The Swiss Boating Of Mitt Romney: A CNN Fable

When you hear the right complain, as they always do, about the so-called liberal media, keep in mind the fact that Fox News is the most watched cable news network, that the Wall Street Journal is the largest national newspaper, that talk radio is dominated by conservatives, and that the Internet’s most referenced site belongs to Matt Drudge. What exactly do they think the media is?

Add to that the fact that many establishment news providers bend over backwards to avoid being targeted by conservative critics for having a liberal bias. Or worse, they strive to emulate the right-wing media in hopes of duplicating their perceived success.

CNN is the worst offender in this contest of running to the right. Their aggressive shift in ideology has been well documented. They have hired numerous far-right extremists with no effort to achieve any sort of balance. And that includes the news chief, Ken Jautz. Consequently, their ratings have collapsed along with their journalistic integrity.

Swiss MittThis past weekend CNN broadcast another example of how their sinking ethics have impacted their news judgment. The segment by Tom Foreman was centered on the absurd premise that the Obama campaign has engaged in “Swiftboating” Mitt Romney by accurately questioning his business experience, his millions of dollars in off-shore tax havens, and his refusal to release more than a year or two of his tax returns. Foreman concludes his report saying…

Tom Foreman: In ad after ad, Democrats are suggesting that Romney is a fatcat job outsourcer, an opportunistic financial predator, and an elitist out of touch with the working class. Never mind that many of those claims appear to be backed with little or no evidence. [...] Some Republican analysts fear that Mitt Romney could be the second politician from Massachusetts to be Swiftboated out of the presidency.

The problem with Foreman’s conclusion is that there is abundant evidence of the claims made in the Obama ads. And the questions they raise are those that would require answers from any political candidate. Who could deny that Romney is a fatcat? The job outsourcing by Bain entities is not even denied by Romney. He just argues that he wasn’t there at the time (despite official SEC filings that contradict him). And how could someone be more out of touch than by saying that he likes to fire people, he’s not concerned about the poor, and that corporations are people?

Foreman was not alone in raising the specter of Swiftboating on CNN. Reporter Jim Acosta misused the term when he interviewed Mitt Romney on Friday asking him whether he thought he was being Swiftboated. Talk about your softball questions. And media analyst Howard Kurtz also misused the term while promoting his Sunday program Reliable Sources. He was acutely concerned about Romney’s welfare under the intense pressure he must be suffering.

Howard Kurtz: I’ve been increasingly worried about whether the media that have been pushing a lot of these stories, “Boston Globe”, “Washington Post” on outsourcing, “Vanity Fair” on Cayman Island accounts, seem to some people to be echoing the message of the Obama campaign by raising so many questions about Romney’s business background.

Apparently Kurtz is of the opinion that if a story is getting a lot of attention the reporters should immediately stop covering it for fear of overtaxing the beleaguered subject of the story and to avoid charges of bias by “some people” on the receiving end of the bad news. How very considerate of him.

For the record, Swiftboating is a term that describes a campaign to disparage a candidate’s strengths that is based on falsehoods and lacks evidence. It is wholly improper to use the term simply to denounce ads that are critical of a candidate. Criticism that is rooted in the truth, with evidence to back it up, is not Swiftboating in any way shape or form. In fact, refraining from such relevant criticism would be campaign malpractice.

Asking Romney to account for his activities in business, which is the core of his campaign, is fair game. So is asking him to release tax returns as almost every candidate in modern times does – since his own father set the standard back in 1968. But suggesting that news coverage of such issues is Swiftboating, as CNN has done three times in as many days, is proof that the network has lost all interest in being a professional news enterprise.

Fox News Can’t Stop Lying About Tax Cuts For The Middle Class

The announcement today that President Obama is committed to preserving the current tax rates for middle class Americans has been met by Fox News choosing to frame the issue in a more negative and dishonest manner.

Fox News

On the Fox News web site the story was featured with a headline reading, “Obama ‘100% Committed’ To Tax Hike.” Later, on Fox News as the President was speaking, the network displayed a caption reading, “Pres Urges Congress To Pass Tax Increase On Households Earning More Than $250,000.”

Both of those statements are false. The President is neither committed to, nor urging, a tax increase. The tax increasing was passed and signed into law by Republican president George W. Bush. The legislation implementing the Bush-era tax cuts included a sunset provision for when the cuts would expire. That was Bush’s doing, not Obama’s. What Obama is trying to do is to preserve the tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans who actually need them and will spend them to help the economy grow. It is flat out dishonest to say that, because Obama supports allowing the cuts to expire for a few people at the top of the economic scale, that he is proposing a tax increase as characterized by Fox News.

Deficit FactorsMost independent economists agree that lower taxes for the middle class is more likely to fuel economic growth because the middle class spends more of their money on cars, clothes, food, appliances, electronics, travel, etc. The rich, on the other hand, disperses more of their income to savings or retirement accounts that do nothing to stimulate the economy. And studies have proven that the Bush-era tax cuts are one of the biggest contributors to the deficit.

The President is making a rational proposal that Congress come together and agree to pass the middle class relief that both sides insist is necessary to spur growth. There is simply no reason not to do so. The question of whether to cut taxes further for the rich can be debated separately and need not put everyone else at risk. If Republicans refuse to do this because the wealthy are being left out, then they are effectively holding the majority of Americans hostage on behalf of helping millionaires become even richer. But then, that’s the mission of the GOP (Greedy One Percent).

These facts are available for everyone to see and factor into their appraisal of the current economic debate. Everyone except for Fox News viewers, that is. They will continue to be misinformed and subject to opinions that are contrary to reality and harmful to their own interests.

Fox Nation Panic: Run For The Hills, The World Is Ending

Sell! Sell! Sell! It’s all over. The stock market is collapsing. Wall Street is bankrupt. The economy is toast. Head for your bunker with your gold bullion, guns, and bibles. The End Times are here.

