Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said Monday that his group, Americans for Tax Reform, would work to unseat Republicans who break their pledge to never vote for higher taxes.
His vow came after prominent GOP lawmakers said over the weekend they would consider breaking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in order to reach a deal with Democrats and President Barack Obama to avoid tumbling over the fiscal cliff – the combination of sweeping spending cuts and tax increases that would go into effect at the end of the year if negotiators can’t reach a deal on reducing the federal debt.
Norquist said his group would “certainly highlight who has kept their commitment and who hasn’t” when it comes time for lawmakers like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Peter King to run for re-election, though Norquist claimed voters generally decide on their own to oust elected officials who vote to raise taxes.
“Historically the people who lose do so because the people in their state have figured that out,” Norquist said on CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.”
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will probably be replaced as the Republican nominee anyway, since he has proven to be too left for the South Carolina GOP.
There seems to be a great deal of posturing with the knowledge that if NOTHING is done, taxes will really increase.
Here is the video:
It should be a fun few weeks before Christmas with EVERY POL submitting their own plan to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff.”
These are my links for November 14th through November 16th:
Twinkies Maker Hostess Going Out of Business– Hostess, the makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business after striking workers failed to heed a Thursday deadline to return to work, the company said.“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” Hostess CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in announcing that the firm had filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to shutter its business. “Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”
Details about the GOP’s alternate to the DREAM Act emerge– The Daily Caller has obtained details of an ACHIEVE Act proposal being floated by some Senate Republicans.It appears similar to the conservative alternative to the Dream Act that Sen. Marco Rubio worked on last summer (before President Obama issued his executive order, effectively tabling the issue until after the election).Essentially, the proposal involves several tiers: W-1 visa status would allow an immigrant to attend college or serve in the military (they have six years to get a degree). After doing so, they would be eligible to apply for a four-year nonimmigrant work visa (also can be used for graduate degrees.)Next, applicants would be eligible to apply for a permanent visa (no welfare benefits.) Finally, after a set number of years, citizenship “could follow…”
Martinez criticizes Romney comments, points way forward for GOP– New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the GOP’s most prominent Latina, chastised Mitt Romney’s rhetoric Thursday and called on the Republican Party to play ball on immigration reform.“We have to start electing people who look like their communities all the way from city council to county commissioners to county clerks all the way through the state and up into national politics,” she told POLITICO and Yahoo News at the conclusion of the Republican Governors Association meeting here.
Some Republican governors soften on taxes– Some Republican governors are softening on the party’s hard-line toward tax increases for the wealthy, suggesting that GOP congressmen at least be open to rate hikes in exchange for a comprehensive fiscal agreement on taxes and entitlements.“The people have spoken, I think we’re going to have to be [flexible] now,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, when asked if his party would now have to be open to taxes on the highest earners. “Elections do have consequences. The president campaigned on that.”
Top California pollster says 2012 election could be a turning point– DiCamillo said the overwhelming support for President Barack Obama among ethnic voters was solely responsible for his landslide, 21 percentage-point win in California. While non-Hispanic white voters backed Republican Mitt Romney by an 8 percent margin, he noted, Obama carried Latinos by 45 points, Asian-Americans by 53 points and African-Americans by more than 90 points.”It bodes very poorly for the long-term prospects of the California Republican Party,” he said.Both pollsters agreed with the assessment of numerous national analysts that, to become more competitive among Latino voters, Republicans in Congress must support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who have been working in the United States for a number of years.That policy change alone, however, will not be enough, DiCamillo said.
“It’s not even the one thing that I would point to as having the most to do with partisan preference,” he said.
DiCamillo said the issue that most separates ethnic voters from non-Hispanic whites in California is their perception of the role of government. His polling has found that while non-Hispanic whites are essentially divided over the question of whether government should do more to try to improve the lives of residents, ethnic voters by a 2-to-1 margin believe that it should.
Jobless Claims in U.S. Jumped Last Week After Sandy– More Americans than forecast submitted claims for unemployment insurance last week as superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the job market.Applications for jobless benefits surged by 78,000 to 439,000 in the week ended Nov. 10, the most since April 2011, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Several states said the increase was due to the storm that hit the Northeastern part of the U.S. in late October, a Labor Department spokesman said as the data were released to the press.The extent of the damage means it may take weeks for the underlying trend in firings to again become clear. Before the storm, the labor market was gaining momentum even as year-end domestic fiscal policy uncertainties raised concern among businesses.“At least a few state labor offices were shut in the prior week so it’s almost as if you have two weeks of claims in one,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York. “You have a double whammy this week, where people were filing claims they were unable to previously and individuals unable to work for the storm were filing additional claims.”
The ObamaCare Battlefront Shifts To The States– Throughout the debate over ObamaCare – and back to HillaryCare and beyond – the fundamental question in health reform has always been this: Who will control our choices – government or individuals?Each side has won battles over the last 15 years in the tug of war between those who want a system that empowers the individual and one that cedes more and more authority to the state.Congress created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to expand publicly-financed coverage to children.But it later created Health Savings Accounts to empower individuals in the free market.
It expanded Medicare to create a new prescription drug benefit.
But it also boosted participation by private plans in Medicare through the Medicare Advantage program.
