Corporate socialism: suckling billions in profits from the government teat

More proof that multi-billion dollar corporations like McDonald’s are quite successfully bilking the American taxpayer to increase their own take-home profits:

Video: McDonald’s tells workers to get food stamps – Salon.com – An audio recording released by labor activists Wednesday afternoon captures a staffer for McDonald’s’ “McResources Line” instructing a McDonald’s worker how to apply for public assistance.

The audio – excerpted in the campaign video below – records a conversation between Chicago worker Nancy Salgado, a ten-year employee currently making the Illinois state minimum wage of $8.25, and a counselor staffing the company’s “McResources” 1-800 number for McDonald’s workers. The McResources staffer offers her a number to “ask about things like food pantries” and tells her she “would most likely be eligible for SNAP benefits” which she explains are “food stamps.” After Salgado asks about “the doctor,” the staffer asks, “Did you try to get on Medicaid?” She notes it’s “health coverage for low income or no income adults and children.”

“It was really, really upsetting,” Salgado told Salon Wednesday, “knowing that McDonald’s knows that they don’t pay us enough, and we have to rely on this.” Noting that McDonald’s was “a billionaire company,” she asked, “how can they not afford to pay us?”

Of course McDonald’s (and other fast-food / big box retail corporations) could afford to pay their employees better wages and stop draining so much out of the taxpayer-funded safety net, but that would mean the corporate big wigs would have to share or reinvest some of their profits.

The new video follows two reports released last week… which estimated that fast food workers utilize nearly $7 billion annually in public assistance, while fast food corporations last year netted $7.4 billion profits.

And, by the way, many of these companies (and their executives) don’t contribute as much to the safety net as, proportionally speaking, the average middle-class taxpayer. As Scott Klinger recently noted:

In the 1950s, corporations paid nearly a third of the federal government’s bills. Last year… corporate income taxes accounted for less than a tenth of Uncle Sam’s total revenue.

Over the past year, one in nine of the companies listed on the S&P 500 paid an effective tax rate of zero percent–that’s zero as in nothing–and that’s on top of taxpayers picking up the tab on public assistance for those profitable corporations who won’t pay their workers a living wage.

There are 57 separate companies listed on the index that paid a zero percent rate from the past year. Those companies include both household names like Verizon and News Corp. and lesser-known corporate giants like the data storage manufacturer Seagate (market value $15.9 billion) and Public Storage (market value $29.5 billion). Many of the companies USA Today identified in its analysis as paying negative rates make the list because they lost money, but several were profitable. Previous analyses have shown that the typical corporation pays a lower effective tax rate than most middle-class families, and a far lower one than the statutory corporate tax rate against which business interests disingenuously rail.

Even though Mitt Romney tried to convince us that “corporations are people, my friend,” the majority of corporations today are not our “neighbors,” they don’t contribute towards the greater good of whichever country they’ve parked a headquarters—in fact, today’s corporations (and their executives) actually seem to do whatever is necessary to get out of contributing their proportional share towards the society which benefits them so greatly. Today’s corporations are run by people who are low on talent and basic morality, but are paid enormous sums of money. And they are nothing like those who came before them. Vanity Fair remembers,

In 1914, [Henry] Ford decided to pay his employees a rich wage and otherwise improve the working conditions…

In January 1914, (Henry Ford) startled the world by announcing that Ford Motor Company would pay $5 a day to its workers. The pay increase would also be accompanied by a shorter workday (from nine to eight hours). While this rate didn’t automatically apply to every worker, it more than doubled the average autoworker’s wage. While Henry’s primary objective was to reduce worker attrition—labor turnover from monotonous assembly line work was high—newspapers from all over the world reported the story as an extraordinary gesture of goodwill.

After Ford’s announcement, thousands of prospective workers showed up at the Ford Motor Company employment office. People surged toward Detroit from the American South and the nations of Europe. As expected, employee turnover diminished. And, by creating an eight-hour day, Ford could run three shifts instead of two, increasing productivity.

Henry Ford had reasoned that since it was now possible to build inexpensive cars in volume, more of them could be sold if employees could afford to buy them. The $5 day helped better the lot of all American workers and contributed to the emergence of the American middle class. In the process, Henry Ford had changed manufacturing forever.

Or, as Henry put it, raising wages “has the same effect as throwing a stone in a still pond,” creating an “ever-widening circle of buying” that increases the prosperity of a nation.

It’s simply a fact that Henry Ford didn’t base his decisions on what Ford Motor Company’s net profits would be the next quarter–he had much greater things to accomplish. Because of Henry’s decisions, an entire nation benefited for years, and you know what? So did his company. Unfortunately those times are over (Reaganomics was the beginning of The End), Henry Ford would be run out of most corporate boardrooms today, and the word Patriotism now holds some twisted meaning that includes offshore bank accounts for the wealthy and easy access to guns for the rest of us. There is no longer a balance or any kind of mutual respect between industrialists and workers—negotiated, contrived, or otherwise. And each one of us ought to ask ourselves, “how did we allow this to happen?” and more importantly, “how can we change it?

Here’s Bill Maher from last week:

“Now when it comes to raising the minimum wage, conservatives always say it’s a non-starter because it cuts into profits. Well… yeah. Of course. Paying workers is one of those unfortunate expenses of running a business. You know, like taxes or making a product. If you want to get rich with a tax-free enterprise that sells nothing, start a church.” 

“…And, look, even if you’re not moved by the Don’t-Be-Such-a-Heartless-Prick argument, consider the fact that most fast food workers (whose average age, by the way, now is 29–I’m not talking about kids) are on some form of public assistance. Which is not surprising… when even working people can’t make enough to live, they take money from the government in the form of food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance, daycare. This is the welfare that conservatives hate but they never stop to think: if we raise the minimum wage and force McDonald’s and Walmart to pay their employees enough to eat, we the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack. This is the question the Right has to answer: do you want smaller government with less handouts or do you want a low minimum wage–because you cannot have both. If Col. Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to. And I for one am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.” 

American Horror Story: Government Shutdown

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The U.S. Congress, as a whole, is making $2.95 every second. That’s $177 a minute and more than $250,000 a day. And yes, it’s still making that during the government shutdown it caused.
– Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) says he needs his paycheck during the shutdown to pay for his “nice house.”
– Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) says “I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line.”

– See: http://congressstillgetspaid.com

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This evening, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture announced that “an estimated 278 illnesses … reported in 18 states” have been caused by chicken contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg and possibly produced by the firm Foster Farms. “FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period,” the agency said in an emailed alert. “The outbreak is continuing.” // FSIS furloughed 1,218 of 9,633 federal employees.

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Food expert Marion Nestle asks whether government-shutdown-mandated furloughs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hampered its response to the salmonella outbreak at Foster Farms… The Heidelberg strain of salmonella appears to be especially virulent. As my colleague David Pierson reported, 42% of victims have been hospitalized, double the normal rate. One big problem: Some of the salmonella strains appear to be resistant to antibiotics. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the initial Public Health Alert, monitoring food-borne illnesses is the job of the CDC. Thanks to the Republican shutdown, the agency was operating with a skeleton crew when the outbreak appeared. // If you’re curious why the CDC’s absence from this outbreak is so critical, this description of how the CDC works in multi-state outbreaks — by organizing the investigation and deploying lab resources that no other agency possesses — is helpful.

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Most federal employees will receive a paycheck on Friday that’s only 60 percent of the usual amount, thanks to the government shutdown. This could be the last check they receive until agencies reopen. [...] The government shutdown affects the pay of both excepted employees — those still on the job — and furloughed workers. The pay of most excepted employees will be delayed but eventually they will be reimbursed for their hours [when the shutdown ends.] // USFS furloughed 18,755 of 32,015 federal employees. Fire crews and law enforcement remain on patrol to protect life and property.

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Benefit checks (including pensions) for veterans and their families would end Nov. 1, if the shutdown lasts through October, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told a congressional panel Wednesday morning… and most of the remaining 13,000 VBA workers will be furloughed.

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Most federal employees will receive a paycheck on Friday that’s only 60 percent of the usual amount, thanks to the government shutdown. This could be the last check they receive until agencies reopen.[...] The government shutdown affects the pay of both excepted employees — those still on the job — and furloughed workers. …Furloughed workers will only receive back pay if Congress approves it; those who worked for a few hours on Oct. 1 to close up shop will be paid for that time.

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The Utah Department of Workforce Services has seen a 500 percent increase of people requesting unemployment since the government shutdown turned federal employees away from work Tuesday. The state-run office usually process 2,000 unemployment claims a week, but since Tuesday has taken on 10,000.

Capturephoto source …aw, bb.

