Thursday, May 31, 2012

Media Matters Daily Summary 05-31-12

New York Daily News: Stalwart Defender Of NYPD's Most Controversial Policies
Despite serious legal questions surrounding the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy and Muslim surveillance program, the editorial board of the New York Daily News has been an unquestioning defender of the NYPD. Read More

Bill O'Reilly Lobbies For Legislation That Would Weaken Women's Rights
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly advocated for a bill that undermines women's health and reproductive rights under the guise of preventing sex-selective abortions, threatening to shame the bill's opponents as "in sync" with China's one-child policy. However, the bill in question has been criticized by doctors, civil rights and women's groups as unconstitutional, an invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, and ineffective in preventing sex-selective abortions. Read More

New Stimulus Report, Same Bogus Cost-Per-Job Analysis From Right-Wing Media
Right-wing media are using a new report from the Congressional Budget Office to claim that the stimulus "may have cost as much as $4.1 million per job." However, simply dividing the amount of money spent by the number of jobs created is, according to an Associated Press fact check, "highly misleading," and economist Paul Krugman has called this math "bogus." Conservative media regularly use similar calculations to attack jobs initiatives. Read More

Conservative Pundit Obscures Romney's Jobs Record By Citing MA Unemployment Rate
Conservative pundit Jim Geraghty is deflecting attention from Mitt Romney's weak job creation record as governor of Massachusetts, pointing to overall unemployment trends at the time. But that statistic, which one economist has argued is a "false indicator," doesn't change the fact that during Romney's tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of all states in job creation. Read More

NEW DATA: Elections Supervisors Throughout Florida Confirm U.S. Citizens Improperly Included In Voter Purge


When Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) administration distributed its controversial lists of possible non-citizen voters last month, state statute required the state’s 66 county supervisors of elections to send out letters requiring those voters to prove their eligibility to vote within 30 days — a window that will end in the next couple of weeks in many counties. But a ThinkProgress survey of several county supervisors in Florida reveals that the lists of presumed non-eligible voters is riddled with errors. In large and small jurisdictions across the state, supervisors have found that a large number of the voters on the list are indeed eligible voters.

Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall told ThinkProgress that she and the state’s 66 other county elections supervisors sent a “clear message” to the Scott administration at a Tampa conference two weeks ago. “One after another, [they] got up and talked about inaccuracies [in the state’s voter purge list of alleged non-citizen voters].”
In Miami-Dade, the count of voters whose citizenship status has been challenged by the Scott administration numbered in the hundreds. With time left to respond, nearly a quarter of those sent letters in have already proven their eligibility.
Several smaller counties also confirmed to ThinkProgress that voters have proven that their inclusion on the list was in error.
In Clay County, near Jacksonville, the elections supervisor received two names from the state. One proved citizenship; the other was purged from the rolls for not responding within 30 days. Charlotte County (two out of nine) and Bradford County (two out of nine) also reported significant percentage of errors on the state’s list.
Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill (R), who serves a Tampa-area county with a population of just about 140,000, received just three names from the state that it deemed likely non-citizens. But already two of those have produced documentation to verify their citizenship and voter eligibility. One of the two was even born in New York State. The third voter, who has yet to respond to a registered letter, has never even voted.
Gill told ThinkProgress:
Everybody thinks we vote in a computer world. When you do any sort of data matches, you need several data points to make a good match. When the state first sent these 2,600 to us, some of the matches didn’t have enough information. We’re required by law to send a letter … and unfortunately they have to prove their citizenship. Some of them weren’t terribly happy. The state needs to find a better way to do the data matches.
Before the state sends out lists challenging the eligibility of voters — putting the onus on lawfully registered citizens to re-prove their eligibility — it has an obligation to be certain that that list is valid. Clearly, it did not do so here.
The purge of fully eligible voters from the voting rolls by Scott could be enough to tip the balance in Florida and, perhaps, the presidential election. In 2000, the final (disputed) margin was just 537 votes.

Wal-Mart becomes latest company to leave ALEC


Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, is withdrawing from the legislative group the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), according to Think Progress. ALEC has come under scrutiny of late for its controversial policies regarding voter ID laws and looser firearm restrictions, like Flordia’s “Stand Your Ground,” a law that expanded the definition of acceptable force. Wal-Mart is the 19th company to drop out of ALEC or decine to renew its membership dues.
The move is seen as an especially critical departure in that Wal-Mart is the largest purveyor of firearms in the country. It is also the largest company to leave ALEC since an awareness and boycott effort was launched by the advocacy group Color of Change.
ALEC’s embrace of harsh voter ID laws, laws that disproportionately affect poor and minority voters, as well as its pursuit of legislation like “Stand Your Ground” have sent many businesses running as the group’s profile has risen. Most big corporations don’t want to be associated with controversy, and controversies don’t come much larger and more racially charged than the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin earlier this year, in which “Stand Your Ground” was cited by lawyers defending shooter George Zimmerman, Jr..
The organization announced in April that it was shuttering its gun law and social issues task forces, but the decision has apparently come too late to keep many companies on board. Other businesses who have left the ALEC fold include Coke, McDonald’s, PepsiCo,, Kraft Foods, Yum! Brands, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.
The citizens’ lobbying group Common Cause has praised Wal-Mart for its decision in a press release.  Common Cause president Bob Edgar wrote, “ALEC and its corporate backers have built an extremely successful lobbying shop under false pretenses.  They wine and dine and write legislation for our elected officials behind closed doors at posh resorts and guide that legislation into law in the statehouses. Then they call themselves a charity and ask the taxpayers to subsidize their work by bestowing a tax-exemption.  Wal-Mart has made a smart decision to end its involvement in this charade.”
Common Cause has filed a complaint with the IRS that seeks “an IRS ruling revoking ALEC’s tax exemption and assessing back taxes and penalties.”  The complaint is backed up by 4,000 ALEC emails that purportedly demonstrate that the group’s lobbying efforts have violated the terms of its nonprofit status.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Jersey Governor Is Latest To Divert Foreclosure Settlement Aid Away From Needy Homeowners


