Saturday, March 28, 2015

Wisconsin's middle class is shrinking faster than in any other state

Inequality is rising and the American middle class is shrinking. But nowhere is it shrinking faster than in Wisconsin:
In 2000, 54.6 percent of Wisconsin families fell into the middle class category but that has fallen to 48.9 percent in 2013, according to U.S. Census figures compiled by Pew.

All other states showed some decline but none as great as Wisconsin’s 5.7 percent figure.

Wisconsin's median household income fell 14.7 percent during those years.

Obviously this decline pre-dates Scott Walker's election as governor, but it's safe to say that Walker's terrible job creation record, a poor record even according to the Chamber of Commerce, isn't helping. Neither is saying the minimum wage"doesn't serve a purpose," or attacking the unions that reduce inequality, or slashing education funding. Walker was able to get elected by playing on the fears of voters in a shrinking middle class, but his agenda was always aimed at accelerating the decline.

Upset By Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Banks Debate Halting Some Campaign Donations

NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party's tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

Bank officials said the idea of withholding donations was not discussed at a meeting of the four banks in Washington but it has been raised in one-on-one conversations between representatives of some of them. However, there was no agreement on coordinating any action, and each bank is making its own decision, they said.

The amount of money at stake, a maximum of $15,000 per bank, means the gesture is symbolic rather than material

Moreover, banks' hostility toward Warren, who is not a presidential candidate, will not have a direct impact on the presumed Democratic front runner in the White House race, Hillary Clinton. That's because their fund-raising groups focus on congressional races rather than the presidential election

Still, political strategists say Clinton could struggle to raise money among Wall Street financiers who worry that Democrats are becoming less business friendly.

Friday, March 27, 2015

After Months Of Scandalizing Clinton Foundation Donations, Press Silent On Walker's Reported Pay-For-Play

The press has almost entirely ignored the revelation that after the "richest man in Wisconsin" made secret donations benefitting Republican Governor Scott Walker, his company received special tax credits for that same donor's company.

By contrast, the media have frequently invoked donations to the Clinton Foundation in their coverage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, baselessly suggesting that those donations create conflicts of interest.

Yahoo News reported March 23 that John Menard Jr., the billionaire owner of a chain of hardware stores in the Midwest, donated over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which "pledged to keep its donors secret." Walker helped generate large, undisclosed donations for the group, according to records unveiled as part of a criminal investigation into whether the interactions of such groups with Walker's campaign committee violated state campaign finance laws. The Club defended Walker in the 2012 recall election, where he prevailed.

Since then, Menard's company "has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records." Walker appointees also scaled back enforcement actions by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "a top Menard priority."

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave a detailed account of the story on her March 24 broadcast:

Yet the pay-to-play allegations swirling around Walker, a possible Republican presidential candidate, have been widely ignored by others in the media.

The story hasn't been covered on the three major broadcast networks, CNN, or Fox News, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters' video archives. The Rachel Maddow Show appears to be MSNBC's only mention of the story. Besides a reprint of an Associated Press article noting a denial of wrongdoing from the Walker administration, the New York Times hasn't covered the story. And the only references from The Washington Post are in a post on the progressive Plum Line blog and the same AP story the Times reprinted.

By contrast, the media has repeatedly raised thespecter of "ethical concerns" over donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments and individuals, among others. They have persisted with this coverage despite the clear indications from Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state that the donations did not influence her politically and the reality that the donations went to a global charity, not a fund benefiting her election.

Chuck Schumer Will Run To Succeed Harry Reid As Senate Minority Leader

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is throwing his hat in the ring to take over the top Senate Democratic leadership spot after Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) retires at the end of 2016, a source close to Schumer said Friday.

The source said the senator intends to run for leader and was encouraged by Reid to begin corralling support from the Democratic caucus. So far, no senator has announced plans to challenge Schumer for the position.

Schumer spent most of Friday making calls to Senate Democrats, the source said, and by midday he had commitments of support from an overwhelming majority of the caucus.

The New York Democrat thanked Reid on Friday afternoon for his "friendship, counsel" and leadership over the past 10 years.

Hinting at his bid for minority leader, Schumer said he is "honored and humbled to have the support of so many of my colleagues and [looks] forward to our Senate Democratic Caucus continuing to fight for the middle class."

Schumer is the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, behind Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.).

