Supporters of Americans For Prosperity and other TEA Party members rally at Leo O'Laughlin Inc. on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to Macon, Mo. Tuesday evening, April 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick T. Fallon)
So to fully understand what’s driving the Republican Party’s brinkmanship, one has to look at the motivations of its base voters – how they see the world around them. This lies at the heart of what’s happening in the Capitol today. MORE
The tea party caucus calling the shots in the US House of Representative is gloating about having shut down the federal government while simultaneously claiming that technical problems in the rollout of the Obamacare health exchanges are a sign of the failure of the public sector. On both fronts the truth is a lot more complicated.
What the critics of big government tend to overlook is that the public and private sectors are so intertwined that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. The tea party crowd may have no concern about the hardships they are imposing on 800,000 furloughed federal workers, yet their shutdown is also threatening the well-being of the much larger number of contractor employees — once estimated at more than 7 million — who often work alongside those directly on the federal payrolls. USA Todayquoted someone from the National Federal Contractors Association estimating that 250,000 to 300,000 workers could be affected.
It’s not only a labor issue. The employers of those contract workers are also being affected, some immediately and many more if the shutdown lasts more than a few days. The federal departments and agencies covered by the USASpending website together accounted for some $517 billion in contract spending in FY2012. The Defense Department, of course, was responsible for the bulk of that total ($361 billion), but other departments and agencies also make extensive use of contractors for goods and services; for example, Energy ($25 billion), HHS ($19 billion), Veterans Affairs ($17 billion), NASA ($15 billion) and Homeland Security ($12 billion). Another 15 each spent $1 billion or more. MORE
The other day there was this guy in a chicken suit on Pennsylvania Avenue protesting outside the White House. Silly, but the reason the chicken and other demonstrators had crossed the avenue was to deliver a petition of more than half a million names, speaking out against new rules the US Department of Agriculture wants to put into effect – bad rules that would transfer much of the work inspecting pork and chicken and turkey meat from trained government inspectors to the processing companies themselves. Talk about putting the fox in the henhouse!
The revised regulations also call for a substantial speeding up of the disassembly line along which workers use sharp knives and often painful, repetitive hand motions to cut up and clean carcasses of dirt, blood and other contaminants that can cause infection and sickness. Not only will this increase in speed – by 25 percent or more — raise the chance of injury, it makes it easier to miss anything wrong – even deadly — with the meat. To compensate for that, the rules also call for an increase in the use of antimicrobial chemicals sprayed on the meat — but those sprays may actually damage the health of the workers. Inspectors and meat packing employees report instances of asthma, burns, skin rashes, sinus trouble and other respiratory ailments, some of them severe. What’s more, when complaints were made about health or hygiene, the response from employers often came in the form of threats and reprimands. MORE
Kenyan forces under the spotlight –> James Norton rounds up a number of reports about Kenyan soldiers looting and pillaging after the siege at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi for the Christian Science Monitor.
Not so smooth with the ladies –> David Lightman reports for McClatchy on a new poll that finds the Republican Party losing more ground among women voters.
And it isn’t just Fox News minimizing the real-world damage lawmakers are inflicting on the public, with its artfully worded “government slimdown,” and its pundits making it seem like the biggest problem with the shutdown is that you can’t visit the Statue of Liberty. Mostly what we hear of the economic effects are about federal employees being furloughed and military pay.
These are important stories, but they fail to capture the economic pain that ordinary Americans, and especially the poor, will feel if the shutdown drags on. A small group of Republican hard-liners on a quixotic crusade against a Supreme Court-sanctioned law are shutting down the bulk of a federal government that contributes almost a quarter of our economic output. MORE
Everything we eat has a story behind it. The bread aisle (at the store with the massive parking lot) is a thrill ride. That story starts on stretches of land in places you’ve never been. Its main characters are gene-splicing scientists, patented life forms and huge industrial robots. Fleets of 18-wheelers make epic road trips before the narrative climaxes in the cash register of one mega-corporation or another. By comparison, the story of sustainably raised, locally marketed food is a bucolic tale: a hop from farm to table.
In 1975, Wendell Berry — the poet, novelist, farmer, activist and philosopher — released The Unsettling of America. That collection of essays focused on the cultural and environmental implications of modern agriculture and the need to put intelligence before profit when it comes to the business of farming. On October 4 on PBS, Moyers & Company will present Wendell Berry: Poet and Prophet, a documentary produced by the Schumann Media Center that features a conversation between veteran journalist Bill Moyers and rural America’s man of letters. MORE
Tea party activists demonstrate. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Today is the 100th anniversary of the federal income tax, which was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on October 3, 1913.
To mark the occasion, Moyers & Company caught up with David Cay Johnston, who has probably forgotten more about our tax code than most economic experts ever knew. Johnston won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his comprehensive reporting on taxes and tax avoidance in The New York Times, and then authored a best-selling book on the subject, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-Rich – and Cheat Everybody Else.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of our discussion.
Joshua Holland: When we got into World War II, individuals and families paid 38 percent of federal income taxes and corporations picked up the other 62 percent. Last year, individuals and families paid 82 percent of federal income taxes and corporations paid just 18 percent. How did this happen?
David Cay Johnston: All modern societies require a large public sector to provide the goods and services on which the private sector depends. So you need commonwealth services – education, basic research, statistical gathering and civil law enforcement – a whole host of activity than can only be provided through the public sector.
