You are browsing the archive for 2014 April 05.

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7 Craziest Right-Wing Rants This Week: Satan's Role in Graham Crackers?

April 5, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

'Honey Maid's ads featuring same-sex couples is the work of the devil,' and more…

1. Charles Koch writes hateful opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, then moronic GOP senator recites it on the floor, instantly proving that pols are puppets of billionaires.

Isn't it ftting that greedy-ass billionaire Charles Koch published his op-ed claiming he is against “cronyism and political favors” — knowing full well that he and his equally evil brother David spend hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase those favors — the same week the Supreme Court ruled that the Kochs don’t even need the cover of an organization to outright buy politicians anymore?

Money is speech, the right-wing gang bangers of the Supreme Court said, and people like the Kochs are free to lay it on just as thick as they want to.

But, Koch whined in his op-ed, just because he uses his enormous wealth to ruin the lives of all but the few of his fellow robber barons doesn’t mean that you “collectivists” get to criticize him. It hurts his feelings, waah, waah, waah!

Employing the age-old strategy of “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you,” Koch called his critics despots who are un-American.

Shortly thereafter, one of his flunkies in the Senate, Kansas GOP-er Jerry Moran read this great American’s op-ed out loud and in its entirety to his fellow senators, claiming it represented “mainstream” America.

Excuse us while we go throw up, collectively.

2. Glenn Beck: Obama is a military dictator who designs his own uniforms.

Radio wack-job Glenn Beck spewed so much craziness this week, it’s hard to isolate just one tidbit. The man is a veritable gusher of insane vitriol. Still, Beck became particularly unhinged by the news about Obamacare enrollment and went on an epic rant to rival his other epic rants. Some of the more absurd moments: “This guy (President Obama), put him on a balcony in a military uniform, this guy’s a full-fledged dictator . . . What are we doing? We’re watching a circus. Right now, we’re still allowed to say, ‘this is bogus. …read more


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How Probation Privateers Prey on the Poor

April 5, 2014 in Blogs

By Bill Berkowitz, The Smirking Chimp

Privately owned probation companies are routinely jailing probationers for not being able to pay fees.

Last April, in a column titled Debtors Prisons, Once a 19th-Century Relic, Again Wreaking Havoc in US, I wrote: “The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors' prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country.” Last week, I received a Press Release from the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union that appeared to strike a blow against this appalling phenomenon.

The release stated that “the Supreme Court of Ohio distributed a new 'bench card' to all of the state's judges, giving much needed instructions to avoid the unconstitutional practice of sending people to jail when they owe the court fines and are unable to pay. The Ohio Supreme Court's “bench card” was a definite blow to what had become the routine jailing in several states of people who were not able to pay fines imposed for a relatively minor crime committed.”

Now, however, a new report by Human Rights Watch has revealed another way that poor people are being unduly financially burdened and, in many cases, imprisoned for not having enough money to pay their court-imposed fines. According to Profiting from Probation: America's 'Offender-Funded' Probation Industry, privately owned companies handling the probation of offenders are “routinely jailing probationers” for not being able to pay fees owed to those companies.

Private companies are Profiting from Probation

“Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand people to probation and place them under the supervision of for-profit companies for months or years at a time,” Profiting from Probation points out. “They then require probationers to pay these companies for their services. Many of these offenders are only guilty of minor traffic violations like speeding or driving without proof of insurance. Others have shoplifted, been cited for public drunkenness, or committed other misdemeanor crimes. Many of these offenses carry no real threat of jail time in and of themselves, yet each month, courts issue thousands of arrest warrants for offenders …read more


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Paul Ryan Accidentally Reveals The Truth About The GOP’s Obamacare Replacement

April 5, 2014 in Blogs

By Igor Volsky, ThinkProgress

Ryan makes crystal clear which health care provisions they wouldn't keep.

This article was published by ThinkProgress.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) admitted on Friday that Republicans would not be able to preserve the most popular elements of Obamacare if they repeal the law as a whole. Ryan’s comments come as House Republicans plan to unveil a replacement bill that will reportedly allow young adults to remain on their parents’ health care plans and provide some level of protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

“If you look at these kinds of reforms, where they’ve been tried before — say the state of Kentucky, for example — you basically make it impossible to underwrite insurance,” Ryan told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt when asked if Republicans would maintain the pre-existing conditions regulations, dependent coverage extension, and other rate requirements. “You dramatically crank up the cost. And you make it hard for people to get affordable health care,” Ryan insisted.

The former GOP vice presidential candidate also said that Republicans could offer other alternatives that would expand coverage to people without insurance and lower health care costs. “Yes, and I think there are better ways of dealing with those very serious and legitimate issues without doing it this way, because I think this is the wrong approach.”

In 2009, Ryan offered a joint alternative with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), which would have taxed the full value of employer health benefits and provided refundable tax credits to help families and individuals purchase employer or nongroup coverage. Economists had predicted that equalizing the tax treatment of health care benefits could discourage businesses from offering insurance and lead at least 20 million Americans to lose their employer coverage .

The plan also encouraged states to “establish rational and reasonable consumer protections” by forming State Health Insurance Exchanges. The bill even included “non-profit, independent board” to penalize insurance companies “that cherry pick health patients and reward insurers that cover patients with pre-existing conditions.” It described the board as “a model that works in several European countries.”

