from Michigan to Lake that would have included 35,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space, along with docks for tour boats and water taxis.

When the work was done, the city would have turned the riverwalk over to a private management company.

But when Daley tried to tackle the project in one fell swoop, only one company responded to the request for proposals. City Hall decided to toss out the lone bid and restart the competition in smaller bites.

After filling in the "missing links" in the Wacker Drive riverwalk, the city agreed in 2009 to design the rest — even though Chicago taxpayers still didn't have the money to build it.

The Daley administration issued a "request for proposals" from firms interested in designing the final phase of the riverwalk — the six-block stretch between State and Lake streets. It was those concepts that the city plans to follow.

Dudes with loaded assault rifles show up to intimidate mothers protesting against guns

Mike Bloomberg Gives Debunked Excuse For Opposing Paid Sick Leave Legislation

Ted Cruz accuses Obama of trying to "take advantage" of Sandy Hook massacre


Teabagger Ted Cruz, first-term Republican senator from Texas, has emerged as one of the most loathsomely extremist members of what is overwhelmingly a loathsomely extremist party. And like any "good" Republican extremist, he's taking it upon himself to block any and all gun control efforts, and of course to use any and every occasion to attack the president:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) responded to President Barack Obama's latest call for action on gun control Thursday, launching criticism at the White House and promising to do everything in his power to stop the administration's push for stricter legislation.

"It is saddening to see the president today, once again, try to take advantage of this tragic murder to promote an agenda that will do nothing to stop violent crime, but will undermine the constitutional rights of all law-abiding Americans," Cruz said in a statement. "I am committed to working with Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Jim Inhofe -- and I hope many other colleagues -- to use any procedural means necessary to protect those fundamental rights."

Cruz also blamed the Obama administration for contributing to the gun violence it is now attempting to address.

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@gop After RNC Calls For Hispanic Outreach, Republican Governor Eliminates Latino Affairs Office


The Republican National Committee devoted much of the attention of its "autopsy" report to improving party outreach to people of color. The report noted it is "imperative that the RNC changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our Party." Yet, if the autopsy report had any effect at all, it appears to be short-lived. Since last week, top Republicans have dodged discussing immigration reform with citizenship, while one congressman used a racial slur to describe Latinos.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) contribution to this effort is to unexpectedly close the state's Latino Affairs office, an office that normally engaged with Latino leaders on policy, offfered bilingual assistance for disaster victims, and collected demographic statistics on the state's 800,000 Latino residents.

The governor's office said it will shift some of the office's duties to a general office for community and constituent affairs. "We are committed to serving the needs of all of North Carolina's citizens," McCrory's chief of staff said. "We don't segment our constituents by race or cultural background, any more than we separate them by age or gender."

But Latino advocates criticize the decision. Executive Director of Latin American Coalition in Charlotte Jess George told McClatchy, "The message from Raleigh is that Latinos in North Carolina don't matter."

Just before closing the Latino Affairs office, North Carolina pursued a controversial driver's license design that would distinguish young undocumented immigrants's licenses by a pink stripe and the words, "NO LAWFUL STATUS" printed across. The state somewhat modified the design when it faced community backlash.

Pat Robertson Claims Homeland Security Is Stocking Ammo To 'Attack Us"


Pat Robertson, Pope of the Televangelists is joining with the crackpot theories of Alex Jones that warns Americans the feds are out to get us, just like he did during his Clinton 'black helicopter' days.

Robertson: Long trains full of armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor, what are they for, the army going into battle against the enemy? They're used by Homeland Security against us," Robertson ominously warned. "Imagine what Homeland Security is doing is just awful and we're going to talk about how much ammunition they're stockpiling: who are they going to shoot, us?

David Edwards:

The same theories have also been picked up in recent weeks by the Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network.

And on Thursday, Robertson weighed in on the side of the conspiracy theorists, calling it "like something out of science fiction: long trains of full or armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor."

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Critics slam Obama for "protecting" Monsanto @barackobama #p2 #tcot


There's no love lost between Washington and the American public, it seems, five days after Congress for the first time in years managed to handle a budget-related issue without reaching the brink of crisis.

Protesters have descended on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House this week, enraged at a potentially health-hazardous provision they allege lawmakers inserted surreptitiously into a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. The bill sailed through the Capitol on Friday; President Obama signed it into law on Tuesday.

Opponents have termed the language in question the "Monsanto Protection Act," a nod to the major agricultural biotech corporation and other like firms geared at producing genetically modified organisms (GMO) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops. The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation suits over health risks posed by the crops' consumption.

Food safety advocacy groups like Food Democracy Now, which collected more than 250,000 signatures on a petition calling for the president to veto the CR, argue not enough studies have been conducted into the possible health risks of GMO and GE seeds. Eliminating judicial power to halt the selling or planting of them essentially cuts off their course to ensuring consumer safety should health risks emerge.

Seeking a "balance" to the newly minted law, Food Democracy Now has shifted its tactics to encouraging supporters to sign and send letters to Mr. Obama, chiding him for signing the legislation despite that refusal to do so would have expired the federal budget and triggered a government-wide shutdown this week.

Part of the template for the letter reads: "In an effort to balance this violation of our basic rights, I am urging you as President to issue an Executive Order to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, something that you promised farmers while on the campaign trail in 2007. It is urgent that the U.S. government rectify the 20 year old politically engineered loophole and allow for open and transparent labeling of genetically engineered foods," the letter continues, "a basic right that citizens in 62 others countries already enjoy."

Other groups have aimed their ire toward the more worthy target, criticizing Congress for slipping the language into a must-pass bill without review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The International Business Times reports that the Center for Food Safety is putting in the hot seat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, for not giving the amendment a proper hearing. According to Salon, many members of Congress who voted to approve the bill were unaware the language existed.

"In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement, according to IBT. "This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate."

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@GOP rebranding update: 'wetbacks' - Seriously, fuck you @gop Rep. Don Young


Time for that daily check-in on the GOP's supposed efforts to stop being dicks to people who aren't white southern males so that perhaps they can start winning elections again. Let's go up to Alaska for the latest update:
'My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,' [Rep. Don Young] said. 'It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine.'
Young has already apologized:
During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.
  1. Actually, that term is absolutely used in the same way nowadays—as a way to denigrate brown people from south of the border. That was the intent back when he first used it, and it's the same intent now when he used it again.
  2. His big mistake was forgetting the cameras were rolling. Oops.
  3. Fuck you, Don.
  4. If he knows that this term is not supposed to be used nowadays, then why did he use it?
  5. Seriously, fuck you Don.

Let's slot this one as another rebranding failure, which should make Sarah Palin super happy because god forbid the GOP stop talking about rapes and wetbacks. Doing so would be abandoning everything the Republican Party stands for.

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@barackobama Obama signs 'Monsanto Protection Act' written by Monsanto-sponsored senator #p2 #tcot


United States President Barack Obama has signed a bill into law that was written in part by the very billion-dollar corporation that will benefit directly from the legislation.

On Tuesday, Pres. Obama inked his name to H.R. 933, a continuing resolution spending bill approved in Congress days earlier. Buried 78 pages within the bill exists a provision that grossly protects biotech corporations such as the Missouri-based Monsanto Company from litigation.

With the president's signature, agriculture giants that deal with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds are given the go-ahead to continue to plant and sell man-made crops, even as questions remain largely unanswered about the health risks these types of products pose to consumers.

In light of approval from the House and Senate, more than 250,000 people signed a petition asking the president to veto the spending bill over the biotech rider tacked on, an item that has since been widely referred to as the "Monsanto Protection Act."

"But Obama ignored [the petition]," IB Times' Connor Sheets writes, "instead choosing to sign a bill that effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of GMO or GE crops and seeds, no matter what health consequences from the consumption of these products may come to light in the future."

