Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the Land of the Free (Verse)

I wrote the following in 1970. Somethings never change.

In the Land of the Free

 by Dee Newman

I’m standing here wondering whether to begin,
Knowing that words will never wake you within,
But knowing these faces that cry-out in my brain
Will taunt me and haunt me until I’m insane.
So crawl out of your dreaming, come along with me,
And together we’ll wade through the human debris,
Blessed with the liberty secured by the slave
Here in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Back to her valleys where she grew as a child,
Down her harnessed rivers that once ran wild,
Deep in her virgin forests that dwindle each year,
Under a bay-brown sky that once was clear,
For the waters run stagnant, clogged with our waste,
And each breath smells putrid, foul to the taste,
Yet carve we must our mark on the wall of the cave
Here in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Hidden in forgotten serpent pits of despair
The body of a troubled mind is strapped to a chair
As stripped figures of children with sad glaring eyes
Wander aimlessly through echoing halls of disguise
Beyond the hopeless horror of gagged murmurs of fear
Lying spread-eagled and gauzed so no one can hear,
Making one wonder who is really depraved
Here in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

When sentenced to correctional institutions
For society’s protection, the prosecution's
Indictment of a teenager as an adult
Has a tragic yet not surprising result.
After being brutally rape and terrified
By his attackers, the boy commits suicide.
With an eye for an eye for those who misbehave
Here in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Below exalted altars towering to the sky
A mother offers her body to those who will buy,
Servicing a kindred of unfulfilled men
So that she my feed her poor, deprived children,
While above the congregation’s confirming roar
A pompous clergyman righteously yells, “whore!”
Yet with her confession our Lord Jesus will save
Here in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

There is nothing of which I am more surer –
While the rich get richer, the poor get poorer;
While our lives become more and more austere
The gross national product grows grosser each year;
While children die of hunger throughout this land
Eastland is subsidized a hundred and sixteen grand.
Yet, O say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Fleeing from antiquity we turn to look behind
Tempting our lot and the lot of all mankind
For far beyond the ancient pillar that remains
Shades of the past desparately pull at the reins
And this, it seems, is ironic and sadly strange
For existence is but the result of change.
Yet the course continues to come from the grave
Here in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

From The White House

President Obama on His Birth Certificate & the Real Issues Facing America
April 27, 2011 | 5:21 | Public Domain
 

President Obama discusses the release of his long form birth certificate, having long ago released his standard birth certificate, and says that “We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them -- not on this.”



The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
9:48 A.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Now, let me just comment, first of all, on the fact that I can't get the networks to break in on all kinds of other discussions -- (laughter.)  I was just back there listening to Chuck -- he was saying, it’s amazing that he’s not going to be talking about national security.  I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it.

THE PRESIDENT:  As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth. Now, this issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now.  I think it started during the campaign.  And I have to say that over the last two and a half years I have watched with bemusement, I've been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going.  We've had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated this, confirm that, yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital.

We've posted the certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see.  People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate.  And yet this thing just keeps on going.

Now, normally I would not comment on something like this, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff swirling in the press on at any given day and I've got other things to do.  But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we're going to have to make as a nation.  It was about my birth certificate.  And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.

And so I just want to make a larger point here.  We've got some enormous challenges out there.  There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work.  Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices.  We're going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt -- how do we do that in a balanced way.

And this is going to generate huge and serious debates, important debates.  And there are going to be some fierce disagreements -- and that’s good.  That’s how democracy is supposed to work.  And I am confident that the American people and America’s political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems.  We always have.

But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted.  We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other.  We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts.  We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.

We live in a serious time right now and we have the potential to deal with the issues that we confront in a way that will make our kids and our grandkids and our great grandkids proud.  And I have every confidence that America in the 21st century is going to be able to come out on top just like we always have.  But we’re going to have to get serious to do it.

I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest.  But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press.  We do not have time for this kind of silliness.  We’ve got better stuff to do.  I’ve got better stuff to do.  We’ve got big problems to solve.  And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them -- not on this.

Thanks very much, everybody.