Several states across the country, from Vermont to Wisconsin to California, have been taking some of the money they received from the foreclosure fraud settlement signed with the nation’s biggest banks and diverting it away from its intended purpose of providing relief to desperate homeowners. According to ProPublica, the total amount of money taken from the hands of needy homeowners is close to $1 billion.
Now, housing advocates are alleging that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is doing the same thing, diverting $75 million meant to help homeowners into the Garden State’s general fund:
Affordable housing advocacy groups today said Gov. Chris Christie is misusing $75 million from a foreclosure settlement, calling his budget plan “reckless” and “a shell game.”
Christie is putting that money into the budget general fund, advocates said at a Statehouse press conference this morning, instead of specifically earmarking it to fund help for people who have been foreclosed on.
Several governors, the first of whom was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), have used the settlement money to simply bolster their general funds, patching over budget problems that they’ve created. Progressives in New Jersey have been concerned that Christie would follow suit, and those concerns now seem to be justified. Previously, New Jersey’s attorney general had declined to confirm whether or not the state would use the settlement funding for foreclosure aid.
But not all homeowners are quietly accepting losing out on the funding. In Arizona, a group of homeowners have sued the state, saying that the diversion of settlement funds is illegal.

Media Matters Daily Summary 05-30-12

Debunking Fox & Friends' Dishonest Anti-Obama Attack Ad
Fox & Friends
aired a video attacking President Obama by resurrecting dishonest and misleading attacks on his economic record. The video, which was produced in the style of a campaign ad against Obama, furthers Fox News' role as the communications and campaign arm of the GOP. Read More

Fox Helps GOP Gut Vital Antipoverty Programs By Dismissing The Poor
Fox is helping the GOP eviscerate vital antipoverty programs by characterizing the poor "as actually living the good life." In fact, as incomes have stagnated and income disparity between the rich and working class have grown, such drastic cuts would mean "ending assistance for millions of low-income families." Read More

MarketWatch Column On Obama's Spending Restraint Stands Up To Attacks
In response to a MarketWatch column about federal spending slowing under President Obama, the right-wing media have tried to discredit the column with false or misleading attacks. But none of them contradict the central premise of the column: that there has been no boom in federal spending under Obama. Read More

Fox, Limbaugh Attack Holder For Speaking To Black Leaders About Voter ID Laws
Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to attendees at a summit of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches about the importance of voting as well as the significance of new voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect minorities. The summit was designed, in part, to help black leaders learn about the new laws -- yet Rush Limbaugh and a Fox News contributor attacked Holder's appearance as "reprehensible" and "unseemly." Read More

Mitt Romney: Little to Like

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Media Matters Daily Summary 05-29-12

Right-Wing Media Hype Discredited Activist's Latest Bogus Planned Parenthood Attack
Right-wing media are hyping discredited conservative activist Lila Rose's latest Planned Parenthood smear video which purports to implicate the organization in a rampant problem with sex-selective abortion in the United States. But the facts debunk Rose's latest attack on Planned Parenthood, and Rose and her group have repeatedly whittled away any credibility with previous smear campaigns against Planned Parenthood. Read More

Government Employment Drops Under Obama, But Media Run With Romney Myth Anyway
Labor Department statistics say that government employment has decreased by 608,000 since February 2009. Nevertheless, Fox News and Politico both uncritically reported Mitt Romney's false claim that "[w]e have 145,000 more government workers under this president." Read More

How GOP’s Spending Claims Prove Obama’s Point


On the campaign trail, President Obama has touted recent data that dispels the notion that he has embarked on a spending binge — and his Republican opponents, citing various fact-checks, are aggressively pushing back.
Part of the pushback, it turns out, inadvertently proves Obama’s larger point.
“Federal spending since I took office has risen at the slowest pace of any president in almost 60 years,” Obama said last Thursday at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. Citing a MarketWatch study, White House spokesman Jay Carney called the notion of an Obama spending spree “BS.”
Fact-checkers pounced — including The Associated Press, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal editorial board — issuing rebuttals that conservatives and Republicans have cited as evidence that Obama’s claims are wrong.
“President Obama continues to repeat false and discredited talking points about his prolific spending record to distract from the record debt that he is passing on to future generations,” Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Mitt Romney, told TPM. “As a president who broke his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, Barack Obama has no credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility.”
Much of the pushback focuses on the growth of federal spending as a share of the economy under Obama. Under this benchmark, spending appears to have skyrocketed. But the metric is flawed because revenues have fallen during Obama’s tenure due to a huge economic contraction that began before he took office. That standard, in effect, blames him for the downturn.
The fact-checks did find some questionable premises from MarketWatch. For one, it effectively treated the paybacks from President Bush’s one-time bailouts of the financial sector, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as spending cuts under Obama. The outlets also argued that baseline changes in the president’s budget tweak the spending figures in friendly ways.
Tallying that up, the Wall Street Journal editorial board concluded: “To anyone who really knows the numbers, Mr. Obama’s spending has increased by closer to 5% a year,” as opposed to the 1.4 percent in the MarketWatch numbers. The Republican National Committee touted the Journal’s figure in its rebuttal of Obama’s point.
The problem with that is 5 percent is still low by historical standards. That’s especially true of modern Republican presidents: President George W. Bush’s two terms saw spending increases of 7.3 and 8.1 percent, respectively; President George H.W. Bush’s figure was 5.4 percent and President Ronald Reagan’s were 8.7 and 4.9 percent. (Spending increases under President Bill Clinton were under 4 percent.)
RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told TPM, “The overarching point is that almost every outlet disagrees with Carney’s spin on spending.”
Ultimately, Obama may have exaggerated his ostensible frugality, but even according to the figures Republicans cite, his spending is still low by the standards of modern presidents. The firestorm of criticism Obama receives on the debt often papers over that fact.