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A report released by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) set out the following numbers: 715,000 visitors lost daily based on October 2012 national park attendance numbers, $76 million in lost visitor spending per day and $450,000 in lost revenue each day that would go directly to the National Park Service ($300,000 in entrance fees and $150,000 in other in-park expenditures, such as campground fees, boat rentals, etc.). [...] Losses like these led the American Hotel Lodging Association to send a letter on Thursday to President Obama and members of the House and Senate urging them to reach an immediate agreement. The letter states, “Analysts say that for each day the federal government is shut down, collective American income is reduced approximately $200 million, and our nation’s hotels are losing more than $8 million in economic activity – putting jobs at risk and causing repercussions across many other related sectors. Communities near national parks are expected to lose $76 million a day in visitor spending.”

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New distilleries, breweries and wineries cannot open. Certain businesses that manufacture or distribute alcohol — and firearms, ammunition and tobacco products — require permits [to operate] from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which won’t accept new applications during the shutdown. // An obscure but powerful arm of the Treasury Department has stopped approving new brews... Jim Koch, founder and brewer of Boston-based Samuel Adams…said that while it’s important to keep the focus on how ordinary people are being hurt by the shutdown, “we will quickly see the downstream effects on businesses and industries. … In short, new breweries cannot start up and new beers cannot be sold.” // 448 of 483 TTB employees were furloughed on Oct. 1.

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At the close of business today, more than 90 percent of the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will go home on furlough as a result of the government shutdown. The Commission had been operating on carryover funds since last Monday, when the shutdown began, but those funds run out today, reducing the staff to a skeleton crew of 300 “essential” personnel who will be responsible for monitoring the nation’s 63 nuclear sites until the government reopens. 

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Processing of oil and gas permits by the Bureau of Land Management [has come] to a halt. BLM will continue to monitor ongoing oil, gas, coal and other mineral operations. BLM will keep inspectors and enforcement personnel on the job for some activities, including overseeing some drilling operations and patrolling oil and gas fields “to make sure that theft of oil or condensate is not occurring.” Alaska pipeline operations will also keep going because funding comes from non-federal sources and for health and safety reasons. // The Dept. of Interior furloughed 58,765 of 72,562 federal employees.

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Patients hoping to enroll for treatment in cutting-edge research studies at the National Institutes of Health’s renowned hospital will have to seek care elsewhere during the government shutdown. Each week that a shutdown lasts would force the agency’s research-only hospital to turn away an estimated 200 patients, 30 of them children… [...] For the fiscal year that ended Monday, NIH was able to fund only about 16 percent of the grant applications it received, Collins said, down from about 1 in 3 applications funded a decade ago. That’s because earlier this year, NIH lost $1.5 billion of its $31 billion budget to automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, after years of budgets that didn’t keep up with inflation.

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[Arizona] stopped payments averaging $207 a week to 5,200 families eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families after Tuesday’s government shutdown… The Arizona Republic reports the decision came despite assurances from federal officials that states would be reimbursed for any payments they made for the federal program. It also comes as the state sits on a $450 million rainy day fund.

NOTE: Gov. Jan Brewer paid the federal government a $651,000 donation allowing Park Service employees to reopen [Grand Canyon National Park] and manage it through Oct. 18, the park service said Friday in a statement..

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The distribution of Social Security benefits will continue, but services like issuing new Social Security cards have ceased. “I just came in here to see if mailing a disability questionnaire late will affect my son’s benefits,” an 81-year-old Howard Beach woman said as she left the Rego Park Social Security office. “ All the supervisor told me was that he doesn’t know, that he couldn’t help me.” For some, that frustration has turned into anger. “It was a bad experience in there,” the woman added. “One man was so mad, he nearly punched the worker through the glass window.” // SSA furloughed 18,006 of 62,343 federal employees.

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The Food and Drug Administration has been forced to suspend all routine food safety inspections for the duration of the government shutdown, FDA spokesman Steven Immergut confirmed to The Huffington Post on Friday afternoon. Until funding is restored, the FDA will be inspecting only those facilities that it has cause to believe “present an immediate threat to public health.” // FDA furloughed 976 of 1602 investigators.

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In a post on his personal Facebook page that was later deleted, Pearce urged government workers to call their banks and take out a short-term loan if money is tight. “If you are a furloughed government employee, we encourage you to reach out to your financial institution as soon as you worry you may miss a paycheck,” read the post. “Don’t wait until you are behind on a bill; call now and explore your options. [Pearce is one of the 50 richest members of Congress, with a net worth of $8 million. ]

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The House gym reserved exclusively for lawmakers remains open during the shutdown. It features a swimming pool, basketball courts, a sauna and steam room. “This job is very stressful and if you don’t have a place to vent, you are going to go crazy and that’s why I’ve used it all these years,” said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who has been a user since 1973. While there’s no towel service available during these tough times, taxpayers are still paying for maintenance and cleaning. The House gym for staff members, however, is closed. // And for [lawmakers and their staff] who feel like relaxing, there’s a special little subway car …to get them there in a ride that takes about 30 seconds. The trains remain staffed and functioning during the shutdown.

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More episodes of American Horror Story: Government Shutdown, as time goes on:

“The longer this goes on, the worse it will be.”President Obama

  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulates trading on Wall Street. The CFTC has sent home 680 of its 708 employees. “They’re monitoring a $300-trillion market,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “How many people are being ripped off, right now? The cops are off the beat.”
  • Engineering firm URS Corp and British defense contractor BAE Systems added a further 4,200 to the number of workers who have been temporarily laid off due to the U.S. government shutdown.
  • Boeing Co. (BA) said it may furlough workers at its defense, space and security unit should the U.S. government’s partial shutdown continue. … He declined to say how many employees may be idled.
  • Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin said Monday that it would trim its planned furloughs to about 2,400 employees—most of whom are based in the D.C. area—in light of the Pentagon’s decision to recall most of its civilians workers.
  • 10/8/13: One industry group estimated that after another week of shutdown, up to 300,000 government contractors could be out of work.
  • Many state governments, including North Carolina, Rhode Island, Arkansas, are also furloughing employees whose pay depends on federal funding. Wyoming furloughed 231 state employees whose salaries are paid in full or in part by the federal government.
  • A recent study released by WalletHub claims that Idaho is one of the hardest-hit states in the union, when it comes to the shutdown. Idaho checks in at ninth, due to our high reliance on federal contracting work (much of which has been put on stand-by) and our high reliance on loans from the U.S. Small Business Association (which can’t be processed). Idaho will feel even more impact from the shutdown next week, when logging in national forests is halted.
  • The housing market is expected to slow down because lenders won’t be able to verify borrowers’ incomes with the IRS and Social Security Administration. Borrowers will also face delays getting mortgage insurance from the Federal Housing Authority, which guarantees about 15% of new loans.
  • Many small business employers rely on E-Verify (an online program of the Department of Naturalization and Immigration Services) to determine a potential employee’s eligibility. But that resource is currently unavailable. 
  • Furloughs for federal inspectors also kept the National Transportation Safety Board from dispatching a team to investigate a fatal explosion on a Washington Metro line over the weekend. // Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB and a West Virginia native, said there have been 14 accidents since the shutdown began — including a school bus accident in Tennessee and a worker who died on the D.C. Metro subway system — that the agency has been unable to investigate because of the shutdown. “Safety delayed is safety denied,” Hersman said.
  • National weather and emergency preparedness resources are not available.
  • The government’s Small Business Administration, Federal Housing Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency are essentially out of reach for many people applying for funds…government funding for these agencies has essentially been halted
  • Agriculture producers cannot get market reports.
  • Government approvals for fishing and quotas are unavailable, a situation that is costing seafood companies tens of thousands of dollars. 
  • Illinois officials are scaling back on certain hospital and nursing home inspections because of the partial federal government shutdown. …a state agency gets about $1.3 million a month to pay for inspections of medical facilities. But the shutdown means the money isn’t heading to Illinois. So the Illinois Department of Public Health has put certain inspections on hiatus.
  • Head StartAfter reports during the first week of shutdown that some Head Start programs had been shuttered in Florida, Connecticut and a few other states, more programs will likely shut as local programs run out of money. [Some conservatives see the curtailing of a pre-school program for low income families not as a crisis, but as an opportunity.]
  • WIC [Women, Infants, and Children] If the federal government is still shut down at the end of October, 38,000 women and young children (in Washington state) will lose access to an important federal nutrition subsidy called WIC, and 82 King County staff will be laid off.
  • Meals on Wheelsthe shutdown comes on top of the this year’s sequester, which resulted in a roughly 8% overall cut in federal funding for Meals on Wheels, a percentage that might be higher or lower for individual programs. [How many veterans receive Meals on Wheels? It's too bad GOP politicians care more about photo-ops at national monuments than whether those elderly veterans in wheelchairs will receive something to eat in the weeks ahead.]
  • Salvation Army: The impacts of the government shut down can be seen on the shelves of the Salvation Army’s food pantry. “Usually shelves would be full like this,” explained Volpone. Since the shut down began, the Salvation Army says it is feeding 40 more mouths a day than normal.
  • Many exports and imports – including steel, lumber and computer equipment – cannot move over the border without specific permits from the federal government, permits that aren’t being given because of the shutdown.
  • Environmental Protection AgencyAll pesticide imports to the U.S. have been halted, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which must approve them but has had more than 90% of its staff furloughed.
  • U.S. Department of CommerceSome U.S. technology companies can’t fill overseas orders because they cannot obtain U.S. Department of Commerce authorization to export. Steel imports are stranded at customs-clearance warehouses awaiting paperwork.
  • MSHA [Mine Safety and Health Administration]: gave lay off notices to nearly 1,400 employees who enforce mine safety laws from West Virginia to Montana. Those cutbacks mean safety regulators can’t do routine inspections of those high-hazard workplaces. Since the shutdown began, three mine workers died in separate accidents that occurred over a three day span. However, there isn’t any indication that those deaths occurred because of fewer inspections… But its been enough to send a red flag to officials with the united mine workers of America, and local miners as they continue their work.
  • With ninety per cent of OSHA employees furloughed, workplace-safety inspections aren’t taking place.
  • Ninety per cent of EPA workers are also staying home, which means inspections of toxic-waste sites have stopped.
  • The CDC has stopped monitoring the spread of the flu.
  • As scientists had feared, today (Oct. 8) the National Science Foundation announced it was canceling the U.S. Antarctic research program for this year because of the ongoing government shutdown… The shutdown means the cancellation of millions of dollars of planned research. Graduate students may have to stay in school longer because they won’t get the data they need to complete their research. Contractors are losing their jobs. Other countries, including New Zealand, France and Italy, rely on the United States’ sea-ice runway at McMurdo Station and may not be able to conduct their own research after the pullout.
  • As a result of the federal government shutdown, many resources that researchers, academics, and library patrons depend on—like the Library of Congress (LC) archives—have been rendered unavailable in the last week. [From comments: A great deal of research is done at National Laboratories, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory, including library/digital library research, which are slated to shutdown at midnight 18th of October.]
  • Oct. 16: Federal courts could shut down. Administrators say the courts will stay open for roughly the first 10 business days of the shutdown, but they say they would have to reassess matters on Oct. 15.
  • After Oct. 17, the Treasury would have about $30 billion on hand, enough to cover only a few days. Predictions for the fallout in the financial markets are catastrophic.
  • Some economists have estimated that the shutdown costs the U.S. economy $300 million a day.
  • If the shutdown stretches through the end of October, experts at Moody’s Analytics predict a total economic impact of $50 billion.

