Friday, April 27, 2012

Republicans strengthening marriage and clean government in North Carolina

Even as Republican-led effort to enshrine bigotry into the North Carolina Constitution through the amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions continues, their leadership is actively doing even more to "promote marriage" and "clean up government."

The Charlotte Observer reports
The chief of staff to state House Speaker Thom Tillis has been in an intimate relationship with a lobbyist for the North Carolina Home Builders Association, a special interest group that often seeks help from the legislature and provides money to political campaigns across the state.

...Both Thomas and Hayes are married to other people, according to public records.
The story goes on to note that Speaker Tillis and his philandering chief of staff share an apartment and that Speaker Tillis' campaign fund contributes towards the chief's rent.

Despite this, Speaker Tillis knows nothing of his chief's and roommate's infidelity. Um, sure.

Oddly though, the Speaker is rumored to have requested a secret service detail.

McCain to Obama: Don't Politicize National Security Like I Did

The Obama re-election team has released a video contrasting the President's decision to launch the successful raid on the Bin Laden compound with former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney's pitiful hedging.

Now that video has drawn the outrage of Sen. John McCain. The Hill reports
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) rebuked President Obama on Friday for using the anniversary of Obama bin Laden's death to score political points, calling it a "shameless end-zone dance."

"Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad," McCain said in a statement circulated by the Republican National Committee.

Where was Sen. McCain's shame in politicizing votes to support the troop surge in Iraq and vows to kill Bin Laden during his run for the White House?

People with better memories than the doddering Sen. McCain might think back a mere four years ago when his campaign released this shameless end-zone dance from a surrogate with respect to the Gov. Romney.
The next President of the United States must be a leader of courage, not a weather vane who shifts in the wind. John McCain will not waver in the face of the enemy. He's been tested under fire in war and did not wilt on Iraq when the polls went south and the drumbeat for withdrawal grew louder. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Governor Romney. When it came to unequivocally advocating and supporting the successful surge in Iraq, John McCain was rock solid while Governor Romney sought political cover by indicating his support for secret withdrawal timetables. At a critical moment, John McCain proved that he was ready to be Commander in Chief. Unfortunately, Governor Romney didn't. Governor Romney failed the test of leadership on the most crucial national security issue facing the United States with American combat forces in the field; he wilted. John McCain stood tall.
Or when Sen. McCain danced thusly (and shamelessly) with reference to his Democratic opponent
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told "Good Morning America" that he was glad Obama was in Iraq and insisted the trip will give his Democratic rival an opportunity to see the success of the surge strategy. "He'll be able to have the opportunity to see the success of the surge. It is a success. This is the same strategy that he voted against, railed against," McCain told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "He should admit he was wrong about the surge," McCain later added.
Or when Sen. McCain also danced.
Let me conclude by reminding you in wartime, judgment and experience matter. In a time of war, the commander-in-chief doesn’t get a learning curve. If I have that privilege, I will bring to the job many years of military and political experience; experience that gave me the judgment necessary to make the right call in Iraq a year and half ago.
Or when Sen. McCain shamelessly promised.
I want to assure you I have complete confidence I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Thank goodness we have a fine senator who is above this sort of shamelessness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Que es mas macho? The economy, demographics, and sensible border enforcement or reactionary Republican immigration policy

In the lead up to the presidential primaries, the Republican contenders engaged in a sorry nativist spectacle of playing «¿Qué es más macho?» with respect to immigration from Mexico. Republican legislators in Arizona, Alabama, and other states have also played a similar game with draconian anti-immigrant legislation.

Yesterday, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report on recent trends in Mexican immigration and their causes.
The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries.
You read that right, net migration in recent years from Mexico, legal and illegal, has fallen to zero.

The Pew Center study examined immigration through early 2010, the start of the economic recovery in the U.S. From 1995-2000, net migration from Mexico to the U.S. (the difference between in-migration and out-migration) was 2.3 million. From 2005-2010 however, net migration was just below zero, with 20,000 more Mexicans leaving the U.S. than entering.