Meet Bill: The 91-Year-Old Decorated WWII Veteran Targeted By Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Voter Purge


Bill Internicola is a 91-year-old, Brooklyn-born, World War II veteran. He fought in the Battle of the Buldge and received the Bronze Star for bravery. He’s voted in Florida for 14 years and never had a problem.
Three weeks ago, Bill received a letter from Broward County Florida stating “[Y]ou are not a U.S. Citizen” and therefore, ineligible to vote. He was given the option of requesting “a hearing with the Supervisor of Elections, for the purpose of providing proof that you are a United States citizens” or forfeit his right to vote.
This decorated World War II veteran is just one of hundreds of fully eligible U.S. citizens being targeted by Governor Scott’s massive voter purge just prior to this year’s election, according to data obtained from Florida election officials by ThinkProgress. The purge list, according to an analysis by the Miami Herald, targets mostly Democrats and Hispanics.
Voting rights groups in Florida have asked the Justice Department to investigate, alleging that Scott’s voter purge violates federal law.
Bill appeared at a press conference this morning with Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), who has called on Scott to “immediately suspend” the voter purge.

'Politicizing' Now Simply Refers To Obama Saying Anything

Blah blah Breitbart who cares, we know, but don’t you fancy this headline? The poor sucker who had to update on Memorial Day, and knew he had to slam Obama for speaking on Memorial Day somehow, settled on “Obama Politicizes Memorial Day” after Obama said that there shouldn’t be wars unless “absolutely necessary.” 

This is what counts as politicization now: saying the same fucking thing every politician has said on Memorial Day every year since forever. PRO TIP: If you are considering making the argument “Politician politicizes X,” just go stick your head in the unflushed toilet for a few minutes instead. You’ll get more out of it. READ MORE »

Donald Trump Lets Loose With Birther Rant After Romney Reaffirms SupportMitt Romney made clear this week he won’t cut ties with Donald Trump, who is hosting a fundraiser for the candidate in Las Vegas on Tuesday, despite the real estate mogul’s claims the president was born in Kenya. Trump returned the favor by launching into yet another screeching birther diatribe on CNBC the morning of the event. “I never really changed – nothing’s changed my mind,” Trump told CNBC, reassuring that his birtherism is as rock solid as it was last year when he briefly… Read More →

Mitt Romney made clear this week he won’t cut ties with Donald Trump, who is hosting a fundraiser for the candidate in Las Vegas on Tuesday, despite the real estate mogul’s claims the president was born in Kenya. Trump returned the favor by launching into yet another screeching birther diatribe on CNBC the morning of the event. “I never really changed – nothing’s changed my mind,” Trump told CNBC, reassuring that his birtherism is as rock solid as it was last year when he briefly… Read More →

Friday, May 25, 2012

Media Matters Daily Summary 05-25-12

Myths & Facts About Wind Power
Following relentless attacks on the solar industry in the wake of Solyndra's bankruptcy, wind power has become the latest target of the right-wing campaign against renewable energy. But contrary to the myths propagated by the conservative media, wind power is safe, increasingly affordable, and has the potential to significantly reduce pollution and U.S. reliance on fossil fuels. Read More

Fox Mangles Data To Claim "The Poor" Are Getting "Richer"
Fox's John Stossel claimed that it's a "myth" that "the poor are getting poorer" and that they are actually getting "richer." In fact, incomes for the bottom fifth have shown almost no growth in recent decades, and the numbers Stossel used to support his argument were cherry-picked. Read More

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ann Coulter’s phony budget math

By Joan Walsh

I was late to the excellent MarketWatch story debunking the notion that President Obama’s been on a spending binge; I spent most of Tuesday traveling. But after my “Hardball” segment on it Wednesday, Ann Coulter tweeted: “Joan Walsh says that Marketwatch chart is ‘unbelievable’! Why yes it is, in the sense of being untrue.” That’s when I saw that there was shrill but lame GOP pushback on Rex Nutting’s excellent story, from both Coulter and the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis. I don’t normally reply to Coulter’s right-wing delusions — I haven’t written a column about her in five years – but since I think Nutting’s findings are a crucial corrective to GOP lying, I wasted my Wednesday night trying to understand the GOP attempt to discredit him. You’re welcome.
Coulter admits she relies on Pethokoukis, so let’s go directly to the source. To recap, Nutting crunched Office of Management and Budget and Congressional Budget Office numbers to find that under Obama, spending has risen at an annualized rate of 1.4 percent, less than any president since Dwight Eisenhower. It jumped 8.1 percent in the last three years of the George W. Bush presidency, and in fiscal year 2009, for which Bush approved the budget, it jumped 17.9 percent. But Bush isn’t the most profligate Republican: Ronald Reagan increased spending an average of 8.7 percent in his first term.
Pethokoukis quarrels with Nutting’s assigning Bush’s budget to Bush, because “Obama chose not to reverse that elevated level of spending; thus he, along with congressional Democrats, are responsible for it.” Exactly how one president undoes the spending approved by another president under a different Congress goes unexplained. The AEI pundit also argues that we should look at federal spending as a percent of GDP, and he notes that’s gone up under Obama, attempting to prove that Nutting is mistaken – but that’s a useless metric during a recession, which by definition shrinks GDP.
Coulter goes even further (of course). “It turns out Rex Nutting, author of the phony Marketwatch chart, attributes all spending during Obama’s entire first year, up to Oct. 1, to President Bush.” (The italics are in the original; they’re where the good writing is supposed to be.) She continues: “That means, for example, the $825 billion stimulus bill, proposed, lobbied for, signed and spent by Obama, goes in … Bush’s column.”
Shockingly, Coulter is … wrong. First of all, only about $120 billion of the stimulus was spent in fiscal year 2009 – and Nutting counted it in Obama’s column. He also included new funds appropriated under Obama and the Democratic congressional majority for the child health insurance program and other projects. And it says so quite clearly on the nifty chart Coulter finds fault with: $140 billion spent in the 2009 budget year is plainly attributed to Obama. It also says so in the text of the story, for people who don’t read charts.
“I attributed all the new spending I could find to Obama,” Nutting told me in an email. “I looked at the CBO’s budget outlook from Jan. 2009, and spending for ’09 was actually lower than CBO projected. And spending has been flat since then.”
Coulter also claims that Nutting’s piece has been ignored by the New York Times, but in fact David Firestone weighed in today, and made a point I should have made: It’s actually sad that a Democratic president is kvelling about cutting the rate of federal spending growth to its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower (actually, I made that point last August). Firestone notes that various budget deals aim to cut discretionary spending by $800 billion over a decade, by trimming education, food, housing, transportation and job training programs. “This category of spending, which used to be 5 percent of the gross domestic product in Nixon’s days, is heading down to less than 2 percent,” Firestone notes. Pethokoukis and Coulter ought to be applauding.
I’ve hailed Nutting’s piece not because I’m happy that Obama has presided over such stingy budgets (largely forced to by congressional Republicans), but because I’m glad to see a reporter telling the truth. If Pethokoukis and Coulter are the best the GOP can do to tear his work down, maybe more reporters will join him. Becomes The Eighteenth Group To Drop ALEC