The Republican Party’s dereliction of duty

President Obama’s Oct. 8 news conference on the shutdown and debt limit

“In the same way, members of Congress, and the House Republicans in particular, don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs. And two of their very basic jobs are passing a budget and making sure that America’s paying its bills. They don’t also get to say, you know, unless you give me what the voters rejected in the last election, I’m going to cause a recession. That’s not how it works. No American president would deal with a foreign leader like this. Most of you would not deal with either co- workers or business associates in this fashion. And we shouldn’t be dealing this way here in Washington.” [...]

“If Congress refuses to raise what’s called the debt ceiling, America would not be able to meet all of our financial obligations for the first time in 225 years. And because it’s called raising the debt ceiling, I think a lot of Americans think it’s raising our debt. It is not raising our debt. This does not add a dime to our debt. It simply says you pay for what Congress has already authorized America to purchase, whether that’s the greatest military in the world or veterans’ benefits or Social Security. Whatever it is that Congress has already authorized, what this does is make sure that we can pay those bills.” [...]

“Warren Buffett likened default to a nuclear bomb, a weapon too horrible to use. It would disrupt markets, it would undermine the world’s confidence in America as the bedrock of the global economy, and it might permanently increase our borrowing costs which, of course, ironically would mean that it would be more expensive for us to service what debt we do have and it would add to our deficits and our debt, not decrease them.There’s nothing fiscally responsible about that. Preventing this should be simple. As I said, raising the debt ceiling is a lousy name, which is why members of Congress in both parties don’t like to vote on it, because it makes you vulnerable in political campaigns. But it does not increase our debt. It does not grow our deficit, it does not allow for a single dime of increased spending. All it does is allow the Treasury Department to pay for what Congress has already spent.”

“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy…Democracy doesn’t function this way. And this is not just for me; it’s also for my successors in office. Whatever party they’re from, they shouldn’t have to pay a ransom either for Congress doing its basic job. We’ve got to put a stop to it….We’re not going to pay a ransom for America to pay its bills.”

Charlie PierceBut the basic position remains the same. Nothing happens until the vandalism stops and the hostage gets released. This is to keep the presidency intact for future presidents. This is to maintain the delicate separation of powers guaranteed to us by our Founders. This is also because the other side is completely riddled with public morons.

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HERE ARE OPINIONS about the shutdown and debt ceiling from some the hardliners of the Republican House, the extreme of the extremists, the mullahs of the anti-government insurgents. They fall into two main categories, depending on the audience: (1) breaching the debt ceiling is no biggie, or (2) the debt ceiling is an excellent hostage to negotiate with (which automatically negates position #1):

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) – debt ceiling is no biggie: “There’s always revenue coming into the Treasury, certainly enough revenue to pay interest. Democrats have a different definition of ‘default’ than what we understand it to be. What I hear from them is, ‘If you’re not paying everything on time that’s a default.’ And that’s not the traditionally understood definition.”

Michele Bachman (R-Mars) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations“President Obama can’t wait to get Americans addicted to the crack cocaine of dependency on more government health care,” she said in an interview with the far-right WorldNetDaily site where she regularly gives explosive interviews. Once they enroll millions of more individual Americans, it will be virtually impossible for us to pull these benefits back from people,” Bachmann continued. “All they want to do is buy love from people by giving them massive government subsidies. … “Now is the time to put it out of its misery. We have to do what we can do. Whether that means defunding it instead of repealing it, I’m for it. If it means delaying it, rather than repealing it. I’m for it.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “As we look at the debt ceiling, we do have to look at tax reform, we do have to look at entitlement reform and maybe we’re at the point where we have to roll the CR and the debt ceiling discussion together.” In addition to healthcare reforms, the bill would attempt to rewrite tax codes and reform entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: Congressman Mo Brooks says he is not bluffing. If Congress does not slash welfare programs, or take steps to adopt a balanced budget, he will vote against raising the debt ceiling. “We address the cause of the problem or else I vote against it” … He said public benefits program would also include Obamacare.

Dr. Rep. Paul Broun (MD! R-GA) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “Obamacare is going to destroy everything we know as a nation… Wolf, I’m a doctor. I’m a medical doctor!” [Blitzer then asked] “I know you hate it, but I just want to be precise. America is going to be destroyed, you say, by Obamacare. America? This United States of America is going to be destroyed if this law is fully implemented? Is that what I hear you say?” [Dr.] Rep. Broun finally answered: “Well, it’s going to take us off the edge economically. It’s going to destroy our economy and it’s going to push us into a total economic collapse of America. And that’s exactly what I mean by it’s going to destroy America.”

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: [Culberson] said he was holding firm in demanding major adjustments to Obamacare because he had been elected to defend “core principles.” Culberson could just as well have said he was defending core beliefs, for that is an essential element in radically conservative politics today.

Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: It’s anybody’s guess when the budget stalemate will be resolved. DeSantis was settling in for a long fight and hinted that passage of a spending bill may be linked to the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: [DesJarlais said] that the government shutdown could last for as long as it takes to defund or at least delay implementation of the Affordable Health Care for America Act. “We’re pretty resolved in our position that this is a necessary step for the future of this country, really, in terms of the debt and deficit. If we don’t stand firm on this issue — we were in trouble financially before the health care law — it’s just going to be almost exponential if we can’t stop this,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “The government’s been shut down 17 times in the past,” said [Duncan]… “The majority of those were controlled by a Democrat Congress.” His very next words: “This isn’t about shutting the government down. Republicans have a plan to keep government funded but also be responsible to American voters that spoke very loudly to us that they don’t like Obamacare. Obamacare is actually shutting down America.” In 20 seconds, Duncan had insisted that a government shutdown wasn’t a huge deal, and that of course Republicans would never be holding the smoking gun for such a devastating act. One reporter followed up with Duncan, asking why Barack Obama’s election didn’t prove that “voters” had also spoken loudly in favor of the law. “I was re-elected in 2012, too,” says Duncan.

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations:  [Fleming] reacted, “I just don’t think there’d be hardly any Republicans in support of raising the debt ceiling without cuts to spending, changes to Obamacare, and perhaps other issues.”

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “They may try to throw the kitchen sink at the debt limit, but I don’t think our conference will be amenable for settling for a collection of things after we’ve fought so hard. If it doesn’t have a full delay or defund of Obamacare, I know I and many others will not be able to support whatever the leadership proposes. If it’s just a repeal of the medical-device tax, or chained CPI, that won’t be enough.”