Fox Nation is feverishly reporting that “Stocks Tank, Nasdaq’s Worst Week Of 2012.” If this isn’t evidence of Armageddon, I don’t know what is.

Fox Nation - Stocks Tank

After this horrific market crash the NASDAQ will only be up 13.5% year-to-date – a mere nine times more than what the average bank savings account is earning for the whole year. If you listened to Fox you would have missed out on one of the most precipitous stock rallies in decades.

And when was the last time that Fox reported that the market was significantly higher in any week this year? Good luck finding that report. Fox is on a mission to make President Obama and his administration look bad. That requires trumpeting bad news about the economy and ignoring the good news.

The problem is that by doing that, Fox also exacerbates negativity that can have the effect of producing a self-fulfilling prophecy and frighten people out of the market. But Fox doesn’t care about that. Hurting Obama is more important to Fox than accurately reporting on the economy.

Fox News Revives Lie To Advocate Raising Taxes On The Poor

Every year around early April, Fox News unpacks a phony statistic about taxpayers in order to imply that many Americans don’t pay taxes at all. They are starting a little early this year.

Fox News - Neil Cavuto

Neil Cavuto, the VP of business news at Fox, must know better when he alleges that 49.5% of Americans do not pay taxes. The truth is that they pay about the same tax rate as other Americans, just no “federal” taxes. And there is a good reason for that. Most of the citizens in this category are either seniors living on Social Security, students with little or no income, and the working poor who earn less than the statutory minimums to be liable for federal levies. They do, however, pay state and local taxes, sales taxes, mortgage taxes, and payroll taxes. But that doesn’t stop Fox from repeatedly asserting the lie that they pay no taxes at all.

By complaining that these disadvantaged people are tantamount to freeloaders, Cavuto is in effect advocating an increase in taxes for the poor. While he and his right-wing cohorts fight tooth and nail to protect wealthy individuals and corporations from contributing even modest amounts to the nation’s recovery, they are enthusiastically in favor of soaking the poor in order to heal the malaise on Wall Street and the misery of long-suffering bankers. It’s nice to see that these conservative, anti-tax zealots have finally found a class of people whose taxes they want to raise.

The phrase that Cavuto used repeatedly is that “everyone has [to have] skin in the game.” The arrogance dripping from that commentary is that it assumes that those not paying federal income taxes do not already have skin in the game. Cavuto thinks that people who have spent a lifetime paying into the system, and are now struggling to survive in retirement, haven’t sacrificed enough. He thinks that the unemployed would prefer to remain that way rather than find jobs and resume payments to the IRS. That’s an astoundingly stupid point of view that demonstrates just how ignorant he is of economics and the plight of people less fortunate than he is. But surprisingly, it isn’t the stupidest thing he said. In his program’s sarcastic epilogue he issued this order to the folks who are already undergoing significant hardships:

“Stop demanding benefits from a system you give nothing.”

Really? Let me get this straight. If you are so broke that you can’t pay for taxes – or housing or food – then you should not be getting any benefits from the social safety nets set up to provide housing and food for the poor? Apparently Cavuto thinks that such benefits should only go to people who already have money.

To say that the poor should stop demanding benefits because they are poor is like chastising a child for wanting to be adopted just because she’s an orphan. What a selfish freeloader. And she’s just the sort of ne’er-do-well from whom Cavuto would like to steal candy.

Fox Nation vs. Reality: Stimulating Unemployment

In yet another example of the intentionally deceptive news perverters at Fox News, the Fox Nation website has posted a headline article that deliberately misrepresents reality with this headline: WH Senior Advisor: Unemployment Stimulates the Economy.

Fox Nation

That would be a remarkably stupid comment if anyone had actually said it. What Valerie Jarrett actually said was that…

“Even though we had a terrible economic crisis three years ago, throughout our country many people were suffering before the last three years, particularly in the black community. And so we need to make sure that we continue to support that important safety net. It not only is good for the family, but it’s good for the economy. People who receive that unemployment check go out and spend it and help stimulate the economy, so that’s healthy as well.

So what Jarrett was talking about was the stimulative effect of unemployment insurance, not unemployment. And her views on continuing to support Americans struggling in this difficult economic environment are consistent with most economists who recognize that funds received in the form of unemployment checks are quickly spent in the communities of the beneficiary, creating an economic stimulus.

“Many analysts, including the Congressional Budget Office as well as [Moody's Mark] Zandi, have found that in a weak economy, UI and refundable tax credits — and other measures that put money into the hands of hard-pressed individuals and families who will spend it — have a significantly larger impact on economic activity and job creation than tax cuts primarily benefiting high-income individuals, who are likely to save a large amount of any increase in income they receive. In the Moody’s Analytics model, extending unemployment insurance benefits generates $1.60 of additional GDP for each dollar of budgetary cost, while a permanent extension of all of the Bush-era income tax cuts generates only 35 cents in economic activity per dollar of cost.”

The Fox Nationalists frequently lie about the economic benefits of aid to working class Americans, but this intentional misrepresentation of Jarrett’s remarks is even more dishonest than their routine dishonesty. I’m sure they are very proud of themselves.

Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Gas Price Myth

Fox Nation has joined Fox News and most of the right-wing noise machine in attempting to slow President’s Obama’s increasing popularity due to the recent trends in the improving economic and employment numbers. They have settled on the issue of rising gas prices as a means of disrupting the President’s positive momentum.

Fox Nation

The only problem with asserting that Obama is responsible for a massive spike in gas prices is that it doesn’t happen to be true. The 83% figure was derived from calculating gas price changes from Obama’s inauguration to the present. But that doesn’t take into account that in the weeks prior to the inauguration there was a worldwide economic meltdown that was the catalyst for a precipitous drop in gas prices. As noted by economists at the time, “The overwhelming cause of the collapse in oil prices has been the faltering world economy, which has fueled the drop in consumption.”

