23 August, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

From the network who brought you the perpetually whining Jim "Jon Stewart is Mean!" Cramer and news you could use to destroy your 401k, another pearl o' - well, we can't really call it wisdom:

Yesterday, the Swiss bank UBS announced that it was turning the names of 4,450 American account holders over to the IRS, in the culmination of a three-year IRS investigation into UBS’ work helping wealthy Americans evade taxes. These accounts contain an estimated $18 billion in assets, and as the Guardian noted, the move is expected to “reveal the secretive world of international wealth management in which complicated webs of sham trusts and shell companies are created in tax havens to protect the assets of the super-rich.”

I wrote yesterday that UBS’ acquiescence is a victory for the U.S., and a small first step in the much larger fight against tax evasion. But CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera did not see it that way:

This is a terrible terrible thing that has happened today. You may think this is about rich tax cheats, but no matter what your income is, your taxes are lower because of tax havens and they help prevent tyranny by corrupt governments.


So does CNBC honestly think that tax evaders are doing their patriotic duty by dumping their tax burden onto everybody else? Are countries like Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands tyrannical due to their higher income tax rates? Earlier this month, CNBC labeled unemployment benefits a “fraud,” but when faced with actual tax fraud, the network defends it.
Of course they do. We wouldn't expect anything better of them, now would we?

CNBC loves tax havens the way the right loves frothing insane Hollywood actors:
Conservatives are supposed to loathe Hollywood celebrities who get involved in politics. Why, we're told, should anyone care what actors and entertainers think about political news of the day?

The question doesn't seem to apply to Republican Hollywood celebrities. Take Jon Voight, for example, who by all appearances, has gone completely over the edge.


This week, Voight started accusing the president of "creating a civil war."

"We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation, and whoever can't see this is probably hoping it isn't true. [...]

"Do not let the Obama administration fool you with all their cunning Alinsky methods.... The real truth is that the Obama administration is professional at bullying, as we have witnessed with ACORN at work during the presidential campaign. It seems to me they are sending down their bullies to create fist fights among average American citizens who don't want a government-run health care plan forced upon them. So I ask again: Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country?"

This awfully nutty stuff, especially for a high-profile actor.

So nutty, in fact, that Sean Hannity has embraced him with both arms. I think that says all you need to know about Faux News right there.

And this is pretty much all you ever need to know about Eric Cantor:
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) has been one of the Recovery Act’s most vocal critics. Despite evidence that that the stimulus is helping to turn around the economy, Cantor repeatedly says that it is “failing” to “create jobs.” On Monday, Cantor hosted a job fair in Midlothian, VA, to demonstrate how he — and not the Obama administration — is working on “long-term solutions that will put Virginia businesses and Virginia workers back on the path to financial stability.”


The Recovery Act created and saved jobs by injecting funds into local governments, while also fueling demand in the private sector by spurring improvements to infrastructure and other critical projects. ThinkProgress found in Chesterfield County that many jobs represented by employers at the job fair were a direct result of those funds:

–Commercial building contractor Colonial Webb credits the stimulus package with helping to create 20 new jobs. Colonial Webb, a firm that deals directly with helping to increase energy efficiency and LEED certification, is directly benefiting from Virginia’s $164 million in stimulus grants for weatherization and energy-efficiency programs.

–The Chesterfield County Police Department, which has received $505,822 through the stimulus, created 10 jobs.

–Chesterfield County Public Schools received over $4.4 million in funds from the stimulus. The money help plug budget gaps while aiding in 61 new hires.

–The Henrico County Police Department received over $63,069 from the stimulus and created 1 new job. The department also received $458,132 in stimulus money, helping to save other jobs.

Next thing you know, he'll be signing stimulus checks with his own name, just like Bobby Jindal.

In other news, it appears David "Diapers" Vitter may be in for a wee bit o' an ass-kicking:

If, as expected, the Senate showdown in Louisiana between incumbent Republican David Vitter and Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon comes to pass, it is pretty clear at this point that the Louisiana Democratic Party has Melancon's back:

Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington filed a sworn complaint with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics Thursday accusing U.S. Sen. David Vitter of using taxpayer-funded town hall meetings to engage in campaign activity.

Whittington’s complaint is based on Vitter’s statements at several taxpayer-funded town hall meetings criticizing U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, a potential re-election opponent. At one town hall meeting, Vitter encouraged the audience to "keep up the pressure on" Melancon.

The complaint here is a pretty nuanced one. It would appear that the rules on taxpayer-funded "official visits" are similar to those governing the "franking privilege".

Simply put, when the taxpayer pays for it, explicit campaigning is prohibited.


The argument of Whittington and the Louisiana Dems is that by explicitly invoking his likely Senate opponent, Vitter crossed the line from official business to campaigning, which would violate ethics rules. Multiple reports from town halls around the state make it clear that Vitter invoked Melancon with no small amount of frequency, a sign that he is quite concerned about the three-term Democrat. Melancon has been able to win fairly handily in conservative South Louisiana, and almost certainly is the strongest Democrat that Vitter could face in 2010.