The leveling off of immigration predates the most recent round of Republican chest-thumping. For example, Arizona passed its odious anti-immigration bill in April 2010 and didn't begin enforcing selected provisions until that summer. In essence, Republicans are falling all over themselves to shut the barn door several years after the horse escaped.

If the recent state legislation wasn't responsible for the immigration standstill, what was? The study provided some understandable and predictable U.S.-based explanations--the depressed employment situation in this country especially in the construction market, strengthened border security and enforcement, and an increase in deportations.

However, the also uncovered some other explanations that were Mexico-specific, including a slowing in that country's fertility rate and a general increase in its economic development. Regardless of conditions in the U.S., these Mexico-specific circumstances will continue to act as a brake on migration in the future.

To borrow from Laurie Anderson, ¿Qué es más macho? Una piña o republicanos reaccionarios?  

Una piña.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney displayed a little more of his own special common touch and understanding of the role of women last week when he sat down with eight Pittsburgh residents for a picnic-style get together.
“I’m not sure about these cookies,” Romney said, looking at the women and around the table. “They don’t look like you made them. Did you make those cookies? You didn’t, did you? No. No. They came from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever.”
A local CBS station captured Mr. Romney's boorish performance.

Mr. Romney knows better than to look a gift Austrian Warmblood or Missouri Foxtrotter in the mouth, but cookies? They're another thing altogether.

Mr. Romney managed to insult his hosts, the local bakery that actually provided the cookies, 7-Elevens, and small businesses generally. However, he may have picked a fight with someone even more important.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

If only tax collection was as efficient as the Food Stamp Program

This time of year, we are reminded of the pain of filing and paying least some of us are.

Each year scofflaw Americans skip out on hundred of billions of dollars in potential federal tax revenues. This noncompliance includes under-reporting income on tax forms, under-paying taxes that are filed and owed, and not filing at all. When the IRS last studied this issue in 2006, it found that $450 billion went unpaid because of noncompliance. Although the IRS was able to recover some of this, $385 billion, a seventh of all potential tax receipts, was never paid.

Noncompliance is grossly unfair, as some Americans pony up the money that they owe, while others get away with a lower effective tax bill or no taxes at all.

Noncompliance also adds to the deficit. Assuming that the noncompliance rate has remained about the same since 2006, unrecovered noncompliance will rob the treasury of more than $400 billion, which works out to just under a third of this year's projected federal deficit.

In testimony before Congress on Thursday, the GAO recommended a number of steps that Congress could take to reduce noncompliance, including
  • restoring funding to the IRS so that it could improve services to taxpayers, increase enforcement, and modernize its computer systems,
  • changing IRS practices to check taxpayers' compliance before issuing refunds, and 
  • simplifying the tax code.
Perfect compliance isn't feasible. Suppose, however, that Congress set the modest goal of making tax collection as efficient as the much-maligned Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program).

The estimated over-payment error rate for SNAP in FY 2010 was 3.05 percent, or less than a fifth of the tax non-compliance rate. Improving tax compliance to the SNAP level would bring in $325 billion this year, enough to pay for the entire federal costs of the SNAP more than four times over.

Even a single percentage point increase in tax compliance, from its currently level of about 86 percent to 87 percent, would bring in nearly $30 billion.

If Democrats and Republicans are truly interested in closing the deficit, they could properly fund the IRS and give it some the tools it needs to improve tax compliance. Alternatively, they could put the USDA in charge.

Friday, April 20, 2012

NC job growth a dead shark

Woody Allen had a great quip in Annie Hall. "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

A similar thing applies in job growth, and what we've got on our hands in terms of North Carolina job growth is a dead shark.

For the second month in a row, the monthly state jobs report indicates that job growth has completely, utterly, unmistakenly stalled. To borrow from another movie, job growth is not only merely dead, it's really most sincerely dead.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state lost 1,300 jobs on a seasonally-adjusted basis (basically no change in jobs) in March after adding a barely detectable 6,100 jobs the month before.