Now, corporations have a concentrated interest in the taxes they pay and the capacity to lobby for changes and make campaign donations to rent, or in some cases buy politicians’ votes. Over a long period of time, they saw to it that we change these tax laws and shifted this burden. MORE
Meanwhile, Obama has a talk with Congress’s mom and dadWall Street bankers, reports Jim Puzzanghera in the LAT.
The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that things got testy at a meeting of Senate Republicans when Tom Coburn took Mitch McConnell to task for “letting things spin out of control.” Ted Cruz also got some heat.
Red State dispatches –> At AlterNet, Steve Rosenfeld takes a look at how the first day went down in conservative states, according to local media reports. ALSO: ThinkProgress reports that Disney is promoting its part-time workers down in Orlando to full-time status in response to the ACA.
Pushing Wendy –> John Nichols writes for The Nation that a “bold pro-choice woman” like Wendy Davis can win in the Lonestar State.
Radioactive –> BBC reports on yet another leak at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
No white hats –> At WaPo, Liz Sly says “foreign extremists” now dominate the Syrian rebel movement.
Watching the watchers –> McClatchy’s Anita Kumar reports that Obama’s NSA oversight panel is full of friendly administration insiders.
You can’t handle the truth! –> NRA tried to stifle a study which found that gun dealers support more background checks, according to Rebecca Leber at ThinkProgress.
Trolling pollster –> PPP with another survey of Americans’ views on conspiracy theories.
10,000 walruses –> Nat Geo with a tragic story about the beasts huddling together on a tiny island as sea ice disappears.
What did we miss? What are you seeing? Let us know in the comments!
Ann Robbins, left, from Richboro, Pa., holds a sign during a rally for religious freedom organized in part by the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in front of Independence Hall, Friday, March 23, 2012, in Philadelphia. The rally was in objection to the Health and Human Service mandate that private health care cover women's contraception. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Frank and Philip Gilardi live in Ohio and own produce packing and delivery companies that employ about 400 people. The brothers are also devout Catholics who donate food to religious charities, provide a trailer for the local parish picnic every year, put pro-life bumper stickers on all company trucks — and don’t want their companies’ insurance plans to cover contraception, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires. They’ve sued the Obama administration, arguing that the mandate violates their constitutionally protected religious freedoms.
How? By citing the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which suggested that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as human beings to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. The Gilardis’ lawyers — and a host of similar lawsuits — are arguing that if the courts have found that corporations have free-speech rights, they ought to also find that businesses have the right to free expression of religion.
Judges have so far been pretty skeptical of this line of argument, given that the law still defines a corporation as “an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.” No court has ever held that a corporation can actually exercise religion, no matter how many bumper stickers are put on its trucks. MORE
A man picks up federal tax form 1040 at a post office in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Thursday marks the 100th anniversary of the federal income tax. That is, the income tax that we have today – the first US tax raised on earned incomes was a temporary one imposed to help pay for the War of 1812. Another helped pay for the Civil War, but was allowed to expire in 1872.
One of the most simplistic statements one can utter is, “taxes are too damn high.” The US has a complex tax system — there are many, many different taxes — so a more salient question than whether taxes are “too high” or “too low” is: who pays what?
The reality is that, overall, the US has one of the lowest tax burdens in the industrial world. If someone’s tax burden is too great to bear, that probably means that someone else isn’t paying a fair share of the cost of maintaining the public services that a modern nation-state requires. MORE
Traffic surges and glitches are causing slowdowns on the healthcare.gov website.
Obamacare has faced a number of challenges since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. There’s been 50 votes in Congress to defund or repeal it, a Supreme Court challenge and as of today, a government shutdown.
We asked our fans who visited the new health insurance marketplace online to share their experiences with us. Here’s what they found.
Insurance … finally
A number of users had said they had already signed up and were grateful to be on their way to having health care coverage for the first time in years.
Here’s what Dolores Rogers wrote on our wall: “It was easy, fast and impressive. I actually made the experience longer than it needed to be just so I could savor the fact that I was making history…and I am going to have health care insurance for the first time since March of 2009.” MORE
Very early Tuesday morning, just after the White House Office of Management and Budget told agencies to begin “the orderly shutdown” of the federal government, a frustrated Harry Reid went to the floor of the United States Senate.
The Senate — with its Democratic majority and its reasonable number of reasonable Republicans — stood ready to take action to prevent the shutdown from moving forward, he said.
But, the Nevada Democrat admitted, there was no indication that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was prepared to join in a serious discussion.
Of the House Republicans, Reid said: “It is embarrassing that these people (who) are elected to represent the country are representing the tea party.”
Reid was griping.
But, to the extent that he is using the term “tea party” in the broadest sense — to refer to the money-and-media election complex that has developed to “police” Republican primaries — he was also stating the essential fact of the political moment. MORE
If you’re confused about Obamacare, you’re not alone. Over the past several years, every survey on the subject has revealed that Americans consistently fail to correctly identify the provisions that are actually in the Affordable Care Act. In April, a poll found that 40 percent of Americans weren’t sure about whether Obamacare was still law at all.
Administration officials are racing against the clock to reverse those incorrect public perceptions, ramping up their outreach efforts before the health law’s new state-level marketplaces open for enrollment this upcoming week. As the open enrollment period draws near, you may be wondering how it affects you or what you need to do. Or you may simply want to understand more about the law that’s dominating the news. Here are simple answers to 20 questions about Obamacare that may have you mystified. MORE