James Brumley, a reporter for Investor Place, explains a little more thoroughly just how dangerous the rider is now that biotech companies are allowed to bypass judicial scrutiny. Up until it was signed, he writes, "the USDA [US Department of Agriculture] oversaw and approved (or denied) the testing of genetically modified seeds, while the federal courts retained the authority to halt the testing or sale of these plants if it felt that public health was being jeopardized. With HR 933 now a law, however, the court system no longer has the right to step in and protect the consumer."

If the president's signature isn't all that surprising, though, consider the genesis of the bill itself. According to an article published Monday in the New York Daily News, US Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) "worked with Monsanto to craft the language in the bill."

Sen. Blunt defended his bill to the News, shrugging off suggestions that it set a startling precedent that will affect all US agriculture by firing back, "What it says is if you plant a crop that is legal to plant when you plant it, you get to harvest it. But it is only a one-year protection in that bill."

One year could be all it takes to cause catastrophic damage to the environment by allowing laboratory-produced organisms to be planted into the earth without oversight. Under the Monsanto Protection Act, health concerns that arise in the immediate future involving the planting of GMO crops won't be able to be heard by a judge. Blunt, a junior senator that has held elected office since the late '90s, has good reason to whitewash the very bill he helped craft. The Center for Responsive Politics notes that Sen. Blunt received $64,250 from Monsanto to go towards his campaign committee between 2008 and 2012. The Money Monocle website adds that Blunt has been the largest Republican Party recipient of Monsanto funding as of late.

On the lawmaker's official website, a statement explains a little more as to why he favored HR 933 and the rider within it.

"As the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Senator Blunt played a vital role in writing the fiscal year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. This legislation maintained vital support for research and extension at land grant universities, capacity building grants for non-land grant colleges of agriculture, and competitive funding under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The bill also included funding for conservation activities, housing and business loan programs for rural communities, domestic and international nutrition programs."

Nowhere does the senator's site mention the Monsanto Protection Act by name, although it claims Blunt "supports continued investments in agricultural research and engineering."

"Did Blunt not realize that Monsanto would stand to gain significantly if section 735 survived and HR 933 was signed into law?" asks Brumley. "Not likely,"

"There's no way of getting around the fact this is an abusive conflict of interest," he says.

Clearly isn't Brumley the only one that feels that way either: Blunt's Wikipedia page was vandalized this week to read in the first paragraph, "His Senate seat was previously held by Republican Kit Bond, until Bond's retirement, and will be sold by Blunt to Monsanto Corporation upon his retirement."

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As Obama Calls On Nation To Remember Newtown, Rubio Pledges To Block Gun Reform


Minutes before President Obama delivered an emotional speech asking lawmakers to pass sensible gun safety measures in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, word came from Capitol Hill that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had signed onto a letter pledging to block votes on any of Obama's proposals for gun legislation.

Obama delivered his speech surrounded by a group of victims of gun violence, including three parents of Newtown victims. All had come to Washington to demand that Congress take action to stop gun violence. Obama's speech called on average citizens to ask for the same:

The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we've moved on to other things, that's not who we are. That's not who we are.

And I want to make sure every American is listening today. Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked. And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten.

If there's one thing I've said consistently since I first ran for this office: Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change. And that's why it's so important that all these moms and dads are here today. But that's also why it's important that we've got grassroots groups out there that got started and are out there mobilizing and organizing and keeping up the fight.

Sen. Mike Lee's (R-UT) office was the first to announce that Rubio had signed onto the filibuster pledge, a joint effort by the offices of Lee and Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). In an earlier statement, Lee claimed that Obama was using "the tragedy at Newtown as a backdrop for pushing legislation that would have done nothing to prevent that horrible crime."

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why? Obama Signs Monsanto Protection Act Into Law After Promising GMO Labeling in 2007 @barackobama #p2 #tcot


President Obama has signed into law the notorious Monsanto Protection Act legislation hidden inside of the Continuing Resolution spending bill, which protects Monsanto and its genetically modified creations from federal courts.

 (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

(Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

by Anthony Gucciardi
March 28, 2013

Passing up the chance to veto the bill in favor of stopping Monsanto's increasing monopoly on the food supply, Obama pushed the bill through into a law in a move that reminds us of his failed 2007 promise to 'immediately' label GMOs upon his election.

Contained in the rider (Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735) of HR 933, Monsanto is now even protected (at least under this law) from the United States government.

As I pointed out in a previous article, the Monsanto Protection Act's success actually proves how corporations have more power than even the United States federal government. Monsanto's lobbyists managed to slip the rider into the major bill, which — despite the rider — has virtually nothing to do with the topic.

This is a typical and routinely practiced move by lobbyists to insert an incognito line of legislation into a bill generally viewed as favorable overall. One that has proven to be effective for Monsanto.


2007 Promise to Label GMOs

The result is now major outcry against Obama for signing the bill into law and protecting the biotech juggernaut Monsanto. Many fail to remember, however, that Obama first decided to allow Monsanto to continue pulverizing the food supply and the health of the nation back in 2008 when he went back on his promise to 'immediately' label GMOs. It was in 2007, during a campaign speech, that Obama first stated his support of non-GMO and GMO labeling activists, in which he promised to swiftly label GMOs.

You can see the video from our Youtube channel here:

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

While everyone was distracted by the gay marriage debate, Obama signed the Monsanto Protection Act. No hoopla, no fuss #p2 #tcot

Slipped into the Agricultural Appropriations Bill, which passed through Congress last week, was a small provision that's a big deal for Monsanto and its opponents. The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks and has thus been dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act" by activists who oppose the biotech giant. President Barack Obama signed the spending bill, including the provision, into law on Tuesday

Since the act's passing, more than 250,000 people have signed a petition opposing the provision and a rally, consisting largely of farmers organized by the Food Democracy Now network, protested outside the White House Wednesday. Not only has anger been directed at the Monsanto Protection Act's content, but the way in which the provision was passed through Congress without appropriate review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The biotech rider instead was introduced anonymously as the larger bill progressed — little wonder food activists are accusing lobbyists and Congress members of backroom dealings.

The Food Democracy Now and the Center for Food are directing blame at the Senate Appropriations Committee and its chairman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. According to reports, many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the "Monsanto Protection Act" even existed within the spending bill, HR 933; they voted in order to avert a government shutdown.

"It sets a terrible precedent," noted the International Business Times. "Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right."

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing @turbotax @IntuitInc


This story was co-produced with NPR.

Imagine filing your income taxes in five minutes — and for free. You'd open up a pre-filled return, see what the government thinks you owe, make any needed changes and be done. The miserable annual IRS shuffle, gone.

It's already a reality in Denmark, Sweden and Spain. The government-prepared return would estimate your taxes using information your employer and bank already send it. Advocates say tens of millions of taxpayers could use such a system each year, saving them a collective $2 billion and 225 million hours in prep costs and time, according to one estimate.

The idea, known as "return-free filing," would be a voluntary alternative to hiring a tax preparer or using commercial tax software. The concept has been around for decades and has been endorsed by both President Ronald Reagan and a campaigning President Obama.

"This is not some pie-in-the-sky that's never been done before," said William Gale, co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. "It's doable, feasible, implementable, and at a relatively low cost."

So why hasn't it become a reality?

Well, for one thing, it doesn't help that it's been opposed for years by the company behind the most popular consumer tax software — Intuit, maker of TurboTax. Conservative tax activist Grover Norquist and an influential computer industry group also have fought return-free filing.

Intuit has spent about $11.5 million on federal lobbying in the past five years — more than Apple or Amazon. Although the lobbying spans a range of issues, Intuit's disclosures pointedly note that the company "opposes IRS government tax preparation."