Correspondence with the Hawaii State Department of Health can be seen here (PDF).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Soft with Sorrow

by Dee Newman

High above the Harpeth,
I pause to watch, below
a thin grey sheet of rain
sweep across the meadow
through the sycamores
that stand along the river.

Far from this narrow ridge
beyond the low hanging veil
of morning mist
obscuring my despair
a seductive tune
is sung, ever so softly.

Thoughts
without wings
remain silent
hidden, forever
within my heart.

The bloodroots
have appeared and gone
from the forest floor.
Before long, the blue
and violet hue
of the crested dawfs
will wither and die.

With time and distance
as when your eyes
were soft with sorrow
I will say, goodbye.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Remembering My First Love

By Dee Newman

My eyes fill with sorrow as I remember when
I loved you like no other, or I ever will again,
But that was long ago when love was young and new,
Nothing last forever, 'cept my mem'ries of you.

In the shadows of moonlight, beneath bright skies of blue,
I’ve had my share of lovers, and more than just a few.
One day there may be others who I may well pursue,
Yet, nothing will ever alter my desire and love for you.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It is Time to Find Some Time

by Dee Newman

It appears there is not enough time
For all the things I would like to do,
For all the mountains I’ve yet to climb,
For all the sights I would like to view,
For all the rivers I’ve yet to cross,
For all the races I haven’t run,
For all the horseshoes I’ve yet to toss,
For all the things I haven’t done,
For all the thoughts I’d like to ponder,
For all the books I would like to read,
For all the trails I’ve yet to wander,
For all those slopes I haven’t skied,
For all the photos I’ve yet to take,
For all the songs I have yet to sing,
For all the sculptures I’ve yet to make,
For all the day and nighttime snoozing,
For all the many things I have missed,
And all the places I haven’t been,
For all the women I haven’t kissed
And those I would like to kiss again,
Yes, for all those things I’ve put on hold,
It is time to find the wherewithal,
Before its too late and I’m too old,
To find some time to do them all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From Public Citizen


Public Citizen's 'Money and Democracy Update'
an e-newsletter about the movement to curb corporate influence in politics and restore our democracy
Issue #58 • April 22, 2011

“Money and Democracy Update” is Public Citizen’s weekly e-newsletter about the intersection of money and politics. It is part of our ongoing campaign to track the results of — and ultimately overturn — the U.S. Supreme Court’s reckless decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows for-profit corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to support or attack political candidates. We’ll update you regularly with select news stories and blog posts, legislative developments and ways to get involved.

Stunning Statistics of the Week:
Van Hollen sues FEC over disclosure rule
U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has sued the Federal Election Commission to make public the names of big money political donors who now may remain anonymous. Van Hollen said he is aiming to close a loophole by reversing an FEC regulation requiring companies and groups to name only those donors who give at least $1,000 specifically to pay for political activities. The lawmaker says this guts disclosure requirements Congress enacted in 2002 as part of the McCain-Feingold law.
Disclosure via executive order
President Barack Obama has drafted an executive order that would require companies vying for government contracts to disclose information about contributions they make to groups that run political ads. This is part of a trend of federal agencies trying to increase transparency in campaign finance.
BP doles out cash to Republican lawmakers
Evidently, part of BP’s long-range plan to get out of the doghouse after last year’s disaster in the Gulf involves giving money to members of Congress. BP has donated $29,000 to lawmakers this election cycle, with most of that going to Republican leaders. In addition, BP’s political action committee had $332,408 at the end of the month.
More Citizens United fallout: Corporations can openly tell employees how to vote
Here’s another sign of how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has changed the political landscape: Corporations can openly urge their employees to vote for certain candidates. Koch Industries, led by conservative brothers David and Charles Koch, already has done this; The Nation got hold of an election packet the company distributed to employees in Washington state listing Koch-backed candidates.
Corporate political spending is on shareholders’ minds
During this annual meeting season, political spending is getting more attention from shareholders. Seventy-eight shareholder proposals focus on political spending or lobbying, up from 48 proposals during the first six months of 2010. The reason more people are focused on it? The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
Business interests rule in Florida Legislature
With Republicans running the governor’s office and both houses of the Florida Legislature, business interests are getting ready to score big in this year’s legislative session. Measures that in the past were off-limits – such as restrictions on personal injury lawsuits against automakers and cuts in unemployment benefits – may be passed. It doesn’t hurt that of the 30 largest political contributors in the state this year, all but two are corporations or business-backed interest groups.
Join Annie Leonard and Robert Weissman for Citizens United webinar
Join the Story of Stuff Project’s Annie Leonard and Public Citizen President Robert Weissman next Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. EDT and again at 10 p.m. EDT for an hour-long webinar and conversation about her latest animated video, “The Story of Citizens United v. FEC: Why Democracy Only Works When People Are in Charge.” Annie will share why she felt it was important to tell this story of corporate influence. Weissman, who served as a senior content advisor for the film, will focus on the implications of the Citizens United case. The conversation will allow plenty of time for questions. Register for the 7 p.m. event and the 10 p.m. event.
Visit DemocracyIsForPeople.org to learn more!
To get regular e-alerts about opportunities for activism and other ways to help with Public Citizen’s work, sign up for the Public Citizen Action Network. To unsubscribe, go to http://action.citizen.org/unsubscribe.jsp.
Contribute | © 2011 Public Citizen | Take Action

