Archive for August, 2012

Condi Rice breaks gender barrier at Augusta National

Good work, Billy Payne. It’s about time — well, way past the time, to be honest — and there will be more to come, I’m sure.

From the Associated Press:

“NEW YORK (AP) – For the first time in its 80-year history, Augusta National Golf Club has female members.

The home of the Masters, under increasing criticism the last decade because of its all-male membership, invited former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to become the first women in green jackets when the club opens for a new season in October.

Both women accepted.”

– Jay Bookman

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The Big Lie exposed, in living color

The core belief that animates the modern conservative movement is that taxes are too damn high and getting higher all the time. They believe that rampaging government at every level — local, state and federal — takes more and more of their hard-earned money, leaving the private sector barely enough resources to sustain itself.

In fact, I’d love to ask delegates to the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa this month one simple question: As a share of the economy, how much have total taxes increased over the last 50 years? Most would probably guess that it has doubled or tripled.

The real answer is that it has not changed at all. As a share of gross domestic product — and that’s the standard measure of tax burden accepted by most economists, both liberal and conservative — taxes at every level today amount to roughly 25 percent of the economy, just what they did back in the early ’60s.

historical_receipt_comp_chart

In other words, the image of an ever-gluttonous government that serves as the basis of modern …

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Charter-school issue a drain on public education

Note: This post contains material published here earlier. It is posted here as the electronic version of my Sunday AJC column.

“The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or post-secondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation.”

— Article VIII, Section I of the Georgia Constitution

As the Georgia Constitution makes clear, public education is supposed to be a primary obligation of state government. Yet in the 2009-1010 school year, legislators financed just 37.8 percent of the cost of educating Georgia students, leaving local government to cover most of the remainder.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, 20 years ago, the state financed 51.2 percent of the cost of educating Georgia students, leaving local governments to pick up 37.8 percent. (The remainder is covered by federal dollars.) As recently as 10 years ago, the state still …

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Music that even a godless heathen could love

To kick off tonight’s festivities, we feature another submission from one of blog regulars, in this case the iconoclast known hereabouts as Godless Heathen. I confess, reading his introduction the first time through put a smile on my face. I think you’ll enjoy it just as much as you’ll enjoy his musical selection, which is saying something.

So with no further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, Godless Heathen:

I can’t claim deep ancestral roots in Georgia, being the first member of my family born in this state.  And although my hometown would eventually become part of the metropolitan Atlanta area, it was much more rural than suburban when I was a child.

Men in Liberty overalls would still sit around a pot-belly stove talking about the weather and the crops while they sipped Cokes. From time to time, they would quietly spike those Cokes from a pint nestled in the front pocket, right next to a short-barrel .38 Smith.

It wasn’t a time of innocence, but rather a time when the …

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The policy implications of Mitt Romney’s 13 percent

Tax accountant Mitt Romney, having given investor Mitt Romney’s tax returns a thorough and independent review, reported Thursday that presidential candidate Mitt Romney had paid a minimum of 13 percent of his income in federal taxes every year for the past decade.

So that settles that, I guess.

Actually, I’m willing to take Romney’s word on this specific point. He should still release additional tax returns, and it’s quite clear that there’s something in those returns that in Romney’s mind would not pass muster with the voters. There is no other plausible explanation for why he has refused to follow the precedent set by every other major candidate in the modern era.

However, on the matter of whether Romney paid taxes, and how much he paid, I’m willing to trust his word. For one thing, the backlash should it prove to have been a lie would devastate his campaign. (And yes, accepting Romney’s word means that Harry Reid has either been badly misled by his secret informer or that …

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Who’s ultimately at fault in Balfour ethics case?

Maybe it’s different in your line of work, or at your place of employment, but I suspect that if I had been caught filing multiple expense forms for trips that I had not taken, requesting compensation I had not earned, the punishment would be pretty severe.

For one thing, it would suggest that I could not be trusted to tell the truth, which in my line of work and many others is a fairly important job requirement.