The disclosures show that Intuit as recently as 2011 lobbied on two bills, both of which died, that would have allowed many taxpayers to file pre-filled returns for free. The company also lobbied on bills in 2007 and 2011 that would have barred the Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, from initiating return-free filing.

Intuit argues that allowing the IRS to act as a tax preparer could result in taxpayers paying more money. It is also a member of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which sponsors a "STOP IRS TAKEOVER" campaign and a website calling return-free filing a "massive expansion of the U.S. government through a big government program."

In an emailed statement, Intuit spokeswoman Julie Miller said, "Like many other companies, Intuit actively participates in the political process." Return-free programs curtail citizen participation in the tax process, she said, and also have "implications for accuracy and fairness in taxation." (Here is Intuit's full statement.)

In its latest annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, however, Intuit also says that free government tax preparation presents a risk to its business.

Roughly 25 million Americans used TurboTax last year, and a recent GAO analysis said the software accounted for more than half of individual returns filed electronically. TurboTax products and services made up 35 percent of Intuit's $4.2 billion in total revenues last year. Versions of TurboTax for individuals and small businesses range in price from free to $150.

(H&R Block, whose tax filing product H&R Block At Home competes with TurboTax, declined to discuss return-free filing with ProPublica. The company's disclosure forms state that it also has lobbied on at least one bill related to return-free filing.)

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George W. Bush Spent $1.3 Million in Government Money Last Year, Most of Ex-Presidents #p2 #tcot @foxnews @gop #teaparty


The government spent more than $1.3 million on former President George W. Bush in 2012, the highest amount spent on any ex-president. According to an analysis released by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the government spent nearly $3.7 million on former presidents in 2012, an amount that is about $200,000 less than what was spent in 2011. The money pays for a pension, compensation, benefits for office staffers and other costs.

The Former Presidents Act gives old Oval Office inhabitants a $200,000 annual pension and $96,000 a year for a small office staff. Taxpayers also foot the bill for things like travel, office space and postage. The large amount spent on Bush seems a little objectionable considering how much former presidents are able to make for books and speaking engagements.

The more recently a president has left office, the more financial help he receives, which is one reason Bush's costs were so high. Bush was granted almost $400,000 for 8,000 square feet of office space in Dallas, $85,000 for telephone costs and $60,000 in travel costs, according to The Washington Post.

Bill Clinton came in second in spending at just less than $1 million. George H.W. Bush was next at nearly $850,000. Costs for Jimmy Carter were just $500,000. None of these totals include what the Secret Service spends protecting former presidents, their spouses and children. Those costs are part of a budget that is not made public.

The widows of ex-presidents receive a pension of $20,000. Nancy Reagan, the wife of former president Ronald Reagan, waived her pension last year. However, she did accept $14,000 for postage.

Sources: The Washington Post, Dallas Morning News

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bob Ney, Disgraced GOP Congressman: John @speakerBoehner Called Staffer A 'Fag' (VIDEO)


Apple, Microsoft and Eight Other Corporations Each Increased Their Offshore Profit Holdings by $5 Billion or More in 2012


Read this report in PDF

92 Fortune 500 Corporations Boosted Their Offshore Stash by Over $500 Million Each

In recent years, multinational U.S.-based corporations have systematically accumulated staggering amounts of profits offshore. Much if not most of these profits were actually earned in the United States but have been artificially shifted to foreign tax havens to avoid U.S. corporate income taxes.

Ten particularly aggressive companies report that their offshore profit holdings have grown by more than $5 billion each in just the past year. Apple Inc. reports adding $28 billion in offshore cash in the past year, while Microsoft's offshore stash increased by $16 billion.1 Other Fortune 500 companies adding at least $5 billion offshore in the past year include Pfizer, Merck, Google,2 Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, Citigroup, IBM, and General Electric. These ten companies increased their offshore profit holdings by a total of $107 billion in just the past year.

In the same year, 92 Fortune 500 corporations each boosted their reported offshore profit holdings by at least $500 million. In total, these 92 corporations added an additional $229 billion to their offshore profit hoards in 2012 alone. (See table on p. 4 and 5 of PDF)

Under current law, so-called "foreign" corporate profits are not subject to U.S. tax unless and until the profits are repatriated into the United States. According to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, this indefinite deferral of tax on profits ostensibly earned or shifted overseas will cost the federal government about $600 billion over the upcoming decade.3

But lobbyists for the multinationals are urging Congress to go even further, by permanently exempting from U.S. corporate income taxes all profits that U.S. corporations manage to have treated as "foreign." Such a change would make it even more profitable for multinational corporations to shift jobs and profits out of the United States, and could cost the U.S. government hundreds of billions of dollars in additional lost revenues.

Over the Past Four Years, 48 Corporations Added $518 Billion to their Offshore Profit Hoards

Showing that 2012 is not an exception, over the past four years, 48 corporations each added at least $3 billion to their offshore profit hoards. The total that these 48 companies added over four years was $518 billion.

Some companies, of course, had even higher additions to their offshore profit hoards over the past four years. Apple Inc. topped the four-year list, adding $65 billion to its offshore holdings of cash and marketable securities. Fourteen other corporations also added at least $10 billion to their offshore profit holdings over the last four years. These were: Microsoft, Pfizer, General Electric, Merck, Google, Abbott Laboratories, IBM, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard,4 Johnson & Johnson, Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, Oracle and PepsiCo. (See table on p. 6. of PDF)

Offshoring is Much More Widespread

The offshoring phenomenon goes well beyond the group of companies just highlighted. A December 2012 CTJ report shows that almost 300 Fortune 500 corporations have disclosed holding at least some profits overseas, and that these companies collectively held over $1.6 trillion offshore at the end of 2011.5

Of this group, 47 corporations indirectly disclosed how much U.S. tax they would owe if their $384 billion in offshore profit holdings were subject to U.S. corporate income tax. Just for these companies, the taxes due would total $105 billion. These figures strongly indicate that most of those profits have been shifted out of the U.S. into foreign tax havens where the companies do no actual business.6

Michigan Senator Carl Levin recently observed that such practices may be legal, but they shouldn't be; ending the practice of deferral would render artificial profit shifting illegal and would restore significant revenues to the U.S. Treasury.

1 A recent Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing revealed that Microsoft shifted 47 percent of the profits earned on products developed and sold in the U.S. to subsidiaries in foreign tax havens.

2 Google, Starbucks, and Amazon were recently called before a U.K. Parliament committee to answer charges that they were dodging U.K. taxes by artificially shifting profits to tax haven countries. See Rajeev Syal and Patrick Wintour, "MPs attack Amazon, Google and Starbucks over tax avoidance," The Guardian, December 2, 2012 available at

3 See Joint Committee on Taxation, Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 2012-2017, Feb. 1, 2013 (JCS-1-13), page 30. The JCT report estimates that "deferral of active income of controlled foreign corporations" will cost $265.7 billion over the 2013-17 period. Extrapolating out the following five years brings the 10-year cost to more than $600 billion.

4 Hewlett-Packard was also the target of a recent Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probe. See

5 Citizens for Tax Justice, "Fortune 500 Corporations Holding $1.6 Trillion in Profits Offshore," December 13, 2012, page 10.

6 Eli Lilly, for example, reported that it would owe the full 35 percent U.S. corporate tax if it "repatriated" all of the $20.6 billion it had parked overseas at the end of 2011. But since the U.S. gives a credit for any income taxes paid to foreign governments that means that Eli Lilly has paid no income tax to any government on its offshore income. Which, in turn, means that the profits must have been artificially shifted from where they were actually earned into tax-free havens. Overall, the 47 corporations that disclosed what they would owe if they repatriated their offshore profits said that they would pay a U.S. tax of 27 percent. That implies that more than three-quarters of the profits (27%/35%) have never been taxed by any government. See Citizens for Tax Justice, "Which Fortune 500 Companies Are Sheltering Income in Overseas Tax Havens," Oct. 17, 2012.