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: Gingrey told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that he and other House Republicans are “not posturing” when they say are willing to hit the debt ceiling in order to win concessions from Democrats, no matter the political consequences. “I mean, they seem to think that we will miss this opportunity for a ‘Braveheart’ moment to do the right thing for the American people and that we’ll back down for fear of losing the House and not gaining control of the Senate,” Gingrey said. The 1995 movie is based on William Wallace, who died in the 14th century after fighting in the Wars of Scottish Independence for Scotland’s freedom. “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” he bellows during the film’s most famous scene.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) – debt ceiling is no biggie (plus bonus conspiracy theory if it happens!): [Gohmert] asserted this week that the government shutdown could actually keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debts if and when Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling — unless President Barack Obama is plotting a conspiracy not to pay the nation’s bills. …“They don’t mind seeing America suffer. And when you know — as I know you do — that we have enough money coming in every week to pay our — to keep from defaulting — now, we may have to keep some folks furloughed. Because as we know now, 94 percent of the [Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)] is non-essential. You know, we may have to ask some folks that are non-essential to stay home for a while longer. But there is no reason we should ever, ever default on our debts unless the president and the treasury secretary conspire to make us default.”

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: It was Graves who took charge earlier this month in demanding that the defunding of Obamacare be a requirement for keeping open the government, and it is he who rebuffed Speaker John Boehner’s attempt… to keep the government running and delay the Obamacare fight until the debt ceiling showdown… “I’d like to see us keep that focus there,” said Graves. “We’ve got a responsibility to finish this up and let it play out.” [NOTE: read further down in this story. Graves doesn't pay his own bills.]

Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “The American people have spoken already on this. They do not want Obamacare …. It is hurting people.” said [Hartzler].

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations:  [Says] he would vote against raising the debt ceiling before the government runs out of money on Oct. 17 unless he sees a long-term fiscal plan to balance the budget that also puts some restrictions on Obamacare. “I have done that in the past, but I’m not going to sit by and let the president of the United States threaten to use our senior citizens as pawns,” he said.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations:   Jordan – a politician with almost zero national profile – has emerged as the commander the House GOP’s opposition bloc, says Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning 33-year-old Republican from Michigan… “Leadership understands that if his concerns are not addressed, there could be a large group – 40 to 50 – that doesn’t stick with leadership on big votes.” [...] A determined minority in the House today can command powers of obstruction far greater than even the filibuster in the Senate. The big, strategic votes in the House are party-line affairs. Leadership needs 218 supporters to even bring a vote to the floor. To block the Cantor Plan, Jordan and his outside allies need to pick off just 17 defections, or fewer than 10 percent of RSC members
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Rep. Steve King (R-IA) – debt ceiling is no biggie: “I don’t think the credit of the United states is going to be collapsed. I think that all this talk about a default has been a lot of demagoguery, false demagoguery. We have plenty of money coming in to service the debt. When we stop servicing the debt that would be default, we’re a long, long ways from that. We need to have cool heads and get to a solution.” King is hinting here at the idea that, even if the nation hits its debt limit, it could prioritize payments — taking money away from a certain group or program to direct it at making payments on the debt. Analysts called this plan “essentially impossible” when House Republicans suggested it during the last debt ceiling fight, after Republicans started crafting legislation to prioritize debt unless the president caved to deep spending cuts. A debt-prioritization scheme doesn’t stop the United States from defaulting on its obligations.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “As long as we understand we need to get something” for the stopgap spending measure “and something for the debt ceiling, then everything’s on the table,” the Idaho Republican said yesterday in an interview.

Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “All that really matters is what my district wants,” Massie said. “And my district is overwhelmingly in favor of my position.” His vaunted position is to defund Obamacare no matter what. Shut down the government over it? Yep. Destroy the full faith and credit of the United States by not raising the debt ceiling unless he and his cohorts get their way? You bet.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: McClintock … has sponsored a bill that requires Treasury to prioritize payments in the event of default, said he wanted to address the debt limit in “small increments within the trajectory” set by the House budget resolution, which erases the deficit in 10 years. The incremental increases would be paired with “incremental reforms necessary to remain on that trajectory.” [NOPE. See Steve King above.]

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: as the shutdown drags on and Obamacare falls off the negotiating table, it’s left Republicans struggling to answer a basic question: What’s the fight even about? Even Rep. Mark Meadows, who spearheaded the fight in the House to defund Obamacare in exchange for keeping the government open, has a hard time explaining. “This fight now has become about veterans, and about National Guard folks that perhaps—reservists that are not getting paid. That’s where the fight is today,” Meadows told reporters. “Obamacare is mandatory spending, it’s going on.” Describing phone calls from constituents asking why the government is closed, Meadows doesn’t cite Obamacare, but blames Democrats for being unwilling to fund individual parts of the government. [NOTE: next week they can put it back on the table.]

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations:  Neugebauer’s the one who publicly berated a National Park Service Ranger for a situation created entirely by Congress, then excused his behavior away by telling a local radio host: “A park ranger was quoted, saying, we were told to make this as painful as we possibly can. And that’s just the Obama administration playing games with our heroes.” Not for the first time, an anonymous quote has been used to prove a theory that works for House Republicans.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations:  “Unless we have major reforms for the way our government spends, I am not going to sign some blind check for irresponsible policy,” said [Salmon], describing himself as a “hard” vote to get for raising the debt ceiling.

Rep. Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford (R-SC) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations:  During a visit to Hilton Head Island on Monday, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford blamed the federal government shutdown on a failed congressional appropriations process, denying that a Republican effort to limit or block the health care law is the culprit. “The current debate in Washington, at the end of the day, is not really about the Affordable Care Act,” Sanford, R-Charleston, told the Hilton Head Island First Monday Republican Lunch Group. “It is about a fundamental breakdown that has occurred in this country on the way we spend money in Washington.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations:  Funding the government and raising the debt ceiling “don’t need to be tied together,” study committee Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La., told Politico. “The debt ceiling will have to be dealt with, but it’s got to be dealt with in a way that also puts reforms into place.” The strategy meeting of about 170 conservative GOP House members comes eight days before Oct. 17, the date the Treasury Department says it will hit the limit for paying on debt already incurred.

Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) – debt ceiling is no biggie:“I will hear language like, ‘Well, we are heading toward the debt ceiling and you are going to default.’ Anyone that says that is looking you in the eyes and lying to you, either that or they don’t own a calculator,” Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., said in a House debate Friday.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX)  – debt ceiling is no biggie: some–mainly Republicans—in Congress [are reasoning]: if we don’t know what’s going to happen because the country has never been down this road before, how can we be sure it’ll be so bad? “We don’t know, we haven’t ever done it,” [Stockman] told ABC News, when asked what happens if the debt limit isn’t increased on Oct. 17. Part two of this theory involves “prioritizing” debt payments, so that the government is able to pay the interest on the country’s debt, and postpone other payments.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN)  and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) and “grand bargain” hostage negotiations: Yet a number of Texas lawmakers representing communities in and around Houston continue to offer unalloyed support for Cruz’s drive to begin dismantling portions of Obamacare in time for the 2014 midterm congressional elections. “We do watch what Ted does over in the Senate and we’re behind him – go fight that fight, make that stand, stand strong in the Senate,” says freshman Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland. “He’s been encouraging us to do the same thing in the House. We’re on the same team. We’re on the same wavelength.”

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) – debt ceiling is no biggie:
Capture

Also this“Stay the course, don’t give in on it, that’s what the people in my district are saying,” says Representative Ted Yoho (R., Fla.). “We did a town hall the other day, and 74 percent of people said, ‘don’t raise the debt ceiling.’”

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Let’s be clear: 74% of Yoho’s gerrymandered teabagging base wants to see the debt ceiling breached — should that even matter to the rest of us? Why are Boehner and the other Republican members allowing the anarchists in gerrymandered districts like Yoho’s to dictate what happens to the rest of the country? Read above and ask yourself if any of these members sound even slightly rational, like people who will “negotiate” with others they may disagree with to re-open our government and pay its bills? All of these members have constituents like Yoho’s, but they only account for about 18% of the population. These teaparty members are rewarded for acting like anti-government insurgents—but where are all the other congressmen and senators?

Money quote from National Review:

“I think you’d see at least 50 to 60 Republicans break with Boehner if he went for something small,” predicts a House GOP aide who works closely with conservative members. “They’re also reluctant to even give Boehner a short-term debt-limit extension unless he gets something big in return.”

50 to 60 members—so what?! SO WHAT? Out of a total of 435 voting members who represent all 50 states and two political parties (one of which won the presidency and the senate), HOW THE FUCK did 50 to 60 members (or 80, depending on how you’re counting) become the only voices that matter in the U.S. House?