Here are the facts: Gas prices peaked at $4.12 per gallon in the summer of 2008. By the time Obama was inaugurated the following January, the Bush recession that began in the fall had caused prices to drop to $1.61. While everyone likes lower gas prices, nobody wants them to decline due to people being too poor to purchase it. But that’s what happened in late 2008.

Arguably, the rise in gas prices since then validates the Obama economic revival that has produced higher retail fuel consumption. So a proper comparison would not begin at the lowest point of a recession that Obama had nothing to do with. It would begin from the pre-recession market until the present. By that measure gas is 17% lower.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Fox News to present these facts, or any others that make the President look good. Their mission to destroy this presidency and anything that resembles progressivism is more important to Fox than facts.

Sarah Palin’s Top Seven CPAC Hack Attacks And Lies

There is no better example of the right’s embrace of idiocy than the rise of Sarah Palin. Conservatives take great pains to refudiate attacks on her intelligence (or lack thereof), but the very fact that they have to rush to her defense so often is evidence of her stupefying ignorance. You never see conservatives forced to defend Karl Rove on those grounds. Liberals may strongly disagree with him but they don’t doubt his IQ.

Palin, on the other hand, is a walking fountain of embarrassing witlessisms. And her keynote speech yesterday at CPAC contributed another mother lode of lunacy. As was to be expected, the bulk of her bluster was aimed squarely at Barack Obama, whom she can only see in terms of evil and strident anti-Americanism. This approach is well received by the simple-minded audience at CPAC that regards cracks about community organizing as worthy of a standing ovation. Surprisingly, the crowd was unfazed by Palin’s use of Satan’s own speaking device: the TelePrompTer.

Sarah Palin at CPAC

However, Palin saved some of her bile for fellow Republican Mitt Romney. She did not mention him by name, but it was clear to whom she was referring when she said that she hoped the nominating process would continue, even to the convention. And it was likewise obvious that Palin was smacking Romney when she said that…

“Our candidate must be someone who can instinctively turn right to constitutional, conservative principles. It’s too late in the game to teach it or spin it at this point. It’s either there or it isn’t.”

But the real entertainment was spread throughout Palin’s address. While there was virtually nothing of substance, there was an abundance of blatant applause lines that fed the Pavlovian lust of the CPACers. Here are just a few of the most mentally deficient snippets from her harangue:

1) [Obama] promised to transform America, and that’s one promise he kept, transforming a shining city on a hill into a sinking ship.
Remember how shiny America was in 2008 when the McCain/Palin ticket was so soundly defeated? The economy was in free fall, we were bleeding jobs, and there were two wars in progress. Obama took command of this ship after Bush and the GOP had already run it into an iceberg, and he has managed to keep it afloat and steer it back into safer waters.

2) When I listened to his State of the Union last month, I was really struck that he barely mentioned unemployment.
Which State of the Union was she listening to? It certainly wasn’t the one Obama delivered where he mentioned “jobs” 33 times. Her dreadful comprehension skills may explain why she was unable to answer a gotcha question like “What do you read?”

3) He’ll invest your money in bullet trains to nowhere, but he’ll stop Boeing from building airplanes anywhere.
It takes balls for Palin to reference the “bridge to nowhere” that was a boondoggle she supported in her home state of Alaska. And it’s no less ballsy to berate initiatives like high-speed rail that would create jobs and improve the infrastructure for commerce. Also, The NLRB decision to oppose Boeing’s plan to to move their facilities to South Carolina was intended to save the jobs of workers that Boeing proposed to abandon in Washington state.

4) We have a better job plan and it’s called the free market. And it worked before this president, and it will work again after this president.
Well, except for this:

Job Creation

5) He says that we need more of his financial regulations. We say go ask MF Global customers how happy they are with his regulatory agencies. Where were they when Jon Corzine lost $1.2 billion of customer funds?
Exactly! Where were Obama’s regulatory agencies? They were tied up by Palin’s Republican pals in Congress who refused to pass the bills that would create them or to confirm the department heads who would manage them. And isn’t Palin thoughtful for showing her concern about a billion dollars lost by wealthy hedge fund investors, but no such concern for hundreds of billions lost by average American homeowners?

6) We’re gonna put our confidence in the strength of our armed forces, not the hollow promises of our adversaries and not the cleverness of our diplomats and our bureaucrats.
So Palin advocates only military solutions to foreign policy disputes. She just can’t abide clever diplomats that could defuse an international crisis and avoid putting American lives at risk, not to mention saving billions of dollars that would be spent at war. Something tells me that even our armed forces would rather rely on diplomacy first.

7) We’ve suffered massive job losses out there. But Washington is hiring.
Actually, there have been 3,000,000 jobs created in the private sector in the past two years. Government jobs, however, have declined by 2.6% during the Obama administration. That’s a record. Obama has done more to shrink government than even Ronald Reagan.

Sitting through Palin’s speech was an excruciating ordeal. Her screechy whine was itself torturous, but the ignorance infused with every sentence, and the cheers it elicited from the undiscriminating crowd, was like aural tasering. Imagine my relief when she came to the obligatory “God bless America” and the end was in sight. However, the final punch line was her selection of Shania Twain’s “Not Just A Pretty Face” to accompany her exit from the stage. It’s amazing that the ego that approved that song can fit into her miniaturized brain.

Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Obama Downgrade Threat

Once again Fox News has twisted the facts of a breaking story beyond all recognition. The headline on their Fox Nation blog reads: S&P Threatens Obama With Another Downgrade.

Fox Nation

The Fox Nationalists link to an article on Zero Hedge where the original headline says: S&P Threatens US With Another Downgrade. That is an obviously more accurate representation of the opinion expressed by S&P’s John Chambers, who was not threatening Obama at all. The prospect of another credit rating downgrade was directed at the United States, not the White House. Furthermore, its impact will be felt by the nation as a whole, not by the President as an individual.