From Jonathan

Dear Servants of the People,

Why are we so openly and callously kowtowing to the rich folks of this state with an income tax ban bill?!

Are we not already ashamed and embarrassed enough being one of the poorest, least educated, unhealthiest, most obese, most polluted, and one of the most crime-infested states?

Who are we kidding? Tennessee ranks at or near the bottom in infant mortality. This fact alone should inspire us to do something positive for our state.

Permanently relieving the top 5% of income earners of their responsibility for shared sacrifice (as per taxes) is grossly unethical and immoral.

Why did we send you all to the Capitol? To give more relief to the richest among us when so many in our state are suffering?

How many of you would personally benefit from such a ban?!

How about growing the middle class, not growing the poor with more ideologically-driven, regressive tax policies?

For shame!

STOP THE INCOME TAX BAN BILL now!!!

INSTITUTE A PROGRESSIVE INCOME TAX now!!!

Fairness in taxation is the way to prosperity, not huge tax relief for the wealthy.

From Tennesseans for Fair Taxation

Tennesseans for Fair Taxation
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  Revenue with Justice for All!

Donate

 

TFT Update, April 22nd 2011

Fighting the Ban on a State Income Tax


The new resolution to BAN a state income or payroll tax, SJR 18, is on the calendar of the House Finance Subcommittee for Wednesday, April 27 at 11:00 AM CDT in Legislative Plaza hearing room 29. Anyone is welcome to attend and show their opposition to this bill.
This bill is pandering to millionaire campaign contributors while leaving the bill for our government and vital services to be paid by working people with future increases in the sales tax.

Speak up for REVENUE WITH JUSTICE FOR ALL and please email and/or phone your representative and members of the House Finance Subcommittee to let them know that this is NOT a responsible or reasonable bill to pass.

House Finance SubCommittee:

Mike Harrison, Rogersville 206A WMB
(615) 741-7480 rep.mike.harrison@capitol.tn.gov

Curtis Johnson, Clarksville 215 WMB
(615) 741-4341 rep.curtis.johnson@capitol.tn.gov

Kevin Brooks, Cleveland 104 WMB
(615) 741-1350 rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov

Lois DeBerry, Memphis LP 33
(615) 741-3830 rep.lois.deberry@capitol.tn.gov

Craig Fitzhugh, Ripley LP 33
(615) 741-2134 rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov

Judd Matheny, Tullahoma LP 15
(615) 741-7448 rep.judd.matheny@capitol.tn.gov

Gerald McCormick, Chattanooga LP 18A
(615) 741-2548 rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov

Steve McDaniel, Parkers Crossroads LP 18
(615) 741-0750 rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov

Jimmy Naifeh, Covington G19A WMB
(615) 741-3774 spk.eme.jimmy.naifeh@capitol.tn.gov