Doc Shortage Could Crash ObamaCare Health Care– The United States will require at least 52,000 more family doctors in the year 2025 to keep up with the growing and increasingly older U.S. population, a new study found.The predictions also reflect the passage of the Affordable Care Act — a change that will expand health insurance coverage to an additional 38 million Americans.”The health care consumer that values the relationship with a personal physician, particularly in areas already struggling with access to primary care physicians should be aware of potential access challenges that they may face in the future if the production of primary care physicians does not increase,” said Dr. Andrew Bazemore, director of the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Primary Care and co-author of the study published Monday in the Annals of Family Medicine.Stephen Petterson, senior health policy researcher at the Robert Graham Center, said the government should take steps — and quickly — to address the problem before it gets out of hand.
“There needs to be more primary care incentive programs that give a bonus to physicians who treat Medicaid patients in effort to reduce the compensation gap between specialists and primary care physicians,” said Petterson, who co-authored the study with Bazemore.
But such changes may be more easily said than done.
The problem does not appear to be one of too few doctors in general; in fact, in 2011 a total of 17,364 new doctors emerged from the country’s medical schools, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Too few of these doctors, however, choose primary care as a career — an issue that may be worsening.
California Vehicle license fees would triple under measure planned by state Sen. Ted Lieu– Touted as a test of the new Democratic supermajority in Sacramento, South Bay state Sen. Ted Lieu plans to introduce a measure to triple vehicle license fees.The constitutional amendment would restore the 2 percent vehicle license fee slashed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after he won office partly on that pledge.The 1.35 percent transportation system user fee increase would generate an estimated $3.5 billion to $4 billion annually for roads and public transit in yet-to-be-decided proportions, Lieu said.Buoyed by the Democratic supermajority achieved just last week, Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, plans to introduce the legislation in either December or January. He envisions the Legislature will approve the amendment and place it before voters in November 2014.
“It would be a test to see what the two-thirds (majority) Legislature means,” Lieu told the editorial board of the Los Angeles News Group. “The best way for us to lose the supermajority is to overreach.
“I’m not saying it would be an easy sell,” he added of the proposal. “I’m aware of the fact I may be attacked for it.”
THE IMMIGRATION AMNESTY FANTASY– The networks had barely called the election for President Barack Obama before GOP elites rushed to embrace an amnesty for illegal immigrants.Getting killed by almost 3-to-1 among Latino voters understandably concentrates the mind, but it’s no reason to lose it. The post-election Republican reaction has been built on equal parts panic, wishful thinking and ethnic pandering.It’s one thing to argue that amnesty is the right policy on the merits. It’s another to depict it as the magic key to unlocking the Latino vote. John McCain nearly immolated himself within the Republican Party with his support for amnesty and did all of 4 percentage points better among Latino voters in 2008 than Mitt Romney did in 2012, according to exit polls.What is the common thread uniting McCain, the advocate of “comprehensive” immigration reform, and Romney the advocate of “self-deportation”? They are both Republicans supporting conservative economic policies. Surely, that had more to do with their showing among Latinos than anything they did or didn’t say about immigration.
According to Census Bureau data, among native-born Hispanics, 50 percent of all households with children are headed by unmarried mothers. About 40 percent of all households receive benefits from a major welfare program. This doesn’t mean that the GOP shouldn’t try to appeal to voters in these households. It does mean that they aren’t natural Republican voters.
Latinos tend to have liberal attitudes toward government. Take health care. An ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions poll of Latinos conducted on the eve of the election found that 61 percent of Latinos support leaving Obamacare in place. Sixty-six percent believe government should ensure access to health insurance. This might have something to do with the fact that 32 percent of nonelderly Latinos lack health insurance, about twice the national average.
In California, Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute noted in the aftermath of the election, “Hispanics will prove to be even more decisive in the victory of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised upper-income taxes and the sales tax, than in the Obama election.”
These are facts that never intrude upon Wall Street Journal editorials scolding Republicans for supposedly turning their backs on new recruits. In the Journal’s telling, if it weren’t for Republican intransigence on immigration, Latino voters would be eagerly joining the fight for lower marginal tax rates and free-market entitlement reforms.
John Cornyn on Senate races: GOP bungled it– Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the incoming Republican whip who led his party’s Senate campaign efforts this year, candidly acknowledged the GOP bungled a prime opportunity to take control of the chamber through a combination of poor polling, poor candidates and a poor job of selling its message.While claiming Democrats “got lucky” in gaining two Senate seats, the Texas Republican admitted his party had an image deficiency with women, minorities and disaffected voters — one that needs to be immediately addressed before suffering the consequences in the next election cycle.
Gallup Poll: Economy, Entitlements, Iran Are Americans’ Top Priorities– Solid majorities of Americans in the Nov. 9-12 USA Today/Gallup poll also put heavy emphasis on significantly reducing the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels, making college education more affordable, making major cuts in federal spending, and simplifying the tax code by lowering rates and eliminating deductions and loopholes.Not only do at least seven in 10 Americans rate all of these goals as extremely or very important, but majorities of Republicans as well as Democrats agree on their importance. In other words, there is bipartisan consensus that these goals are important.On the reverse side of things, relatively few Americans, including fewer than four in 10 Republicans or Democrats, consider making major cuts to military and defense spending a high priority for Obama.
Romney Blames Loss on Obama’s ‘Gifts’ to Minorities and Young Voters– Saying that he and his team still felt “troubled” by his loss to President Obama, Mitt Romney on Wednesday attributed his defeat in part to what he called big policy “gifts” that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.