The national job report had indicated that the U.S. as a whole added a very modest number of jobs. However, even relative to this modest standard, North Carolina continued to under-perform.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Newt Gingrich and Amendment One

Joe Guarino and I seldom agree in our political wishes, but in at least one case, we couldn't agree more.

Commenting on a visit to Greensboro by Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Joe opined
It would certainly help the cause of the marriage amendment if he spends a lot of time here. More Gingrich visits to the Piedmont Triad over the next few weeks would be very welcome.
I too would welcome the former speaker's presence in the state campaigning as the doughy poster child for Amendment One.

Nothing could help more to expose the true intent of the amendment--to codify bigotry against lesbians and gays into the North Carolina Constitution while doing absolutely nothing to promote marriage--than to have the narcissistic, philandering, thrice-married, disgraced former speaker campaign on its behalf.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not the way to begin your outreach to women

As attention now shifts to the general election for President, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney begins with a huge 19-percentage-point gap among women.

During the Republican primaries, Gov. Romney pandered to the worst anti-woman elements of his party, promising to "get rid" of Planned Parenthood, reversing himself to eventually support the anti-contraception Blunt amendment, and refusing to call Rush Limbaugh out for his verbal assault of Sandra Fluke (saying instead that Limbaugh's hateful remarks were "not the language" that he would have used).

Having now reached the "etch-a-sketch" moment where he could begin an outreach with women, Gov. Romney indicated that he would focus on women's jobs and pay. However, his campaign has now fumbled that issue.
Asked today on a conference call if Mitt Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — a landmark law passed in 2009 that empowers women to seek restitution for pay discrimination — the presumed GOP nominee’s campaign officials told reporters, “We’ll get back to you on that.” The law, the first signed by President Obama after he took office, was killed by Republicans in 2008 and is named after a woman who discovered she was being paid less than her male counterparts for doing the exact same work.
Echoing Sen. Rand Paul's comments on the landmark Civil Rights Act, a Romney spokesperson later provided the mealy-mouthed follow-up that Gov. Romney "is not looking to change current law."

What a tremendous comfort that must be to women.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Republicans think there is too much coverage of the Trayvon Martin tragedy

The Pew Research Center has released a poll in which 56 percent of surveyed Republicans say that the press is providing too much coverage of the homicide of Trayvon Martin.

Republicans are a funny bunch when it comes to what should and shouldn't be covered.

In August 2009, when Pew asked people about the coverage of the "debate" over President Obama's citizenship, an identical fraction of Republicans, 56 percent, said that there was the "right amount" or "too little" coverage; only 26 percent of Republicans indicated that that there was "too much" of that issue.

To recap, a utterly phony and wholly disproved smear against a black politician deserves a lot of press coverage to 56 percent of Republicans, while the actual tragic death of an unarmed, innocent black teenager generates too much.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Greensboro Police "not sure" if anti-semitic graffiti is a hate crime

The News & Record reports this morning that three houses and a car in a Greensboro neighborhood were vandalized with spray paint. The tagging included obscenities and the word "jews."
Police were investigating possible hate crimes in Reedy Fork Ranch after three homes and a vehicle were spray painted late Friday or early Saturday on Elderbush Drive.

The graffiti included obscenities and the word Jew.

“We are treating it as a hate crime.” said Susan Danielsen, a department spokeswoman. “But we don’t know for sure if it is.”
One would hate for the Greensboro Police Department to go out on a limb for this one. There could be any number of reasons for someone to spray-paint anti-semitic graffiti.

Maybe this is just someone who wants to play words with friends but lacks a computer connection or a smart phone.

Maybe the auto-correct in the spray can accidentally inserted the word "jews" into the message.

Or maybe it was a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who was "standing his ground" when the houses and car attacked him.

The possibilities really are endless.