Gary Odom, Nashville LP 23
(615) 741-4410 rep.gary.odom@capitol.tn.gov

Dennis Roach, Rutledge 217 WMB
(615) 741-2534 rep.dennis.roach@capitol.tn.gov

Charles Sargent, Franklin 206 WMB
(615) 741-6808 rep.charles.sargent@capitol.tn.gov

Johnny Shaw, Bolivar LP 36
(615) 741-4538 rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov

Harry Tindell, Knoxville LP 35
(615) 741-2031 rep.harry.tindell@capitol.tn.gov

Letters to the editor are another great way to share this information with the public and let your legislators know you care about revenue with justice for all Tennesseans.

In this email:

In the News

Upcoming Events

TFT Lobby Days Tour

Get into the action down at legislative plaza! Meet with elected officials from all over the state and help promote TFT's legislative proposals. Your voice is important! Be a part of making our state great. Call or email Bill Howell for more information or to sign up! Bill@fairtaxation.org
615-289-139

More ways to be involved!

If you are interested in joining our lobby day efforts or attending one of our Local Organizing Chapter meetings please see our online events calendar or call our office for more information.
Click here to sign up for action alerts and updates from Tennesseans for Fair Taxation.
To find out more about TFT's legislative proposals click here.
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In addition, to supporting our legislative work, your donations help us engage and inform the public, build coalitions, inspire community leaders and garner a wider base of support through workshops, newsletters, editorials, rallies, a strong web presence, and so much more. Please consider donating today.

 

Local Organizing Chapter Meetings:

Anderson County Chapter Meeting times vary. See TFT calendar for latest scheduled meeting.
Contact Samantha Maples for more information
Memphis Chapter
Meets on the 4th Tuesday of every month at the 1000 South Cooper Memphis, TFT office- 6:00 pm central time.
Contact Marquita Bradshaw for more information
Nashville Chapter
Meets on the 2nd Friday of every month at the Blakeford, 11 Burton Hills Blvd. in Green Hills. - 12 pm central time.
Contact Bill Howell for more information
Jackson Chapter
Meets on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at the 1029 Campbell St. Jackson, SOCM office- Time: TBA.
Contact Marquita Bradshaw for more information
Tri-Cities Chapter
Meets on the 1st Tuesday of every month at the Gray Public Library - 6:30 pm eastern time.
Contact Samantha Maples for more information

 


DonatelogoTo learn more about Tennesseans for Fair Taxation and our efforts to create a fair and progressive tax system that invests in and strengthens the common good, visit us at www.fairtaxation.org.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Scheme of Greed and Deceit

By Dee Newman

While the press focused on tabloid scandals
And sports rivalries, Wall Street financiers
Switch from being investors to vandals –
Unregulated, ruthless profiteers.
While a Republican controlled Congress
Borrowed and spent nearly two billion bucks
A week on an undeclared and endless
“War on terror,” giving massive tax cuts
To the rich which not only failed to spur
Growth, but also allowed austerity
Measures to be passed that have further
Increased income disparity,
As well as, the national debt – threefold,
The puppets of the plutocrats, against
Their own int’rests, continue to extol
“Voodoo economics,” with an incensed
Rage. As these fear-distracted populists,
Led by their demagogues, attempt to frame
Unions and immigrants for the long lists
Of crimes for which they, themselves, are to blame,
Congress turns a blind-eye to our despair,
Cutting programs for all us common folk
In order to fund corporate welfare,
Bailing out all those banks as we go broke.
By far, the most effective deception
Promoted by the filthy-affluent
Is the persistently false perception
That opportunity is pursuant
To will, hard work, and capitalism.
In truth, the wealthy are compensated
In direct proportion to the “gross” sum
Of the suffering they’ve administrated.
This system – where “one percent” can amass
Nearly half of our nation’s wealth,
While the distressed hard-working middle class
Struggle to survive the exploitive stealth
Of the privileged and moneyed elite,
Is a scheme – promoted as “supply-side
Economics” – of greed and deceit,
That cannot be ethically justified,
         Or, for that matter, fiscally sustained
         When unregulated and unrestrained.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Early Spring (Photos)







From CBS News

Were the Details on the Budget Deal Talks Revealed by the President Really an Open-Mic Slip?

