“Super” Tuesday morning’s 6 *more or less* interesting things

1) Howard Fineman: GOP Has Created America’s First Religious Party – Whatever happens on Super Tuesday, the Republican primary season already has made history. The contest has confirmed the establishment of America’s first overtly religious major political party. The signs are numerous, but it’s still easy to miss the big picture: that the GOP now is best understood as the American Faith Party (AFP) and its members as conservative Judeo-Christian-Mormon Republicans. The basement of St. Peter’s is just one clubhouse. “There has never been anything like it in our history,” said Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. “‘God’s Own Party’ now really is just that.”

  • One South Carolina county GOP will only accept you if you pledge not to have pre-marital sex and not to view porn.

2) What middle-eastern country does John McCain want to bomb today? – McCain, the GOP presidential nominee in 2008, said the goal of the U.S. air strikes should be to “establish and defend safe havens” in Syria where opposition forces can organize and plot political and military attacks against Assad. The international community could also deliver humanitarian and military assistance to these safe zones, including food, water, weapons and training. “Increasingly, the question for U.S. policy is not whether foreign forces will intervene militarily in Syria. We can be confident that Syria’s neighbors will do so eventually, if they have not already. Some kind of intervention will happen, with us or without us,” McCain said. “So the real question for U.S. policy is whether we will participate in this next phase of the conflict in Syria, and thereby increase our ability to shape an outcome that is beneficial to the Syrian people, and to us. “I believe we must.”

3) Let’s go to the tape – A few months ago, Mitt Romney sat down with Fox News’ Bret Baier, who asked the former governor about his support for a health care mandate. Romney, visibly agitated, repeatedly denied ever advocating a national mandate policy. When Baier reminded Romney, “Governor you did say on camera and other places that, at times, you thought it would be a model for the nation,” the Republican presidential hopeful got even angrier, snapping back, “You’re wrong, Bret.” Actually, you’re right, Bret. WATCH:

4) Medicaid waivers pave way for reform – Medicaid waivers aren’t new. Nor were they created by President Barack Obama’s health law. But the waivers, which allow states some flexibility in how they deliver health care to the poor, can help the states prepare for the roughly 16 million people who will be newly eligible for Medicaid in 2014 under ACA. And the health care law did give states the opportunity to expand their Medicaid rolls early. The administration has granted waivers to states that have embraced the law, like California, and those that detest it, like Texas. Both of those states are getting billions, with the caveat that they undertake quality reforms, which happen to coincide with the goals of the ACA. [...] Waivers must be “budget neutral,” meaning the state must create savings equal to any new federal spending. But the health care reform law provides states with new incentives and tools to create savings, enabling them to draw down more federal dollars.

5) 70 Democrats Call For Government To Enforce Limits On Oil Speculation – Seventy Democratic House and Senate lawmakers are calling on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to enforce position limits on speculative trading in the oil markets passed by the CFTC in October 2011 under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. In a letter addressed to the CFTC, Democrats insist, “We have a responsibility to ensure that the price of oil is no longer allowed to be driven up by the same Wall Street speculators who caused the devastating recession that working families are now experiencing.” A wide range of experts believe that speculation in energy futures markets was the cause of both the 2008 and 2010 spikes in gas prices.

  • Are speculators to blame for soaring gas prices? – Many analysts agree that trading activity is pushing up oil prices over and above what supply and demand would normally dictate — and much of this has been driven by fear over a possible conflict with Iran. “Speculation has inflated oil prices by more than 30%,” says Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. That’s in line with other estimates: A recent paper (pdf) by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that “financial speculative demand shocks” were responsible for at least 15 percent of the huge run-up in oil prices between 2004 and 2008. The tricky part, though, is figuring out what this speculation actually amounts to — and whether it serves any legitimate purposes.

6) In 2010, 93 percent of income gains went to the top 1 percent – In other words, the very rich had a bad 2009, but an incredible 2010. Their share of national income bounced back to 19.77 percent. So inequality is marching upward once again. And there’s reason to believe this will keep going. We mainly talk about income inequality, but wealth inequality matters, too. For most households, their wealth is in real estate. Those assets aren’t returning to pre-crisis levels anytime soon. But for rich households, their wealth is in financial assets, and those assets are recovering much more quickly.