LA Governor Bobby Jindal rejects Mitt Romney’s ‘gifts’ theory– Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal forcefully rejected Mitt Romney’s claim that he lost because of President Barack Obama’s “gifts” to minorities and young voters.Asked about the failed GOP nominee’s reported comments on a conference call with donors earlier Wednesday, the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association became visibly agitated.“No, I think that’s absolutely wrong,” he said at a press conference that opened the RGA’s post-election meeting here. “Two points on that: One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.“And, secondly, we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education. … So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that’s absolutely wrong.”
He reiterated the points for emphasis.
“I don’t think that represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party,” he said. “That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election: If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream. Period. No exceptions.”
Obama to open ‘fiscal cliff’ talks with call for $1.6T in new revenues – So 2009– President Obama is taking a tough opening stance in talks over deficit reduction, pushing Republicans to accept a plan that calls for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over the next ten years, according to reports.The figure is double the $800 billion last discussed by the White House and House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) during their 2011 negotiations on raising the debt-ceiling limit.The president’s plan is based on his most recent budget proposal, which sought the $1.6 in new revenues by targeting the wealthy and corporations. The president and congressional lawmakers are set to meet at the White House on Friday as both sides begin hammering out a deficit-cutting plan that helps the nation move past the “fiscal cliff” of rising tax rates and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January 2013.Both sides say they hope to avoid the fiscal cliff, but are at an impasse over taxes, with the president insisting that the wealthy pay more.
House Republicans on Wednesday were incredulous at the president’s opening bid.
“That is so 2009. It’s like he is still in charge of this place,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), referring to the last time Democrats had a majority in the House.
Look Who’s Refusing To Compromise To Avoid Going Off The Fiscal Cliff – The LEFT– Budget Talks: If President Obama wants to get a deficit deal done to avoid the fiscal cliff, his biggest challenge won’t be Republicans, but his own hard-core left-wing supporters.Two days after the election, Obama’s favorite economist, Paul Krugman, set the tone for the intransigent left in a column titled: “Let’s not make a deal.” Boiled down, his advice to Obama was this: Don’t give in to any Republican demands, even if doing so would “inflict damage on a still-shaky economy.” After all, Obama would be better positioned to “weather any blowback from economic troubles.”Krugman’s advice may be disturbingly cold and calculating, but he has plenty of company on the left.Robert Kuttner, co-founder of the liberal American Prospect magazine, suggests Obama should just sit it out, let all the Bush tax cuts expire, the automatic spending cuts kick in and expect public pressure to force Republicans to give in entirely.
The left-wing Daily Kos called any kind of “grand bargain” between Obama and the GOP a “Great Betrayal.”
Immigrants and the GOP – Debunking some talk radio myths– The GOP’s Presidential election defeat is opening up a debate in the party, with more than a few voices saying they are willing to rethink their views on immigration. This is good news, which means it’s also a good moment to address some of the frequent claims from the anti-immigration right that simply aren’t true, especially about Hispanics.One myth is that Latino voters simply aren’t worth pursuing because they’re automatic Democrats. Yet Ronald Reagan was so eager to welcome Latinos to the GOP that he described them as “Republicans who don’t know it yet.”Recall that between 1996 and 2004 the GOP doubled its percentage of the Hispanic vote to more that 40%, culminating in the re-election of George W. Bush, who won Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada—states with fast-growing Hispanic populations that Mitt Romney lost. The notion that Hispanics are “natural” Democrats and not swing voters is belied by this history.
These are my links for The Morning Flap – August 2nd through August 3rd:
July jobs report: America’s labor market depression continues– Only in a world of lowered, New Normal expectations was the July jobs report anything less than another disaster for U.S. workers. Nonfarm payrolls rose 163,000 last month as the unemployment rate rose to 8.3%. In addition, employment for May and June was revised by 6,000 jobs.– Not only is the 8.3% unemployment rate way above the 5.6% unemployment rate that Team Obama predicted for July 2012 if Congress passed the $800 billion stimulus plan. It’s way above the 6.0% unemployment rate they predicted if no stimulus was passed.– Job growth, as measured by nonfarm payrolls, has average about 75,000 jobs a month during the Obama recovery for a total of 2.7 million jobs. Context: During the first three years of the Reagan Recovery, job growth averaged 273,000 a month for a total of 9.8 million. If you adjust for the larger U.S. population today, the Reagan Recovery averaged 360,000 jobs a month for a three-year total of 13 million jobs.– This continues to be the longest stretch of 8% or higher unemployment since the Great Depression, 42 straight months.– If the labor force participation rate was the same as when Obama took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate would be 11.0%.
– Even if you take into account that the LFP should be declining as America ages, the unemployment rate would be 10.6%.
– If labor force participation rate hadn’t declined since just last month, unemployment rate would have risen to 8.4%.
– The broader U-6 unemployment rate, which includes “all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons,” ticked up to 15.0%.
– Two years ago, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wrote his now-infamous “Welcome to the Recovery” op-ed for the New York Times. During those two years, the economy has added an average of just 137,000 jobs a month.
– Not only is the 8.3% unemployment rate way above the 5.6% unemployment rate that Team Obama predicted for July 2012 if Congress passed the $800 billion stimulus plan. It’s way above the 6.0% unemployment rate they predicted if no stimulus was passed.