If anything, the threat was aimed more at Congress, because that is where the budget is drafted, and it is where S&P has previously laid the blame for the downgrade. In their decision last August to drop the U.S. from AAA to AA+, S&P hammered at the disfunctionality of the Tea Party purists in the House who seemed to hunger for an American default:

[T]he downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges [...] The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.

Tea Party DowngradeChambers noted in his latest comments that the “political brinkmanship hasn’t gone away. That simply doesn’t happen in other AAA economies.” Indeed, the same intransigent Tea Party extremists are presently attempting to welch on prior agreements on payroll tax cuts and budget reductions stipulated by the failure of the so-called Super Committee to arrive at a compromise spending bill.

The absurdity of Fox Nation trying to suggest that S&P is threatening Obama makes more sense when you recognize that the mission of Fox News is to disparage the President at every conceivable opportunity. They don’t care whether or not the criticism is factual. The only thing they are concerned with is their obsession with personalizing every negative event as being solely attributable to Obama in particular and Democrats in general. That agenda is not only dishonest, but it is also harmful in that it distracts from the real concerns presented by potential occurrences that will affect the entire nation and every citizen in it.

Fox News doesn’t care about the harm it produces. It only cares about harming Obama and running him out of Washington. Never mind that even if they were successful it wouldn’t change the S&P analysis one bit since it is Congress who is responsible for the budget. The determination of Fox News to harm the country is evident everyday. It is evident in their lamenting of lower unemployment rates, which they dismiss as contrived. And it is evident in their disdain for improvements in American manufacturing in auto and other industries. If there is one thing that is clear about Fox News it is that they revel in bad news for America and they are willing to hurt the country in order to achieve their rightist political goals.

Fox News Is SHOCKED That Obama Has Christian Values

Seriously, Fox News? Are you seriously expressing disdain for President Obama’s remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast about how his faith has helped form his policy opinions?

Fox Nation

The arch-conservative, fundamentalists in America have spent decades insisting that America is a Christian nation and that the country must submit to their spiritual dogma. They have attempted to, and in many cases succeeded in, passing bills that legislatively adopt their religious principles, from abortion to creationism. And Fox Pews…I mean News has adopted the crusade of the religious right as their own.

The one Christian principle that is almost always left out of the fundamentalist agenda is the one that preaches compassion for the poor and Jesus’ admonition that “whatever you do (do not do) for the least of these you do (do not do) for me.” Now when the President articulates his principles of Christian faith at a prayer breakfast he is criticized for it with a distinct implication that it was somehow inappropriate.

OK, fine. Let’s all agree that injecting religion into public policy is inadvisable and promise to refrain from doing it. But that has to apply to all sides. The Christian Taliban can no longer try to shove its philosophy down the throats of their fellow citizens. There will be no more sermonizing on God’s alleged will. No more phony wars on Christmas. No more prayers to open congressional hearings. And if the right will not agree to these terms, then they have to shut up when the President makes barely religious comments like this:

“When I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years. And I believe in God’s command to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.”

[...] “I actually think that is going to make economic sense, but for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.'”

Unfortunately, the Evangelicans will never surrender their arrogant superiority long enough to permit America to have true freedom of religion. And they will likewise refuse to refrain from castigating Democrats when they exercise their religious liberties. That’s just the nature of the sanctimonious hypocrisy embraced by the practitioners of religious tyranny.

NO KIDDING: Mitt Romney Says He Doesn’t Care About The Poor

File this under “Tell Me Something I Didn’t Know.”

Mitt Romney appeared on CNN this morning and told Soledad O’Brien something that was already known by anyone paying attention:

I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

Romney’s qualification about the safety net is a weak argument for ceasing to care about people who are struggling to find work, to feed their children, and to pay for housing and health care. This is a statement that could only be made by someone so utterly lacking empathy and experience with anything outside of his millionaire bubble.

The poor in America are all too familiar with the safety net’s shortcomings. A politician can reasonably choose to focus on middle class issues, but to say aloud that they don’t care about poor people reveals something fundamentally amiss in their character. Especially if that politician is a multimillionaire.

Romney’s statement also asserts that he isn’tconcerned about the very rich. But if that’s true, then why is he struggling so feverishly to give them (him) additional tax cuts and federal benefits? For the rich people he doesn’t care about, he fights to increase their wealth. For the poor, he might try to fix some holes in the safety net if he determines it’s needed. That’s the perspective of a selfish elitist who has no idea what the nation is going through. And it’s a perspective that will make it very difficult for him to ever become president.

Occupy Reality: Americans Concern About Income Inequality Surges

The Pew Research Center has conducted an inquiry into the degree of divisions within American society and found that conflicts between rich and poor now outpace other sources of group tension.

That result can only be interpreted as a success for the 99% and those who participated in the nationwide Occupy movement. They decisively altered the national dialogue from one that was obsessed with government spending and debt, to one that focused on economic justice and corporate abuse of power.

This is a terrible time for the GOP (Greedy One Percent) to be coalescing around Mitt Romney as their nominee for president. A multimillionaire, corporate raider who specializes in bankrupting companies and outsourcing jobs may not be the ideal candidate in this political environment. But, fortunately for Democrats, they are stuck with him.

The Wealth Gap in American is currently larger than it has ever been. It is larger than it was in the Great Depression. It is even larger than it was during the ancient Roman Empire that collapsed from the weight of its own injustice and oppression.

Click to enlarge
Decadence Index

The Republicans know all too well that their class war on behalf of the rich is toxic to their electoral aspirations. Their top strategist and pollster, Frank Luntz, has been counseling them to steer clear of debates on economic justice and free market capitalism. In a seminar for the Republican Governor’s Association he told them that he is “so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death.” Even fellow Republicans are bashing the corporatist tendencies of Romney and his Bain Capital pedigree.