State Sen. Don Balfour, a Gwinnett County Republican and the powerful chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, filed multiple expense reports claiming to have been working for the state and traveling for the state when in fact he had not done so. We know that he had not done so because we also have lobbyist disclosure forms that contradict forms filed and signed by Balfour, documenting the fact that on multiple days in which he claimed to have been at the Capitol working, he wasn’t even in Georgia but was being wined and dined out of state.

On Thursday, after meeting …

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Speaker Boehner helpfully defines ‘knuckle-dragger’

I have to admit, I got a chuckle out of this statement by House Speaker John Boehner, who was defending Paul Ryan’s votes in favor of TARP among other things:

For those without video access, Boehner says:

KnuckleDragger

“I mean, I think that (Ryan)’s a practical conservative. He’s got a very conservative voting record, but he’s not a knuckle-dragger, all right? He understood that TARP, while none of us wanted to do it, if we were going to save — save our economy, save the world economy, it had to happen.”

Which means, I guess, that in Boehner’s book most of Georgia’s congressional delegation at the time — Phil Gingrey, John Barrow, Paul Broun, (now-Gov.) Nathan Deal, Hank Johnson, Jack Kingston, John Linder, Tom Price and Lynn Westmoreland — fall into the knuckle-dragger camp.

Boehner’s already suspect among many in his caucus for being too moderate. This ain’t gonna help him any.

UPDATE: Here’s the “clarification” from the speaker’s office:

“The Speaker said Paul Ryan is a practical …

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Young illegal immigrants grab eagerly at hope of staying here

The executive order by President Obama delaying deportation of young immigrants who were brought here illegally by their parents took effect Wednesday, with tens thousands of eligible immigrants around the country lining up for as much as a mile to apply for the right to stay.

Applicants, most of whom have grown up in this country and consider it home, must be 30 or younger as of June 15, 2012 and be in school, have graduated from an American high school or have enlisted in the U.S. military. There is a $465 fee for applying for the two-year deferral.

If successful, applicants would be given work permits. However, the program does not include a path to citizenship or permanent legal status. The two-year renewable deferral would presumably end much more quickly if Mitt Romney, who has opposed the order, replaces Obama in January.

In Chicago, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, sponsor of the stalled DREAM Act, spoke to a crowd of more than 10,000 lined up for applications. “You can’t stop …

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Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan and the issue of morality

aynrand_AF

In a more fact-based world, the centrality of Ayn Rand to Paul Ryan’s perspective on the world would be undeniable. She is, so to speak, the fountainhead from which much of his political thought flows. But rather than take my word for it, listen to Ryan himself, just three short years ago, laying it out explicitly in back-to-back videos prepared by his congressional campaign:

For those unable to watch the video, the earnest Ryan says, among other things:

“What’s unique about what’s happening today in government and in the world and America is that it’s as if we are living in an Ayn Rand novel right now. … I think Ayn Rand did more than anybody to build a moral case for capitalism, the morality of individualism, and this to me is what matters most.”

Again, Ryan’s voluntary, unprovoked and clearly heartfelt profession of Randian philosophy came in 2009, just three years ago, and it is just one in a long string of public expressions by Ryan of his loyalty to and faith in Rand’s …

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A sudden shift on ethics by Speaker Ralston? Well, maybe

For the last year or so, House Speaker David Ralston has publicly sneered at suggestions that the Georgia Legislature adopt limits on how much lobbyists are allowed to spend wooing legislators.

A proposed $100 cap on lobbyist expenditures was nothing more than “a gimmick,” Ralston has said repeatedly. In his mind, any effort to impose bans or limits on lobbyist gifts would simply drive such spending underground, where it would continue to be done illegally.

In fact, he argued, the whole concept of gift bans or limitations was an invention of “media elites and liberal special interest groups.”

“You can’t be united as a party and be in bed with groups like Common Cause and Georgia Watch,” he said last spring at the state GOP convention, managing to overlook strong tea party support for gift limits. “These are very liberal groups that have no interest in seeing a Republican agenda succeed.”

But in recent days, something rather remarkable has happened. The man who once cast scorn …

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