There are a total of 232 Republican members of the House, and it’s becoming alarmingly clear that Speaker Boehner and 151 Republican members are guilty, individually, of dereliction of duty–along with any Democratic House members who vote with them on reopening only their favorite parts of the government. 152 Republican congressmen (and, by extension of party messaging, 45 Republican senators) have willfully neglected the people they are duty-bound to represent (ALL of them), have willfully abandoned the Constitution they swore to protect, and have willfully refused to perform their duties to the people they represent and the government and its treasury and obligations. Here’s what they swore when they entered office:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God” (5 U.S.C. §3331).

At the request of only 18% of the people of this nation, these Republican House members and senators have, so far, willfully handed over their duties to an anti-government faction of 80 extremists in one branch of one house, a faction which has already demanded and won a government shutdown, and who WILL happily demand a breach of the debt ceiling next week for the sole purpose of political showmanship over the Affordable Care Act—a four-year old law that was passed by the House and Senate, signed by the President, affirmed in the Supreme Court, and reaffirmed by a majority of the American public with President Obama’s reelection—along with other random, non-specified spending cuts. It’s extortion, pure and simple.

The Speaker could bring a clean budget bill to the House floor for a vote today and reopen the government. He could also bring a bill to the floor today to pay the government’s bills, raising the debt ceiling.  But instead of performing his duties, Boehner–and all the Republicans (and some Democrats)–are choosing instead to do the bidding of “50 to 60 Republicans” to extend this shutdown and breach the debt ceiling next week.

If that’s not dereliction of duty, I don’t know what is.

The NRA is nothing more than a lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers…

…and the elected GOP establishment is nothing more than their personal representatives.

Adolphus Busch IV requested the NRA immediately cancel his lifetime membership,  one day after the U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would have expanded background checks on guns:

“…One only has to ask why the NRA reversed its original position on background checks. Was it not the NRA position to support background checks when Mr. LaPierre himself stated in 1999 that NRA saw checks as ‘reasonable’? [...]

I am simply unable to comprehend how assault weapons and large capacity magazines have a role in your vision. The NRA I see today has undermined the values upon which it was established. Your current strategic focus clearly places priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members.

One only has to look at the makeup of the 75-member board of directors, dominated by manufacturing interests, to confirm my point. The NRA appears to have evolved into the lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners.”

(h/t wilwheaton)

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via sandandglass

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jetgirl78“I’ve heard some say the blocking the step would be a victory. My question is victory for who? Victory for what? All that happened today it was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer.”

jetgirl78“I’ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. A prop, somebody called them. Emotional blackmail, some outlets said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue?”

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“I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting,” Davis said. “I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims.”

“I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘go to hell,’” he added.

Source via sandandglass

Our thoughts and prayers are with Boston

Horrific attack on the innocent:

Realtime coverage - Google

It takes only one evil person to harm so many. And more than likely that person’s Excuse or narcissistic Purpose will be based on their interpretation of some religion and / or political cause. This behavior is not “human nature,” it’s an aberration of human nature. If you watched the news yesterday, human nature was evident in the response of the crowds of people helping each other, helping strangers, crying for others who were wounded, giving blood — just to do something, anything – until no more blood was needed last night (though it will be needed in the days / weeks ahead).

Or as Mr. Rogers said:

Of course, what happens after the shock wears off and the bad guy is found — regardless if he’s Middle Eastern or some variation of a RWNJ/fundie/supremacist – is another level of human nature. Unfortunately. We should all try to remember that this was one person (or a few), and what happened is not representative or the definition of an entire race, religion, political party, or group.

=================================================================

Most importantly:

…Even the 9/11 terrorists got lucky.

If it’s hard for us to keep this in perspective, it will be even harder for our leaders. They’ll be afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism — or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity — they will be branded as “soft on terror.” And they’ll be afraid that Americans might vote them out of office. Perhaps they’re right, but where are the leaders who aren’t afraid? What has happened to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

Terrorism, even the terrorism of radical Islamists and right-wing extremists and lone actors all put together, is not an “existential threat” against our nation. Even the events of 9/11, as horrific as they were, didn’t do existential damage to our nation. Our society is more robust than it might seem from watching the news. We need to start acting that way.

There are things we can do to make us safer, mostly around investigation, intelligence, and emergency response, but we will never be 100-percent safe from terrorism; we need to accept that.

How well this attack succeeds depends much less on what happened in Boston than by our reactions in the coming weeks and months. Terrorism isn’t primarily a crime against people or property. It’s a crime against our minds, using the deaths of innocents and destruction of property as accomplices. When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we’re indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail, even if their attacks succeed…

Read it all: Refuse to be terrorized

24-hour warning: By the way, red states take in more federal money than they pay in taxes

Paul Begala thinks it’s a shame that sequestration cuts can’t be limited to states which take in more federal money than they pay in taxes and are represented by politicians who refuse to pay for the spending that their constituents demand (and have come to expect):

“This could be fun. Oklahoma so hates Obama’s big spending that every single county in the state voted for Mitt Romney. Oklahoma has twice the percentage of federal employees than the U.S. average, and Okies get $1.35 back from Washington for each dollar they pay in taxes. So close the massive FAA center in Oklahoma City. Move it to Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, where they love big government. Two years ago I made a similar argument about Kentucky, calling on Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to put the Bluegrass State in detox for its addiction to local pork. No such luck. But perhaps the principle can apply to the sequester: enforce it only in states whose elected representatives won’t support the taxes needed to fund the spending they want.” — A pox on one of their houses

Some facts:

Mother JonesEven as Republicans gripe about deficit spending, their states get 30 cents more federal spending per tax dollar than their Democratic neighbors:

It’s no secret: The federal budget is expanding faster than tax revenues, a trend that’s been fueled by the rapid growth of entitlement programs and exacerbated by the recession. As a recent New York Times article documents, even as fiscally conservative lawmakers complain about deficit spending, their constituents don’t want to give up the Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, and earned income tax credits that provide a safety net for the struggling middle class.

This gap between political perception and fiscal reality is also reflected in the distribution of tax dollars at the state level: Most politically “red” states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes.

A look at 2010 Census and IRS data reveals that the 50 states and the District of Columbia, on average, received $1.29 in federal spending for every federal tax dollar they paid. That means that some states are getting a lot more than they put in, and vice versa. The states that contributed more in taxes than they got back in spending were more likely to have voted for Obama in 2008 and were more likely to be largely urban. (There are some clear exceptions: For instance, New Mexico, a rural, Democratic state, gets more federal money per tax dollar than any other state.)

Added to that is “the world’s least surprising chart” from Brad Plummer

new survey from the Pew Research Center finds that most Americans like the idea of cutting federal spending in the abstract — they just can’t agree on any specific areas they’d actually like to cut…

[...] Foreign aid is far and away the most popular suggestion for the chopping block, but even here, it’s a close call — 48 percent of respondents said cut it, 49 percent said keep it the same or increase it. (Foreign aid makes up less than 1 percent of the federal budget.) In no other spending area is there majority support for cuts.

The tide has turned… and it’s turned away from career war profiteers in Congress:

Think Progress: A new poll released by the Hill newspaper has found that more voters favor slashing military spending versus cutting spending on domestic programs like Medicare and Social Security in order to reduce the debt and deficit.

Voters are tired of funding the GOP’s Forever Wars and think there should be spending cuts — but they think the cuts should be to all those other programs and services they personally don’t like or use (like foreign aid — only 1% of the budget). And while everyone in the country continues to subsidize the red states’ appetite for federal cheese, red state conservatives will continue to tell themselves that they deserve more federal cheese than blue states (or that it’s not federal cheese – it’s freedom cheese!). So we’ll see how long Teapublicans can hold out on their belief that only Democratic states and Democrats will be ‘hurt’ by the sequester.


Source: questionall

Want to see how much your state will lose with sequestration cuts? Go here.

Let me show you on the doll where Mr. Sequester will touch you

Where will Mr. Sequester touch you? In these places:

Here are the top five ways that sequestration will make the nation a less healthy place:

  1. More Americans could be put at risk for foodborne illnesses.
  2. Medical researchers will be forced to delay the development of treatments that could help sick Americans.
  3. The government will have fewer resources to provide Americans with health coverage.
  4. Thousands of Americans living with mental illnesses could go untreated.
  5. Fewer Americans will get screened and treated for HIV.

Economists estimate that sequestration “most likely would reduce growth by about one-half of a percentage point in 2013,” the New York Times reports.

“Many economists are particularly critical of the arbitrary nature of the cuts, arguing that Congress could reduce annual deficits by the same amount with far less economic damage by spreading the cuts across a broader range of programs, directing them at lesser priorities or giving government agencies more discretion in how they make them.”