According to an email ThinkProgress received from the Center for Media and Democracy, one of the leaders of a progressive campaign to push corporations and other funders to break with the American Legislative Exchange Council, online retail giant just announced that it will part ways with ALEC. In the wake of this campaign, ALEC eliminated a task force that pushed voter suppression laws and the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that played a significant role in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting, but the conservative group remains committed to other priorities such as repealing minimum wage laws, eliminating capital gains and estate taxes, and blocking safeguards that protect children from eating rat poison

Media Matters Daily Summary 05-24-12

Despite Being Warned, Right-Wing Media Buy Into The "BS" Claims About Obama's Spending Record
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters not to buy into the "BS" of GOP-driven tax and spending claims and pointed to a Wall Street Journal MarketWatch column that noted that government spending is rising at its slowest pace since the 1950s. Far from heeding that advice, right-wing media figures relied on misleading economic talking points to attack Carney. Read More

Fox Serves As Mouthpiece For Mountaintop Mining Industry
In strikingly one-sided reports, Fox News assailed an anticipated regulation protecting streams from mountaintop coal mining waste. Among other misleading claims, Fox accused the Obama administration of punishing a contractor who said the rule would kill jobs, when in fact, extensive evidence indicates the contract was halted simply because the firm did shoddy work. Read More

Right-Wing Sites Baselessly Accuse WH Of Leaking "Classified Information" To Filmmakers
Conservative websites are claiming a new release of documents show that the "White House" gave "classified information" to filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal for their upcoming film about the Osama bin Laden raid. However, even the group that released those documents, Judicial Watch, does not claim that the "White House" gave Bigelow and Boal "classified information." Read More

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reagan Raised Corporate Taxes

Ronald Reagan: Tax the Rich!

republicans Can't Accept the Truth About reagan, a US Traitor

Christie administration will close shortfall by borrowing transportation money despite promise

TRENTON — Undeterred by disappointing revenue figures, Gov. Chris Christie declared today that the state can still afford his proposed income tax cuts.

But in order to close the shortfall and pay for his signature tax cuts, the administration said it will borrow an extra $260 million for transportation projects instead of relying on cash on hand as promised. The decision marks a reversal by Christie, who pledged last year to cut down on transportation borrowing.

"This is a one-year initiative, and we do not make this recommendation casually," State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff told the Assembly Budget Committee today.

Democratic lawmakers quickly pounced on this, accusing Christie of borrowing money to give income tax cuts to the wealthy.......................

Media Matters Daily Summary 05-23-12

Fox Whitewashes Mitch Daniels' Deficit Record As Bush OMB Chief
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade attempted to whitewash Gov. Mitch Daniels' (R-IN) record as director of the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), attacking the accusation that Daniels "drove up the deficit" and claiming the surplus Bush inherited from the Clinton administration was only "on paper." But policies enacted by the Bush administration while Daniels was OMB director added "trillions" to the deficit and are still responsible for the majority of the increase in federal debt under President Obama, and the Bush administration inherited an actual budget surplus from the Clinton administration. Read More

Right-Wing Media Attack HHS Campaign To Promote Health And Preventive Care
Right-wing media have attacked a contract between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a public relations firm to raise awareness of health and preventive care opportunities as a "propaganda piece" for the health care law that "violates many of the procurement laws." But PR campaigns like this are nothing new; in fact, the Bush administration spent $1.6 billion dollars over a 30-month span promoting its policies. Read More

Right-Wing Media Spins Bain Capital Criticism As "Attack On Capitalism"
Following the Obama campaign's ad highlighting Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, right-wing media are hysterically calling the ad an attack on private equity and even "an attack on capitalism" itself. But the ad clearly and specifically targets Romney's own work at Bain Capital -- which Romney and his campaign have repeatedly touted as crucial experience for dealing with the economy -- not private equity or capitalism as a whole. Read More