A spokesman for the Illinois senator said Durbin told Schumer "late last night that he wasn't running for leader and that Schumer has his support." The spokesman said Durbin plans to run again for minority whip and has Reid's support.

To the surprise of many, Reid announced early Friday morning his plans to retire after 2016, reasoning that he doesn't want to use up the party's resources during a pivotal election year and saying he wants to help Democrats gain back control of the Senate.

Shortly thereafter, Reid threw his weight behind Schumer to succeed him in leading Senate Democrats..

"I think Schumer should be able to succeed me," Reid told The Washington Post.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Pay-To-Play Allegation Walker's Watchdog Isn't Defending

Mired in conflicts of interest,'s Wisconsin Reporter has remained silent as new information emerges concerning Governor Scott Walker's (R-WI) role in a potential pay-to-play scandal. The site, which echoed defendants calling the investigation a "witch hunt," has previously defended Walker from the allegations of campaign finance violations in over 150 articles.

The Wisconsin Reporter has been a staunch defender of Walker against allegations of wrongdoing stemming from the "John Doe" investigations, the protected state probes into Walker's campaign practices and possible illegal campaign coordination. Since January 1 of this year, the Reporter has published 19 articles either defending Walker or denouncing the validity of the investigations.The Reporter's website includes a special series on the "John Doe" investigations titled "Wisconsin's Secret War," which currently has 186 total entries.

But the Wisconsin Reporter has been silent as evidence reportedly leaked from the very investigation it has covered so heavily revealed potential instances of pay-to-play between a local business man and the Walker administration.

At issue is over $1.5 million in donations made in 2012 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCG), a group that defended the Governor during his 2012 recall election and is directed by Walker's campaign advisor, Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff reported on March 23. The donations were made by hardware store franchise owner John Menard Jr. According to Isikoff, in the years after Walker survived that recall election, Menard's business has benefited from "up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs."

Before the evidence of Menard's donation to WCG became public, the Reporter defended Eric O'Keefe, director of the WCG, against allegations that he and the WCG improperly coordinated with Walker. In multiple articles the Reporter gave O'Keefe and the WCG a platform to deny wrongdoing and undermine the investigation by calling it a "witch hunt." While prosecutors have not commented on the case to the site, O'Keefe told the Reporter, "From its inception, this was a scam, a political pursuit." In an attempt to undermine the case, the Reporter highlighted the growing cost of the investigation, questioned the independence of the chief justice hearing the case, and promoted counter investigations into the prosecution.

The Reporter has not yet mentioned Menard's donation and subsequent tax breaks, a major development in the story that made national headlines. Their silence on the story highlights the conflicts of interest that surround the outlet's reporting on Walker and the "John Doe" investigations.

The Reporter is part of The Franklin Center, a group of web-based media outlets founded in part by EricO'Keefe. The Franklin Center's media group -- which includes the Wisconsin Reporter -- claims they are "in no way partisan," however the Franklin Center received 95 percent of their funding in 2011 from Donors Trust, a conservative clearing house used to pump money indirectly into politics, and whose chief executive told The Guardian that no donations to the trust would go "to liberals."

The Franklin Center's ties to conservative Wisconsin groups goes beyond O'Keefe and the WCG. The Capital Times reported that Franklin Center Director of Special Projects John Connors has also acted as president of Citizens for a Strong America, another conservative group funded by the Club for Growth. Connors, it was also revealed, has personally been named as a target of the "John Doe" investigation. After apologizing for not disclosing Connors' connection to the case, the Wisconsin Reporter continued to defend Walker and those involved in the investigation.

Ted Cruz backtracks on Obamacare sign-up, says he's 'still weighing options'

I Ted Cruz's health insurance story has taken another twist. The backstory: his wife has chosen to take an unpaid leave from her job at Goldman Sachs for the duration of his presidential campaign, and with it goes her employer-subsidized insurance. So Cruz announced that he'd have to go on Obamacare because it was the law. At which point many of us said "nuh-uh." Now, in light of the fact that the law isn't making him do it, Cruz's new spokesguy for his presidential campaign says okay, the law isn't really making him do it, but yeah, the law is making him do it.
"Senator Cruz and his wife are still weighing options for their family," [Rick] Tyler wrote in an email to POLITICO when asked about the senator's current thinking on enrolling in an ACA health insurance exchange, adding that the senator would make a decision shortly.

