Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Mashup (3/26/11)

  • The New York Times published a great story yesterday telling us that General Electric — the world’s largest company — made $14.2 billion in profits ($5.1 billion in America) and managed to not pay a dime in federal taxes. In fact, the company actually received “a tax benefit of $3.2 billion,” as Think Progress tells us here.

    My little tribute to GE from about five years ago (yikes!) is here (and as you can tell from this, other multinationals operating in this country have managed to “skate” on the tax issue as well).

  • Also, I bring you the latest from the Repugs on the non-jobs front (here, with a “solution” in search of a problem)…

    RALEIGH, N.C. – Empowered by last year's elections, Republican leaders in about half the states are pushing to require voters to show photo ID at the polls despite little evidence of fraud and already-substantial punishments for those who vote illegally.

    Democrats claim the moves will disenfranchise poor and minority voters — many of whom traditionally vote for their candidates. The measures will also increase spending and oversight in some states even as Republicans are focused on cutting budgets and decreasing regulations.

    Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican, said he believes his state's proposed photo ID law will increase citizen confidence in the process and combat fraud that could be going undetected.

    "I can't figure out who it would disenfranchise," Hargett said. "The only people I can think it disenfranchises is those people who might be voting illegally."
    Spoken like a Republican – meanwhile, as noted here…

    There truly is no difference between Poll Tests, Poll Taxes and the hysteria being whipped up by the GOP about ‘ Voter Fraud’. Under the guise of ‘Voter Fraud’, the GOP is doing their best to create all these laws that will limit the Democratic Party’s voting base. This is a deliberate and concerted effort. They don’t care about ‘Voter Fraud’, because, for all their yelping about ‘Voter Fraud’, look at the DOJ Statistics. During the Bush years, they couldn’t pull together enough of the so-called ‘ Voter Fraud’ cases to fill a schoolbus.

    But, DELIBERATELY went about IGNORING the ACTUAL voter suppression of minorities and young people through voter caging and other GOP schemes- the repeated challenges and attempts to gut the Voting Rights Act.
    And lest anyone think our beloved commonwealth is immune, this post from The Pennsylvania Progressive tell us that Repug State House Rep Daryl Metcalfe is trying to push through a similar vote of his own, even though, as the post tells us, Metcalfe’s “expert” from The Heritage Foundation (of course) couldn’t cite any actual instances of voter fraud.

    And speaking of voter suppression, I’m sure our Bucks County Board of Elections and District Attorney David Heckler will be getting to the bottom of the Ciervo/Fitzpatrick letter from last November’s election any day now…any day now…

  • Next, here is last week’s Area Votes in Congress writeup from The Philadelphia Inquirer…


    Stopgap 2011 budget. Voting 271-158, the House passed a stopgap fiscal 2011 budget (HJ Res 48) to keep the government fully in operation between March 18 and April 8 while cutting spending by $6.1 billion over that period. The bill would cut $3.5 billion from 25 individual programs and rescind $2.6 billion in congressional earmarks abandoned by their sponsors. This is the sixth temporary budget Congress has passed for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
    I can appreciate the fact that Andrews’ vote was a principled objection. As for the other two, I don’t think they know what the word “principle” means.

    Social Security, Medicare. Voting 190-239, the House defeated a Democratic motion to ensure that no funds in HJ Res 48 (above) could be used to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits, privatize Social Security, or switch Medicare to a voucher plan.

    A yes vote backed the motion.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    This was a really good idea, so of course the Repugs just had to defeat it.

    Foreclosed, abandoned homes. Voting 242-182, the House passed a Republican bill (HR 861) to repeal the three-year-old Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The program provides cities and nonprofits with funds for buying, repairing, and selling foreclosed, abandoned homes in order to keep neighborhoods intact. While government auditors have found waste in the program, its defenders say it should be improved, not ended. About $6 billion of the program's $7 billion budget has been allocated. The bill awaits Senate action.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, and Fattah.

    Not voting: Schwartz.
    As is so often the case with legislation affecting the lives of everyday people, this was commented on as follows by Dennis Kucinich (here)…

    “You know, Mr. Speaker and to my friends on both sides of the aisle, we could very easily come up with money to save this program if we just put a windfall profits tax on the oil companies. I am here today to point out the critical importance the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and to urge my fellow members to vote against canceling it.

    “Over the past decade, the people of Ohio and my district in particular have weathered a terrible perfect storm of foreclosures, devastating entire communities. While some neighborhoods in my district have been hollowed out by the effects of this storm, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds have made neighborhoods and communities safer.

    “Those communities faced the constant risk of crime and of vandals taking advantage of empty structures, and Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds have been used to demolish hundreds of abandoned homes in those neighborhoods. They have helped protect existing home values and prevented neighborhoods from falling apart.

    “But the NSP program has not just financed the demolition of abandoned structures. In Cuyahoga County alone, this program funded the creation of 237 units of affordable rental housing and 25 single-family home renovations and neighborhood greenspace improvements.

    “It has also been used to leverage non-federal money to fund the innovative Land Bank—a public entity which buys vacant and abandoned land and puts ownership of that land back in the hands of the public so that it can be used again, often in conjunction with private development, to renew and revitalize communities.
    So of course, a program that no doubt has done so much good when you amplify the results across the country had to be killed in the name of fiscal prudence (the sort of thing Professor Krugman railed against yesterday here).