Not to be left out, Fox News joined the club by posting an article about the Pew survey on their Fox Nation web site. Consistent with their inbred bias, they mocked up a graphic that pastes Obama in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner that George Bush made to pretend that the Iraq war was over, implying that Obama is responsible for the class tensions.

Fox Nation Rich/Poor Conflict

The problem with Fox’s characterization is that Obama was a late-comer to the issue. The people were way out in front of this and they overwhelming support the goals associated with the Occupy movement. And that includes many of the rich people we are supposed to be in conflict with. Notice how they never called it a class war until we fought back.

But more importantly, in their rush to smear the President, they are implicitly conceding that income inequality is a significant problem in America and that it is reaching an historic level of risk. Thanks Fox.

The Top 5 Tax Myths Of The GOP Spin Machine

As this election year commences with the media focused on the Republican Clown Car Primary, the American people are are being barraged by ludicrous campaign stunts, dumbfounding debate performances, and the usual mix of dishonesty and hatred that the GOP has fine-tuned for decades.

For the most part, the caterwauling of Republicans has drowned out any rebuttal by Democrats and the press seem content to deliver just one side of the political argument. For instance, the GOP (Greedy One Percent) continue to peddle their Millionaire Relief Act proposals to reform the tax code so that the rich control even more of the nation’s wealth than they do currently.

Fortunately, the folks at the Center for Tax Justice have complied a list of the Top 5 Tax Myths to watch out for this election season. For convenience and shareability I created this handy InfoGraphic to separate fact from affliction:

Tax Fantasyland

For however long the GOP primaries are dragged out, progressives are going to have to try harder to get their voices heard above the clutter. Hopefully communicating in creative ways will help to achieve that goal.

Mitt Romney Fails World Economy 101

The Republican presidential candidate relying the most on a resume of financial acumen to propel him into the White House is undoubtedly Mitt Romney (or R*Money, as his Highlife Homies call him). But as his first post-Iowa campaign event in New Hampshire shows, he may not be able to live up to the hype. From the National Journal:

“One man asked about the growing gap between rich and poor in America. Romney essentially said that it could be worse, and challenged the crowd to name a country where the average income is higher than in the United States.”

First of all, there are ten countries that have a higher average income than the U.S., including Norway and Qatar. But that’s beside the point. The average income says nothing about income inequality. If I were in a room with Bill Gates, the average net worth of that room would be about $25 billion dollars, of which my contribution would be negligible. The United States is home to several billionaires whose presence warps the average income scale.

A more relevant fact is that the 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined. There’s your wealth gap. What’s more, on income inequality the U.S. ranks 18th out of the 20 richest countries:

Click to enlarge
Decadence Index

Romney, the man who believes that corporations are people, chose the cowardly route and dodged the substance of the question. It was also a bit arrogant of him to expect the crowd to have come to the event with data on the world’s average incomes and then claim victory when they didn’t dispute his evasive premise. Which is a good thing because the facts didn’t support his premise.

Finally, the event was also an opportunity for Romney get a bootlicking from his newest fan, John McCain. After declaring his endorsement, the exceedingly “senior” senator from Arizona introduced the former Massachusetts governor as “President Mitt Romney.” Just a slight reality tilt. I’m sure he’ll be fine.

[Update:] McCain’s endorsement of Romney got even better the next day when he expressed his confidence that President Obama would turn the country around:

Fox News Promotes Violent Oil Industry Threats Against Obama

The Keystone XL oil pipeline was one of the most controversial issues of 2011. The project has raised concerns amongst environmentalists, labor unions, and the oil industry. President Obama kicked the matter down the road by delaying a decision until after the 2012 election in order to have more time to study the environmental impact and alternative routes.

Throughout the year, Fox News has openly sided with oil industry interests in favor of expediting the pipeline. They have repeatedly aired segments with proponents falsely claiming that the project would create anywhere from 20,000 to a million jobs. (Opponents note independent studies that place the figure closer to 6,000 jobs that are mostly temporary).

This morning Fox News escalated the public relations campaign on behalf of big oil. Megyn Kelly (the female Glenn Beck) conducted an interview with Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying association. Just to be clear, this was not a Republican congressman who supports the project. It was not a director of a citizens group. It was not a labor spokesman representing the interests of workers. It was a paid lobbyist for the oil industry. Can you guess what position he took?

This is just another example of Fox serving the interests of wealthy corporations (and advertisers) at the expense of actual people who will have to live with the consequences of these projects. There was no spokesperson for the other side of the debate. It was a segment devoted solely to giving free air time to an industry public relations executive.

And, by the way, here is how the matter was handled by Fox Nation:

Fox Nation Horse's Head

For those who don’t recall, the symbolism of a horse head in bed comes from a gory scene in the film “The Godfather.” It was done as a warning to the victim that he and anything, or anyone, that he cared about could end up the same way. Therefore, the Fox Nationalists are suggesting that Obama or his family could be slaughtered by oil barons if they do not submit to their demands to approve the pipeline.

In the most generous interpretation, it could be assumed that all Fox meant was that there would be “political consequences” for his refusal to kneel before Big Oil. However, the “horse head” imagery was entirely the work of Fox News. It was never mentioned in the article from The Hill that Fox used as its source.

So you cannot blame the oil industry lobbyist for this offensive and hostile rhetoric. It is the sole responsibility of Fox News. Remember that when anyone suggests that Fox has had a course correction and is attempting to moderate their radical and dangerous extremism.

The Decadence Index: How The Wealth Gap Is Hastening The Fall Of The American Empire

If there is anything that history teaches us about empires, it is that they are temporary and often fall of their own decaying weight. Ancient Rome is notorious for a descent that was widely speculated to have been driven by a massive class disparity. The aristocratic patricians devolved into a morass of immorality and obscene opulence. Meanwhile, the other 99% of the empire’s subjects were burdened by lives of oppressive labor or slavery.