Tyler said that Cruz—who has vigorously opposed and vowed to repeal Obamacare — was subject to a law with which he disagrees. "That's like saying he's not going to pay the taxes he voted against," he wrote. […]

Cruz’s statement that he would "presumably" sign up for insurance through Obamacare—first reported Tuesday by the Des Moines Register—has delighted many progressives. Several liberalblogs have argued that the senator would be actively choosing to enroll in Obamacare—not being compelled under law, as he has suggested—given his ability to apply for private insurance or possibly to get COBRA coverage.

"Obamacare has driven the whole industry, though," Tyler said when pressed on that point in a separate phone interview. "It's not as if the new private plans have been all preserved. They haven't. Everything was affected by Obamacare."

So now the story is that, well, okay, the law doesn't make him pick an Obamacare plan, but evil Obamacare has swallowed up the whole health insurance industry so he won't have a choice. That's news to the 15 to 25 million people who had non-Obamacare, individual insurance plans in 2014. We have pressed Cruz into one concession—taxpayers won't be paying for his insurance: "Listen, I have zero intention of taking any government subsidy or Obama subsidy. Rather, what I'm going to do is pay in the marketplace for health insurance for my family, just like millions of Americans." So there's that.

Of course, Cruz can afford to pay for health insurance without an employer assist or subsidies. Millions of Americans can't, which doesn't make a damned bit of difference to Cruz. This "man of the people" doesn't have any problem with taking away their subsidies, and taking away their health insurance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When Confronted By Letterman, O'Reilly Denies Fabrications, Cites Ratings

In his first TV interview outside Fox News since it emerged that he lied about his past reporting, Bill O'Reilly claimed his statements had been "accurate" and attempted to use his show's ratings as proof that he is a trusted reporter.

"So we had a controversy there," O'Reilly said on the March 24 edition of The Late Show with David Letterman, "and we put forth what my side was, they put forth what their side was, folks decided, and it worked out okay for me, and I got even more viewers." In the edited clip, released before the show airs, O'Reilly used his show's ratings to claim viewers trust him, saying, "I've been on the air 19 seasons, 15 years at number one, our ratings now are as high as they've ever been, so I think they do trust me and I'm glad they do."

Despite O'Reilly's claim that "what I said was accurate," the Fox News host has been mired in controversy since news emerged of his numerous fabrications about his past reporting. O'Reilly has claimed he was in a "combat situation" in the Falklands, which is disputed by reporters and historians. The Fox host also said that he personally heard the suicide of figure in the JFK assassination, when in fact he himself said in a phone call that he was not in Florida at the time. And after it was revealed that O'Reilly's claim to have witnessed the murder of nuns in El Salvador could not possibly be true because he arrived in the country after the murders occurred -- a claim denounced as "reprehensible" by a lawyer who represented the victim's families -- O'Reilly explained that he only meant he had seen pictures of the murder, not the event itself. O'Reilly used a similar defense when questions arose about his claim to have seen "Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs": a Fox spokesperson said that O'Reilly meant he was shown photos of such bombings by Belfast police. 

As Rachel Maddow has pointed out, O'Reilly's defense "that it's okay if they lie on the air as long as it rates" is absurd, even if his show's ratings come close to those of popular TV shows like AMC's Walking Dead-based talk show "Talking Dead" and Discovery Channel's reality show about gold miners "Gold Rush."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Republican States Are More Dependent On Government

Republican-leaning states are a lot more dependent on the federal government than Democratic-leaning ones.

That's according to a recent analysis from the personal finance site WalletHub, which ranked states based on how much they rely on Uncle Sam to support their state finances. 

To calculate states' dependence, WalletHub analyzed three metrics: how much a state gets in federal funding per every dollar it pays in federal income taxes, the percentage of state funding that comes from the federal government and the number of federal employees per capita, both military and civilian.

Check out the map below to see how dependent your home state is compared to the rest of the country. The most-dependent states are shaded white, and least-dependent states are shaded blue. A ranking of 1 indicates least-dependent, while 50 represents most-dependent. 

Source: WalletHub

As you can see, New Mexico is the most-dependent state in the U.S., according to WalletHub's data. The state gets $2.19 in federal funding for every dollar paid in federal income taxes. In contrast, New Jersey, which is the least-dependent state, gets only about 50 cents in federal funding for every dollar paid in taxes, WalletHub calculated. 

The analysis found that red states, or those that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election, were much more likely to depend on the government than blue states.

