Category Archives: Politics

Kevin Drum Is Shrill

House Republicans Have Completely Melted Down:

Apparently there are now two groups of Republicans in the House. First, there’s a group of firebrand conservatives headed by Eric Cantor, which, as near as I can tell, is mostly dedicated to finding slightly more slippery language to sell its usual right-wing agenda of school vouchers, block granting Medicaid, increased tax credits, and gutting labor laws. Second, there’s a group of insane, frothing-at-the-mouth conservatives who think of Cantor as Nancy Pelosi’s lapdog and are basically uninterested in anything other than repealing Obamacare, slashing taxes even more, ending the welfare state, and making speeches about how Obama is destroying America. It’s quite a little group that John Boehner has up there.

What put him over the edge? Could it be this? No, that was about the Senate.

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In Which I Engage in a Pointless Farce

Today President Obama unleashed the kraken: he emailed everyone on his email list encouraging them to contact their elected representatives to ask them to sign the discharge petition about extending the Bush tax cut earnings less than the top 2%. I decided to make a call, even though I knew, given who my representative is, just how pointless that is.

Here’s the note I got:

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2012 11:13:07
From: “Stephanie Cutter,”
To: A Michael Froomkin < >
Subject: Help the President with just one phone call
1 OK ~127 lines Text
2 Shown ~218 lines Text

Obama – Biden
A. Michael —

Who will decide if your taxes increase in just 22 days? A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that’s who.

Cutting taxes for the middle class shouldn’t be difficult, especially when Republicans claim they agree with the President on the issue. But some Republicans are still holding middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they want to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

Here’s what’s going on right now: President Obama is asking Congress to move forward on a plan that would prevent 98 percent of American families from paying higher taxes next year. The Senate has passed that bill, and the President is ready to sign it — but the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives won’t even bring the bill to the floor for a vote. House Democrats have filed a petition that would force a vote if it attracts 218 signatures.

If a bill has enough votes to pass, Congress should vote on it and pass it. It’s a pretty simple proposition. And every Member of Congress who hasn’t signed on to keep taxes low for the middle class needs to hear from you.

Call your representative today and ask them to sign the petition in support of a vote. According to our records, here’s who you should call:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(202) 225-3931

Not your representative? Call the switchboard operator at 202-224-3121. Not sure who your representative is? Click here to look it up. []

Here’s a suggestion on what to say — feel free to improvise and let your representative’s office know why you’re personally supporting the President’s plan:

“Hi, I’m A. Michael. As a voter from your district, I support the President’s plan to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of American families — $2,000 a year means a lot to me and to middle-class families here in Florida. I urge Representative Ros-Lehtinen to sign the petition forcing the House to vote on the Senate-passed bill, and to vote “yes” if it reaches the floor.”

Once you’ve called your representative’s office, please report back and let us know how it went:

Let’s get one thing straight: If your taxes go up, Republicans will have made a conscious choice to let that happen. They’ll have missed the opportunity to prevent it, just to cut taxes for the wealthy.

Republicans need to stop using the middle class as a bargaining chip. If they fail to act, a typical middle-class family of four will see a $2,200 tax hike starting in a few short weeks. Middle-class families could face some tough financial decisions simply because Republicans didn’t want to ask the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay their fair share.

That’s not what President Obama and you campaigned on, and that’s not what millions of Americans voted for just one month ago.

We know we can affect change in Washington when we raise our voices together. So pick up the phone and make a call — your representative needs to hear from you.
Here’s who to call, one more time:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(202) 225-3931



Stephanie Cutter
Deputy Campaign Manager
Obama for America

P.S. — Don’t forget to tell us you made your voice heard. Report back here.

As the folks at Daily Kos correctly note, campaigns like this don’t win friends in Congress as they don’t like to be inundated with phone calls … which suggests that the private talks with Speaker Boehner are not going well — hardly a surprise.

So here is how it went. I said my piece, not following the Obama script, and was politely thanked for my views by “Chris”. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls about this issue today,” he said.

What, I asked as if I didn’t know, was Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s position on the discharge petition. My feigned ignorance met equal ignorance (also feigned?) on the other side of the line: ‘I don’t know.’

How might I find out when the Congresswoman decides, I asked. ‘When the vote happens I guess,’ Chris answered.

Now, since I was calling about signing a discharge petition that wasn’t a very good answer. So I asked if he knew what a discharge petition was, and Chris claimed not to know. So I explained what a discharge petition is, and asked my question again.

