Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tax-Hating States Totally Fine With Taxing The Poor

As everyone knows, Southern politicians despise taxes more than just about anything -- except perhaps cornbread with sugar, or iced tea without. This established rule of the universe makes a new report by the Tax Foundation especially curious, at least at first look. The group, which typically takes an anti-tax stance, combined each state's sales tax rate with the average local sales tax rate, as of Jan. 1. The group found that the five states with the highest average combined state-local tax rates are mostly Southern-fried: Tennessee (9.45 percent), Arkansas (9.19 percent), Louisiana (8.89 percent), Washington (8.88 percent), and Oklahoma (8.72 percent). The combined sales tax rate is also high in New York (8.47 percent) and California (8.40). Four states, Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire and Delaware, collect no sales taxes at all. (Story continues after chart.) Not mentioned in the report are some of the factors that play into high sales tax rates. In the South, especially, property taxes are very low, and voters have historically rejected attempts to raise them. The region also has a history of handing out huge tax breaks to large manufactures in order to persuade them to move there. Alabama, for example, handed out a sweet package of $253 million in tax breaks and other incentives in order to woo a Mercedes-Benz plant to the state in 1993. A decade later, the plant reaped an additional $11.5 million in tax breaks for an expansion that didn't create any new jobs. Washington, number four on the list, passed a package of $9 billion in tax breaks in November in order to keep Boeing to locate production of its newest jet in Seattle. So with few other options available to pay for things like roads and schools, states have been forced to boost sales taxes, a form of revenue generation generally considered regressive -- meaning it hurts poor people the most. That's because the cost of food, clothing and other purchased goods tend to make up a higher percentage of a low income consumer's budget than for people with higher incomes. The poor are also less likely to own property, and thus less likely to benefit from lower tax rates for homes and land.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dear MSNBC: If Scarborough's Running For President, Get Him Off The Air

Joe Scarborough was just speaking at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in New Hampshire. His name was included in the presidential straw poll until MSNBC talked the organizers into taking it off. At least theoretically, the media is supposed to serve as a watchdog. If Scarborough's going to be running around the country making noises about running, he needs to resign from his morning show. You can't leave a presidential candidate in charge of a highly-rated political show, where he has the power to make or break other candidates. Even in these amoral times, that stinks to high heaven. So MSNBC, you need to make him put up or shut up: The audience seems to like his speech, and there is a long line of people waiting to buy his book. But it's not exactly a "run, Joe, run" groundswell. A dozen attendees tell me they've heard no talk of a Scarborough candidacy and find the idea implausible on its face. Linda Paul, a homemaker from Bedford, New Hampshire, tells me she "won't even turn on MSNBC," and while she was impressed with Scarborough's remarks, she'd like to see a presidential candidate with a more recent record in elected office. Others were not on board with Scarborough's plea for party unity. "He hasn't always been kind to the Republican Party," says Kris Hammond, an attorney from Washington. "RINO stands for Republican In Name Only, and that means you're not really a Republican. We need to hold the line on what we believe in." "I watch his show," says former Representative Frank Guinta, who's running again for his old seat in New Hampshire. "Sometimes I'm yelling at the TV because he's not tough enough on Mika." Scarborough tells me that whether he plunges back into politics will depend on how the 2016 field takes shape. There are, he believes, two candidates who could plausibly capture the hearts of Wall Street and the GOP establishment: Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. Of Christie, he says, "If he comes out of all these investigations unscathed, I think Chris'll be a really strong candidate in 2016." Of Bush: "He was a great governor and I think he'd be a great candidate, but there's an awful lot of questions about whether Americans want another Bush." But if neither man runs, Scarborough believes there will be a void. "You take those guys off the playing field and suddenly it is wide open," he tells me. "Who else is there? It's the most open Republican field, my God, since Eisenhower was trying to figure out whether to run or not in 1952." And then, perhaps, just as it once implored a military commander and university president to be its champion, Scarborough's party will seek him out as its only hope. My time with Scarborough is ending, so I ask him whether being a member of the media has changed his outlook on politics. "It's a blessing and a curse," he says. "I've been debating three hours a day without a teleprompter ... so I'm thinking the debates may go okay if I ever decide to run! Nobody will have to put a packet on my back and an earpiece in my ear. I won't have to be shuffling nervously between notecards!" On the other hand, it could be a problem, he acknowledges, that "MSNBC, obviously, is seen as a liberal network .... But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. People meet you. They judge you by who you are."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Backlash Over Remarks About Shooting Liberals Ends Columnist's Radio Gig