That's somewhat ironic, considering the Republican Party's general reluctance to support federally funded initiatives like Medicaid expansion, and its long-term dedication to across-the-board budget cuts to slash the federal deficit.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The data runs counter to claims by business groups and owners who fear higher wages would cause layoffs

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - New York added 17,000 jobs in low-wage industries in 2014 after the state's minimum wage rose to $8 an hour, according to an analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute.

The data runs counter to claims by business groups and owners who fear higher wages would cause layoffs as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others advocate for New York to hike its minimum wage to $10.50 an hour.

There is a catch: Job growth in places like fast-food restaurants, hotels and stores slowed down compared to previous years, the data shows. Yet that's true for all job numbers in 2014.

So it's hard to pin 2014's sluggish job picture specifically on a higher minimum wage, according to economist James Parrott.

"It's sort of a mixed picture," says Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute. "It doesn't look as though there were any adverse effects in these (low-wage) industries." It's a careful analysis from an economist who works for an institute that favors higher wages. 

Ken Pokalsky, of the Business Council of New York State, says it's too early to say how the rising wage rate is affecting job numbers. The council is fighting the new push for an even higher wage rate.

"In one-year slices, it's really hard to say," says Pokalsky, who also cautions against comparing December to December job numbers - as the institute did - because of the holiday season hirings. "I don't know that you can make any strong conclusion about minimum wage."

New York's minimum wage went to $8 in 2014, is at $8.75 this year, and will go to $9 an hour next year. That will be $18,000 a year for a full-time worker.

"What I'm saying to the Legislature is $18,000 is not enough money to live in the state of New York," Cuomo said at a wage rally in Geddes in early March. "You can't pay for food and rent and clothing and medical and heat and electric. It just doesn't work. Do the math."

Cuomo estimates that 1.3 million New Yorkers would get a raise under his proposal. In Central New York, the number of people making minimum wage would more than double, from 23,500 at the current $8.75 rate to 55,827 at $10.50 , according to the governor's office.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Calif. governor: Cruz 'unfit' to be running for office

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is expected to declare his intention to run for president on Monday, is "absolutely unfit" to run for office because of his views on climate change, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said Sunday.

Brown was asked on NBC's "Meet The Press" about Cruz's comments on "Late Night With Seth Meyers" that "many of the alarmists on global warming, they've got a problem, because the science doesn't back them up."

"What he said is absolutely false," Brown said — adding that the vast majority of climate scientists believe that climate change is man-made. He said that climate change had contributed to both California's drought and record snowfalls in parts of the Northeast.

"So, it’s climate disruption of many different kinds," Brown added. "And that man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of scientific data. It’s shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office."

Brown also said that if he were 10 years younger, he might be running for president himself.

Cruz is reportedly planning to announce he is running for president in 2016 during a Monday appearance at Virginia's Liberty University. He is expected to run by courting the party's conservative base instead of trying to become the first choice of moderate voters.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rudy Giuliani Tells His Party To Stop Blocking Loretta Lynch's Nomination

WASHINGTON -- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said Friday that Loretta Lynch is an "extraordinary" nominee for U.S. attorney general, and called on Senate Republicans to stop holding up her confirmation vote.

In a call with reporters, Giuliani said he is a "very dedicated Republican" and doesn't always agree with President Barack Obama. But he does think that a president should be able to get his or her appointees confirmed by the Senate.

"The confirmation process has been really tremendously distorted. … It's become Republicans torture Democrats, Democrats torture Republicans. Who started it, God knows," he said. "But as a Republican and looking at the Constitution, I find Loretta Lynch not only to be an acceptable appointment, but I find her to be an extraordinary appointment."

Read more:

Christie Administration Won’t Give Lawmaker Details On Exxon Settlement

It's Sunshine Week, but you wouldn't know it in New Jersey. This week, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration blocked a Democratic lawmaker’s effort to learn hidden details of the Republican’s controversial Exxon Mobil settlement. Separately, the administration also withheld other government documents related to a top Christie aide who went to work for Exxon's New Jersey lobbying firm a few months before the settlement was disclosed.

Two weeks ago, Christie’s appointed attorney general formally announced that the state had agreed to settle its lawsuit against Exxon for widespread contamination at its Bayonne and Linden facilities for just $225 million. The settlement, which was far less than the nearly $8.9 billion the state had been seeking, came when the judge presiding over the case was reportedly set to issue a ruling.