195,000 Fewer Americans Had Jobs in July; 150,000 Dropped Out of Labor Force– There were 195,000 fewer people employed in the United States in July than in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as the national unemployment rate ticked up from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent.Meanwhile, 150,000 people simply dropped out of the labor force during the month and did not seek to find a job.In June, according to BLS, there had been 142,415,000 people employed in the United States. In July, that dropped to 142,220,000–a decline of 195,000.Similarly, in June, there were 155,163,000 people in the civilian labor force in the United States. To be counted in the civilian labor force, person must be 16 years old or older, not be in the military, prison or a mental institution, and either have a job or have actively looked for a job in the past four weeks.In July, the number of people in the civilian labor force was 155,013,000–a decline of 150,000 from June.
Economy Creates 163,000 New Jobs but Rate Rises to 8.3%– The U.S. economy followed up a weak second quarter by creating more jobs than expected with 163,000 new positions added in July, but the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent.Markets reacted positively to the announcement, with the stock market surging at the open and safe-haven bond prices plunging. Economists had been expecting 100,000 new jobs.As the country struggles to gain growth traction, the unemployment rate held above 8 percent for the 41st consecutive month, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”I’d call this a soft 163,” said Steve Blitz, chief economist at investment research firm ITG in New York. “If you want to take from this the notion that the economy is not heading to a recession or something more ominous, that’s fine. But if you want to take from this the idea that the economy is about to accelerate, I think that would be a big mistake.”
CA Gov. Brown Allegedly Took $3 Million from 9/11 Fund– As California teeters near default in many areas, news is breaking that Gov. Jerry Brown may have taken up to $3 million from a fund created “in honor of the victims of the 2001 terror attacks” to make up for shortfalls.The fund, which was raised by the sale of specialized plates within the state, totals approximately $250 million, and the AP reports that both Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger each allegedly dipped into the monies in an effort to make ends meet.
GAO: Tax cheats get millions in Medicaid money– One in every 20 health providers getting taxpayer money from Medicaid is delinquent on their federal taxes, and in some cases the tax cheats are years behind in paying the IRS, according to a new audit by Congress’s investigators.The Government Accountability Office looked at about 7,000 providers in three large states who Medicaid reimbursed more than $6 billion in 2009 and found that they had nearly $800 million in unpaid federal taxes.In two cases, the health companies — which range from dentists and doctors to private ambulances and medical supply companies — had been under criminal investigation, including for medical billing fraud.“It is outrageous that heath care providers who cheat on their taxes are getting paid with taxpayer dollars through the Medicaid program,” said Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate’s investigative subcommittee.He called for the government to prohibit companies with unpaid taxes from Medicaid money.
Tax Scam: IRS Pays Out Billions in Fraudulent Refunds– The IRS is paying out billions of dollars in fraudulent tax refunds to identity thieves; a problem that the tax service’s inspector general told CNBC is a “growing problem” involving numbers that are increasing “exponentially.”In a new report to be issued Thursday, the inspector general for the IRS says that tax thieves are stealing the identities of taxpayers and then filing bogus returns on their behalf and collecting fraudulent refunds as a result.The inspector general estimates that the IRS could issue as much as $21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds over the next five years.
Pelosi, Dems push Homeland Security for clarity on LGBT deportations– Scores of House Democrats called on the Obama administration this week to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples when considering deportations.Behind Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the lawmakers want the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to state explicitly that LGBT “family ties” will be deemed “a positive factor” discouraging deportation as DHS agents gauge whether to pursue cases.
Defense Lawyers Say Prop 37 Will Bring Bumper Crop of Litigation– With recent polling suggesting Californians want labels on genetically modified food, defense attorneys warn that an upcoming ballot initiative could generate a bumper crop of litigation.Proposition 37, also known as the Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, would require labels on edibles containing ingredients whose DNA was tweaked to increase yield, to fight off disease or for any other reason. If voters approve the initiative in November, California would become the first state in the nation to employ such a far-reaching consumer alert system.Proponents say their measure has a simple rationale: Californians should know what’s in the food they buy and eat. But legal critics say compliance would be a far more complex task. And they point to an enforcement provision authorizing private consumer lawsuits, something defense lawyers compare less than flatteringly to Prop 65, the 1986 law that requires businesses to warn consumers about chemicals they use.”When I used to go and talk about Prop 65 when it was on the ballot, I would say the biggest beneficiaries would be lawyers. I think that goes double for Prop 37,” said Michele Corash, a environmental defense partner with Morrison & Foerster.James Wheaton, the Oakland attorney who helped draft Prop 37, said such claims amount to scare tactics.
Majority of Californians say they know nothing about emissions cap-and-trade program– California’s landmark global-warming bill was a white-hot topic in the 2010 governor’s race and remains former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature environmental achievement.But as the state prepares to unroll the law’s cap-and-trade program in November with the first state auctions of emissions permits, a new poll finds that 57 percent of Californians say they have never heard anything about the program.The statewide poll by the Public Policy Institute of California further found that 30 percent of respondents said they had heard “a little,” while just 12 percent said they had heard “a lot.”
Police Chief’s $204,000 Pension Shows How Cities Crashed– Stockton, California, Police Chief Tom Morris was supposed to bring stability to law enforcement when he was appointed to the job four years ago.He lasted eight months and left the now-bankrupt city at age 52 with an annual pension that pays more than $204,000 — the third of four chiefs who stayed in the position for less than three years and retired with an average of 92 percent of their final salaries.Stockton, which filed for bankruptcy protection on June 28, is among California cities from the Mexican border to the San Francisco Bay confronting rising pension costs as they contend with growing unemployment and declining property- and sales-tax revenue. The pensions are the consequence of decisions made when stock markets were soaring, technology money flooded the state, and retirement funds were running surpluses.“We didn’t have very many people looking out for the taxpayers when these deals were negotiated,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, 63, said in a telephone interview. San Jose, the state’s third-largest city, approved a ballot measure in June to contain annual retirement costs that soared to $245 million from $73 million in the past decade.