It must be an election year, because there's no other reason for wingers who never do anything about their crazies to react to the backlash over Austin Ruse's statement that "liberal professors should just be taken out and shot." After Mr. Ruse made those remarks, he went back on the radio Thursday and ranted about how meaaaan RightWingWatch was to him.Ruse started today’s show by explaining that his remarks yesterday weren’t serious and that liberals should “turn to Wikipedia or the Internet, I don’t know if they know how to use the Internet.” “The pajama boys over at Right Wing Watch have their panties all in a twist about what I said, and I sometimes think that the left is really dumb, these are the low-information voters that make all of these mistakes when they get into the ballot box and all of these mistakes as they go through their lives and one of the reasons is because they are so dumb,” he said. Low information voters...oh, how they make me laugh. Ruse ranted on: “These people, these dumb leftists, are really smear merchants, they’re out to hurt, to harm, to isolate,” Ruse said. “They don’t like me, they don’t like you, they don’t like your children, they don’t like anything about you and they want you to basically shut up and go away…. It’s quite astounding what these folks are able to get away with and it’s also astounding how dumb they are.” And then he took to Twitter and ranted some more. He also spent some time on Facebook ranting, right after deactivated his Twitter account due to "leftist swarm." Mr. Ruse was not a happy camper. In an abrupt about-face, Ruse issued an apology on Friday, but it was too late. Of course, one might ask why he apologized via a statement to Talking Points Memo instead of directly to the Right Wing Watch folks, but I think we all know the answer to that. And the apology wasn't really to liberal professors, as you'll see: “I deeply regret and apologize for using the expression 'taken out and shot' on the Sandy Rios Show this week. It was not intended to be taken literally. I have dedicated my life and career to ending violence. I regret that these poorly chosen words are being used to attack my friends at American Family Radio and American Family Association.” See, professors! He's not a bit sorry that he might have offended you, but he really does feel badly about the backlash directed at American Family Association, which is well known for its consistency when it comes to offensive, gay-bashing, hating statements. AFA terminated his position as substitute radio host with a terse statement that “AFR condemns such comments, no matter who makes them.” AFA also allowed that "his comments were “un-Christian.” Gosh, ya think? I spent the last two days looking for that passage in the Bible about how Jesus commanded Christians to hunt down liberals and shoot them. Alas, no luck. So yeah, I'd agree with that. It's good that they acknowledged how odious his comments were. However, they're certainly not off the hook when they leave wingnuts like Brian Fischer out there with weak disclaimers about how he doesn't speak for them. Either they should clean the whole house, or not bother at all.

Arizona GOP congressional candidate: Slavery wasn't so bad, ‘kept business rolling’

An Arizona Republican who is running to represent the state’s 2nd District in Congress wrote on Facebook that the institution of slavery wasn’t really so hard on slaves and was actually good for the economy. According to the Root’s Keli Goff, Arizona congressional hopeful Jim Brown was trying to make a statement about federal spending and the nature of “entitlements” when he veered off course into racially offensive territory. “Back in the day of slavery, slaves were kept in slavery by denying them education and opportunity while providing them with their basic needs,” wrote Brown. “Not by beating them and starving them,” he said, adding “Although there were isolated cases, of course.” “Basically slave owners took pretty good care of their slaves and livestock and this kept business rolling along,” he said. As Goff noted, “This flies in the face of all credible historical accounts.” Brown began his congressional run earlier this year, running to represent Arizona’s District 1, then abruptly switching to District 2. In both districts, he faced vulnerable Democratic opponents. In District 2, he would run against Democratic Rep. Ron Barber. First, however, he has to win the Republican primary in August. He apologized for the remarks and took down the Facebook post on Friday. “Some people read this to mean that I didn’t think slavery was that bad. I believe that slavery is worse than death — yesterday, today and tomorrow. I apologize to anyone I offended,” he wrote.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Louisiana: Free Speech Isn't For Liberals