Romney Retreats From ‘Unrealistic’ Four Percent Unemployment Benchmark


GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has come a long way from insisting “anything over four percent [unemployment] is nothing to celebrate.”
That benchmark, which he set earlier in May, drew criticism from economists of every political persuasion, including GOP loyalists.
On Tuesday, he set a new goal for himself — one that won’t create a hoped-for contrast with President Obama.
“I can tell you that over a period of 4 years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, or perhaps a little lower,” Romney said, “depends in part upon the rate of growth of the globe as well as what we’re seeing here in the United States, but we get the rate down quite substantially.”
Given that we’ve been hovering near eight percent for months, that sounds like a major improvement. But many models — including the one used by Congress’ non-partisan budget and economic scorekeeper — suggest we’ll reach that level whoever happens to be president. The table on page 129 of CBO’s 2012-2022 outlook (PDF) forecasts an average unemployment rate of 5.8 across fiscal year 2017, which begins October 1, 2016, just shy of four years after Romney’s hypothetical inauguration.
That’s an improvement, of course — just not one that leaves him looking like an economic superhero compared to the current President. But it does bring to the surface two structural flaws underlying U.S. politics: That candidates and elected officials offer unrealistic projections and make unrealistic promises all the time — even if they’re often based on high-level analyses that are by their very nature blind to the uncertainty of the future.
In January 2008 — early in the last presidential election cycle, and before the financial crisis — CBO’s outlook forecast unemployment rates of 5.3, 5.2, 4.9, and 4.8 for fiscal years 2009-2013. A year later, just after Obama’s inauguration, and with the economy in freefall, CBO predicted that without a stimulus bill, the unemployment would average 9.1 percent in fiscal year 2010, but then fall swiftly to 8.3 in FY 2011, 7.1 in FY 2012, 6.0 in FY 2013, and 5.3 in FY 2014. Even in absence of a second, major financial shock — and despite a significant stimulus package, these numbers ultimately proved to be way off base.

Obama Camp Hits Back At ‘Romney Economics’ On Education


The Obama campaign fired back at Mitt Romney’s speech Wednesday on education, in which Romney put forward school choice proposals, holding a conference call with reporters in which they tied “Romney economics,” of short-term gains, to their opponent’s positions on education.
“Mitt Romney might not want to talk about his lackluster record in Massachusetts, but it’s an important window into what he would do as president,” said Obama campaign national press secretary Ben LaBolt, criticizing Romney for having sought cuts to early literacy programs, and for sharp increases in public college tuition during his term as governor.
LaBolt also pointed to Romney’s comments at a closed-door fundraiser in April, where he said he would cut the size of the Department of Education.
Obama campaign policy director James Kvaal also rebutted Romney’s call for expanded school-choice, by pointing to the Obama administration’s own reform efforts on teacher pay and performance, and reforming the No Child Left Behind Act. “President Obama has also worked to expand school choice, in public schools — in fact, Race to the Top encouraged states to lift caps on charter schools, and increased the number of charter schools.”
Kvaal also explained the campaign’s opposition to private-school voucher systems: “We know from experience that private school vouchers have failed to raise achievement, and they drain resources from public school children.”
Romney, in his speech, attacked Obama for inequalities in American education: “Here we are in the most prosperous nation, but millions of kids are getting a third-world education. And, America’s minority children suffer the most. This is the civil-rights issue of our era. It’s the great challenge of our time.”
In response, Kvaal told TPM on the call that Obama agrees with the need to invest in education in order to build the economy.
“[Obama] is tremendously proud of his record on education, and rightly so,” said Kvaal. “And in contrast, the answers that Governor Romney is apparently offering, which include deep cuts to education funding, and backing away from what has been a national commitment for decades — to intervene in failing schools. I think voters that are interested in education have a clear choice.”

Meet Terrifying Pennsylvania GOP Crime Family ‘The Orie Sisters’

Hey, The Wire, would you like to come back on the television set, but ran out of every kind of scumbag hero society could possibly hold? Have you met Allegheny County’s the Orie sisters, who are all either on trial now or already convicted felons for misusing their state Senate and state Supreme Court offices, and also forgery and (we’re just spitballing here) probably murder and twincest?
Convicted Pennsylvania state Sen. Jane Orie stepped down from her seat Monday, a few days after her state Supreme Court justice sister was charged with similar allegations she used taxpayer-funded staff for campaigns.
The Allegheny County Republican submitted her resignation in a letter to Senate President Joe Scarnati dated Friday , the same day Justice Joan Orie Melvin was charged with using her Superior Court staff for campaign work during two bids for a seat on the high court.

Donald Trump Pleads For RNC Speaking Slot


Donald Trump is beginning to campaign for a big speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this year, asking his Twitter followers to "imagine him speaking at the RNC Convention" today.
One of Trump's advisors told the Daily Caller that Trump's "massive popularity is just one of the many reasons he is being sought as a keynote speaker at the Tampa RNC Convention."
Trump then tweeted a link to the article, adding, "That's a speech everyone would watch."
Speakers at the convention won't be chosen until later in the summer. Trump's last big foray into the election was his much-hyped endorsement of Mitt Romney in February.

Romney Tells Latinos Education Is ‘Civil Rights Issue Of Our Era,’ Promises Donors Massive Education Cuts


In a speech today to The Latino Coalition, a pro-business group led by President George W. Bush’s Small Business Administrator, Mitt Romney said the nation’s public education is in “crisis.” But while he publicly claimed that improving education for minority children is the “civil-rights issue of our era,” his recent closed-door remarks to donors suggest that his real plan for education is massive cuts.
Romney said today:
Our public education system is supposed to ensure that every child gets a strong start in life. Yet, one in four students fails to attain a high school degree. And in our major cities, half of our kids won’t graduate. Imagine that. Imagine if your enterprise had a 25% to 50% failure rate in meeting its primary goal. You would consider that a crisis. You would make changes, and fast. Because if you didn’t, you’d go out of business. [...]
Here we are in the most prosperous nation, but millions of kids are getting a third-world education. And, America’s minority children suffer the most. This is the civil-rights issue of our era. It’s the great challenge of our time.

Last month, however, the Wall Street Journal reported that Romney told donors at a private fundraising event that he would pay for his proposed 20 percent income tax cut by making massive cuts to education spending. Romney promised to consolidate the Department of Education with another agency or to make it “a heck of a lot smaller.” During Wednesday’s speech, Romney referenced his plan to block grant education funding, but did not specify how he would reduce the education budget.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll of Latino voters released today shows Romney losing to Obama, 61 percent to 27 percent.

An Obama Spending Spree? Hardly (CHART)


A dominant theme of the national political discourse has been the crushing spending spree the U.S. has ostensibly embarked on during the Obama presidency. That argument, ignited by Republicans and picked up by many elite opinion makers, has infused the national dialogue and shaped the public debate in nearly every major budget battle of the last thee years.
But the numbers tell a different story.