These are my links for July 19th through July 23rd:
California King – Majority whip Kevin McCarthy wants to make sure the GOP will keep control of the House– California has not gone Republican since perestroika, and Representative Kevin McCarthy acknowledges that Mitt Romney is unlikely to end the losing streak. But McCarthy, the House’s easygoing majority whip, would like to pick up a few congressional seats on the Left Coast.So for the past year, the conservative from California’s Central Valley has mentored a slew of Golden State contenders, many of whom he has known for decades. “It’s like the Blues Brothers,” McCarthy chuckles. “We are putting the band back together.”McCarthy, the former Republican leader of the state assembly, has quietly recruited and advised several of his former Sacramento colleagues, such as state senators Tony Strickland and Doug LaMalfa, who are now mounting House campaigns in toss-up districts.McCarthy’s push, however, is more than a pet project; it is a critical part of securing the Republicans’ House majority. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, has underscored that the “road to the majority runs through California.”
Poll Watch: Majority of voters blame President Obama for bad economy– Two-thirds of likely voters say the weak economy is Washington’s fault, and more blame President Obama than anybody else, according to a new poll for The Hill.It found that 66 percent believe paltry job growth and slow economic recovery is the result of bad policy. Thirty-four percent say Obama is the most to blame, followed by 23 percent who say Congress is the culprit. Twenty percent point the finger at Wall Street, and 18 percent cite former President George W. Bush.The results highlight the reelection challenge Obama faces amid dissatisfaction with his first-term performance on the economy.The poll, conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research, found 53 percent of voters say Obama has taken the wrong actions and has slowed the economy down. Forty-two percent said he has taken the right actions to revive the economy, while six percent said they were not sure.
Obama has argued throughout the presidential campaign that his policies have made the economy better. He says recovery is taking a long time because he inherited such deep economic trouble upon taking office in 2009.
The Medicaid Albatross– It’s no secret that the states are in as much budget trouble as the federal government. Doubters should read a new report from a group headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. By this account, states face four insistent forces: pension underfunding of at least $1 trillion; rapidly rising Medicaid spending; possible cuts in federal aid that provides $1 in $3 of state spending; and weak growth of tax revenues that, in 2011, remained 7 percent below their pre-recession peak.What looms are higher state taxes and reduced services, affecting schools, police, parks, prisons, public universities, roads and social services. Up to a point, cuts may not do much damage; every government has waste. But we are rapidly passing this point.
Crovitz: Who Really Invented the Internet?– A telling moment in the presidential race came recently when Barack Obama said: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He justified elevating bureaucrats over entrepreneurs by referring to bridges and roads, adding: “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet.”It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet. The myth is that the Pentagon created the Internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike. The truth is a more interesting story about how innovation happens—and about how hard it is to build successful technology companies even once the government gets out of the way.For many technologists, the idea of the Internet traces to Vannevar Bush, the presidential science adviser during World War II who oversaw the development of radar and the Manhattan Project. In a 1946 article in The Atlantic titled “As We May Think,” Bush defined an ambitious peacetime goal for technologists: Build what he called a “memex” through which “wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.”
CDC: Whooping cough rising at alarming rate in US– The U.S. appears headed for its worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades, with the number of cases rising at an epidemic rate that experts say may reflect a problem with the effectiveness of the vaccine.Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported so far – more than twice the number seen at this point last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. At this pace, the number for the entire year will be the highest since 1959, when 40,000 illnesses were reported.
YouTube Decides Obama Singing Al Green Is Fair Use; Restores All The Videos– Earlier this week, we wrote about BMG issuing a takedown to YouTube over a Mitt Romney advertisement that used a clip of President Obama singing one line of an Al Green song. As we noted at the time, this seemed like a clear fair use case. Also, people pointed out that it was clearly an attempt to stifle speech since BMG only went after the Romney commercial, and not the original clips of Obama singing. Realizing this, BMG then also issued takedowns for those videos. If YouTube wanted to retain its DMCA safe harbor provisions, it is supposed to keep those videos down for 10 days and then it could (but does not need to) restore them. However, Google has jumped the gun and restored the videos already (you can see it here), saying that the company made a determination that the content does not violate copyright laws.At this point, the ball is back in BMG’s court. Technically, it can now file a lawsuit against the uploaders of the video if it wants (so, the Romney campaign, the Associated Press and others). Also, it could potentially try to go after Google itself, claiming that the safe harbors no longer apply due to the early reposting. Of course, one would hope that BMG realizes that pursuing any of these strategies would lead to ridicule and, quite possibly, a court issued rebuke for wasting their time with a bogus copyright claim. Unfortunately, for reasons that remain a mystery to me, when it comes to copyright claims, many copyright holders fail to recognize this kind of likely outcome ahead of time.
Bay Area Drivers Could Be Tracked By GPS, Taxed Per Mile Driven– Bay Area drivers could one day be tracked using a GPS-like device in their cars and taxed per miles driven – a scenario which is part of a proposed long-range study aimed at finding ways to reduce traffic and pollution, while also raising revenues.Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are scheduled to vote on Thursday on whether or not to authorize a study of the proposal. Under the plan, drivers would have to install trackers in their vehicle and officials would tax drivers for every mile they travel.