President Barack Obama was caught on an open mic by Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio News White House correspondent, making some intriguing remarks about the actions of Republicans in the recent budget negotiations:

Take a listen:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

From American Progress

Infographic: Tax Breaks vs. Budget Cuts


House leaders are unfortunately restricting their proposed budget cuts for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 to nonsecurity discretionary spending in an attempt to tame a $1.3 trillion deficit. This approach is especially shortsighted since the Federal Treasury loses twice as much revenue due to tax breaks than Congress appropriates on all nonsecurity discretionary spending.

The chart below compares the 10 safety-net programs slated for deep cuts with the cost of the tax breaks that should also be considered for reduction or elimination to bring the budget into balance. The column on the left is a list of safety-net programs that have already been targets of the House leadership’s budget ax. The column on the right is the cost to specified tax breaks (see bottom of page for sources).



Most Americans would be surprised to learn that tax breaks are not on the table during any budget negotiations. In fact, Congress has the Congressional Budget Office prepare an official spending estimate for the cost of all programs or their expansions. Meanwhile, Congress enacts and continues tax breaks without any requirement that the cost of tax breaks be calculated and shared with members before a vote.

That’s why, over the last 16 years, the cost to the Treasury of the mortgage interest tax deduction, for example, doubled from $48 billion in 1995 to nearly $100 billion this year and no one made a peep about getting control of this loss in revenue. The stunning growth in this tax break is unchecked and unquestioned.

This tax break is also increasingly benefiting individuals who don’t need any federal incentives to purchase a home. In 2011 the mortgage interest deduction will help families who purchase a vacation home avoid taxes to the tune of $800 million. Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee chairman’s 2011 budget bill included $730 million in cuts to housing programs for the elderly and disabled.

There are many other examples where the cost of tax breaks are skyrocketing and disproportionately benefiting companies and people who don’t need them (see chart above):
  • Congress should rein in the $4.6 billion in tax breaks given to companies who move jobs offshore instead of making cuts to the $4 billion in job-training programs.
  • Oil companies get more than $2 billion in tax write-offs for drilling expenses yet Congress is considering cutting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the $2 billion federal program that helps poor families pay their winter heating bills.
  • Large biofuels companies, such as Archer Daniels Midland, benefit from the ethanol tax break that now costs nearly $5 billion a year. And oil companies such as ExxonMobil benefit from more than $9 billion in tax breaks for oil exploration.
Some tax breaks make sense. Those that stimulate economic activity that otherwise wouldn’t happen without the tax incentive may be worth the lost revenue, especially if that economic activity creates American jobs and provides assistance in sectors of the economy that show potential for growth.

That’s exactly what the Research and Development Tax Incentives or the Renewable Energy Tax Credits provide. Income tax breaks that help keep working families afloat, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, use the tax code effectively to stabilize the economy.

It’s regrettable that the congressional budget process doesn’t permit a robust debate about the choices we can and must make to bring the budget into balance. The Center for American Progress is thus pushing for a process where tax breaks are “scored” so members of Congress know and consider the cost of tax breaks as part of the annual congressional process to pass a budget.

A transparent budget process approach should be instituted now given the enormity of the budget challenge. It makes no sense to eviscerate safety-net supports when billions in unnecessary tax entitlements can be cut to preserve these important and socially responsible federal expenditures. Congress must face up to the cold hard fact that it’s time to make the tough choice to end tax entitlements—such as the one for “NASCAR racing facilities”—so federal funding for critical items such as child-nutrition programs are spared.

Donna Cooper is a Senior Fellow at American Progress.

Sources for tax breaks

Row 1: Figure represents half of the estimated $23 billion cost of weakening the estate tax for 2011 and 2012. See: Gillian Brunet and Chuck Marr, “Unpacking the Tax Cut-Unemployment Compromise,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, December 10, 2010, available at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3342.