The parallels to contemporary American class division are striking. We have our own aristocracy that arisen to a place of privilege and power, while working families are working harder for less, if they’re fortunate enough to be working at all. The 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the bottom 150 million of their fellow citizens – combined. And they exploit the power that comes with that wealth to further enrich themselves. Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1% rose by 281%, compared to a 16% rise for the bottom 20%. The Roman elites would have felt right at home.

There is one difference, however. An historical study published by the Cambridge University Press looked at the Roman economy and calculated the measurement used by the CIA to rank the wealth gap of the nations of the world. What it found was that the United States actually ranks lower on income inequality than Ancient Rome.

Let that sink in for a moment. History’s most conspicuously ostentatious society of Bacchanalian excess had a less severe chasm between its rich and poor subjects than contemporary America. That astonishing fact led me to wonder where the U.S. stands when compared to its modern counterparts. So I consulted the CIA World Factbook and ranked the twenty richest nations by the index that represents income inequality. What I found was that the U.S. ranks 18th out of twenty. I call it The Decadence Index, and countries like Iran, Russia, and India are all less decadent than the United States in terms of economic disparity.

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Decadence Index

The CIA collects this sort of data because it can be useful in predicting where civil unrest might flare up in the world. So what does that say about the stability of our social structure going forward? It certainly explains the Occupy movement. The question now is what are we going to do about it?

The solutions are not all that difficult to comprehend. Those who have benefited so lavishly by exploiting the system for their own enrichment should now be required to share a fair portion of the sacrifice necessary to restore economic health and balance. It’s not rocket science. Malcolm Gladwell offers a compelling explanation as he demolishes the rightist fable that taxes on the wealthy impede economic growth:

If we want to raise our position on the Decadence Index above that of the Ancient Romans (or the Russians or the French, for that matter), we need to reject the reckless and insensitive agenda of the right-wing patricians whose sole purpose is the accumulation of wealth and power. These patrons of plutocracy unabashedly advocate cutting, even eliminating, taxes on themselves, the rich, and intensifying the tax burden on everyone else. They falsely portray themselves as “job creators,” but this InfoGraphic shows who The Real Job Creators are. They pretend to fret over a class war that they themselves are waging. And because they know that the people overwhelmingly support the principles of economic fairness and justice, these conservative elites are conspiring to suppress the votes of average Americans, particularly seniors, minorities, students, and low-income voters.

Make no mistake, this is a coordinated campaign financed and managed by shadowy, but powerful, business and political entities like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Their mission was aided by the Supreme Court’s odious decision in the Citizens United case that opened the floodgates of corporate money into the electoral process. And, of course, they have the propaganda power of Fox News to advance their greedy, magisterial interests. But the people are fighting back against ludicrous notions like “Corporate Personhood,” and the Upper Crusters are afraid. Even Republican strategist Frank Luntz is admitting as much:

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death. They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

So keep up the fight because Corporations Are Not People. Here are some ways to contribute and participate:

Move To Amend is organizing a national action on January 20, 2012, to oppose and reverse Citizens United: Occupy the Courts!
Public Citizen is organizing a national action on January 21, 2012 to oppose and reverse Corporate Personhood: Occupy the Corporations!

Get up. Get involved. Get mad. And get to work.

The Not-So-Subliminal Messaging Of Fox News

The Fox Nationalists are not even trying to mask their dishonest misrepresentations designed to keep their flock ignorant and ill-informed.

Fox Nation

Indeed, the approval rating of Congress is dismally low. However, the House of Representatives is controlled by GOP Speaker John Boehner and a majority Republican caucus. But when Fox publishes their story about the floundering body they accompany the piece with a picture of Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Boehner, et al, are nowhere to be seen.

This deception is even more unseemly when you take into account that it is the Republican Party that is held in far lower esteem that the Democrats. And particularly with regard to the current debate over the Payroll Tax, the American people are incensed that the GOP has refused to allow its extension to come up for a vote. The result will be that 160 million workers will get a tax increase beginning January 1.

Merry Christmas America,
Yours Truly, The Republican Party.

Obama’s Kansas Speech Owes A Debt To #Occupy Wall Street

President Obama traveled to the site of Teddy Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” speech in order to deliver an address on the economy. The most striking thing about the President’s remarks was the extent to which they appear to have been influenced by the Occupy movement. Obama segued from one assertion of economic inequality to another as he insisted that “in America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.”

That is the call of the Occupiers in a nutshell. It is a campaign to restore fairness and justice and to take back control of the government from the wealthy special interests it has come to serve. If you missed the speech, I’ll save you twenty minutes by posting the one paragraph that summarizes the core of the message:

“Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.”

Indeed, the Collective Amnesia Ward is overflowing with patients who not only are suffering from the malady, they want to infect every American with the disease. In fact, the only way that they can prevail next November is to spread the amnesiac virus beyond the community of conservative Republicans who are most susceptible to it. And if that one message is effectively communicated by the Obama reelection committee, the President will serve a second term.

On the other hand, the paragraph following the one above reiterated one of Obama’s most severe flaws. He still believes that there is a commonality of interest between his principles of inclusion and the Republican obsession with power. He believes that that by embracing a universal American togetherness the GOP will cease to demonize him and join the effort to rebuild the nation. It starts off well enough, but crashes and burns at the end.

“I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.”

To argue that the 1% and the 99% share common American values is evidence of a dangerous blind spot. What Obama is missing here, and what he has missed for the past three years, is that there is a massive chasm between Democratic and Republican values. Whereas Democrats aspire (at least rhetorically) to empower the middle-class, the Republicans freely admit that their top objective is destroy Obama. That simple truth ought to be enough to convince the President that he is not going to recruit any allies in the fight for fairness and economic renewal from the ranks of the establishment GOP.