The attorney general said the agreement with Exxon would also cover “relatively minor” natural resource damages at 16 undisclosed “company service stations and other facilities located throughout New Jersey.” According to state Sen. Ray Lesniak, the Democrat who is leading an effort to block the settlement, Christie officials plan to keep those details secret. Lesniak announced Thursday that the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had rejected his open records request for information about pollution at the other Exxon sites and retail gasoline stations included in the agreement.

Read more at:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

U.S. Prosecutors Seek Evidence In Chris Christie Bridge Scandal

WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. federal prosecutors have issued a new subpoena seeking evidence of claims that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Republican administration deliberately snarled traffic on the George Washington Bridge as political retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Jersey City, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, the paper said the subpoena issued this week to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey seeks records from a broad range of former authority officials regarding their interactions with Jersey City, according to a person familiar with the matter. (Reporting by Sandra Maler; Editing by Eric Beech)

Hillary Clinton takes aim at GOP-led congress... cuz who wouldn't?

Hillary Clinton is gearing up for her campaign roll out and at that moment, there's no better target than the GOP-led Congress. Anne Gearan and Robert Costa have the details.
In blasts of rapid-fire Twitter messages just this week, Clinton accused Republicans of waging a war on women, playing politics with a black nominee, shortchanging students, endangering the economic recovery and trying to yank health-care coverage for 16 million Americans.

The invocation of divisive issues such as abortion, race and health care was less than subtle. She also weighed in last week on a controversial open letter to Iranian leaders from 47 Senate Republicans — including several presidential hopefuls — in opposition to the Obama administration’s negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.

“No one considering running for commander-in-chief should be signing on,” she wrote on Twitter...

“Our nation’s future — jobs & economic growth — depends on investments made today. The GOP budget fails Americans on these principles,” Clinton tweeted Tuesday night.

Clinton still hasn't announced her candidacy but that is reportedly coming in April, as she staffs up in states like Iowa.

Meanwhile, the Republican Congress has provided a laugh a minute ever since January—unless you were actually hoping Congress might accomplish something. Between yanking their own abortion bill from the House floor to another near government shutdown to Schock-ing falls from grace, Republicans have flat-out failed so far to provide even a hint of meaningful governing.

Of course, some Republicans see upsides to Clinton's approach. GOP consultant Rory Cooper:

“She may want to run against Congress, but the party’s nominee ends up taking the main role in setting the conservative agenda and the tone of the debate,” Cooper said. “Congress will have a role to play in 2016, but it’s the nominee who leads.”
To Cooper's point, Clinton completely dominates every Republican candidate by double digits in a head-to-head to matchup.

And whichever one of those GOP candidates gets the nomination is going to spend the lion's share of his time trying to separate himself from the dysfunction of the GOP Congress if it continues at its current pace.

Bernie Sanders Rails Against GOP Budget As Boost To Income Inequality

WASHINGTON -- To Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the new Republican budgets offered this week aren't so much spending blueprints as they are promises to help the rich get richer and boost income inequality.

There are some large differences between the House GOP budget offered Tuesday and the Senate plan unveiled Wednesday. The House version includes deeper cuts to the safety net, for example, along with significantly greater military spending.

But to Sanders, the top minority member of the Senate Budget Committee, neither version of the budget would do much to help working-class Americans, students, the elderly or the sick -- although they both offer plenty of handouts to wealthy taxpayers and corporations.

"At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, my Republican colleagues apparently believe that the richest people in this country need to be made even richer," said Sanders after Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) unveiled the Senate document at a committee meeting Wednesday. "It is apparently not good enough that 99 percent of all new income today is going to the top 1 percent. It is not good enough that the top one-tenth of 1 percent today own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent."

"Clearly, in the eyes of many Republicans, the wealthy and the powerful need more help," Sanders added. "Not only should they not be asked to pay more in taxes, my Republican colleagues believe we should cut tax rates for millionaires and billionaires."

The budget does not actually specify new breaks for the rich, but it does assume that existing breaks won't expire as currently scheduled. It also instructs Senate committees to draw up plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would likely cost middle-class Americans the subsidies they get to buy health insurance.

To Sanders, that's just one more way the budget would hurt the middle class while helping the wealthy. And he sees it all as part of a 40-year trend in which Washington has made life in America harder for those not at the top of the economic ladder.