The fact that the national debt has risen from $10.6 trillion to $15.6 trillion under Obama’s watch makes for easy partisan attacks. But the vast bulk of the increase was caused by a combination of revenue losses due to the 2008-09 economic downturn as well as Bush-era tax cuts and automatic increases in safety-net spending that were already written into law.

Obama’s policies, including the much-criticized stimulus package, have caused the slowest increase in federal spending of any president in almost 60 nears, according to data compiled by the financial news service MarketWatch.

The chart shows that Presidents Reagan, both Bushes, and to a lesser extent Clinton, grew federal spending at a far quicker pace than Obama. Part of the reason for the slow growth is that Obama — unlike his Republican and Democratic predecessors — signed a law in February 2010 necessitating that new spending laws are paid for. In addition, Obama last year signed into law over $2 trillion in debt-reduction over the next decade.

Republicans argue that safety-net spending has crossed a critical threshold in recent years and Obama has been unwilling to address it. The two sides have jousted over who is to blame but the President has put hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on the table in deals that have been derailed, thanks in no small part to the GOP’s resistance to raising new tax revenues to help bridge the budget shortfall.

Last week, Obama’s likely Republican opponent Mitt Romney accused Obama of lighting a “prairie fire” of spending and said he “added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined.”

Chart by TPM’s Clayton Ashley

Frank Zappa - Occam's Razor

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hawaii Verifies Obama’s Birth For Arizona Secretary Of State


A Hawaii official announced late Tuesday that the state gave Arizona’s top elections official the verification he wanted showing President Barack Obama was indeed born there in 1961.
The announcement came just hours after Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett backed away from his threats to keep Obama off the November ballot and apologized for embarrassing his own state with a conspiracy theory-fueled investigation into whether the president was really a natural born U.S. citizen.
It also followed weeks of back and forth between Hawaii and Arizona, with Hawaii officials saying they weren’t sure Bennett was qualified to be investigating the matter.
Here’s the full statement Joshua Wisch, the special assistant to the Hawaii attorney general, released at 11:35 p.m. ET:
Regarding the inquiry from the Arizona Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, requesting a verification of birth for President Obama from the State of Hawaii, Department of Health, the matter has been resolved.  We have received information from Secretary Bennett that satisfied our requirements, and have therefore provided his office with a verification of birth for President Obama.

Tall Tales About Private Equity


PRESIDENT OBAMA started his general election campaign by taking aim at Mitt Romney’s job creation record at Bain, setting off a lively debate over the fairness of the attacks.
I am among those who have been drawn into the argument — there was even a snippet of me defending private equity in a Romney campaign ad.
As a former Obama administration official, I was uncomfortable about being used in a Romney ad in support of his position.
However, I was also concerned that the Obama ads, while narrowly accurate, might be seen to portray Bain Capital (and implicitly, private equity) in an ugly light because a few of the companies the firm invested in went bankrupt while Bain Capital still made money
On Monday, Mr. Obama struck the right balance, emphasizing that he wasn’t attacking private equity but was questioning Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital credentials to be the job creator in chief.
That’s fair, particularly because Mr. Romney himself has been foolishly reweaving history to claim, as recently as last week, that he helped create 100,000 jobs during his time at Bain.
In fact, Bain Capital — like other private equity firms — was founded and managed for profit: ideally, huge amounts of gain earned legally and legitimately. Any job creation was a welcome but secondary byproduct.
The language in one prospectus seeking Bain Capital investors was clear: “The objective of the Fund is to achieve an annual rate of return on invested capital in excess of the returns generated” by other investments. Any job creation was accidental.
In Mr. Romney’s case, his jobs assertion rests heavily on just a few early investments.
Originally hatched to provide venture capital to young enterprises, Bain Capital notched a few such successes, notably Staples and Sports Authority. These were small stakes in companies — about $2.5 million in Staples — over which Bain had little influence.
While I defend the role financiers play in making our economy work, I also concede that Mark Zuckerberg was far more central to the success of Facebook and its 3,200 jobs than the venture capitalists who invested early.
Although Bain Capital sold off those early investments years ago, Mr. Romney takes credit for every job ever created at every company Bain Capital invested in during his tenure — while ignoring jobs eliminated after his departure.
“The steel factory closed down two years after I left Bain Capital,” he said last week about GST Steel, the Kansas City, Mo., company that went bankrupt in 2001. “I was no longer there, so that’s hardly something which is on my watch.”
Meanwhile, when Staples went public in 1989, it had 1,100 employees; at the end of 1998, right before Mr. Romney exited Bain, it had 42,000 workers. Yet Mr. Romney takes credit for the 89,000 employed at the close of 2010.
As the years clicked by, Bain Capital and Mr. Romney smelled the chance to make more money by raising larger amounts. That, in turn, led them toward classic leveraged buyouts — the purchase, often heavily financed by debt, of more established companies.
These enterprises were often what Wall Street describes as “undermanaged,” which means the Bain Capital team could take “aggressive action” that often included cutting costs — read: jobs — to increase profitability.
That’s not wrong; it’s part of capitalism. Whatever its flaws, private equity has made a material contribution to sharpening management. But don’t confuse a leveraged buyout with job creation.
Under Mr. Romney’s leadership, Bain Capital engaged in the less attractive practice of putting more debt on seemingly successful investments in order to take dividends out. In at least four instances of Bain Capital investments during Romney’s tenure, these “recapped” companies, of which two were featured in the Obama ads, subsequently went bankrupt, costing thousands their jobs.
To be sure, some of Bain’s large leveraged buyouts — notably, Domino’s Pizza — added jobs. But Mr. Romney left Bain Capital two months after the Domino’s investment (7,900 new jobs claimed) was finalized.
Aware of private equity’s reputation, Mr. Romney still trots around the country erroneously calling himself a “venture capitalist.”
And in a further effort to deflect attention from the Bain Capital debate, Mr. Romney last week argued that President Obama was responsible for the loss of 100,000 jobs in the auto industry over the past three years.
That’s both ridiculously false (auto industry and dealership jobs have increased by about 50,000 since January 2009) and a remarkable comment from a man who said that the companies should have been allowed to go bankrupt and that the industry would have been better off without President Obama’s involvement.
Adding jobs was never Mitt Romney’s private sector agenda, and it’s appropriate to question his ability to do so.