USDA partnering with Mexico to boost food stamp rolls– The Mexican government has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.USDA has an agreement with Mexico to promote American food assistance programs, including food stamps, among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America.“USDA and the government of Mexico have entered into a partnership to help educate eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States about available nutrition assistance,” the USDA explains in a brief paragraph on their “Reaching Low-Income Hispanics With Nutrition Assistance” web page. “Mexico will help disseminate this information through its embassy and network of approximately 50 consular offices.”
These are my links for July 18th through July 19th:
Post Office Might Miss Retirees’ Payment– While lawmakers continue to fight over how to fix the ailing U.S. Postal Service, the agency’s money problems are only growing worse.The Postal Service repeated on Wednesday that without congressional action, it will default—a first in its long history, a spokesman said—on a legally required annual $5.5 billion payment, due Aug. 1, into a health-benefits fund for future retirees. Action in Congress isn’t likely, as the House prepares to leave for its August recess.The agency said a default on the payment, for 2011, wouldn’t directly affect service or its ability to pay employees and suppliers. But “these ongoing liquidity issues unnecessarily undermine confidence in the viability of the Postal Service among our customers,” said spokesman David Partenheimer.
The agency says it will default on its 2012 retiree health payment as well—also roughly $5.5 billion, due Sept. 30—if there is no legislative action by then.
Economic Fears Hurting Obama, Poll Indicates – Declining confidence in the nation’s economic prospects appears to be the most powerful force influencing voters as the presidential election gears up, undercutting key areas of support for President Obama and helping give his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, an advantage on the question of who would better handle the nation’s economic challenges, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
Obama, Romney in dead heat in presidential race– President Obama and Mitt Romney are effectively tied in the race for the presidency, according to a new CBS News/New York Times survey.Forty-seven percent of registered voters nationwide who lean towards a candidate back Romney, while 46 percent support the president. Four percent are undecided. The one percentage point difference is within the survey’s three point margin of error.Romney leads by eight points among men; the president leads by five points among women.
The president’s supporters are more likely to strongly back their candidate. Fifty-two percent strongly favor Mr. Obama, while just 29 percent of Romney voters strongly back the presumptive Republican nominee.
More than one in three Romney voters say they are supporting Romney primarily because they dislike Mr. Obama. Only eight percent of Obama supporters say their support for the president is tied to their dislike of Romney.
Weekly Unemployment Benefit Claims Post Rebound; Jobs Market Still in Doldrums– The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rebounded last week, pushing them back to levels consistent with modest job growth after a seasonal quirk caused a sharp drop the prior period.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 352,000 from the previously reported 350,000.Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 365,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 1,500 to 375,500.
Claims data is volatile in July because of the timing of the annual auto plant shutdowns for retooling.
Obama Believes Success Is a Gift From Government– Perhaps the rain made the teleprompter unreadable. That’s one thought I had on pondering Barack Obama’s comments to a rain-soaked rally in Roanoke, Va., last Friday.Perhaps he didn’t really mean what he said. Or perhaps — as is often the case with people — when unanchored from a prepared text he revealed what he really thinks.”There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back,” he began, defending his policy of higher tax rates on high earners. “They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
In Fight for the House, the Trajectory Is Clear– House races often don’t start getting attention until after Labor Day. But with the presidential contest sucking the air out of the political environment and defining the electoral landscape, House candidates may find they have an even harder time than usual defining themselves and their opponents.That means the existing trajectory of the fight for the House may be harder and harder to change as Labor Day approaches, creating a growing problem for House Democrats who continue to insist that the House is “in play.”Democratic strategists need a dramatic shift in the House playing field if they are going to have any chance of netting the 25 seats they need to regain a majority in the House of Representatives. And that outcome looks increasingly remote.
Right now, the outlook for the House is anywhere from a small GOP gain to a modest Democratic gain in the single digits — not close to what Democrats hoped for as the cycle began
The chart that shows just how much reelection trouble Obama is in– A daisy chain of political disaster seems to be forming for President Obama, says political analyst Dan Clifton at Strategas Research. Clifton suggests that “there seems to be a relationship between consumer confidence and whether a president gets reelected. The current levels of confidence are consistent with Carter and George H. W. Bush when they lost reelection.”That conclusion is displayed in the above chart.
Governor Brown signs California high-speed rail bill, calls critics ‘NIMBYs,’ ‘fearful men’– With his most public cheerleading yet for California’s bullet train, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed the $8 billion bill to kick off high-speed rail construction and showed no sign he was worried about voters’ increasing skepticism for the rail line.Calling naysayers “NIMBYs,” “fearful men,” and “declinists,” the governor celebrated a project that he first signed a bill to study 30 years ago.”It’s taken that long to get this going,” he said, flanked by dignitaries and construction workers at the site of San Francisco’s future Transbay Terminal. “You may not be around when it’s finished.”
Brown’s day-long, dual-city signature event began at Union Station in Los Angeles and was followed by the gala in San Francisco. The locations were fitting in many ways since the stations will serve as the two endpoints of the $69 billion line, though Brown had to fly between events.