Travelers should brace for longer airport lines and possible flight delays after March 1 if automatic federal spending cuts reduce staffing as scheduled, government and industry officials warn. “This truly could become a nightmare for travel,” said Geoff Freeman, chief operating officer of the U.S. Travel Association. [...] The wait at security checkpoints could be an extra hour and up to three more hours at Customs and Border Protection checkpoints at the nation’s busiest airports, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee have estimated. – Federal Times

Air Travel: An estimated $619 million would be cut from the operations and facilities and equipment accounts of the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a report by House Appropriations Committee Democrats. This could mean major flight delays and an economic hit on the millions of people who depend on air travel every day. — GovExec

  • $483 million cut from the FAA operations budget, forcing all FAA employees to be furloughed for 11 days. On any given day, that could mean that 10 percent of the FAA’s 40,000 employees could be on furlough, resulting in longer delays, reduced air-traffic control, and losses in tourism. There will also be a hiring freeze.
  • $136 million cut from the FAA’s facilities and equipment account, which helps maintain and modernize the air-traffic control infrastructure.
  • Transportation Security Administration screeners would receive a seven-day furlough.

The Environmental Protection Agency may shut down for three days in response to automatic budget cuts set to begin late next week, according to union officials involved in discussions with agency management.  [...] The EPA cuts would translate into fewer compliance inspections, less money for water quality projects, and cutbacks in research to help communities adapt to climate change, then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., earlier this month. – Federal Times

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will furlough its employees for up to 14 days this year if the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester kick in on March 1, according to a letter the agency sent to union officials this week. [...] The letter said furloughs would be mandatory for all Customs and Border Protection employees, including management and workers without union representation. Notices would go out in mid-March, the agency said. — Washington Post

The automatic budget cuts set to take effect on March 1 will delay the opening of the East and West Rim drives at the Grand Canyon and reduce hours of operation at the main visitor center. At Gettysburg, 20 percent of student education programs would be eliminated this spring. — Washington Post

  • Also affected: Blue Ridge, Parkway, Mount Rainer, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Tetons, the National Mall, Yellowstone. (All the parks,really.)

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack described the impact of the cuts, amounting to $2 billion, in a letter that warned “these furloughs and other actions would severely disrupt our ability to provide a broad range of public services.” — Reuters

  • a nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants during a furlough of (meat) inspection personnel for as much as 15 days of lost production, costing over $10 billion in production losses.
  • Up to 600,000 low-income women and infants could be cut from the so-called WIC program that provides supplemental food and nutrition education if the budget cuts last for the rest of this fiscal year…
  • Closure of 670 of the Forest Service’s 19,000 recreation sites, such as campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads, in the national forests and shorter hours at visitor centers. “This would largely occur during the peak use seasons in spring and summer,” said USDA.
  • The Forest Service would reduce its law enforcement force by 35 workers to 707 officers.
  • A work pause on the Census of Agriculture. “Data will become incomplete and will not be statistically sound for publication,” said USDA. The census, conducted every five years, provides valuable data on farm operation and output that is used in USDA’s forecasts. USDA faced repeated funding shortages for its crop and livestock reports in the past couple of years.
  • A slowdown in USDA aid to landowners wanting expert advice or matching funds to control runoff from fields and feedlots and a reduction in USDA-backed loans to farmers to buy land or cover operating costs until harvest.

More than one million workers will start taking unpaid leave on April 1 because of sequestration. – Wall Street Journal

And of course, the nearly two million federal workers facing furloughs won’t just be getting less work done to benefit all of us, they’ll be losing pay. That not only means they and their families may struggle to make ends meet, but money taken out of their local economies as they spend less. In other words: bad for federal workers, bad for people who rely on federal oversight and services, bad for the economy as a whole. — Laura Clawson

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It’s really too nice of a day to read comments, but it’s amazing how quickly the Fox-Rush base are losing their minds in the comment sections of some of these articles over simple information about what actual things will actually be affected by sequestration. It’s as if they really thought they could pick and choose what should be cut and what shouldn’t. They seem extra upset about park closures, air travel inconveniences, and the Border Patrol being affected. ‘Barry Zero’ and the ‘Dims’ are fear-mongering and guvmit can’t take taxpayer money from WeThePeople and not give us what we want! The banjo music is almost deafening. Such thinking could be classified as Narcissistic Sheeple Disorder and, unfortunately, designated as a chronic and practically incurable condition.

REMINDER: there are currently TWO PLANS to avoid the sequester:

  1. the President wants a mix of cuts and new revenue through closing loopholes [for the wealthiest taxpayers];
  2. and the Republican plan is to replace draconian cuts to military spending with draconian cuts to social insurance programs.

The sequester, furloughs and shutdowns: let people see what government really means

Matthew Cooper believes that if there’s one silver lining to be found in the “buffoonery” of the sequester, it’s that at least it will be a teachable moment for the public:

But if agencies and departments can’t or won’t juggle their books, hey, let people see what government really means. …There’s something sobering about aircraft carriers that won’t sail and forest rangers who won’t be paid to protect. The last time I can think of such an educational moment was not the short-lived government shutdown on the ’90s, but the Oklahoma City bombing. Who died in the blast? IRS officials, Secret Service agents, General Services Administration workers. President Clinton offered a reflection on the victims, “many there who served the rest of us, who worked to help the elderly and the disabled, who worked to support our farmers and our veterans, who worked to enforce our laws and to protect us. Let us say clearly, they served us well, and we are grateful,” he said.

In 2001, looking back on the bombing, Clinton said: “And I had, like every politician, on occasion, gotten upset by some example of government waste or something the way we all do, and referred derisively to government bureaucrats. And I promised myself that I would never use those two words together for the rest of my life. I would treat those people who serve our country with respect, whether they’re in uniform, in law enforcement, firefighter, nurses, any other things.” I’m not comparing the tragedy of Oklahoma City to sequestration. One is evil; the other buffoonery. But they each have the effect of making you realize what government employees do.

Some examples of what’s at stake: 

Few corners of the federal government directly touch the public as do the 398 parks, monuments and historic sites, which draw 280 million visits a year. The system would feel the effects immediately of a $110 million slash should budget cuts take effect March 1 — from a three-week delay of Yellowstone’s spring opening to save money on snow plowing, to shuttered campgrounds and visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway. [..] The prospect of dirtier restrooms, sporadic grass mowing and litter pickup, and a shortage of rangers to answer questions and patrol has set off a furious campaign by a coalition of park advocates, tourism officials and businesses from to Maine to Wyoming. Their plea: The reductions would not just set back conservation efforts but also undermine local economies around the parks that rely on tourism.

The Defense Department will notify Congress as early as Wednesday of plans to furlough almost 800,000 civilian employees starting in April if automatic budget cuts take effect, according to a defense official. [...] By law, however, DoD must give lawmakers 45 days notice of employee furloughs. If the spending cuts, formally known as sequestration, begin as scheduled March 1, the Pentagon will likely send most civilians home for one day per week for up to 22 weeks through the end of the fiscal year in September, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a House committee last week. The furloughs would save DoD about $5 billion out of the $46 billion total it will have to cut under sequestration, Carter said. Military personnel would be exempt.

Jessica Wright, acting Defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said that while the impact of sequestration on “military personnel would be devastating, the impact on civilians is catastrophic.” [...] “The first-, second- and third-order effect will be felt in local commands and communities. It’s not a Beltway phenomenon,” she said, noting that 80 percent of defense civilian employees work outside the Washington area. The 20 percent decrease in pay would affect business and communities and confront “many families with tough decisions.”

The Army estimates automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect March 1 will have a $15 billion economic impact and affect more than 300,000 jobs nationwide. Hardest hit states include Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Among the least affected: Delaware, Wyoming, Montana and Rhode Island. [...] The cuts will affect every Army installation, according to the documents. States with large bases and military contractors are taking the biggest hits. Texas, for instance, would face a $2.4 billion economic loss from the Army’s budget cuts. Nearly 30,000 Army civilian employees will be furloughed if the cuts go into effect. They will lose $180 million in pay.

If across-the-board budget cuts take effect as scheduled next month, every FBI employee, including special agents, will be furloughed for almost three weeks by the end of September. Ditto for many law enforcement officers at the Department of Homeland Security, where layoffs are also a possibility. Furloughs for Agriculture Department food safety inspectors will mean temporary shutdowns of meat processing plants. At the Social Security Administration, more than 1,500 temporary workers and re-employed retirees will be shown the door.

Budget cuts could result in up to 20 percent pay cut for federal workers:

Agriculture: Plans to furlough about one-third of its workforce, which would lead to “a nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants during a furlough of inspection personnel.”

Commerce: “Up to 2,600 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) employees would have to be furloughed, approximately 2,700 positions would not be filled, and the number of contractors would have to be reduced by about 1,400.” Census vacancies would remain vacant.

Justice: “The Department estimates that it would lose the equivalent of more than 1,000 federal agents . . . as well as 1,300 correctional officers.”