Row 2: Figure represents 1 percent of the fiscal year 2011 tax expenditure estimate for the mortgage interest deduction, over 10 years. The vacation home deduction accounts for at least one percent of the tax expenditure cost. See: Office of Management and Budget, Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012 (Executive Office of the President, 2011), table 17-1; Congressional Budget Office, “Budget Options” (2000), REV-02.

Row 3 (now re: estate planning): General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 Revenue Proposals (Department of Treasury, 2011).

Row 4 (now re: itemized deduction limit): General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 Revenue Proposals (Department of Treasury, 2010).

Row 5: Joint Committee on Taxation, Estimated Budget Effects of the “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010,” JCX-54-10, December 10, 2010 (subpart F active financing exception).

Row 6: General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 Revenue Proposals (Department of Treasury, 2011).

Row 7: Joint Committee on Taxation, Estimated Budget Effects of the “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010,” JCX-54-10, December 10, 2010 (half of total cost of two-year extension).

Row 8: General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 Revenue Proposals (Department of Treasury, 2011).

Row 9: General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 Revenue Proposals (Department of Treasury, 2011) (10-year cost).

Row 10: Office of Management and Budget, Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012, (Executive Office of the President, 2011), table 17-1 (expensing of multiperiod timber growing costs and capital gains treatment of certain timber income).

Row 11: Joint Committee on Taxation, Estimated Budget Effects of the “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010,” JCX-54-10, December 10, 2010 (half of total cost of recent two-year extension).

See Also:

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Megan Smith (health care, education, economic policy)
202.741.6346 or msmith@americanprogress.org

Print: Christina DiPasquale (foreign policy and security, energy)
202.481.8181 or cdipasquale@americanprogress.org

Print: Raúl Arce-Contreras (ethnic media, immigration)
202.478.5318 or rarcecontreras@americanprogress.org

Radio: Anne Shoup
202.481.7146 or ashoup@americanprogress.org

TV: Andrea Purse
202.741.6250 or apurse@americanprogress.org

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

From Tennessee Citizen Action (TCA)

TN Voter Confidence Act News - Another Delay Proposed

I just received the following from TCA:

            Tennessee Voter Confidence Act
             Once Again Under Attack
Dear Dee,

Once again, the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (TVCA) is under attack.

As you may remember, the TVCA is a bill that in 2008 was passed 92-3 in the State House and unanimously in the State Senate, and was to be implemented in 2010. In 2010, the General Assembly voted to delay implementation until 2012. This year, the bills introduced will either repeal it completely (SB1805 and HB0414) or delay it indefinitely (SB1203 and HB0386). Read more about the TVCA below.

SB1805 and SB1203 are scheduled to be heard in Senate State & Local Government Committee on Tuesday, 4/12, at 10:30 am in room LP 12.

HB0414 is scheduled to be heard in House State & Local subcommittee on Wednesday, 4/13, at 3:30 in room LP 30.

HB0386 is scheduled in House Finance subcommittee on Wednesday, 4/13, at 11:00 am in room LP 29.

Contact info for the committees is listed on the right. Please call and email each member and urge them to keep the TVCA intact and on track for 2012 implementation.


Message to Legislators About TVCA:
  • With the TVCA, Tennesseans will vote on paper ballots that will be counted by optical scan machines.
  • Paper ballots reassure us that our votes are being counted accurately.
  • Paper ballots can be audited or recounted - votes on the machines we use now cannot.
  • Because the electronic touch-screen electronic machines we use to vote on now only store votes electronically, votes cannot be independently recounted or audited.
  • Votes cast on electronic touch-screen electronic voting machines are also vulnerable to software glitches and computer malfunctions.
  • Governmental entities and private corporations are routinely audited regardless of whether problems are suspected. With so much at stake, the same should be true for elections.
  • The ongoing operational costs for elections for the TVCA will be lower. A recent study [pdf] demonstrated that Florida counties that used electronic touch-screen machines had average operating costs each year that were three to 5 times higher than Florida counties that used Optical Scan machines and paper ballots.
Senate State & Local Government Committee