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Denounce Mitch McConnell for his sexist remarks about Hillary Clinton -->

Denounce Mitch McConnell for his sexist remarks about Hillary Clinton -->

Saturday, March 16, 2013

DC’s Worst-Kept Budget Secret: Lots Of Democrats Support Entitlement Cuts

House Democrats came away from a closed-door meeting with President Obama on Thursday expressing openness to his proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, after he assured them he would never cut entitlement benefits unless Republicans yield on tax increases.

After the meeting with Obama, several key Democrats expressed an openness to entitlement benefit cuts as part of a broader budget bill that includes higher taxes. Their statements run counter to the hoary conventional wisdom in Washington that Democrats are just as stubbornly opposed to cutting safety net spending as Republicans are to higher taxes.

"I'm willing to keep my powder dry until I see what's on the table," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told reporters. "It's the context that matters to me. I'm not willing to absolutely rule anything in or out. … But I'm not willing to give anything away for free."

"I'm certainly willing to listen," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. "I would be willing to listen if he says there are some exceptions. So whether you could do a Chained CPI and exempt those who live under a certain income — I don't know. We haven't taken it very seriously right now in our caucus."

The two major benefit cuts Obama has publicly offered Republicans are a reduction in the growth of Social Security benefits via a policy known as Chained CPI, and further means-testing of Medicare, which would require higher-income seniors to pay for a larger share of their health care cost.

In an important indication of where Democrats stand, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters after the meeting Thursday that as long as "Chained CPI does not hurt the poor or the very old, then it is something to put on the table."

Some liberals in the caucus, like Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY), say they strongly oppose any such cuts to entitlement benefits. But even they openly admit that a significant number of Democrats likely won't join their opposition.

"First of all, we have a diverse caucus," Nadler said. "I imagine there are a fair number of people [who agree with Obama]. Well, 107 of us signed a letter saying we don't like Chained CPI. That means a hundred others, roughly, didn't sign the letter. … Some of them didn't sign the letter because they didn't agree with the letter. So you can't assume the entire Democratic caucus disagrees with the president, though some of us clearly do."

A separate letter to Obama vowing to "vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits," has just 30 Democratic signatories.

Connolly candidly explained that for most Democrats, the decision on whether to support Obama on Medicare means-testing and Chained CPI comes down to how they're framed.

"These issues — it depends on how you choose to frame them, what your frame of reference is," Connolly said. "So if you define [means testing] or the Chained CPI as a benefit cut, that violates all that is sacred to the Democratic Party. If you truly believe it can save some money and is simply a technical change in how we formulate and calculate the cost of living … and if that saves the program or if that extends the program for 10 or 15 years, is that a horrible thing? … So that's how [Obama] phrased it, and that's how some Democrats will frame it."

On that score, Pelosi has for months been refuting the notion that Chained CPI constitutes a Social Security benefit cut. "No, I don't" consider it a benefit cut, she said in December when Obama floated the idea in fiscal cliff talks. "I consider it a strengthening of Social Security."

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.@CPACnews Rick Santorum: Gay Marriage is Worse Than Child Murder #cpac idiocy

Rick Santorum, who has previously equated homosexuality with child molestation and bestiality, has discovered an even worse comparison for homosexuality. According to the former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential hopeful, homosexuality is worse than killing a child.

Rick Santorum really does believe that abortion is killing a child. He said so while campaigning, he said so on the Senate floor, and he said so in interviews: "You can say it is not human life. I can say this piece of paper is not a piece of paper, but that does not make it what it is not. It is human, and it is alive." In that vein, he has fought for years to illegalize and criminalize abortion as murder and a destroyer of the American family.

There are other liberal notions that Santorum similarly believes weaken the American family and that he thus seeks to illegalize, such as gay marriage. Speaking at the Family Policy Institute of Washington, Santorum argued that marriage equality (an important issue in Washington, where gay marriage was first celebrated this past December) was destroying the American family. He asserted that gay marriage is currently, at this very moment, destroying the American family: "Because if we do not win this issue of marriage, not only will the family disintegrate, it is disintegrating." 

That point, though, was not the only point he made about marriage equality that night.

Mr. Santorum said, "The movement that you are fighting is the most important cultural movement I am a pro-life warrior. I'll match up my credentials with anybody is the most important movement to win." No one should be surprised that former Senator Santorum opposes gay marriage. He has previously related homosexuality to bestiality, he has said that if he were president he would invalidate homosexual unions, and that homosexuals do not deserve the "privilege" of marriage. Many, though, would probably be surprised that he thinks homosexual marriage is worse than abortion. 

These issues are certainly highly contested and emotionally charged issues for many.  Obviously these issues are complicated by general disagreement about religion, sin, and when life begins. Within the Santorum reference frame, though, it does not seem like the comparison should be that difficult. One would think that the vast majority of the population would consider murder, particularly the murder of a child, a heinous crime   certainly a worse crime than two people of the same gender professing love and faithfulness to each other and having that bond generally recognized.

Santorum, though, does not agree with this position. Rick Santorum, father of seven, would rather fight marriage equality than save the children he believes abortion is killing.  Even the anti-gay marriage lobby should be appalled.

Why an MRI costs $1,080 in America and $280 in France

Steve Brill's massive Time article focused national attention on the price of health-care services in the United States. Sarah Kliff got further data showing an MRI can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,861 in Washington, DC alone. But as startling as the price difference between one hospital and another, or one insurer and another, can be in America, the difference between America and other countries is even more extraordinary. I wrote this piece in March 2012. But it's worth revisiting now. 

There is a simple reason health care in the United States costs more than it does anywhere else: The prices are higher.

That may sound obvious. But it is, in fact, key to understanding one of the most pressing problems facing our economy. In 2009, Americans spent $7,960 per person on health care. Our neighbors in Canada spent $4,808. The Germans spent $4,218. The French, $3,978. If we had the per-person costs of any of those countries, America's deficits would vanish. Workers would have much more money in their pockets. Our economy would grow more quickly, as our exports would be more competitive.

There are many possible explanations for why Americans pay so much more. It could be that we're sicker. Or that we go to the doctor more frequently. But health researchers have largely discarded these theories. As Gerard Anderson, Uwe Reinhardt, Peter Hussey and Varduhi Petrosyan put it in the title of their influential 2003 study on international health-care costs, "it's the prices, stupid."

As it's difficult to get good data on prices, that paper blamed prices largely by eliminating the other possible culprits. They authors considered, for instance, the idea that Americans were simply using more health-care services, but on close inspection, found that Americans don't see the doctor more often or stay longer in the hospital than residents of other countries. Quite the opposite, actually. We spend less time in the hospital than Germans and see the doctor less often than the Canadians.

"The United States spends more on health care than any of the other OECD countries spend, without providing more services than the other countries do," they concluded. "This suggests that the difference in spending is mostly attributable to higher prices of goods and services."

On Friday, the International Federation of Health Plans — a global insurance trade association that includes more than 100 insurers in 25 countries — released more direct evidence. It surveyed its members on the prices paid for 23 medical services and products in different countries, asking after everything from a routine doctor's visit to a dose of Lipitor to coronary bypass surgery. And in 22 of 23 cases, Americans are paying higher prices than residents of other developed countries. Usually, we're paying quite a bit more. The exception is cataract surgery, which appears to be costlier in Switzerland, though cheaper everywhere else.