    Afghanistan withdrawal. Voting 93-321, the House defeated a measure (H Con Res 28) to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by Dec. 31 under the 1973 War Powers Act. That law requires presidents to end combat operations after 90 days unless Congress authorizes the deployment. Opponents of withdrawal argue that the action is legal under the "use of force" resolution enacted Sept. 18, 2001. The previous House attempt to end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan occurred in March 2010 and failed on a vote of 65-356.

    A yes vote backed the resolution.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    National Public Radio. The House voted, 228-192, to permanently end federal funding of NPR, formerly known as National Public Radio. The bill (HR 1076) bars direct taxpayer funding of NPR while prohibiting its 400 member stations from using federal funds to buy programming from or pay dues to NPR. Republicans said the bill would save $64 million annually at present funding levels.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    As I’ve said, as horrible and wrong-headed a vote as this is, part of me really wants to see public radio take a hit over this. That way, voters who in their pig-headed ignorance actually returned these clowns to power last year will always remember that it’s their fault when they try to tune in to “From The Top” or “Jazz At Lincoln Center” and find out that those programs are gone for good.


    Temporary 2011 budget. Voting 87-13, the Senate joined the House (above) in approving a stopgap budget that will expire April 8. This is the sixth temporary spending bill passed by Congress since fiscal 2011 began Oct. 1.

    A yes vote was to send the bill (HJ Res 48) to the White House.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).

    Small-business contracts. The Senate voted, 84-12, to begin debate on a bill (S 493) extending two programs under which certain federal agencies set aside a portion of their research, development and technology contracts for small businesses. The bill extends the Small Business Innovation and Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Program at a cost of $150 million over five years in discretionary spending. Under the former, at least 2.5 percent of contracts must go to small businesses. Under the latter, the set-aside is 0.3 percent. The bill would gradually raise those shares over several years.

    A yes vote was to advance the bill.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, and Menendez.

    Voting no: Toomey.
    Another sterling non-job creation vote from “No Corporate Tax” Pat…

    This week, Congress was in recess (poor babies, so tuckered out from their exhausting workload, I know). In the following week, the House will take up a repeal of a program that uses federal subsidies to ease terms of at-risk mortgages, and the Senate will resume work on a bill awarding federal contracts to spur small-business innovation.

  • Finally, I was intrigued by this item from Right Wing Watch, in which some huckster named David Barton helped kick off something called “Rediscover God in America,” a forum for Repug presidential wannabes (not surprisingly, Barton seems to be gravitating towards Mike Huckabee as the Repug presidential nominee…oh please, let it be so – Wayne DuMond will become a bigger household name than Bill Ayres, and the former actually killed somebody).

    And in his You Tube spiel, Barton tells us, among other things, that the Bible tells us that Jesus opposed the capital gains tax (citing Luke 19:13-26 as “proof”), as well as a progressive income tax (Leviticus from the Old Testament 27:32, Numbers 18, 28, 29…real thorough sourcing there…and Deuteronomy 14:22).

    Barton also tells us the Bible supposedly had something to say about the estate tax, citing Proverbs 13:22, 1 Chronicles 28:8, and Ezekiel 46:18.

    Well, just for the heck of it, I checked the estate tax references, and this is what I found – Proverbs is up first…

    See here, 1. How a good man's estate lasts: He leaves an inheritance to his children's children. It is part of his praise that he is thoughtful for posterity, that he does not lay all out upon himself, but is in care to do well for those that come after him, not by withholding more than is meet, but by a prudent and decent frugality.
    This tells us that, because he had the good fortune to die in a year with no estate tax, the heirs of former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner will end up paying zilch – and tell me how Steinbrenner exemplified “a prudent and decent frugality,” by the way.

    Next up is 1 Chronicles…

    And the children of Israel carried captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, sons and daughters,.... Which was a very large and unusual number to be carried captive; but having made such a slaughter of the men, and the rest being intimidated thereby, it was the more easily done:
    Soo…the rich are supposed to capture entire families into slavery? Gosh, I hope nobody tells Leonard Weaver of the Philadelphia Eagles (OK, this is snark, I’ll admit – the guy apologized here, so let’s give him a break, OK?).

    And lastly, I give you Ezekiel 46:18…

    Moreover the prince shall not take of the people's inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of their possession,.... Christ, the Prince, will never do this; he will never take any part of his people's inheritance from them, or thrust them out of the possession of any benefit or blessing of grace; they have chosen that good part which shall never be taken from them, Luke 10:42, this is said, not as a direction to the prince, as a law enjoined him, or a caution to him against oppression; but as expressing his clemency, grace, and goodness to his subjects, and their safety and security under him:
    I’ll tell you what – I’ll go better than a prince on this one: I’ll give you a King here (heh).

    Yep, that would be Repug House wingnut Steve King of Iowa, who said that people would die thinking about the estate tax if Congress doesn’t act (thought, logically, if people were so afraid of the estate tax, wouldn’t they try to spite it by staying alive, as Keith Olbermann once pointed out?)

    So basically, according to Barton, the Bible says the estate tax is bad because it requires a prudent and decent frugality while capturing two hundred thousand women while expressing clemency, grace and goodness. Everybody got that?

    And people actually wonder why I don’t take the wingnuts seriously.
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