Chairman Ken Yager, (615) 741-1449
Vice Chairman Jim Tracy, (615) 741-1066
Secretary Lowe Finney, (615) 741-1810
Senator Stacey Campfield, (615) 741-1766
Senator Mike Faulk, (615) 741-2061
Senator Thelma Harper, (615) 741-2453
Senator Joe Haynes, (615) 741-6679
Senator Bill Ketron, (615) 741-6853
Senator Mark Norris, (615) 741-1967


House State & Local Government Subcommittee

Chairman Bob Ramsey, 615-741-3560
Vice-Chair Ryan Haynes, 615-741-2264
Rep. Tommie Brown, 615-741-4374
Rep. Jim Cobb, 615-741-1450
Rep. Gerald McCormick, 615-741-2548
Rep. Larry Miller, 615-741-4453
Rep. Curry Todd, 615-741-1866
Rep. Rep. Mike Turner, 615-741-3229
Rep. Kent Williams, 615-741-7450

House Finance Subcommittee

Chairman Michael Harrison, (615) 741-7480
Vice-Chair Curtis Johnson, (615) 741-4341
Rep Kevin Brooks, (615) 741-1350
Rep. Lois DeBerry, (615) 741-3830
Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, (615) 741-2134
Rep. Judd Matheny, (615) 741-7448
Rep. Gerald McCormick, 615) 741-2548
Rep. Steve McDaniel, (615) 741-0750
Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, (615) 741-3774
Rep. Gary Odom, (615) 741-4410
Rep. Dennis Roach, (615) 741-2534
Rep. Charles Sargent, (615) 741-6808
Rep. Harry Tindell, (615) 741-2031
Rep. Johnny Shaw, (615) 741-4538


Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee's premier consumer rights organization. Our mission is to work tirelessly to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee.

For more info go to www.tnca.org or send an email to info@tnca.org.

Monday, April 11, 2011

From RollingStone

Tax Cuts for the Rich on the Backs of the Middle Class; or, Paul Ryan Has Balls

Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan. All of these smug little jerks look alike to me – from Ralph Reed to Eric Cantor to Jeb Hensarling to Rand Paul and now to Ryan, they all look like overgrown kids who got nipple-twisted in the halls in high school, worked as Applebee’s shift managers in college, and are now taking revenge on the world as grownups by defunding hospice care and student loans and Sesame Street. They all look like they sleep with their ties on, and keep their feet in dress socks when doing their bi-monthly duty with their wives.

Every few years or so, the Republicans trot out one of these little whippersnappers, who offer proposals to hack away at the federal budget. Each successive whippersnapper inevitably tries, rhetorically, to out-mean the previous one, and their proposals are inevitably couched as the boldest and most ambitious deficit-reduction plans ever seen. Each time, we are told that these plans mark the end of the budgetary reign of terror long ago imposed by the entitlement system begun by FDR and furthered by LBJ.

Never mind that each time the Republicans actually come into power, federal deficit spending explodes and these whippersnappers somehow never get around to touching Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The key is that for the many years before that moment of truth, before these buffoons actually get a chance to put their money where their lipless little mouths are, they will stomp their feet and scream about how entitlements are bringing us to the edge of apocalypse.

The reason for this is always the same: the Republicans, quite smartly, recognize that there is great political hay to be made in the appearance of deficit reduction, and that white middle class voters will respond with overwhelming enthusiasm to any call for reductions in the “welfare state,” a term which said voters will instantly associate with black welfare moms and Mexicans sneaking over the border to visit American emergency rooms.

The problem, of course, is that to actually make significant cuts in what is left of the “welfare state,” one has to cut Medicare and Medicaid, programs overwhelmingly patronized by white people, and particularly white seniors. So when the time comes to actually pull the trigger on the proposed reductions, the whippersnappers are quietly removed from the stage and life goes on as usual, i.e. with massive deficit spending on defense, upper-class tax cuts, bailouts, corporate subsidies, and big handouts to Pharma and the insurance industries.