Prices don't explain all of the difference between America and other countries. But they do explain a big chunk of it. The question, of course, is why Americans pay such high prices — and why we haven't done anything about it.

"Other countries negotiate very aggressively with the providers and set rates that are much lower than we do," Anderson says. They do this in one of two ways. In countries such as Canada and Britain, prices are set by the government. In others, such as Germany and Japan, they're set by providers and insurers sitting in a room and coming to an agreement, with the government stepping in to set prices if they fail.

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.@gop @speakerboehner House Republicans Unanimously Vote Down Minimum Wage Increase #p2 #tcot

As Republicans feigned to be the party for the middle class during the Conservative Political Action Conference, House Republicans unanimously voted down a measure Friday that would have raised the federal minimum wage, from where it is currently at $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2015. And to make matters worse, six democrat joined the 227 Republicans. In contrast, 184 Democrats voted for the measure.

Image: TPM

Image: TPM









Talking Points Memo reports:

An increase in the minimum wage to $9 was backed by President Obama during this year's State of the Union, and immediately shot down by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who argued that it would drive up unemployment by making it harder for small businesses to hire.

Democrats believe it's a winning issue for them, and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the author of the amendment, offered a glimpse into how they intend to talk about it.

"Even while corporate profits soar and the stock market reaches new highs, the working poor continue to fall further and further behind," Miller said in a prepared statement. "If the Republicans want to take away a priority of service for low income Americans who want to learn new skills for a better job and a better life, the least we can do is make sure these workers get a decent wage."

Both sides are not the same.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • Biting Reality

    Of course they did – they are all about the war on the middle class. Grotesque Oligarch for Poverty = GOP

  • Pat n

    Who were the dems. that voted with the repubs. All of them should be made to pay for that. They just keep taking and taking. Lets take away their bennifits.

  • Another good example of how vastly different the two parties really are.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

U.S. to Bolster Missile Defense to Deter Attack by North Korea

WASHINGTON — The United States will deploy additional ballistic missile interceptors along the Pacific Coast to increase the Pentagon's ability to blunt a potential attack from North Korea, in a clear response to recent tests of nuclear weapons technology and long-range missiles by the North.

The new deployment will increase the number of ground-based interceptors to 44 from the 30 already based in California and Alaska. While the limited missile-defense system does not offer a 100 percent guarantee of knocking down a North Korean attack, the weapons send a signal of credible deterrence to the North's limited intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal.

The Navy also recently bolstered its deployment of ballistic missile defense warships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, although the vessels were sent as part of an exercise even before an increase in caustic language from the North. As part of the Foal Eagle military exercise with South Korea, the Navy has four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in the region.

In announcing the deployments at the Pentagon on Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cited North Korea's recent test of nuclear technology and long-range missiles, including the development of a mobile missile, as well as its launching of a satellite that showed increasing range for the North's arsenal.

"The United States stands firm against aggression," Mr. Hagel said.

The new interceptors are scheduled to be deployed by 2017, at an estimated cost of just under $1 billion.

Officials acknowledged that the ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California had shown dubious capabilities in tests, and said the additional interceptors would be deployed only when they had proved their capability. "We have confidence in our system," Mr. Hagel said.

This week, the Pentagon's under secretary for policy, James N. Miller, foreshadowed the announcement in a speech to the Atlantic Council here, when he described efforts to improve early-warning radars and the command-and-control architecture of the missile-defense system based in California and Alaska.

"Our homeland ballistic missile-defense capabilities are intended in part to make it clear to both Iran and North Korea that if they develop ICBM's, they will not be able to threaten the United States," Mr. Miller said, using the initials for intercontinental ballistic missiles. "Our missile defenses will defeat them."

The interceptors in California and Alaska are to blunt a long-range missile threat from North Korea. The United States also deploys Patriot Advanced Capability batteries in South Korea for defense of targets there.

Japan is also developing its own layered missile-defense system, which includes Aegis warships and Patriot systems, as well.

The United States deploys one advanced TPY-2 missile-defense tracking radar in Japan to enhance early warning across the region and toward the West Coast, and it has reached agreement to deploy a second.

.@reppaulryan : wheres the budget cuts for this? "Big Banks get $780bn/yr subsidy, 10x bigger than thought" #p2 #tcot

Chris wrote the other day about how a new analysis showed that too-big-to-fail banks are getting a $83 billion per year taxpayer subside, equal to the amount of their supposed profits.

Well, a new analysis shows that the amount of the subsidy is nearly ten times that – more than $780 billion a year.

What's particularly interesting about that figure, $780 billion, and something no one has yet noticed, is that it's almost the exact size of the fiscal stimulus that was passed in early 2009 to save the economy: $787 billion.  Except that the bankers' stimulus is being spent every single year again and again and again.  The Republicans, and some Democrats, never cease to talk about "how much money" we "wasted" on the supposedly "failed" stimulus.  But you never hear them talking about the same amount of money that's been actually wasted on their bankster friends.

The analysis is done by Chris Whalen, who is a top banking analyst. Washingtonsblog, that looked at Whalen's analysis and did a great job translating it into basic English, notes that Whalen has been praised by Nouriel Roubini, so he's the real deal.

Whalen's analysis shows that the big banks are actually getting the equivalent of at least $780 billion a year from the feds.  Per Washingtonsblog, the subsidies include:

  • #360 billion in Federal Reserve subsidies;
  • $120 billion in federal deposit insurance;
  • $100 billion in government-guaranteed loans;
  • "At least $100 billion in monopolistic advantages in the secondary market for home mortgages."
  • More than $100 billion in fees in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market.

The total?  More than $780 billion a year.

At only $83 billion, the earlier estimate, banks were only breaking even without the subsidy – imagine how badly they'd be doing without the newer larger figure.  Here's from our earlier post:

The top five banks — JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc…. with almost $9 trillion in assets, more than half the size of the U.S. economy — would just about break even in the absence of [the $83bn in] corporate welfare. In large part, the profits they report are essentially transfers from taxpayers to their shareholders.

Elizabeth Warren got into this subsidy with Fed Chair Bernanke the other day at a Senate hearing, where Bernanke agreed with her that we ought to get rid of the subsidy.  And this was just the $83 billion estimate that they were talking about, not the newer, nearly ten times larger, $780 billion.


@foxnews contributor: "Women should be able to choose their guns, not what they do with their own bodies"

Fox News' Pavlich: "The Organization That Really Stands Up For Women's Rights Is The NRA," Not The National Organization For Women


#cpac stupidity: Steve Scalise at CPAC: Climate Change Is a Myth Because Obama Was Cold at the Inauguration @CPACnews @ACUConservative

At CPAC today, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) argued that climate change is a myth and doesn't need to be addressed, noting that President Obama was cold during the inauguration.

"He talked about global warming at his inauguration, I found it ironic that the President was wearing a trench coat it was so cold but he's talking about global warming," Scalise said.

He also noted that a snow storm later cancelled a congressional hearing on climate change, "you can't make this stuff up."

Of course, climate change is actually leading to more incidences of blizzards and winter still tends to be cold.


clueless: CPAC Participant Defends Slavery At Minority Outreach Panel: It Gave ‘Food And Shelter’ To Blacks

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — A panel at the Conservative Political Action Committee on Republican minority outreach exploded into controversy on Friday afternoon, after an audience member defended slavery as good for African-Americans.

The exchange occurred after an audience member from North Carolina, 30-year-old Scott Terry, asked whether Republicans could endorse races remaining separate but equal. After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said "For what? For feeding him and housing him?" Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry's outburst.

