Archive for February, 2009

Jindal had his moment, and he blew it

If you had asked me about the worst high-profile political speech I’d ever seen, I would have said it was John McCain’s effort last June, the one with the green backdrop, cringing smile, strangely awkward crowd and the whining “my friends, that’s not change we can believe in.”

Bobby Jindal’s effort last night approached McCain. I had never heard Jindal speak on a formal occasion, and he was bad. Bad message, worse delivery. Some of the harshest reaction came from conservatives who had hopes Jindal could be the party’s standard bearer. David Brooks put it bluntly:

“To come up at this moment in history with a stale ‘government is the problem,’ ‘we can’t trust the federal government’ – it’s just a disaster for the Republican Party….  It’s just not where the country is, it’s not where the future of the country is. There’s an intra-Republican debate. Some people say the Republican Party lost its way because they got too moderate. Some people say they got too weird or too …

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The president stresses the urgency of change

Health care, energy and education reform.
Oh, and economic recovery.
But mainly, economic recovery.
President Obama sought to portray — and largely achieved, I believe — a sense of urgency about the changes required to alter the short-term and long-term direction of the country.
His delivery was not what we have seen in the past — the smooth, thoughtful, patient laying out of problems and solutions. Maybe it was nervousness at the stakes; maybe it was a conscious choice on his part. I think it was probably some of both. The urgency he felt was the urgency he expressed.
He was driving the lesson home: Things are tough. Things must change.
On foreign policy, he drove it home too. America does not torture. America does not shy from confronting its challenges. America will protect itself.
Time will tell whether he — and we — can pull it off. It is very much in question. I don’t think he was reassuring, and if he was trying for reassurance, he failed. But if he was trying to …

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Post your reactions here to the president’s speech.

OK, post your reactions here to the president’s speech. I’ll jump in as the situation allows and requires.

Continue reading Post your reactions here to the president’s speech. »

The ‘50 percent pay no tax’ fraud, Part II

I’ve dealt with this claim before, pointing out that the actual number of taxable units (households and individuals) that earn enough to file tax forms but pay no federal income tax is actually 38 percent, not 50 percent. (Source:

But let’s add some context to the discussion. First of all, as the Tax Foundation points out, the relatively large percentage of non-income-tax payers is a direct consequence of the Bush tax cuts that conservatives laud in other contexts. As the foundation pointed out in 2004, the number of zero-tax filers “was 29 million in 2000, and it will be 44 million in 2004, a 50 percent increase.” Again, it attributes that change to the Bush administration.

And of course, income taxes are just one of several forms of federal taxation — you’ve got gasoline taxes, payroll taxes, etc. The Congressional Budget Office has analyzed total effective federal tax rates by income, and comes up with the following (2005 numbers):

—————-Average income …

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Folks, put down your weapons and step back

Boy, you guys are getting downright grumpy. Tone down the attacks, insults and namecalling, will you?

And just to get you in a better mood, here’s a lighthearted Youtube video (which — sigh — will of course be cited somehow as still further proof of media bias). (h/t to Andrew Sullivan)

(For those too young to immediately get the reference, they’re trying to recreate the Beatles’ album cover of Abbey Road, see below)
abbey road

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America in 1955: A country of commies?

America in 1955 was settling into the Cold War against Communism. The Warsaw Pact was formed that year; West Germany joined NATO. Disneyland opened. Illinois passed a Loyalty Oath Act, requiring all state employees to take an oath or be fired. GM became the first U.S. corporation to make a billion dollars.

Good times, the essence of America. And as Chuck Collins and Sam Pizzigati point out in a piece in the Christian Science Monitor, back in 1955, the 400 highest-earning Americans “paid more than 50 percent of their incomes in federal tax, almost triple the rate of today’s top 400.”

Of course, anybody who suggested such a tax structure today, in 2009, would be attacked as a Marxist, socialist, damn Commie, etc. But back in the ’50s, when Americans had actual, real-life Commies to worry about, such charges would have been considered ridiculous.

Write Collins and Pizzigati:

“America’s super-rich are paying far less of their incomes in taxes than average Americans who …

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Dow Jones is free-fallin’

In the video below, Americans participate in a large-scale acting exercise. Their assignment:

“Be the stock market.”

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Profit motive not always a good thing

From CNN:

As scandals from Wall Street to Washington roil the public trust, the justice system in Luzerne County, in the heart of Pennsylvania’s struggling coal country, has also fallen prey to corruption. The county has been rocked by a kickback scandal involving two elected judges who essentially jailed kids for cash. Many of the children had appeared before judges without a lawyer.

The nonprofit Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia said Phillip is one of at least 5,000 children over the past five years who appeared before former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella.

Ciavarella pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal criminal charges of fraud and other tax charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan also pleaded guilty to the same charges. The two secretly received more than $2.6 million, prosecutors said…

Pennsylvania has the second highest number of private facilities after Florida, accounting for about …

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GOP still peddling its patent medicine

A handful of Republican governors in the South, including possibly Georgia’s Sonny Perdue, are making noise about turning down a small part of the stimulus package, more or less as a protest. They’re echoing the criticism of congressional Republicans in Washington and, in cases such as Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, trying to earn points with the base in preparation for stepping onto the national stage.

Their problem, of course, is that the appeal of their approach is to the Southern base and ONLY to that base. While 68 percent of Americans approve of what Obama is doing on the economy, 59 percent disagree with congressional Republicans.

Only 33 percent — the GOP base — support the Republican approach. GOP leaders keep playing to that core group, stirring cheers and enthusiasm from their buddies as they do, but meanwhile the rest of the country ignores them and moves on.

A couple of Republican governors do understand that’s crazy.

“You know, you’ve got to go beyond just the …

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Just another out-of-work executive…

from the AP:

Former President George W. Bush has visited a Dallas hardware store that earlier this month made him a lighthearted offer to work as a greeter.

Andrea Bond, a manager at Elliott’s Hardware, says Bush walked into the store Saturday and quipped: “I’m looking for a job.”

The store had published an open letter to Bush, inviting him to apply for a store greeter position. The tongue-in-cheek appeal appeared in The Dallas Morning News and its commuter-oriented sister publication, Quick.

Bond says Bush spent about an hour shopping and talking to customers during the surprise visit. He bought a few flashlights, batteries and a can of WD-40. He also bought night lights.

Bush and his wife, Laura, moved into a home in the Preston Hollow area of Dallas on Friday.

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