“These employees aren’t some fat cat bureaucrats in a plush Washington office. They are the firefighters who safeguard our bases, the health-care professionals who treat injured soldiers in military hospitals, the mechanics who repair our tanks and planes, the logistics personnel who ensure supplies make it to our troops, the acquisition experts who prevent big defense contractors from ripping off taxpayers. Congress [needs] to find a solution to this manufactured crisis that does not punish our hard-working federal employees, cripple our economic recovery or gut federal programs and services.” — J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees

In addition to all the lost hours that went towards serving the public in one way or another – you never miss it until it’s gone! — imagine the lost commerce locally and regionally because of lost income. Civilian employees with the DoD (among others) stand to lose 8 hours in pay per week through September — that works out to a 20% pay cut. Could you afford that? Not to mention the lost incomes of all the people who will be sent home permanently or who could have been employed and who won’t be now.

All this manufactured crisis and upheaval because Republicans won’t agree to close some tax loopholes for the wealthiest to balance massive spending cuts (in a fragile economy!) with new revenue. In addition to March 1, we also have March 27 to look forward to. That’s when the government’s continuing resolution (funding to run the government) expires and when Republicans will undoubtedly threaten another government shutdown when they’re asked to ‘compromise.’

Let’s not forget two important things: right now the economy is improving and the deficit is shrinking.  And maybe that’s why Republicans are so unhappy. As former GOP Virginia governor Jim Gilmore said recently: “They think spending is the most important thing. It’s not.”

(Graphics above via the NYTimes)

This is not the President’s sequester. This is a GOP-manufactured crisis. Again.


questionall: Remember this when the shit hits the fan. If 218 House Republicans hadn’t voted Aye on ROLL CALL 677, the sequester would have died in Congress. ~ http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll677.xml

WITH NINE DAYS TO GO before $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts begin, some Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling on Republican leaders to reconvene the House immediately and find a way to avert the spending reductions known as the “sequester.” Both the House and Senate are in recess this week. “This is an unnecessary self-inflicted wound on the United States economy,” Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.) said in a conference call with other House Democrats to highlight some of the fears and adverse affects of the sequester they’re hearing about back home. “Congress should come back to Washington to fix the problem.”

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Anyone want to bet that the Republicans don’t come back before Monday? And before you drink the Fox propaganda tea about this crisis being “Obama’s sequester,” let’s take a look at some FACTS from recent history:

STEVE BENEN: So, if we’re stuck in the argument GOP leaders insist on having, we might as well note they’re wrong about this, too. For Republicans, President Obama “proposed and demanded the sequester.” We know this isn’t true. Indeed, at the time, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) bragged about Republicans getting the sequester into the Budget Control Act.

JOHN AVLON:  I happened to come across an old email that throws cold water on House Republicans’ attempts to call this “Obama’s Sequester.” It’s a PowerPoint presentation that John Boehner’s office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011. Intended to explain the outline of the proposed debt deal, the presentation is titled: “Two Step Approach to Hold President Obama Accountable.” It’s essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it’s clear as day in the presentation that “sequestration” was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending—the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.

130215-Avlon-Boehner-Sequester-embed
A slide from the final page of Speaker John Boehner’s Powerpoint to House Republicans on July 31st, 2011, obtained by The Daily Beast. Click to download full pdf.

GREG SARGENT explains why GOP leaders are repeating falsehoods and spinning desperately:

Republicans may simply be putting on a game face about the politics of the sequester because they may view it as a necessity at this point. As you may recall, a top GOP aide told Politico recently that a government shutdown fight might be necessary for Republican lawmakers to get the need for an apocalyptic confrontation with Obama “out of their system,” i.e., for “member management purposes.” But The Hill reports that Republican aides have revised this strategy; they have decided the sequester is a better target than the government shutdown to stage this confrontation. And so the sequester is apparently necessary for rank and file lawmakers to get the need to stick it to Obama “out of their system.” Republicans have defined victory as agreeing to no new revenues whatsoever, so it’s unclear whether there’s any other way out of this for them.

And finally, and most importantly, MICHAEL TOMASKY points out something that almost everyone seems to forget: Congress passed sequestration before the president signed it, and the whole self-defeating exercise was carried out in response to Tea Party Republicans’ insistence that we play chicken with the debt ceiling, which ultimately cost America its AAA credit rating:

So fine, the White House proposed it. It did so only after months of Republicans publicly demanding huge spending cuts and refusing to consider any revenues and acting as if they were prepared to send the nation into default over spending. In other words, this was the administration’s idea in much the way that it’s a parent’s “idea” to pay ransom to a person who has taken his child hostage. There was a gun to the White House’s head, which was the possibility of the country going into default. And then, when it was all put into legislation, it was the Republicans who passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 in the House, with 218 of them voting yes. So even if administration officials proposed it, it would have remained just a proposal if those 218 Republicans hadn’t supported it (no House Democrats backed it). Most Republicans agreed at the time that the sequestration trigger was a good thing—that it would force everyone to get together and agree to a path forward and a long-term budget deal.

We all have such short memories. And by we, I mean our mainstream media and conservative base-rubes.

Related: 15 Republicans Who Want The Damaging Sequester To Occur

There’s a sucker born every minute and Wayne LaPierre needs them to join the NRA

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, wrote an incredible op-ed published by the Daily Caller, after President Obama’s called for a vote on proposed gun safety legislation in his SOTU speech.

TPM: “LaPierre detailed in his op-ed the scary situations in which Americans will need guns to protect themselves, including ‘terrorists, crime, drug gangs, the possibility of Euro-style debt riots, civil unrest or natural disaster.’”

Here’s a list (which I’ve helpfully annotated):

  • Latin American drug gangs (i.e. brown skin threat… enough said?)
  • Hurricanes, and other natural disasters: (quote by LaPierre, demonstrating that he’s now completely off his meds: “After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia…”)
  • Riots brought on by financial collapse: (No one will laugh at your stockpiles of gold and survival seeds now…)
  • Terrorists: (Or turrists… fightin’ the war on turr!)

Hey, remember 9-11? What if all the good guys in the WTC had been armed! is all LaPierre is saying.

What other dystopian hellscapes did LaPierre not describe? Aliens and zombies. Obviously, he didn’t want to insult his NRA members. Conversely in any of the scenarios above, who would LaPierre’s personal bodyguards be protecting him from? Yep, his well-armed NRA members.

 

The immediate impacts of the Sequester: this should be GREAT for our economy!

Remember 10 years ago, when George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security and moved many established bureaus and agencies to DHS (along with hiring many, many, many new federal employees)? The same political party who thought that was a great idea at the time now, 10 years later, wants to burn it all to the ground because a Democrat is in the White House — and because they refuse to even consider closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.

Here’s how the GOP’s fickle political ideologies will affect us all in just two short weeks:

Federal Times reports that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano outlined how the Sequester will affect her department on March 1“Sequestration would roll back border security, increase wait times at our nation’s land ports of entry and airports, affect aviation and maritime safety and security, leave critical infrastructure vulnerable to attacks, hamper disaster response time and our surge force capabilities, and significantly scale back cybersecurity infrastructure protections that have been developed in recent years.”

Here’s a list of where the immediate impacts will hit first:

  • Frontline DHS law enforcement officers would be furloughed for up to 14 days
  • Layoffs at DHS
  • FEMA’s disaster relief fund would be cut by more than $1 billion (that fund had $7 billion in 2012)
  • The Secret Service would have to undergo furloughs and cut down on overtime, which would reduce agents’ availability and hinder ongoing criminal investigations.
  • Congressionally mandated levels of Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents could not be maintained.
  • The Transportation Security Administration would have to cut its frontline workforce, which would “substantially increase passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints.”
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not be able to sustain its current operations to detain and remove illegal immigrants, and could not maintain the 34,000 beds for detained immigrants that Congress now requires.
  • The Coast Guard would have to cut back its air and surface operations by almost 25 percent. This would hurt its maritime safety and security efforts, drug and migrant interdiction, fishing law enforcement, navigational aid efforts, and other law enforcement operations.
  • Homeland Security would not be able to move forward on critical management programs such as modernizing its financial systems.

And it’s going to cost us a lot of lost revenue:

Washington Post: National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley said in the statement that the cuts for Homeland Security would “have a ripple effect throughout the government, since Customs and Border Protection is the second-largest generator of federal revenue, behind only the Internal Revenue Service.” The NTEU president said furloughs for Department of Homeland Security personnel would increase wait times at ports of entry by nearly two hours, ultimately affecting the national economy. She pointed to a 2008 Commerce Department report that said border delays at that point were expected to cost the economy $86 billion by 2017 in the form of lost jobs, wages, economic output and tax revenue.