After the exchange, Terry muttered under his breath, "why can't we just have segregation?" noting the Constitution's protections for freedom of association. Watch it:


is this true? photo of small sparse crowd at Trump's cpac speech @realDonaldTrump #cpac


Donald Trump Just Gave A Nonsensical Speech, And Even Conservatives Were Dumbstruck #cpac #p2 #tcot @realDonaldTrump

Donald Trump gave his highly anticipated speech at CPAC Friday morning, and all anyone is talking about now is how confusing and terrible it was.

Trump said he was upset that President Barack Obama did not return his calls about a free ballroom he offered to build. He said that he offered between $50 million and $100 million to the White House to build it but he never heard back.

He also made a strange statement about how he wants the U.S. to go back to Iraq to take some oil.

"That's the problem with our country," Trump said.

He also said he was only for the Iraq War because he was under the impression that it was fought for oil. Now, he wants to go back to get oil.

"I say we should take it and pay ourselves back," Trump said.

Joe Scarborough Explodes At Gun Control Opposition: 'Did They Teach Ted Cruz To Read' At Harvard Law?


@reppaulRyan Budget Would Slash SNAP Funding By $135 Billion Over Ten Years #p2 #tcot

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget plan includes cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) of $135 billion — almost 18 percent — over the next ten years (2014-2023),[1] which would necessitate ending assistance for millions of low-income families, cutting benefits for millions of such households, or some combination of the two.  Chairman Ryan proposed similarly deep SNAP cuts in his last two budgets.

While Chairman Ryan has outlined some key features of his proposal as it affects SNAP — in particular, converting SNAP to a block grant — he has provided little information on how the cuts would be achieved or their timing over the ten-year period.[2]  

Since more than 90 percent of SNAP expenditures are for food assistance benefits for low- income households, and most of the remaining funds go for necessary state administrative costs to determine program eligibility and operate the program properly, policymakers couldn't possibly achieve cuts of this magnitude without substantially scaling back SNAP eligibility or reducing benefits deeply, with serious effects on low-income families and individuals.[3]   Table 1 provides state-by-state estimates of the potential impact.

  • Cuts in eligibility:  If the cuts were to come solely from eliminating eligibility for categories of currently eligible households or individuals, 8million to 9 million people would need to be cut from the program.[4]
  • Cuts in benefits:  If the cuts were to come solely from across-the-board benefit cuts, SNAP benefits would have to be cut by an average of about $24 per person per month in 2016 dollars.  This would require setting the maximum benefit at about 86 percent of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), USDA's estimate of the minimumamount that a family needs to afford a bare-bones, nutritionally adequate diet.  (Under SNAP rules, the maximum benefit levels for each fiscal year — which are the benefit amounts that go to households with no disposable income after deductions for certain necessities — are set at 100 percent of the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan for the preceding June.)[5]

    The impact of such a change would be pronounced.  All families of four — including the poorest — would see their benefits cut by about $95 a month in fiscal year 2016, or more than $1,100 on an annual basis.  All families of three would be subject to cuts of about $75 per month, or about $900 on an annual basis.  Of course, policymakers could shield some households from such deep cuts, but then other households would need to bear even larger cuts in order to produce the $135 billion in savings.

While Congress might not seek to hit the Ryan targets through eligibility cuts or benefit cuts alone, these examples illustrate the size of the proposed funding reductions that would have to be made.  There would not be a lot of other places to go to achieve the required cuts; as noted, more than 90 percent of SNAP expenditures are for food assistance benefits for low-income households.

Ryan's Proposed Cuts Rest on Inaccurate Claims

Chairman Ryan bases his proposed SNAP cuts on a series of inaccurate claims about SNAP program growth, work disincentives, and waste, fraud, and abuse. 

  • Spending growth.  Chairman Ryan partially justifies deep SNAP cuts on the grounds that "[SNAP] is facing a budget crunch."[6]   While SNAP spending did grow substantially during the recession, the recent growth in SNAP expenditures is temporary and already has slowed.  SNAP grew because of three factors — the depth of the recent recession, improvements in the program's performance in reaching eligible low-income households (particularly working families), and the Recovery Act's temporary benefit boost (which will end later this year.)[7]   Moreover, the program does not contribute to the nation's long-term budget problem because it is projected to grow no faster than the economy over time.  As Figure 1 indicates, the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) latest projections show that once the economy fully recovers, SNAP is expected to return to pre-recession levels as a share of the Gross Domestic Product. 

  • Improved participation among eligible low-income households.  Chairman Ryan's budget documents also criticize longstanding bipartisan efforts at both the federal and state levels to increase SNAP participation among eligible low-income households.  The current and previous two Administrations and governors from across the political spectrum have sought to boost participation among low-income individuals who are eligible for SNAP but not participating.  These efforts have largely aimed at working-poor families and low-income elderly people, the two eligible groups with the lowest participation rates.  Overall, the efforts have paid off.  SNAP reached 75 percent of all eligible individuals in a typical month in 2010 (the most recent year available.)  This is a significant improvement from 2002, when the participation rate bottomed out at 54 percent.  The participation rate among eligible low-income working families rose from 43 percent in 2002 to about 65 percent in 2010.  For the elderly, it improved more modestly over those years — from 26 percent in 2002 to about 35 percent in 2010.  Chairman Ryan suggests that one benefit of capping SNAP funding would be to halt such efforts by inducing states to cease efforts to connect eligible low-income people to SNAP.
  • Work and dependency.  Another of Chairman Ryan's justifications for cutting SNAP and turning it over to states is to imply that SNAP recipients do not have a strong work ethic.  The budget states that SNAP has "little incentive to help people get off the roles (sic) and find work."[8]   Yet, a recent Center analysis finds that the large majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so.  Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP — and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP.  The rates are even higher for families with children — more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.  Among SNAP households that start receiving SNAP, only 4 percent that worked in the year before starting to receive SNAP did not work in the following year.  The number of SNAP recipients who work while receiving SNAP has more than tripled over the past decade.[9]
  • Waste, fraud, and abuse.  Finally, Chairman Ryan justifies his SNAP proposals based on charges that SNAP is rife with waste, fraud, and abuse.  These claims ignore the fact that SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program.  Despite the recent growth in caseloads, the share of total SNAP payments that represent overpayments or payments to ineligible households reached a record low of 2.99 percent in fiscal year 2011.  In addition, the Agriculture Department (USDA) has cut "trafficking" — the sale of SNAP benefits for cash, which violates federal law — by three-quarters over the past 15 years.  Only 1 percent of SNAP benefits is trafficked.  USDA has also permanently disqualified thousands of retail stores from the program for not following federal requirements.  When cases of SNAP fraud are reported in the news, it is because the offenders have been caught, evidence that states and USDA are aggressively combating fraud.

Benefit Cuts Would Primarily Affect Low-Income Families with Children, Seniors, and People with Disabilities

The Ryan budget documents assert that Congress could achieve the required savings by capping federal funding for SNAP and "giving states more flexibility to design these programs according to their recipients' needs" through a block grant.  That description leaves the mistaken impression that the program is not serving a population that is overwhelmingly poor and that savings could be achieved without causing significant harm to millions of vulnerable Americans.  