Media Matters Daily Summary 05-22-12

"Socialist BS": Right-Wing Media Attack Obama's Joplin Commencement Speech
Right-wing media responded to President Obama's May 21 high school commencement speech in Joplin, Missouri, by claiming that Obama "preache[d] socialist BS," called for "military-style community action during crises," and that he "uncorked a campaign speech." Read More

Limbaugh Perverts Obama's Rejection Of Trickle-Down Economics Into An Attack On America
President Obama has said that relentless deregulation and tax cuts -- "you're on your own" economics -- don't result in a strong economy and have "never worked." Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly twisted these words and falsely claimed that Obama is attacking "capitalism" and America itself. Read More

Is Mitt Romney A Unicorn? Arizona Secretary Of State’s Birther Probe Ridiculed


In case there was any doubt about it before: The man in charge of running Arizona’s elections has no plans to investigate Mitt Romney’s birth certificate the way he’s been looking into President Obama’s.
“No, we haven’t contacted Michigan,” a spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Bennett told TPM in an email on Tuesday. “I don’t know if Michigan has the same statute that Hawaii has.”
Since he first revealed his conspiracy theory-fueled investigation into Obama’s birth certificate and threatened last week to keep the president off the state’s ballot, Bennett and his staff have been ducking for political cover behind the people they say really started it: the 1,200 constituents who sent angry emails begging him to take up their cause.
It was only because of them, Bennett said, that he began to look into the birth certificate issue in the first place. His spokesman, Matt Roberts, told TPM “with complete and utter honesty” it has nothing to do with Bennett’s affiliation as a Republican or his role as Romney’s Arizona campaign co-chair.
But those excuses apparently didn’t sit well with the legions of the president’s supporters and others convinced by clear evidence that Obama really is a natural born citizen of the United States and therefore eligible to serve as president.
“The reaction has been largely negative since the story broke,” Roberts said. It “balanced out the thousands of people who advocated for Mr. Bennett to keep (Obama) off the ballot in the first place.”
Balanced is one term for it. Tipped the scales might be another. At least one progressive online network, Left Action, took up the cause this week under the theory that if 1,200 emails can convince Bennett to investigate one conspiracy theory, maybe they can cobble together enough support to get him to investigate anything.
As of Tuesday afternoon some 15,000 people and counting had already put their names on Left Action’s online petition asking Bennett to investigate whether Mitt Romney is really a unicorn. (Yes, a unicorn. The petition even has its own domain name: That’s more than 10 times the number of people who asked Bennett to investigate the president in the first place.
While Roberts said he hadn’t seen the unicorn petition, he’s heard about it through a litany of nasty emails in recent days.
“We have received emails containing that request,” he said, “usually followed by some colorful language suggesting things I don’t think I can physically perform.”
The anger is something of an echo to the rage Bennett heard from the right even after he launched the investigation in March, including emails calling him “week-kneed” (sic) and saying he obviously had little interest in upholding his oath of office.
Still, despite the reversal in rhetoric, Roberts said his boss has no regrets about launching the investigation and no plans to call it off until he gets the answers he’s looking for from Hawaii. Roberts said they’re just hoping that comes as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Hawaii officials, tired of the mountains of requests they have gotten about Obama’s birth certificate from conspiracy theorists over the years, have made Bennett jump though a series of hoops to prove he’s qualified to investigate the matter.
As of Friday, a spokesman for the Hawaii attorney general’s office said Bennett still hadn’t qualified despite two months of trying.
“We’re hopeful to have some closure from HI very soon,” Bennett’s spokesman wrote in an email on Tuesday, “and if they supply us with the verification in-lieu of certified copy, the issue will be over as far as we’re concerned.”

Update: Late Tuesday, Bennett backed off his threat to keep Obama off the ballot and apologized for embarrassing Arizona.

GOP ‘Appalled’ Over Obama Granting Castro’s Daughter Visa, Ignores Trips Under Bush


When the State Department granted the head of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, Mariela Castro Espín, a visa to chair a panel on LGBT issues at the Latin American Studies Association in San Francisco later this week, the Republican response was as obvious as the Cuban LGBT activist’s relations to the Caribbean island’s Communist dictators. Her father is Cuban President Raúl Castro, her uncle is revolutionary leader and longtime dictator Fidel Castro, and the Republicans were “appalled.”
“The State Department needs to wake up from its delusional love fest with the dictators in Havana,” said right-wing House Foreign Affairs chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Republican Members of Congress released web videos and organized conference calls denouncing the visa as “outrageous.”
Even presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney got in on the action, releasing a statement accusing the Obama administration of “a slap in the face to all those brave individuals in Cuba who are enduring relentless persecution.”
Ros-Lehtinen and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), David Rivera (R-FL) and Albio Sires (R-NJ) wrote a strongly-worded letter to the State Department saying:
The administration’s appalling decision to allow regime agents into the U.S. directly contradicts Congressional intent and longstanding U.S. foreign policy.
If it’s “longstanding U.S. foreign policy” to deny Mariela Castro a visa to enter the U.S., someone forgot to tell President George W. Bush. The Bush administration granted Castro not one but three visas to enter the U.S. in 2001 and 2002. State Department spokesman william Ostick told the Miami Herald:
Mariela Castro visited once in 2001 and twice in 2002. I can’t discuss her visas specifically, but you can assume she needed one to travel.
An Obama surrogate, Freddy Balsera, told the Herald:
In fact, the top State Department Official in charge of Latin America at the time was a Cuban American. Where was their criticism then? Nowhere, because ultimately this is all about politics for them.
A ThinkProgress search of the Lexis Nexis news database for Mariela Castro’s name during 2001 and 2002 returned no results relevant to her trips to the U.S.
Former attendees at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) said that Cuba has long been a presence at LASA conferences. This year, the State Department accepted 60 visas, denied 11, and is still processing 6. A State spokesman said visas couldn’t be rejected simply because “we don’t like you.”
LASA’s president told the Associated Press that Castro’s appearance at the conference was “an academic issue, not a political issue,” and that she’d answered a call for papers like any other conference speaker.