American Crossroads Comes to Romney’s Defense– The super PAC American Crossroads is giving Mitt Romney a helping hand with a new ad, criticizing President Obama on his “misleading” attacks on the presumptive Republican nominee, the Wall Street Journal reports.The 30-second ad is part of an $8.8 million buy that is going out in nine states. Most of the group’s attacks on the president have focused on his record and government spending. The Journal reports this is the first such ad from Crossroads that comes to Romney’s defense.“What happened to Barack Obama?” the narrator asks. “The press, and even Democrats, say his attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record are ‘misleading, unfair and untrue.’”
With high unemployment numbers, the ad says that Obama “can’t run on that record.”
DNC to stop using Romney horse in attack videos– In the future, the Democratic National Committee will longer use the Romney’s Olympic-bound dressage horse to portray Mitt Romney as “dancing around the issues” because it could be seen as offensive to the GOP candidate’s wife Ann.Nearly 17 hours after they promoted a video linking the GOP presidential candidate’s unwillingness to release years of tax returns to Rafalca, the dancing show horse co-owned by Mrs. Romney attending this summer’s London Olympics, Communications Director Brad Woodhouse said the DNC will no longer “invoke the horse any further to avoid misinterpretation.”
Only 17 or 3 % of lawmakers disclose tax records– With members on both sides of the aisle clamoring for Mitt Romney to release more than two years of tax returns, an overwhelming majority of congressmen are declining to release their own.Over the past three months, McClatchy Newspapers asked all 535 members of the House and Senate to release their tax records. Only 17 — or just over 3 percent — handed over the documents. Another 19 percent said they wouldn’t release them. The remainder didn’t respond to McClatchy’s request.
Poll: Republicans want Condoleezza Rice– Republican voters say former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is their top choice as Mitt Romney’s running mate, a new poll found.Rice garnered 30 percent support, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (19 percent), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (8 percent) and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (8 percent).
House could arrest Holder with inherent contempt power– Despite voting to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, there’s little House Republicans can do in the short term to compel him to turn over documents — unless it wanted to revisit a long-dormant power and arrest him.The thought is shocking, and conjures up a Hollywood-ready standoff scene between House police and the FBI agents who protect the attorney general. It’s a dramatic and unlikely possibility not least because Congress doesn’t even have a jail any longer. But in theory it could happen.Republicans say it’s not even under consideration, with House Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman flatly ruling it out.But the process, known as inherent contempt, is well-established by precedent, has been confirmed by multiple Supreme Court rulings, and is available to any Congress willing to force such a confrontation.
Holder controversies could weigh on Obama in 2012 race– The contempt vote Thursday against Attorney General Eric Holder could spell trouble for President Obama — not just for his administration’s efforts to lock down Fast and Furious documents, but also for his re-election campaign.Holder over the past three-and-a-half years has become, according to one polling outfit, the most unpopular member of Obama’s Cabinet. The attorney general is associated with a string of controversial decisions — from his response to the Fast and Furious probe to his department’s suits against state immigration laws to the campaign to halt GOP-led voter ID laws in Florida and elsewhere — that have riled conservatives, even some Democrats.The contempt vote, for his critics, is one more notch against Holder. And it could fuel his becoming a divisive figure during the presidential campaign as opponents try to cast him as an albatross around Obama’s neck.”I think that it’s the biggest non-economic story (in 2012),” GOP pollster Adam Geller said of Fast and Furious. “You can bet that it’s going to certainly get some mention, as it should, as a political issue.”
It’s Up to the Voters Now – The last chance to stop ObamaCare is in November– If there is a modicum of hope in Chief Justice John Roberts’s inglorious one-man opinion Thursday, it is that Americans were reminded again that they cannot count on others to protect their liberty. Certainly judges aren’t reliable. They can be turned by the pressure of the media and the whims of vanity. If Americans want to repeal ObamaCare, their only recourse is to demand it at the ballot box in November.The Affordable Care Act is more unpopular now than when it passed, yet it will grind on toward implementation in a second Obama term. The President made that clear in his remarks Thursday, deploying the usual half-truths he used to jam the law through Congress. He continued to claim that no one will lose his current health insurance, though millions are sure to do so as they are dropped from business coverage and tossed into Medicaid or government exchanges.
GOP 12: Halperin: “Real possibility” tea party could now prove decisive– On MSNBC this morning, Mark Halperin called yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling a “substantive win” for Barack Obama, but nevertheless, a political wildcard.”I’m not sure it’s a long-term political win for him. He lost the midterms largely over this.If you look at Republicans who aren’t focused on Roberts as much as they are on what the political implications are, and they say the tea party giant which had kind of been slumbering is now going to be awakened, and will be that decisive force in this election.I’m not predicting that, but I think it’s a real possibility.”
Krauthammer: Why Roberts Did It– It’s the judiciary’s Nixon-to-China: Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberal wing of the Supreme Court and upholds the constitutionality of Obamacare. How? By pulling off one of the great constitutional finesses of all time. He managed to uphold the central conservative argument against Obamacare, while at the same time finding a narrow definitional dodge to uphold the law —and thus prevented the court from being seen as having overturned, presumably on political grounds, the signature legislation of this administration.Why did he do it? Because he carries two identities. Jurisprudentially, he is a constitutional conservative. Institutionally, he is chief justice and sees himself as uniquely entrusted with the custodianship of the court’s legitimacy, reputation and stature.