Unlike most means-tested benefit programs, which are restricted to particular categories of low-income individuals, SNAP is broadly available to almost all households with very low incomes.  As a result, cutting SNAP would affect broad swaths of the low-income population.  Currently, 47.8 million people receive SNAP assistance to help them buy food for their families.  Census data show that in 2011 (the latest year for which these data are available), 46.2 million Americans lived below the poverty line, and 64.2 million lived below 130 percent of the poverty line, SNAP's gross income limit.[10]

  • The overwhelming majority of SNAP households are families with children, seniors, or people with disabilities.  Almost three-quarters of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter are in households that include senior citizens or people with disabilities. 
  • SNAP households have very low incomes.  Eighty-three percent of SNAP households have incomes below the poverty line (about $19,500 for a family of three in 2013).  Such households receive 91 percent of SNAP benefits.  Two of every five SNAP households have incomes below half of the poverty line.  (See Figure 2.)  Such individuals and families have little flexibility in their monthly budgets to cope with deep reductions in food assistance.
  • Low-wage workers rely on SNAP to boost their monthly income.  Millions of Americans live in households whose earnings are not sufficient to meet basic needs.  In 2011, some 38 million people (1 in 8 Americans) worked or lived in a working family with cash income below 130 percent of the poverty line (about $25,000 for a family of three in 2013).  Low incomes like these — which typically reflect low wages or limited work hours — can leave families unable to afford necessities like food and housing on a reliable basis.  SNAP benefits play a crucial role in boosting families' monthly income:  in 2011 a typical working mother with two children on SNAP earned $1,105 per month ($13,300 on an annual basis) and received $282 per month in SNAP benefits.[11]   If the Ryan proposal had been in place in 2011 and was implemented via across-the-board cuts, this family's monthly benefits would have been cut by $64 per month — or about 23 percent.

SNAP Already Faces Deep Cuts

The 2009 Recovery Act temporarily boosted the maximum SNAP benefit by 13.6 percent and raised benefits for all SNAP households.  Most households received an additional $20 to $24 per person per month in fiscal years 2009 through 2011 and smaller increases in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.  Economists consider this increase one of the most effective and fast-acting provisions of the economic recovery package. Low-income individuals generally spend all of their income meeting daily needs such as shelter, food, and transportation, so every dollar in SNAP that a low-income family receives enables the family to spend an additional dollar on food or other items.  Eighty percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed within two weeks of receipt and 97 percent are spent within a month.

The Recovery Act called for SNAP benefits to remain at their new, higher level until the program's regular annual inflation adjustments overtook it.  However, as a result of legislation passed in 2010, the increase will terminate in November 2013, causing a sizeable and abrupt benefit reduction for all households on the program.  Based on CBO's latest food inflation projections, for families of three, the cut likely will be $20 to $25 a month.  (See Figure 3.)  That is a substantial loss, especially in light of the low level at which basic SNAP benefits are set.  Without the Recovery Act's boost, SNAP benefits average about $1.30 per person per meal.

The November cuts will likely cause hardship for some SNAP participants, who include 22 million children (10 million of whom live in "deep poverty," with family incomes below half of the poverty line) and 9 million people who are elderly or have a serious disability.  Cutting these households' benefits will reduce their ability to purchase sufficient food to last through the month.  This cut will be the equivalent of taking away 14 meals per month for a family of four, or 11 meals for a family of three, based on calculations using the $1.70 to $2 per meal provided for in the Thrifty Food Plan.  USDA research has found that the Recovery Act's benefit boost cut the number of households in which one or more persons had to skip meals or otherwise eat less because they lacked enough money — what USDA calls "very low food security" — by about 500,000 households in 2009.[12]

More recent research finds that boosting SNAP benefits during the summer for households with school-aged children who don't have access to USDA's summer food program cut very low food security among these households by nearly 20 percent.[13]

The current SNAP benefit allotments may be inadequate, as a recent comprehensive study from the Institute of Medicine details.[14]   Given this, we can reasonably assume that a reduction in SNAP benefit levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poor households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.

In addition, the SNAP program's severe time limit that unemployed childless adults face — three months out of every three years — will be reinstated in many areas of the country in coming months.  Under longstanding authority, states can waive this time limit during periods of high unemployment.  (In addition, the Recovery Act suspended the time limit temporarily for all states in 2009 and 2010.)[15]   As a result, most states have had waivers from the three-month time limit since 2008 or 2009.  As the economy improves, states will no longer qualify for statewide waivers and will be required to reinstate the three-month limit in many or all areas.[16]   As a result, approximately 1 million unemployed low-income individuals will be cut off SNAP in a typical month.

Added SNAP Benefit Cuts Would Increase Hunger and Poverty

SNAP cuts of the magnitude that the Ryan budget proposes would almost certainly lead to increases in hunger and poverty.  Emergency food providers report that more people ask for help in the latter half of the month, after their SNAP benefits have run out.  A cut of the size that the Ryan budget calls for would mean that a typical household's SNAP benefits would run out a number of days earlier, placing greater strain on household finances (and on emergency food providers) and significantly increasing the risk of hunger. 

Deep SNAP cuts also would cause more families and individuals to fall into poverty and cause poor families to fall deeper into poverty.  Currently, the program helps lessen the extent and severity of poverty; Census Bureau data on disposable family income that include the value of SNAP and other non-cash benefits and taxes, along with cash income, show that:

  • SNAP lifted 4.7 million Americans above the poverty line in 2011, including 2.1 million children.[17]
  • SNAP kept more children — 1.5 million — from falling below half of the poverty line in 2011 than any other program.[18]

The Ryan SNAP cuts would thus have a sharp, adverse effect on millions of the lowest-income Americans.  Moreover, these cuts would not occur in isolation.  The Ryan budget contains steep cuts in other low-income assistance programs as well, compounding the effects of the SNAP cuts.  Many vulnerable families would lose health coverage, housing assistance, and other important supports such as child care at the same time they faced cuts in their SNAP benefits.

Cuts Could Be Even Larger Under a Block Grant

If a SNAP block grant had been in effect in 2012 at funding levels set in 2007, before the recession, the total amount of federal funds available nationally in 2012 would have been about 50 percent below the federal funds actually spent that year (excluding the amounts added by the Recovery Act).  Furthermore, under a block grant, SNAP would not be able to respond to increased food needs of individuals caused by natural disasters.  Hurricane Sandy victims in New York, New Jersey, and 11 other states were able to access temporary food aid through SNAP.

It also is likely that under a block grant, many states would shift funds away from food assistance to other purposes, which they would be tempted to do when they face large state budget shortfalls (as states continue to do today).  SNAP includes several non-food components such as job training and related child care as well as nutrition assistance.  Under a block grant structure states could easily divert funds away from food to these purposes and withdraw state funds currently expended for these services.