GovExec: The White House outlined some of the government-wide “severe impacts” in a fact sheet:

  • Loss of more than 1,000 FBI and other law enforcement agents
  • Justice Department furloughs of hundreds of federal prosecutors
  • Furloughs of all Agriculture Department Food Safety and Inspection Service employees for approximately two weeks
  • An unspecified number of furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service that would lead to more fraud slipping through
  • Reduced hours at Social Security Administration offices
  • Taking Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors “off the job for some period of time”

See also:

  • JANET NAPOLITANO’S Feb. 13 letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
  • WHITE HOUSE FACT SHEET: Examples of How the Sequester Would Impact Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security, 2/8/2013

When Wayne LaPierre became a ‘dark joke’ at NRA headquarters

LaPierre did not come from gun culture. He wasn’t a hunter, a marksman, a military man or a Second Amendment activist. “He’s not a true believer,” says NRA biographer Osha Gray Davidson. “He’s the first NRA chief you can say that about.” According to NRA legend, LaPierre is actually a menace with a gun. NRA’s PR team once thought it would be sexy to film LaPierre at a firing range. “It was a nightmare,” an NRA staffer told Davidson. LaPierre was aiming downrange for the camera when an engineer called for a sound check. To answer the man, LaPierre swung around, but he failed to lower his rifle, aiming it directly at the engineer – before someone took the gun away from LaPierre. The incident, terrifying at the time, became a dark joke at NRA headquarters. Staffers behind on their projects were threatened that they’d have to “go hunting with Wayne.” (The NRA’s press office did not reply to Rolling Stone inquiries.) — The NRA vs. America | Rolling Stone

Fox’s Chris Wallace to NRA’s Wayne LaPierre: “That’s ridiculous and you know it, Sir!”

“The most basic right is to protect yourself. If you limit the American public’s access to [assault weapons] semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive.”Wayne LaPierre, on Fox News Sunday, arguing that banning assault weapons limited the ‘ability to survive’ and that high-capacity magazines should not be outlawed because women need more bullets.

Paul Krugman on ABC’s This Week“The NRA is now revealed as an insane organization, What strikes me is we’ve actually gotten a glimpse into the mindset, though, of the pro-gun people and we’ve seen certainly Wayne LaPierre and some of these others… It’s bizarre. They have this vision that we’re living in a ‘Mad Max’ movie and that nothing can be done about it, that America cannot manage unless everybody’s prepared to shoot intruders, that — the idea that we have a police forces that provides public safety is somehow totally impractical, despite the fact that, you know, that is, in fact, the way we live.”

Think Progress: During a heated exchange with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre on Sunday, [Fox host Chris Wallace] played a clip of a now infamous NRA ad criticizing Obama for relying on Secret Service to guard his children and asked if the organization believed that every child in America faces a threat similar to that of the Obama kids. LaPierre said that they do, leading Wallace to forcefully push back against the gun chief, saying, “that’s ridiculous and you know it, Sir!

Daily Intelligencer: Wallace then asked LaPierre, who showed up to the Fox News studio with armed guards, whether he counted as “an out-of-touch elite, because you have security.” LaPierre skirted the issue, explaining that, “We’ve had all kinds of threats coming to us. I don’t deny anybody the right to security when they need it. What I am saying is, it’s ridiculous, Chris, for all the elites and all the powerful and privileged, the titans of industry to send their kids to schools where there is armed security, to have access to semi-automatic technology.”

TPM: LaPierre argued that background checks were ineffective, possibly part of a government plot against gun owners, and not a real legislative option because of a powerful “mental health lobby.” He noted that the NRA used to support universal checks but said special interests surrounding mental health and privacy had derailed the effort and led to NRA leaders throwing in the towel. “The instant check was actually the NRA’s proposal. We offered it as an amendment to the Brady Bill. And I’ve been in this fight for 20 years. We supported it. We put it on the books. But I have finally become convinced after fighting to get the mental records computerized for 20 years and watching the mental health lobby, the HIPAA laws, the AMA oppose it, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said.

Bob Cesca: The gun control advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, paid for a 30 second ad to run during the Super Bowl, using Wayne LaPierre’s unearthed statements on universal background checks:  

“We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere, for anyone.” Wayne LaPierre, public testimony from 1999.

Why the change? What does the NRA stand to lose with instant background checks and closing loopholes, like unchecked gunshow sales? As with most things in America, follow the money:

Tim Dickerson | Rolling Stone: “The shift in LaPierre’s rhetoric underscores a radical transformation within the NRA. Billing itself as the nation’s “oldest civil rights organization,” the NRA still claims to represent the interests of marksmen, hunters and responsible gun owners. But over the past decade and a half, the NRA has morphed into a front group for the firearms industry, whose profits are increasingly dependent on the sale of military-bred weapons like the assault rifles used in the massacres at Newtown and Aurora, Colorado. “When I was at the NRA, we said very specifically, ‘We do not represent the fi rearm industry,’” says Richard Feldman, a longtime gun lobbyist who left the NRA in 1991. “We represent gun owners. End of story.” But in the association’s more recent history, he says, “They have really gone after the gun industry.”

“Today’s NRA stands astride some of the ugliest currents of our politics, combining the “astroturf” activism of the Tea Party, the unlimited and undisclosed “dark money” of groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and the sham legislating conducted on behalf of the industry through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. “This is not your father’s NRA,” says Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a top gun-industry watchdog. Feldman is more succinct, calling his former employer a “cynical, mercenary political cult.”

The NRA’s alignment with an $11.7 billion industry has fed tens of millions of dollars into the association’s coffers, helping it string together victories that would have seemed fantastic just 15 years ago. The NRA has hogtied federal regulators, censored government data about gun crime and blocked renewal of the ban on assault weaponry and high-capacity magazines, which expired in 2004. The NRA secured its “number-one legislative priority” in 2005, a law blocking liability lawsuits that once threatened to bankrupt gunmakers and expose the industry’s darkest business practices. Across the country, the NRA has opened new markets for firearms dealers by pushing for state laws granting citizens the right to carry hidden weapons in public and to allow those who kill in the name of self-defense to get off scot-free.”

NRA’S Newtown ad campaign: BUY MORE GUNS! 

Two ‘Quotes of the Day’ on guns: David Corn and Jon Stewart

“Like if you put a speed limit on a highway, pretty soon they’re going to take your car away from you.” — David Corn of Mother Jones on the NRA’s “slippery slope” argument (via)

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source beeishappy

“Since when does the ability to fire a weapon become a badge of honor? A patriotic achievement? All you need is a finger.” — Jon Stewart, TDS | 2013.01.31 [x]

President Obama’s Inaugural Address: there will be outrage!

David Drucker at Roll Call laments the President’s “appropriation” of “tea party” language in his Inaugural Address:

[...] Obama essentially asserted that America could only live up to its most cherished virtues when citizens are protected by, rather than from, the government.

“We have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action,” Obama said. “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” [...]

Congressional Republicans and conservative activists no doubt gnashed their teeth over Obama’s appropriation of the very language that became a rallying cry of the 2010 tea party revolt to support a domestic agenda at odds with their call for the country to rediscover its roots as a federalist republic whose constitution reserved most power for the states.

But in responding to Obama, conservatives and congressional Republicans have to ask themselves this key question as they look ahead to the 113th Congress just under way and the 2014 midterms and 2016 presidential election: Are they engaged in politics to achieve an emotional catharsis or to rally the public in an effort to influence public policy? This is a particularly relevant question for the Republicans serving in the House majority.

If conservatives outside Congress and Republicans on Capitol Hill are serious about winning the Senate in 2014, recapturing the White House in 2016 and earning the ability to govern that would come with those victories, they’ll stop complaining about Obama. They will stop complaining that he won the election or is winning the argument because he didn’t or isn’t telling the truth.

And, they will stop sounding so eager to shut down the government and risk federal default, while describing their own policy goals as the country akin to having to ‘take its medicine.’

Apparently in the minds of The Villagers, “We, the people” is only reserved for tea partiers and rightwing extremists? If conservatives are serious about remaining a major political party, they better start recognizing that more than half of the country VOTED this president in, along with his agenda. And those voters find this president’s interpretation of the founding principles better reflect their beliefs as citizens of this country and wish the government to better serve WE, THE PEOPLE — and not a group of screeching extremists who like to refer to themselves as patriots, but who ultimately represent the financial agendas of wealthiest one-percent.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones saw the Inaugural Address as “surprisingly barbed” and gives the following as evidence:

To Mitt Romney: “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security….do not make us a nation of takers.”

To the climate change denialists: “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

To the neocons: “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

To the voter suppression gangs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere: “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

To the NRA: “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”

To the entire tea party wing of the GOP: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

Drum says, “Did conservatives take these lines as obvious, personal attacks? You betcha. I would too, if I were them.” So you see, when Obama expresses his opinion on issues and reminds us that he is, in fact, a Democrat with democratic values, that’s called a ‘barb’ or ‘personal attack’ aimed directly at his political opponents. I guess if a Democrat has an opposing viewpoint, s/he should just be really, really quiet about it or it’s a direct personal confrontation?

Only Republicans could see remarks meant to be inclusive of all as excluding them specifically; remarks meant to highlight the safety and security of future generations as a personal threat to their freedom; and a call to more reasonable negotiation and dialogue as an insult. What a bunch of children — OR what a bunch of fake outrage.