How Republican of them! Refusing the ACA Medicaid expansion is somehow a 'fiscally sound' decision, but spending a lot of money on lawyers and lawsuits to squelch MoveOn's criticisms are perfectly fine. Louisiana is suing national left-leaning policy group in federal court, saying it violated copyright law when it put up a billboard and commissioned video ads critical of Gov. Bobby Jindal that use the state's tourism logo and motto. Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has been locked in a pitched battle with the group for weeks, unsuccessfully calling for it to take down the billboard that is currently up on the I-10 coming into Baton Rouge from Port Allen. "We have invested millions of dollars in identifying the Louisiana: Pick Your Passion brand with all that is good about Louisiana. No group should be allowed to use the brand for its own purposes, especially if it is for partisan political posturing," Dardenne said in a statement announcing the suit. " has every right to attack Gov. Jindal, the state's refusal to accept Medicaid or, for that matter, me personally. But they do not have the right to use our protected service mark, which is used solely for the purpose of promoting and marketing Louisiana. We own the mark and its use is under the direction of my office, not the Office of the Governor." Dardenne is protecting Louisiana's marketing investment, which they've spent "millions" on, but the people who live in Louisiana aren't even worth the millions they won't spend because the federal government covers the full cost for the first three years? As for 'trademark infringement', I'd like to remind Lt. Governor (who aspires to Governor) Jay Dardenne that the people of Louisiana paid for that and own it. And the people of this nation have decided free speech is something worth defending, and not just when the right wing decides it's ok. Stay tuned.

Jon Stewart Trashes Fox News and Eric Bolling for Food Stamp Hypocrisy

Last week, Jon Stewart took Fox News Channel to task for their apparent fixation with food stamp recipients being able to purchase sea food with their benefits. The Five co-host Eric Bolling shot back at “dummy” Stewart for those remarks and criticized him for minimizing the problem of welfare fraud. On Thursday night, the feud continued as Stewart responded to Bolling’s “schooling.” Stewart said it was “reasonable” for Fox to be exposing government waste, but that was not why he was making fun of the network. “What we were ridiculing was the way you exaggerate the scope of public assistance abuse through random, often unprovable anecdotes,” Stewart said. Stewart hit Fox for creating the narrative that the poor are “just sh**ty people and those food stamps are just making them sh**tier.” He added that the network had found their “food stamp abuse bigfoot” in a surfer on welfare who has been featured on over six Fox programs. Stewart admitted that there is an estimated $3 billion in welfare fraud. The Daily Show Host then skewered Bolling for supporting what the Fox host called a $4 billion “pittance” in government subsidies directed to oil producers. “What I have learned today from my ‘teacher’ is that $3 billion dollars of taxpayer money is greater than $4 billion dollars of taxpayer money,” Stewart said. Stewart then played a series of clips of Fox hosts and contributors defending “job creators” who are also recipients of government subsidies. “So, what I’m getting from Fox is this,” Stewart concluded. “Exploiting government largess, while morally reprehensible and corrupting for an individual is a-ok for corporations.”