‘I don’t know her position on this, I don’t work on those issues,’ said the dogged and still polite Chris. If he’s just an intern, he’s a real find. Everyone knows Ros-Lehtinen’s position: Hell will suffer from water solidification before she bucks her leadership and signs this discharge petition. But why risk annoying a constituent by telling him that?

In the end he offered me the email address of Ros-Lehtinen’s senior Legislative Aide, who I’m sure would just be delighted to hear from me. I don’t know that I’ll even bother.

Very hard to see what all that achieved. But I have to give props to Chris who, while being clueless or faking it well, was totally polite.

I submitted a very abbreviated version of the above to the Obama response site, and was oddly disheartened to be rewarded with an invitation to send him money.

Posted in 98%, Econ & Money | Leave a comment

Stuff that Doesn’t Exist (and Stuff that Does)

First we learn that 49% of the Republicans polled think ACORN stole the election for Obama and we also learn this great fact:

…most Americans don’t have an opinion about [Bowles/Simpson]. 23% support it, 16% oppose it, and 60% say they don’t have a take one way or the other.

The 39% of Americans with an opinion about Bowles/Simpson is only slightly higher than the 25% with one about Panetta/Burns, a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo…

So both the long-defunct ACORN and the (as yet)non-existent Panetta/Burns plan weigh heavily on the low-information-voter mind.

Meanwhile, in the department of good cheer, BoingBoing points me to a band called Do Not Foresake Me Oh My Darling that has made a shot-for-shot remake of the classic intro to the The Prisoner.

I’m not in love with the music (the Leonard Cohen cover on their page is not a crime, but I never want to hear it again), but I love the concept of “Episode 1 – Arrival”.

I’d also like to hear a copyright scholar tell me if this is a legitimate derivative work, or a potential copyright violation. It’s clearly too much a labor of love to be a parody.

Posted in 2012 Election, Kultcha, Law: Copyright and DMCA | 4 Comments

Nothing is Ever Simple

Naked Capitalism has more about Why Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee Puts Borrowers at Risk. Serious tax stuff. Not only isn’t this simple, but it actually does seem to carry real risks all around.

Previously: Tax Risks in Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Jubilee (11/18/12) and OWS to Buy, Forgive Distressed Consumer Debt (11/08/12)

Posted in 99%, Law: Tax | Leave a comment

Tax Risks in Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Jubilee

I wrote previously of Occupy Wall Street’s plan to buy and forgive distressed consumer debt. A commentator on that post noted that it created a tax issue, and a colleague agreed it was a risk. A fuller treatment of the problem, and some instant revisionist thinking about the ‘Jubilee’ program in general is over at the excellent Naked Capitalism blog, Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Jubilee: A Gimmick with Tax Risk.

Like most of the things they run, well worth a read.

Posted in 99%, Econ & Money, Law: Tax | Leave a comment

The House is the Product of Gerrymandering

A great analysis of the problem by Peter Shane,

Within moments of President Obama’s apparent victory in both popular and electoral votes, Speaker Boehner was claiming that Republicans enjoy their own mandate from the 2012 elections – Republicans kept control of the House. I’m searching in vain for a polite word for this argument.

With unemployment still near 8 per cent and a majority of voters thinking the country is on the wrong track, the Democrats nonetheless not only retained the White House, but increased their majority in the Senate and racked up a string of victories, coast-to-coast, for unmistakably progressive causes and candidates. They won these victories because, in a head to head contest with opposing views, the Democratic or, more generally, the progressive, view proved more appealing.

The reason why the Republicans still have the House is simple: gerrymandering. According to NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans used their complete control of 17 state governments after the 2010 elections to pack Democrats into fewer “safe” Democratic districts and create 11 additional “likely” seats for Republicans – that is, seats where the GOP could be expected to routinely receive 55-60% of the vote in a two-party contest.

–Peter Shane, The Two-Mandate Myth: An Ohio View.

Posted in 2012 Election | Leave a comment

OWS to Buy, Forgive Distressed Consumer Debt

This is very cool: The People’s Bailout — Occupy Wall Street plans to buy distressed consumer debt for pennies on the dollar … and then forgive it.

OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)

This is a simple, powerful way to help folks in need — to free them from heavy debt loads so they can focus on being productive, happy and healthy. As you can see from our test run, the return on investment approaches 30:1. That’s a crazy bargain!

Now, after many consultations with attorneys, the IRS, and our moles in the debt-brokerage world, we are ready to take the Rolling Jubilee program LIVE and NATIONWIDE, buying debt in communities that have been struggling during the recession.

As Rafe Colburn says “Incredible example of hacking the system for positive change.”

Posted in 99%, Econ & Money | 15 Comments