To illustrate the determination of the right-wing to throw every available obstacle into Obama’s path, Fox News cut away from the speech about half way through. Apparently they wanted to protect their fragile viewers from this subversive philosophy. By tonight Fox will be castigating the speech as a paean to socialism owing to its praise for working together. And the pressing news that demanded the interruption of the President was that Megyn Kelly had an interview with Michele Bachmann, who has about as much chance of becoming the Republican nominee as Miss Piggy.

On the whole the speech was another validation of the Occupy movement. This speech would not have been written a year ago. The public debate has been utterly transformed in the two and a half months since an unruly rabble encamped in a park in Lower Manhattan. Today the Republicans are “frightened to death” of the prospect of average Americans ascending to the top of the political food chain. And the President of the United States of America gave a speech honoring the notion that “We still have a stake in each other’s success.”

Chris Christie Rebuts His Hallucination Of Obama

A new video soundbite has been making the rounds of conservative media, particularly Fox News. The video presents the GOP’s favorite non-candidate, Chris Christie, in a pitched ideological battle with his own imagination.

In this video Christie says…

“I was angry this weekend, listening to the spin coming out of the administration, about the failure of the supercommittee, and that the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn’t get involved. Well then what the hell are we paying you for? It’s doomed for failure so I’m not getting involved? Well, what have you been doing, exactly?”

Where did Christie get the idea that President Obama knew the Super Committee was “doomed for failure?” It isn’t something the President said. In fact, when he signed the legislation Congress sent him on deficit reduction Obama said…

“Congress has now approved a compromise to reduce the deficit and avert a default that would have devastated our economy. It was a long and contentious debate. And I want to thank the American people for keeping up the pressure on their elected officials to put politics aside and work together for the good of the country. This compromise guarantees more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction. It’s an important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means.”

That is not exactly a statement of doom. What’s more, before the committee even convened the White House produced a plan that cut more than $3 trillion from the deficit – twice the goal of the Super Committee. And the President made crystal clear his budgetary priorities:

“I’ve said it before; I will say it again: We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession. We can’t make it tougher for young people to go to college, or ask seniors to pay more for health care, or ask scientists to give up on promising medical research because we couldn’t close a tax shelter for the most fortunate among us. Everyone is going to have to chip in. It’s only fair.”

So Christie, were he honest, could hardly fault the President for not being engaged. The arrogant inquiry as to “what the hell are we paying you for?” illustrates the blind hostility to anything Obama attempts. The President was doing precisely what he is paid to do. And that involves much more than just deficit reduction. It also includes national security, job and economic growth, and the management of a dangerous world that includes hotspots like Afghanistan, Libya, China, and Iran.

For Christie to criticize Obama over the deficit debate reveals just how out of touch Christie is. In addition to being unaware of the steps the President has already taken, Christie is also ignorant of the fact that Obama has to tread carefully when dealing with matters that involve Congress. The bitter partisanship of the GOP has already resulted in their opposing their own initiatives if the President endorsed them. So any guidance by Obama could cause Republicans to kick in a knee-jerk denial. It is, therefore, smart for the President to let Congress do their job without interference in the hopes of getting them to produce a workable compromise that he can sign. Unfortunately, Congress was not even able to do that.

It is pathetic that the right-wing GOP has only shady characters like Christie to look up to. The anger Christie is expressing here is misplaced due to both his ignorance of the subject matter and his naivete with regard to political statesmanship. That’s why he has to resort to inventing phantom positions, assigning them to Obama, and then rebutting them as if they were real. And the fact that Fox News promotes this ineptitude as something to be admired compounds the patheticness of it all.

Idiot Watch: Fox News Contends That Obama Wants Economic Slide

Fox News Sunday hosted Liz Cheney to discuss the economy and Barack Obama’s role in deliberately sabotaging it. The conversation descended into a surprisingly moronic set of conspiracy theories that would make Glenn Beck’s doughy chest heave with pride. And of course, it was a discourse that utterly abandoned known facts.

Wallace asked Cheney whether it was a problem for Republicans that they are portrayed as “fighting for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy but willing to let the payroll tax cuts for the middle class disappear.” Cheney evaded that question entirely in order to serve up an inane conjecture that defies coherent logic:

Cheney: The President basically seems to have made the calculation that he’s gonna let the next thirteen months of the American economy slide for the sake of his own political benefits.

The reason Cheney evaded the question is because she knows that overwhelming majorities of the American people support letting Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy expire, and they also support the extension of the payroll tax cut. So she was forced to resort to inventing a distraction to defend the GOP’s indefensible agenda.

However, with her back up against the wall, Cheney latched onto an absurd assertion that President Obama wants the economy to suffer in order to enhance his reelection prospects. She apparently subscribes to the theory that poor economies are the best way to boost political campaigns. That’s a theory that only makes sense to a party that takes candidates like Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich seriously. It exposes a level of ignorance that is mind boggling.

In addition to the delusional nature of Cheney’s political analysis, she is also factually miles from reality. The pretext for her comment was her assertion that Obama has done nothing to address problems associated with unemployment and the deficit. She alleged that Obama had not engaged the Super Committee to assist in shaping a compromise. However, there was a White House proposal before the Super Committee had even convened its first meeting. That proposal offered a four trillion dollar reduction in debt achieved through both new revenues and entitlement cuts.

As for employment, Obama has already implemented initiatives to spur hiring of new employees in the form of credits for hiring the long-term unemployed and veterans. He has proposed restoring the nation’s infrastructure which would not only improve the environment for commerce, but would employ thousands. Republicans opposed those initiatives, as well as every other plan to help American families recover from the GOP-made catastrophe.

All sane observers know that delaying economic recovery would be the worst thing that could happen for Obama’s reelection campaign. In fact, the only beneficiary of a bad economy is the Republican Party and they have been openly hostile to any method of healing the country’s economic woes. Representative of their point of view is this image of an anti-recovery conservative who would rather hurt his neighbors and his country than to see Obama get credit for improving the economy. A real patriot would be hiring now in order to get the nation back on solid footing. But that is not how Republicans think.