Yes, Of Course Bristol Palin Has A New Reality TV Show, Why Wouldn’t She

Did you know that when you are a PR writer and you send our press releases you are supposed to write the headlines for those press releases as if they were the headlines of a legitimate news source? The sick fantasy of every PR flack is of course that some bleary-eyed editor will see your release come over the wire, grunt exhaustedly, and just run it as-is, headline and all, and this being the year 2012 and all news now being on the Internet, that probably happens pretty much constantly.

 Still, there is a line that even the most bone-tired Web drone will not cross, and that line is crossed multiple times in the following headline: “HIGHLY ANTICIPATED DOCUSERIES, BRISTOL PALIN: LIFE’S A TRIPP, TO PREMIERE TUESDAY, JUNE 19TH, ON LIFETIME.” Do you anticipate hate-watching TV? Do you anticipate it highly? Well, mark your calendar, in your own blood!

Bennett Backs Off Birther Threat, Apologizes To Arizona


After days of ridicule for launching a conspiracy theory-fueled investigation into Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett on Tuesday backed off his threat to keep the president off the ballot in November and apologized to his state.
“If I embarrassed the state, I apologize, but that certainly wasn’t my intent,” Bennett said in an interview with Phoenix radio station KTAR. “He’ll be on the ballot as long as he fills out the same paperwork and does the same things that everybody else has.”
Bennett said he still intends to keep asking Hawaii for verification that Obama’s birth certificate is authentic. But he said he only plans to use Hawaii’s answer as a way to satisfy demands from constituents who remain unconvinced Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States and so therefore eligible to be president.
He also said he talked to Hawaii’s attorney general on Monday night and clarified what he is looking to have verified. He said he “reworded” his request and expects to receive a response from Hawaii officials “in the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Last week, Bennett told a different Phoenix radio station it was “possible” he would keep Obama off the state’s ballot in November if Hawaii did not provide him with a satisfactory answers to his investigation.
On Tuesday, Bennett told talk show hosts Mac Watson and Larry Gaydos he had no idea about the wave of criticism he endure get after launching his investigation into the president’s birth certificate. He said again that he doesn’t consider himself a birther and he believes the president was born in Hawaii but he did this to satisfy a small number of vocal people who kept sending him angry emails about it.
“I feel like I was just trying to glue the far little corner of the carpet down,” Bennett said. “And as soon as you just touch the carpet, the whole floor buckles.”

Where Are The Jobs?

Alabama School System's Lone Textbook Falling Apart

MONTGOMERY, AL—The Alabama Department of Education reported Wednesday that its sole textbook has begun to seriously show its age after more than a decade of heavy daily use at the state's 1,500 public schools.
Officials said the decrepit tome, titled Introduction To Civics, has recently become so tattered that it is now nearly unusable for the 748,000 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade who are required to share it.

"When you have every child in Alabama using the same textbook, there's bound to be a certain amount of wear and tear over time," said State Superintendent Dr. Thomas R. Bice, lifting the book's cover to reveal the thin strip of adhesive barely connecting the badly disfigured piece of cardboard to its spine. "But with our book in this condition—pages partially ripped, some separated from the binding and jammed elsewhere in the wrong sequential order, others missing entirely—it becomes difficult to maintain an effective curriculum."
"Unfortunately, what we have here is a book whose viability as Alabama's primary teaching tool has just about run its course," he added.

Officials from the cash-strapped state explained that because Introduction To Civics is touched by close to 1.5 million hands during a typical school day, many of its 358 pages—which cover the basic structure of American government as well as the rights and duties of citizens—are so caked in food and beverage stains and blanketed with crude depictions of human genitals that entire chapters have been rendered illegible.

In addition, high demand for the textbook has resulted in a constant conflict of availability. With schools across the 50,000-square-mile state struggling to coordinate class schedules in order to drop the book off and pick it up at the right times, many students are forced to wait hours before instruction can begin.

According to sources, a student will often leave the book in his or her locker by accident, thereby preventing 300,000 others from doing their homework that night.
"This week I really needed the textbook for a big math test we have coming up, but the seniors were using it to study for their AP Chemistry exam, and after that it had to go to some sixth-grade Spanish class down in Mobile," Montgomery-area 15-year-old Kyla Richter said. "When I finally got it, I only had 11 seconds to do as much cramming as I could before I had to hand it off again."
"I think I'm going to fail," she added.

However necessary they may be, plans to replace Introduction To Civics have set off a fierce debate within the Alabama education establishment. Fiscally-minded officials have argued that the state's textbook could easily be repaired, as it has been many times in the past, with a couple bottles of Wite-Out and a roll of Scotch tape.

Jefferson High School principal Trevor Mills, however, believes cost shouldn't be the only factor considered when it comes to the one book forming the pillar of the state's education system.
"Look, I'm no stranger to the economic reality we're living in, with funding being slashed left and right, but we owe it to our kids to provide them with something better," said Mills, whose hire in 1999 coincided with the state's acquisition of Introduction To Civics from a used bookstore. "Maybe it's a lot to ask, but $40 for a new copy would be a huge, huge help."

"A replacement book would greatly enrich our students' educations and give our hard-working teachers the single most important resource they need to do their jobs effectively," he continued. "All 12 of them depend on it."