Table 1
Illustrative State-by-State Impact of the Ryan Budget's SNAP Cuts
State/Territory Projected Number of SNAP Participants
in FY 2014, and Hence the Number of People Who Would Be Placed at Risk1
Proportional Distribution of Ryan's SNAP Benefit Cuts over Fiscal Years 2014-2023
(in billions of dollars)2
Alabama 930,000 -$2.29
Alaska 93,000 -$0.31
Arizona 1,148,000 -$2.81
Arkansas 513,000 -$1.21
California 4,049,000 -$11.69
Colorado 502,000 -$1.33
Connecticut 412,000 -$1.15
Delaware 151,000 -$0.37
District of Columbia 144,000 -$0.39
Florida 3,424,000 -$9.22
Georgia 1,954,000 -$5.14
Guam 45,000 -$0.19
Hawaii 181,000 -$0.75
Idaho 238,000 -$0.60
Illinois 1,909,000 -$5.16
Indiana 928,000 -$2.38
Iowa 417,000 -$0.98
Kansas 311,000 -$0.75
Kentucky 867,000 -$2.14
Louisiana 969,000 -$2.55
Maine 258,000 -$0.62
Maryland 732,000 -$1.82
Massachusetts 880,000 -$2.26
Michigan 1,867,000 -$4.91
Minnesota 550,000 -$1.24
Mississippi 674,000 -$1.62
Missouri 968,000 -$2.41
Montana 129,000 -$0.32
Nebraska 180,000 -$0.43
Nevada 362,000 -$0.87
New Hampshire 119,000 -$0.27
New Jersey 844,000 -$2.18
New Mexico 448,000 -$1.11
New York 3,142,000 -$8.97
North Carolina 1,704,000 -$4.01
North Dakota 60,000 -$0.15
Ohio 1,846,000 -$4.96
Oklahoma 628,000 -$1.56
Oregon 833,000 -$2.07
Pennsylvania 1,837,000 -$4.57
Rhode Island 177,000 -$0.48
South Carolina 888,000 -$2.26
South Dakota 106,000 -$0.27
Tennessee 1,345,000 -$3.44
Texas 4,124,000 -$9.90
Utah 283,000 -$0.67
Vermont 99,000 -$0.23
Virginia 933,000 -$2.31
Virgin Islands 25,000 -$0.09
Washington 1,132,000 -$2.78
West Virginia 354,000 -$0.83
Wisconsin 853,000 -$1.93
Wyoming 35,000 -$0.09
Other SNAP spending2 NA -$12.00
United States 47,600,000 -$135.00
1. Not all SNAP participants would necessarily be affected by Ryan's cuts.  We distributed CBO's February 2013 projection of national SNAP participation in fiscal year 2014, based on each state's percentage share of fiscal year 2012 average participation.
2.  The total cut to the SNAP program under the Ryan budget plan is $135 billion over fiscal years 2014 to 2023.   More than 90 percent of SNAP expenditures are for food assistance benefits for low-income households.   The remainder goes to the federal share of state administrative costs for the program, block grants for nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico and American Samoa, funds for commodities for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).  We assume those other activities would bear a proportional share of the cuts ($12 billion).  This is a conservative estimate of the share that would come from SNAP benefit reductions because, in the past, Congress has favored these other activities and not looked to them for substantial budget cuts.  Under these assumptions, SNAP benefits would need to be cut by $123 billion over the period.  The $123 billion in benefit cuts were distributed across the states in accordance with each state's percentage share of total fiscal 2012 SNAP benefits.  Due to rounding, the state-by-state benefit amounts may not add precisely to the total.

End notes:

[1] House Budget Committee staff provided this figure verbally in response to a question from Rep. Chris Van Hollen during the mark-up of the proposed budget resolution on March 13, 2013.

[2] House Budget Committee, The Path to Prosperity  A Responsible, Balanced Budget, House Budget Committee, March 12, 2013, p. 33.  Chairman Ryan's budget "suggests that the federal government implement these reforms gradually to give states and recipients time to adjust."  This may mean that the cuts are smaller in the near-term and get deeper over the ten-year window.  During the mark-up, House Budget Committee staff mentioned two policies in addition to the block grant: repealing "expanded categorical eligibility" and ending a SNAP policy known as "heat and eat," two SNAP cuts that are part of the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill.  These would yield a very small share of the $135 billion in savings, as they would be in effect only for a few fiscal years and then presumably would be superseded by the block grant.

[3] More than 90 percent of SNAP expenditures are for food assistance benefits for low-income households.  The remainder goes to the federal share of state administrative costs for the program, block grants for nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico and American Samoa, employment and training and nutrition education services for SNAP households, funds for commodities for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).  For purposes of this analysis, we assume those other activities would bear a proportional share of the cuts.  As a result, we assume that SNAP benefits would need to be cut by $123 billion over the period.  This is a conservative estimate of the share that would come from benefits; in the past, Congress has favored these other activities and not looked to them for large budget cuts.  In addition, last year during the Budget Committee mark-up, committee staff indicated that under a block grant, states could cut benefits in order to fund other activities, such as job training.  So the cut to SNAP benefits could be deeper than this analysis assumes.
All estimates use the Congressional Budget Office's February 2013 baseline assumptions.  These estimates do not separately take into account the two policy proposals that House Budget Committee staff indicated were included in the $135 billion (see footnote 2).  Rather, they are intended to be illustrative of the size of the cuts that would be required.

[4] Estimates are relative to CBO's SNAP participation projections and assume that on average, the individuals who would be cut would otherwise have received the average benefit.  If the cut is assumed to go into effect in fiscal year 2014 (i.e., starting this October) and were the same proportion of projected SNAP participation in each year, then the reduction in the number of beneficiaries would be 8.5 million in 2014 and fewer people in later years because CBO assumes that the number of people participating in SNAP will decline as the economy recovers more fully.  If the cut is assumed to go into effect in a later year (2016), as is suggested in the budget document, then the number of people cut would have to average 8.8 million over the remaining years in the ten-year period.

[5] See USDA's estimates of the monthly cost of the Thrifty Food Plan at:  To estimate an across-the-board cut, we reduced the size of maximum benefits relative to the TFP by 14 percent each year.  This estimate assumes the cuts would go into effect in November 2014, at the time the Recovery Act's benefit increase ends, and the same percentage cut would be applied to the program's maximum benefits (which are tied to the Thrifty Food Plan) in each year.  If the cut were delayed, it would need to be even deeper.

[6] The Path to Prosperity:  A Responsible, Balanced Budget, House Budget Committee, March 12, 2013, p. 33.

[7] Dottie Rosenbaum, SNAP is Effective and Efficient, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 11, 2013,

[8] The Path to Prosperity:  A Responsible, Balanced Budget, House Budget Committee, March 12, 2013, p. 29.

[9] Dottie Rosenbaum, The Relationship Between SNAP and Work Among Low-income Households, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 29, 2013,

[10] Under federal rules, a household's monthly income must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line — or roughly $2,069 a month (about $25,000 a year) for a family of three in 2013 — to qualify.  There are some exceptions; for example, households with seniors and people with disabilities are not subject to the gross income test but must have net income (after deductions for certain necessary expenses) at or below 100 percent of the poverty line.  States have some flexibility to lift the gross income test for certain other households, while some categories of people are not eligible for SNAP regardless of how low their income and assets may be — such as strikers, certain legal immigrants and many college students, and all undocumented immigrants.  Unemployed childless adults may receive SNAP benefits for only three months out of every three years, except in areas with high unemployment.

[11] These are the mean earnings and SNAP benefit for a family of three with earnings and two children for fiscal year 2011, based on USDA Household Characteristics Data.  The benefit boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is scheduled to end in November 2013; this increase has been removed from the figures cited here to show what the typical working mother with two children would receive after the benefit increase is phased out under current law as well as under Chairman Ryan's budget plan.

[12] Mark Nord and Mark Prell, "Food Security of SNAP Recipients Improved Following the 2009 Stimulus Package," Amber Waves, 9(2), June 2011, p.6,

[13] Evaluation of the Impact of Enhancement Demonstrations on Participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP):  FY 2011; FNS, USDA, November 2012,

[14] IOM (Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research Council), 2013, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Examining the Evidence to Define Benefit Adequacy, The National Academy Press.

[15] The 2009 Recovery Act included a provision that suspended the three-month time limit for the rest of 2009 and for fiscal year 2010.  Because almost all states would have been eligible for a statewide waiver from the time limit under longstanding policy, the effect of this provision was primarily to eliminate the need for individual state waiver requests and federal approval.  For information on the rules for state waivers, see 7 C.F.R. 273.24(f) and USDA guidance from December 3, 1996, March 11, 2004, and January 8, 2009, available at

[16] Dottie Rosenbaum, The Relationship Between SNAP and Work Among Low-income Households.

[17] Based on CBPP analysis of the Supplemental Poverty Measure. See Kathleen S. Short, ""The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2011," Bureau of the Census, November 2012, tables 1 and 5a,  The Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure defines poverty as family income (cash income after taxes plus the value of SNAP and other food assistance, housing assistance, and energy assistance, minus out-of-pocket medical and work expenses) that falls below an updated poverty line.  It uses a broader family unit that includes unmarried partners and foster children.

[18] Unpublished CBPP analysis of the March 2012 Current Population Survey using the Supplemental Poverty Measure.

rest at