"It is not good enough that corporate America is enjoying record-breaking profits, and that the CEOs of large corporations earn some 290 times more than what their average employees earn," he said. "It is apparently not good enough that since 1985 the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen a more than $8 trillion increase in its wealth than what they would have had if wealth inequality had stayed at the same level that it was in 1985. An $8 trillion increase in the wealth of the top one-tenth of 1 percent! But for many of my Republican colleagues, [it's] just not good enough."

Q Poll: NYers Back Disclosure From Elected Officials & Their Significant Others

An overwhelming majority of New York voters – 84 percent – support the idea of elected officials bring required to disclose the sources of their outside income and investments, a new Q poll found. 

A smaller number, but still a majority of 64 percent, also believe the spouses and girlfriends of those same officials should be required to make public the source and size of their respective incomes. (The poll did not differentiate between legislative and executive disclosure proposals, which is the focus of debate between the governor and the Senate Republicans). 

“Follow the money, New Yorkers say,” remarked Q pollster Mickey Carroll. “Overwhelmingly, they want legislators to tell how much they earn. Legislators say spouses and companions of government folks should have to tell all, too. Voters agree.”

Eighty-nine percent of poll respondents said government corruption is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem in the state today, but only 45 percent support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat of holding up this year’s budget in order to force the Legislature’s hand on ethics reform. 

Fifty-four percent of voters disapprove of the way Cuomo is handling ethics in government, and 47 percent believe he’s part of the problem, not part of the solution. 

Cuomo might be able to take some solace in the fact that 62 percent of New Yorkers disapprove of the job the Legislature is doing, compared to its 55-28 job approval rating last December. 

There is strong support – 76 percent – for the idea that lawmaker convicted of a felony should lose their public pensions – a proposal included in the two-way deal struck by Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, but one that requires a constitutional amendment to achieve. Support for this idea is strong across party, age, gender and regional groups, the poll found. 

As for the claim that is widely made by good government groups and left leaning reformers that establishing a public campaign finance system would go a long way toward getting big money out of the political system and reducing corruption, New Yorkers aren’t really on board. Fifty-four precent oppose the creation of such a system for statewide elected officials and the Legislature. 

Fifty-seven percent voiced support for a full-time Legislature with a complete ban on outside income, which is what reform advocates and AG Eric Schneiderman have been pushing – a proposal that goes considerably further than the governor wants at this point. 

Speaking of Schneiderman, his approval rating is 45-22, while state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli came in at 35-19. 

March 19 Q poll on ethics. by liz_benjamin6490

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vast majority of Americans favor Obama administration's diplomatic talks with Iran

A CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday showed that 68 percent of Americans favor the Obama administration's diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from achieving nuclear capabilities. Here's the breakdown:
Direct diplomatic negotiations with Iran are broadly popular, 68% favor them, while 29% oppose them. That support cuts across party lines, with 77% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans and 64% of independents in favor of diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran in an attempt to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, a plurality of Americans disapproved of the effort by 47 Republican senators to scuttle the talks by sending a letter to the leaders of Iran: 49 percent said it went too far, 39 percent thought it was appropriate, and 12 percent had no opinion.
Opinions on the letter were divided along partisan lines, with 67% of Democrats saying it went too far while 52% of Republicans called it appropriate. Among independents, 47% thought it went too far, 42% that it was appropriate.
A plurality, 44 percent, also felt the letter had no impact on the negotiations. Unfortunately, that is not the case since Secretary of State John Kerry was asked directly about the letter Monday during talks with Iranian leaders.

More Americans (48 percent) also trust President Obama to deal with the major issues of the day than they do Republicans in Congress (39 percent).

Tom Cotton's open letter to Iran hounds the GOP's most vulnerable senators back home

Four of the Republican's most vulnerable senators who decided to follow Sen. Tom Cotton into battle against the White House by addressing a letter to Iran's leaders are likely regretting that move. Among Cotton's 26 co-signers were Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Rob Portman of Ohio.

The letter, which was an effort to scuttle the Obama administration's diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, is also having a nuclear effect back home.

In New Hampshire: A hometown editorial read, "Ayotte signs up for a dangerous political game."