Almost from inauguration day, the GOP has sought to kneecap the administration by opposing its policies and personnel. They have engaged in a record number of filibusters and created a degree of partisanship that is unprecedented. They have even opposed their own proposals after they were endorsed by Obama. It is an intentional tactic aimed at producing a national crisis, both economically and politically, to alienate voters and drive a wedge between different factions of the American people. It is a cynical and destructive crusade of division that has been exacerbated by a media that feasts on controversy and discord. Ted Koppel put it well in a recent article in Broadcasting & Cable:

Ted Koppel

“One day, most Americans will point at us in the news media and say, ‘Why didn’t you tell us? Why did you encourage all that partisan bile and venom? Why did you feed us all that trivial crap, when so many terrible things were converging?’ And no one will be happy with the answer. Least of all those of us who offer it. ‘What we gave you,’ we will say, ‘is what you wanted.'”

Sad, but true. And while Koppel gets some credit for saying it now, you have to wonder where he was when Bill Clinton was being impeached over a sex scandal; when Fox News launched as “fair and balanced”; when George W. Bush invaded Iraq and portrayed his opponents as traitors; when candidate Obama was accused of “pallin’ around with terrorists”; and when the Koch brothers financed the deliberately divisive Tea Party.

The media’s exploitation of melodrama and the Republican’s embrace of willful ignorance have united to create one of the most unstable eras of American history. It’s going to take a concerted effort to undo the damage, but it is not too late if conscientious citizens demand more of both the media and Washington.

Sarah Palin’s Top 10 Reasons To Support Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a bona fide phenomenon that, in two short months, has grown to levels no one could have predicted. And despite the inability of the media to discern the goals of the OWS protesters, their agenda could not be more apparent. The movement’s core convictions revolve around the abuse and corruption of politics by the wealthy and corporations, and the economic inequities that have virtually vaporized America’s middle class.

These issues have unprecedented support from a broad swath of the American people. More than 70% support raising taxes on the rich. More than 70% oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare. And both of those include majorities of Republicans and Independents. Even a majority of our nation’s millionaires support these positions. Support for these principles is so universal that the only rebuttal opponents can muster are juvenile comments about socialism or hygiene.

For these reasons, perhaps it should not be surprising that Sarah Palin has jumped on the bandwagon. Her star has been fading rapidly since she stopped pretending to be a candidate for president. And while the press used to chase after her tour bus like whimpering puppies, the only attention she gets today is from her most devoted disciples and her boss, Rupert Murdoch, and the entities he controls such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

It is in the pages of the latter that Palin has published a critique of the political-financial complex that is driving the nation to ruin. Her title for the op-ed is “How Congress Occupied Wall Street.” Many of her laments mirror the philosophy of the Occupy movement. While there is some obvious hypocrisy embedded in some of her remarks, it is still notable that these perspectives are being expressed by someone like Palin and published by an enterprise like the Wall Street Journal. Following are ten points that were extracted from Palin’s article that inadvertently endorse the principles of Occupy Wall Street.

1) How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?
Good question. Do you suppose it has something to do with the unholy relationships between members of Congress and their wealthy benefactors? If anyone can answer this question it’s Palin, who has personal knowledge of how to earn millions by exploiting political opportunity.

2) The corruption [is] an entire system of public servants feathering their own nests.
Indeed. Although it may be a stretch to refer to a political Mafia who shakedown constituents and accept bribes from special interests as public “servants.” And once again, Palin’s personal experience with nest feathering is invaluable.

3) The moment you threaten to strip politicians of their legal graft, they’ll moan that they can’t govern effectively without it.
What politicians refer to as contributions and earmarks are what citizens regard as graft. And while the politicians make a lot of noise about cleaning up Washington, they have no genuine interest in doing so.

4) [T]heir idea of reform is to limit the right of “We the people” to exercise our freedom of speech in the political process.
It is unclear what Palin is referring to here because she has not exactly been forced into silence, much to America’s dismay. But 26 journalists covering OWS have been arrested so far. What’s more, the GOP is working at the state level to suppress voting for millions of citizens, primarily seniors, students, and minorities.

5) [T]he only solution to entrenched corruption is sudden and relentless reform.
Could Palin have come up with a phrase that better describes OWS? When protesters occupied Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan it was a spontaneous response to an untenable situation. And the fact that they planted themselves in the park, and other sites across the country, demonstrates just how relentless this movement intends to be.

6) We need reform that provides real transparency.
Welcome to the club, Sarah. Progressives have been arguing for more openness by government and public agencies for years. And a major component of the OWS agenda is the reversal of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that permits corporations and others to bankroll political initiatives without revealing their identity.

7) We need equality under the law.
Absolutely! Equality and fairness and a sense of shared sacrifice. It is time for the wealthy, who have benefited more from their position of privilege than anyone else, to be treated equally under the law. No more special treatment. Palin should give this more than lip service.

8) No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors.
This is just another method of funneling bribes into the pockets of politicians and it must stop. Including the land deals where politicians advocate on behalf of contributors to get oil leases in protected wild spaces in Alaska.

9) [N]o transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office. No more revolving door, ever.
Here is another plank of the progressive platform that has been beaten down by entrenched politicos every time it was proposed.

10) This call for real reform must transcend political parties. The grass-roots movements of the right and the left should embrace this.
Amen!

Now, is Sarah Palin actually getting behind Occupy Wall Street? Of course not. She undoubtedly considers them unclean, unfocused, and un-American. But the positions she appears to advocate here could be interpreted as aligned with the goals of OWS, even if it is entirely accidental on her part. Perhaps she deliberately plagiarized the platform in a desperate attempt to steal some of its popularity for herself. There is a delicious irony in that Palin has published this piece in Murdoch’s paper. You could say that these ideas have Occupied the Wall Street Journal, albeit from a back entrance.

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Sarah Palin OWS