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Food Stamps Don't Keep Walmart's Prices Low, They Keep Its Profits High

April 5, 2014 in Blogs

By Amy Traub, The Huffington Post

The same company that brings in the most food stamp dollars in revenue has the most employees using food stamps.

The same company that brings in the most food stamp dollars in revenue – an estimated $13 billion last year — also likely has the most employees using food stamps.”

The name of the mammoth food stamp-reliant company is no secret: Walmart.

As journalist Krissy Clark notes in Marketplace's valuable new series “The Secret Life of the Food Stamp,” Walmart benefits from food stamps in multiple ways, as taxpayers both underwrite the company's food sales and also subsidize its payroll costs.

There is no doubt that food stamps (and a host of other public subsidies from Medicaid to home heating assistance to the Earned Income Tax Credit and beyond) reduce Walmart's employment costs substantially. A study released last year by staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that a single 300-employee Walmart Supercenter may cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million per year.

Consider that the working people who turn to food stamps to supplement inadequate wages are demonized as society's lazy “takers” — a young Walmart employee who enrolled in food stamps to help support his pregnant partner told Marketplace that previously “I'd always considered people who use food stamps as just taking advantage of the government.” Yet the company itself continues to be seen as a paragon of free enterprise, notwithstanding the tens of billions of dollars in subsidies through the same program.

Marketplace has done a great service by shining light on a key public misperception, illuminating the low-wage employers who benefit most from programs like food stamps. Yet an important part of the story still gets missed. It's probably intended to be a rhetorical question when part II of the food stamp series asks: “Are Walmart's prices so low because its employees are on food stamps?” But the answer is no.

In reality, it's not Walmart's low prices that taxpayers are subsidizing — it's the company's mammoth profits.

Walmart made $17 billion in profit in 2013, and spent $7.6 billion buying back shares of …read more


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Can We Safeguard Our Democracy After McCutcheon?

April 5, 2014 in Blogs

By Joshua Holland,

We might just find a silver lining to the dark clouds that McCutcheon and Citizens United represent.

The Supreme Court’s evisceration of our campaign finance rules is a powerful argument for the cleansing properties of sunlight. We should respond to McCutcheon by pushing for the full and timely disclosure of every penny donated to advance a political agenda.

If America’s wealthiest can offer unlimited dollars to shape our politics, the least we can do is force them to own their activism. It’s time to get rid of the loopholes for sham “social welfare” organizations and trade groups. It’s time to wipe out the dark money, and force those wealthy few to publicly stand behind their positions.

That’s not only a good and timely idea – it may also be the only viable tool we have left to protect our democracy, at least for the foreseeable future.

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in McCutcheon, Sam Steiner, a fellow at Yale Law School, wrote that the court’s conservatives have “no idea how money works in politics.” It’s a common criticism. As Justice Stephen Breyernoted in his dissent in McCutcheon, the conservative bloc’s decision in the case rested “upon its own, not a record-based, view of the facts.”

But it’s more likely that the justices know exactly how money works in politics.Several studies have shown that the court’s conservatives are far more likely to engage in “judicial activism” than their liberal counterparts. In Citizens United,they went so far as to order the litigants to re-argue their case on First Amendment grounds, prompting former Justice John Paul Stevens to write, “Five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”

There’s no reason to believe that a majority that almost always rules in favor of the US Chamber of Commerce doesn’t know what eviscerating our campaign finance rules means. Rather, they’ve been working to create the world they want to see. Ari Berman wrote that the Roberts court has consistently “made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one.” (Ironically, just eight …read more


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The Fed Is Not Following The Law

April 5, 2014 in Economics

By Hunter Lewis


Some of the games being played behind closed doors by the Fed are not only troubling. They are not even legal.

It was a clear violation of Section 14 (B) of the Federal Reserve Act for the Fed to respond to the Crash of 2008 by buying $1.5 trillion of mortgages not guaranteed by the federal government. The agency hid behind Section 13.3 language allowing a broad scope of action under “unusual and exigent circumstances,” but the statute states clearly that Section 13.3 loans can only be short term and backed by high quality collateral, a requirement that was blatantly ignored.

It was also a violation of both the Fed statute and the Constitution to offload potential Fed losses from its hedge fund-like operations onto the Treasury, as was done stealthily via a note to the Fed’s Statistical Release H 4.1 dated January 6, 2011. The notion of the Treasury (i.e. The taxpayers) having to bail out the Fed is not just a theoretical possibility. The Fed’s annual report just released shows a $53 billion unrealized loss.

It would also appear to be a violation of the Constitution to locate the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank Act inside the agency. The Constitution requires that all government expenditures be authorized and funded by Congress. The Fed has always been treated as an exception. It uses income on securities it has bought with newly created money to pay its bills and has not even been subject to Congressional oversight.

Having a secretive, self-funded, extra-constitutional agency inside government was bad enough when the Fed consisted of seven governors and a few staff members. The new Consumer Bureau already employs an estimated 1,359 people and keeps growing. Many of these employees were transferred from other government agencies where they formerly had been counted as part of the federal budget, but are now suddenly off-budget. If this is allowed to stand, what other federal agencies will be slipped inside the Fed in future in order to reduce the reported Federal deficit?

Some of the Fed’s actions since the Crash have been perfectly legal, but also designed to escape detection by the press and public. For example, in the dark days of the 2008 crash, a provision was buried deep in the TARP bill passed by Congress authorizing the Fed to pay interest to banks on their lending reserves. This made it legal …read more