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Daily Show Proves America Does Not Have the ‘Best Health Care System in the World’

You hear it a lot from opponents of the Affordable Care Act: America already has the “best health care system in the world.” On last night’s episode of The Daily Show, Aasif Mandvi set out to dispel this myth once and for all by visiting this country’s version of a “Third World country.” Mandvi began by talking to NYSE Euronext Managing Director and occasional Fox Business guest Todd Wilemon, who argued that Obamacare will cause American health care to slip into “Third World status,” with less choice and longer lines for patients. To see what that might be like, Mandvi traveled with Remote Area Medical’s Stan Brock to a place he thought might be Africa or South America, but turned out to be Knoxville, Tennessee. There, he learned that the United States is actually ranked 37th in the world when it comes to health care, right between Costa Rica and Slovenia. And he got a first hand look at why that is. When Mandvi told Wilemon what he saw right here in America, he left the Obamacare opponent utterly speechless. All he could come up with was, “people do fall through the cracks.” “From what I saw, those are some pretty big fucking cracks,” Mandvi said. “So the worst case scenario for Obamacare is that it gets up to a place where we already are?” And as for Wilemon’s solution for those who can’t afford health care,” Mandvi summed it up this way: “If you’re poor, just stop being poor.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

There should be a White History Month

There should be a White History Month in America. That way we can teach all about the things White Americans have done in history, like: 1.Cherokee Trail of Tears 2.Japanese American internment 3.Philippine-American War 4.Jim Crow 5.The genocide of Native Americans 6.Transatlantic slave trade 7.The Middle Passage 8.The history of White American racism 9.Black Codes 10.Slave patrols 11.Ku Klux Klan 12.The War on Drugs 13.Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 14.How white racism grew out of slavery and genocide 15.How whites still benefit from slavery and genocide 16.White anti-racism 17.The Southern strategy 18.The rape of black slave women 19.CORE 20.Madison Grant 21.The Indian Wars 22.Human zoos 23.How the Jews became white 24.White flight 25.Redlining 26.Proposition 14 27.Homestead Act 28.Tulsa Riots 29.Rosewood massacre 30.Tuskegee Experiment 31.Lynching 32.Hollywood stereotypes 33.Indian Appropriations Acts 34.Immigration Act of 1924 35.Sundown towns 36.Chinese Exclusion Act 37.Emmett Till 38.Vincent Chin 39.Islamophobia 40.Indian boarding schools 41.King Philip’s War 42.Bacon’s Rebellion 43.American slavery compared to Arab, Roman and Latin American slavery 44.History of the gun 45.History of the police 46.History of prisons 47.History of white suburbia 48.Lincoln’s racism and anti-racism 49.George Wallace 50.Fox News 51.Cointelpro 52.Real estate steering 53.School tracking 54.Mass incarceration of black men 55.Boston school busing riots (I did not list slavery, the abolitionist movement, the civil war, Reconstruction or Lincoln since they are, in fact, covered in history class, however poorly).

Dem State Rep: GOP Would Back Abortion if Black Men Impregnated Their Daughters

Alabama state legislator Alvin Holmes went off on pro-life Republicans during a debate on a strict anti-abortion bill, charging that they would change their tune on abortion immediately if their daughters were ever impregnated by black men. During the debate on the legislation, Holmes invoked race to make quite a strong point about abortion opponents. “99 percent of the all of the white people in here are going to raise their hand that they are against abortion. On the other hand, 99 percent of the whites that are sitting in here now, if their daughter got pregnant by a black man, they’re going to make their daughter have an abortion.” He added, “The truth sometimes hurts, I know it’s hard to say that!” Holmes also told the people he was addressing, “You will never admit it!” Holmes previously came under fire (and found himself in Sean Hannity‘s crosshairs) after calling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a “prolific Uncle Tom.”

Monday, March 3, 2014

Limbaugh: 12 Years a Slave Only Won Best Picture Because of ‘Magic Word’ in Title

Rush Limbaugh has not seen 12 Years a Slave, but he opined anyway on Monday that the only reason it won Best Picture at the Oscars was because it had the “magic word” of “slave” in the title. Limbaugh mocked the “self-satisfaction” of the awards ceremony and said that unlike at past Oscars, there wasn’t any “demonstrable political preaching” from anyone. But what Limbaugh did pick up on was Ellen DeGeneres‘ joke that either 12 Years a Slave would win the big prize or everyone’s a racist. And Limbaugh believed that to be more true than anyone realized. “If it was the only thing that movie won, it was gonna win best picture. There was no way. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad. I haven’t seen it. It was going to win. It had the magic word in the title. Slave.”