Did Republicans lose the health care battle but win the health care war?– But, even as Democrats celebrated, Republicans insisted that their rivals — and members of the media — couldn’t see the forest through the trees.Jonathan Collegio, communications director for American Crossroads, a leading conservative outside group, called the ruling a “millstone” around the neck of any Democrat running for federal office this fall.“The Supreme Court’s decision forces Obamacare to be litigated in the 2012 elections, and in virtually every case where Obamacare has been litigated by voters in an election, the law and its supporters lose,” added Collegio.“This ruling is the kiss of death for the Democrat majority in the U.S . Senate as health care just became a tax increase on the middle class in one of the worst economies Americans have ever faced,” added longtime Republican strategist Chris LaCivita
High court gives GOP new weapon on taxes– Republicans have seized on the Supreme Court’s decision that the health insurance mandate is a tax, believing it will help them argue a second term for President Obama would be devastating for the economy.Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney employed the line of attack shortly after the ruling came down, asserting “Obamacare raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion.”Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a top contender to be Romney’s running mate, drove home the point, arguing Obama has been freed to unleash an army of tax collectors on the public.“If you do not buy health insurance, the IRS is going to be on your back and chasing you,” Rubio said.
The tactic of hitting Obama as tax-raising liberal was used in the wake of an otherwise stinging defeat for conservatives at the hands of Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s liberal wing.
In a 5-4 decision, Roberts ruled the mandate is a permissible use of Congress’ taxing powers, upholding a law that
conservatives fought as a breathtaking expansion of the federal government.
But the ruling on the mandate also provided support for Republicans who had long argued that the mandate was a tax increase in disguise
Dems grapple with feelings about Roberts court after health decision– Congressional Democrats who had feared the worst from the Supreme Court were left grappling with a new reality Thursday after Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote to uphold President Obama’s landmark healthcare law.Democrats for years have charged that the Roberts Court has made decisions guided more by partisan politics than the Constitution, most notably by ruling in Citizens United that corporations could spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns.After Roberts sided with them on the even more high-profile and politically contentious healthcare ruling, some liberals felt more charitable both about Roberts and the Supreme Court in general.Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who was holding a sign that read “Obama-Roberts 2012” as he left a Democratic caucus meeting, said Roberts has “rebranded himself” with Thursday’s healthcare ruling.
“We certainly agree with his, in this case, very principled position. In one fell swoop he’s burnished his legacy,” Ackerman said. “This is almost a revocation of the Bush v. Gore decision, where [conservative justices] went completely the opposite way.
‘Fast and Furious’: honesty vs. hypocrisy– The House of Representatives is expected to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress on Thursday for his refusal – backed by President Barack Obama – to provide documents that might explain why Holder’s Justice Department chose to lie to Congress in February 2011 about high-level officials’ involvement in the “Fast and Furious” fiasco, and why it stood by those lies for most of the year.If ever a scandal illustrated political hypocrisy, it is this.We start with the president’s baffling decision to assert executive privilege in denying the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, access to the documents. The White House says it and top Justice Department officials had nothing to do with the “gun-walking” program in which weapons were allowed to be sold to Mexican cartels to try to gain insight into how drug and arms traffickers operate. Then the White House says top administration officials’ deliberative processes need to be kept private on a matter in which they weren’t involved. Huh?
How to end the Holder stand-off: Fire him– If he were a first-year law student asked to explain how the president could refuse to allow House oversight on a botched operation in which Americans and Mexicans died and the administration has twice had to cop to providing erroneous information to Congress, Eric Holder’s letter would get an “F.” He doesn’t set out the nature of the document being withheld, the type of privilege being asserted, or the argument as to why it supersedes the right of Congress to oversee executive branch misconduct.Congress is certainly within it rights to hold him in contempt. But really the president should can Holder. He’s a lousy lawyer.
Uncertainty crippling the struggling economy– Uncertainties are crippling the U.S. economy, and there’s a good chance Thursday’s Supreme Court decision will add to the problem.U.S. businesses are stacking up profits on their balance sheets, but they’re not investing in new workers and plants.The No. 1 reason is that executives just don’t see the demand, but this is compounded by policymakers in Washington and Brussels dithering over taxes and government spending, according to Wall Street analysts.None of this is good news for President Obama, who has had a good fortnight in the presidential race as the topic of discussion has switched to immigration.
As the subject moves back to the economy and jobs, which it surely will do next week with the release of a June jobs report, the weakness of the underlying economy will retake center stage. And fingers will be pointed at both the White House and Congress.
Democrats defect on AG Holder– Several Democrats on Wednesday said they would vote to place Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, giving Republicans an opportunity to tout bipartisan support for the effort against President Obama’s attorney general.At least four Democrats in GOP-leaning districts said they’d side with Republicans and back the contempt measure in the wake of the National Rifle Association’s decision to score the vote.The support from Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and John Barrow (D-Ga.) is key for Republicans as they try to defend the legitimacy of the contempt measure to voters and parry counterattacks from Democrats stating that they are leading a “witch hunt.”The contempt measure is expected to pass mostly along partisan lines, but there is intense pressure on Democrats in conservative-leaning districts to side with the NRA against Obama’s chief law enforcement officer.
Why the Whole Health Care Law Is in Jeopardy– The real Supreme Court news on Tuesday wasn’t the Arizona immigration decision or even the summary reversal of the Supreme Court of Montana in the “Citizens United 2” case. It was that the chief justice of the United States didn’t write any of these opinions.This is critically important, because we can now deduce with a reasonably high degree of certainty that John Roberts is writing the lead health care opinion. If we are right about this, then the law is in even deeper trouble that most observers imagined.