This is a political game that gets played out in the media over and over again, and everyone in Washington knows how it works. Which is why it’s nauseating (but not surprising) to see so many commentators falling over themselves with praise for Ryan’s “bold” budget proposal, which is supposedly a ballsy piece of politics because it proposes backdoor cuts in Medicare and Medicaid by redounding their appropriations to the states and to block grants. Ryan is being praised for thusly taking on seniors, a traditionally untouchable political demographic . Here is how old friend David Brooks, taking a break from his authorship of breathless master-race treatises, put it in a recent column called “Moment of Truth”:
Over the past few weeks, a number of groups, including the ex-chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers and 64 prominent budget experts, have issued letters arguing that the debt situation is so dire that doing nothing is not a survivable option. What they lacked was courageous political leadership — a powerful elected official willing to issue a proposal, willing to take a stand, willing to face the political perils.
The country lacked that leadership until today. Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes…
Brooks sums up the Ryan proposals this way:
The Ryan budget will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract. The initial coverage will talk about Ryan’s top number — the cuts of more than $4 trillion over the next decade. But the important thing is the way Ryan would reform programs…
Brooks then goes on to slobber over all of Ryan’s ostensibly daring proposals, from the Medicare block grants to the more obnoxious Medicare voucher program (replacing Medicare benefits with vouchers to buy overpriced private insurance, which Brooks calls the government “giving you a sum of money” to choose from “a regulated menu of insurance options”).

What he doesn’t mention is that Ryan’s proposal also includes dropping the top tax rate for rich people from 35 percent to 25 percent. All by itself, that one change means that the government would be collecting over $4 trillion less over the next ten years.

Since Brooks himself is talking about Ryan’s plan cutting $4 trillion over the next ten years (some say that number is higher), what we’re really talking about here is an ambitious program to cut taxes for people like… well, people like me and David Brooks, and paying for it by “consolidating job-training programs” and forcing old people to accept reduced Medicare benefits.

We are in the middle of a major national disagreement over budget priorities, and that debate is going to turn into a full-scale cultural shooting war once the 2012 presidential election season comes around. It is obvious that we have a debt problem in this country and that something needs to be done about it. But a huge part of the blame for the confusion and the national angst over our budget issues has to be laid at the feet of media assholes like Brooks, who continually misrepresent what is actually happening with national spending.

The last ten years or so have seen the government send massive amounts of money to people in the top tax brackets, mainly through two methods: huge tax cuts, and financial bailouts. The government has spent trillions of our national treasure bailing out Wall Street, which has resulted directly in enormous, record profit numbers – nearly $100 billion in the last three years (and that doesn’t even count the tens of billions more in inflated compensation and bonuses that came more or less directly from government aid). Add to that the $700 billion or so the Obama tax cuts added to the national debt over the next two years, and we’re looking at a trillion dollars of lost revenue in just a few years.

You push a policy like that in the middle of a shaky economy, of course we’re going to have debt problems. But the issue is being presented as if the debt comes entirely from growth in entitlement spending. It’s bad enough that middle-class taxpayers have been forced in the last few years to subsidize the vacations and beach houses of the idiots who caused the financial crisis, and it’s doubly insulting that they’re now being blamed for the budget mess.

But the icing on the cake comes when a guy like David Brooks – like me a coddled, overcompensated media yuppie whose idea of sacrifice is raking one’s own leaves – comes out and calls Paul Ryan courageous for having the guts to ask seniors to cut back on their health care in order to pay for our tax breaks.

The absurd thing is that Ryan’s act isn’t even politically courageous. It’s canny calculation, but courage it is not. It would be courageous if Ryan were, say, the president of the United States, and leaning on that budget with his full might. But Ryan is proposing a budget he knows would have no chance of passing in the Senate. He is simply playing out a part, a non-candidate for the presidency pushing a rhetorical flank for an out-of-power party leading into a presidential campaign year. If the budget is a hit with the public, the 2012 Republican candidate can run on it. If it isn’t, the Republican candidate can triangulate Ryan’s ass back into the obscurity from whence it came, and be done with him.

No matter what, Ryan’s gambit, ultimately, is all about trying to get middle-class voters to swallow paying for tax cuts for rich people. It takes chutzpah to try such a thing, but having a lot of balls is not the same as having courage.