Remains to be seen whether he'll feel the effects of said ass-kicking through all those Pampers.

I must give you a disclaimer before we move on to our next item. Those with heart conditions should pop a nitro tab before reading further, as there is a slight but real risk of having a heart attack from not surprised.

Okay? Right, then. Well, Newt Gingrich, it appears, is not opposing health care reform from the bottom of his heart, but his wallet (h/t):
Several media figures and outlets have provided Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich a forum to discuss his opposition to the inclusion of a public option and increased insurance regulations in health care reform legislation. But those media have not noted that that his Center for Health Transformation -- a for-profit entity that Gingrich founded and reportedly profits from -- receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a financial interest in preventing the implementation of those policies.
My darlings, I'm not ashamed to admit that this news knocked me right over like a feather due to the force of its duh-factor. Whoever could've guessed and so forth.

And here's another total non-shocker. Bill Kristol, it turns out, is a shameless right-wing hack:
At this point, most informed political observers have come to a certain realization about those who make the "death panel" argument: they're fools, charlatans, or both. Even news outlets that prefer to present coverage in a he-said/she-said fashion seem to realize that the argument is without merit. (They'll usually say something like, "Every independent fact-check of this claim says it's false.")

And yet, here we have the new column from the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, who argues this week that Republicans and conservatives have acted in an exemplary fashion throughout the health care debate. Seriously.

Conservative policy wonks helped to explode the false budgetary and health-improvement claims made on behalf of Obamacare. Conservative polemicists pointed out how Obamacare -- conceived in the spirit of budget chief Peter we-spend-too-much-as-a-nation-on-health-care Orszag and adviser Ezekiel we-need-to-stop-wasting-money-on-extending-low-quality-lives Emanuel -- means, in effect, death panels.

So good for them. And it's a sign of Obama's desperation that he seems unwilling to debate the substance of his own health care proposal....

Is he trying to set himself up for another epic floor-wiping when Jon Stewart next gets him on the Daily Show? It would appear so.

And, finally, we are on hypocrisy watch:

How many times have Republicans lectured us that we shouldn't be imposing unreasonable burdens on small businesses who, they tell us, create 80 percent of the new jobs in America? A zillion?

So what do you think Olympia Snowe thought when representatives of Maine's small business community told their Senator they opposed a mandate on business to purchase insurance for their employees unless there is a public option? HuffPo's Ryan Grim reports:

Snowe met with Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition; Clifford Mohr, president of Group Dynamic Inc.; Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association; Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center; Dean Powers, director of the Maine Small Business Coalition; Richard Grotton, CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association; David Spellman, President of the Pratt Financial Group; and several other lobbyists.

She quizzed the bunch on what they thought of the proposal to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance. She added that she was considering requiring business with more than 50 employees to pay 100 percent of the cost of subsidies for their employees' health insurance.

Small business representatives told Snowe that they were opposed to any mandates that came without a public option and that such an alternative was desperately needed for small business, which can't afford the rising cost of health insurance for their employees. The costs make them unable to compete on a level playing field with bigger companies, which can use their size to leverage lower prices. Lobbyists representing larger corporations took the opposite position.

So, the businesses that Republicans believe create 80 percent of new jobs are against a mandate without a public option, because, it would seem, those businesses believe a public option will give them a more affordable means to meet the mandate. Makes perfect sense.


So why isn't Maine's Senator insisting on a public option?
If any of my readers from Maine get a chance to ask just that question, do let us know what the answer is. In fact, all of us can ask the very same question of any of our Con polticians. Why do Cons hate small business owners?

1 comment:

Woozle said...

"your taxes are lower because of tax havens" -- how does that work? If I'm a zillionaire, and someone else is paying fewer taxes because they have them in a tax haven, doesn't that ultimately mean that the government will raise tax rates to compensate (unless, of course, they're insane), and I will consequently be paying more?

Or is she assuming that everyone in the audience has significant amounts of money socked away in tax havens -- enough to compensate for the overall rise, even?

I've always been skeptical of the value of Swiss banking secrecy, and now I'm even more so. When personal power is involved, secrecy is not our friend.

If I were writing a science fiction novel about the current situation, a war would be shaping up: the owners of the mainstream media and mass production, plus their right-wing followers who believe anything they say (the more insane the better, since they've been trained not to trust anything that sounds too sensible), against the rest of us.

What they're doing now, in this entirely fictional and extremely speculative hypothetical scenario, is continually testing the waters: how many people willingly agree with the crazy things we say? How many people get angry when we tell them to? What claims work best to get people motivated in ways that we like?

I don't know what the next move is, but at some point they'd need to impose massive censorship on the internet - for reasons of "cybersecurity", of course, perhaps with a light seasoning of "promoting improved competition" (by weeding out any ISPs that aren't totally under their control) and "protecting the children" from [child] pornography and stalker-abductors.

Gee, good thing this isn't a novel, and I don't have to worry about that actually happening.

"Me, paranoid? No, that's just what everybody says about me behind my back because the government tells them to."