"When Ayotte signed her name on that piece of paper, she cast her lot with a thoughtless brand of politics splintered from the thread of American diplomatic history. Time and future negotiations will reveal the damage done." --The Concord Monitor
In Wisconsin: A new poll found Ron Johnson sucking wind against for Sen. Russ Feingold.
Johnson, who rode the Republican tidal wave of 2010 to victory over longtime incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold, comes in at just 32% approval, making him one of the least popular senators in the country.

Feingold, meanwhile, is the most popular Wisconsin politician included in this poll with 46/35 favorability. He holds a healthy nine-point lead over Johnson in a hypothetical re- match of their 2010 race, 50/41.

Johnson tried to deflect criticism of the letter by saying they had simply made a minor error in addressing the letter.
“I suppose the only regret is who it’s addressed to,” Johnson said during a Friday breakfast with Bloomberg staff. “But the content of the letter, the fact that it was an open letter, none whatsoever.”
For more scathing hometown reviews, head below the fold.

In Illinois: a hometown newspaper editorializes, "When contempt trumps common sense."

Kirk has not been among the crazies in Congress, particularly on foreign policy matters, but he joined them here (while notably the GOP chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, did not). Perhaps our senator should follow this little guide in the future: Any time he finds himself in agreement with Ted Cruz, he ought to reconsider. --Peoria Journal Star
In Ohio: Portman has taken a beating from multiple papers.
[T]here is no excuse for Senate Republicans’ sorry behavior, and voters should make them pay a price. Diplomacy with Iran is too important to be hijacked by a partisan sideshow. --The Toledo Blade
It's bad enough that the letter, signed by 47 senators, diminishes the dignity of the Senate by disparaging the president and presenting an amateur lesson on U.S. governance ... But worst of all, the senators' breach of protocol gives Iran something to blame if it breaks off talks on a possible deal. --The Cincinnati Enquirer
In terms of national sentiment, one poll found Americans disapproved of the letter by 42 to 28 percent, with 31 percent saying they weren't sure.

Washington Post readers were even less impressed, with an unscientific poll of more than 330,000 respondents finding that 90 percent thought Republicans had gone too far.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fox Figures Falsely Dub New Obama Student Aid Plan A "Bailout"

Fox figures falsely labeled President Obama's new plan to protect student borrowers a "bailout," ignoring the realities of the plan as well as the student debt crisis that necessitated his executive action.

Fox Figures Erroneously Label Obama's Executive Action To Protect Student Borrowers A "Bailout"

NY Times: President Obama Signed An Executive Order To "Help Students Deal With The Growing Burden Of College Loans." The New York Times wrote on March 10 that Obama signed an executive order that morning called the "Student Aid Bill of Rights" to "help students deal with the growing burden of college loans." The article continued:

With the memorandum, Mr. Obama directed federal agencies to take steps to make it easier for college students to finance their education, pay back their loans and avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous lenders.


The order directs the secretary of education to develop a "state of the art complaint and feedback system" that would allow students to easily file grievances about the federal financial aid process.

Mr. Obama's directive would also require federal agencies involved in the distribution of student aid to enhance consumer protections and information disclosure during the financial aid process. And it would create a new task force to monitor student loan performance and trends in borrowing. [The New York Times3/10/15]

Fox's Neil Cavuto Refers To Obama's Action As A "Bailout," Asking "Where Is The Bill Of Rights For The Rest Of Us Who Have No Choice But To Pay?" On the March 10 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Cavuto decried the student aid plan as a "bailout" multiple times, lamenting the lack of a bill of rights for "those who have no choice but to pay" (emphasis added):

CAVUTO: Finally, who doesn't like free stuff? Kids being offered free community college sure do. Just like stressed-out homeowners given mortgage rescue sure do, and auto companies on the brink of bankruptcy given bailouts sure do, or banks or solar companies or anyone else who got in deep and now wants Uncle Sam to dig them out. It is human nature to grab at something free as long as you're not the human paying for it, someone else is. It's like this whole Student Aid Bill of Rights thing. Who is paying the bill for their bill? Who is paying back the loans they won't, making good on the obligations they're not? That's what happens with bailouts. Pretty soon, you're bailing everybody out and leaving fewer to complain. After all, who are the bailed out to rip those getting bailed out, because we've had a lot of bailouts, right?

That's why I find it kind of funny when a lot of my Wall Street friends complain. Who got more money than banks? The problem is nothing comes free. Free college sounds good, just like helping underwater homeowners feels good, but it costs a good deal of money. These rescues that never seem to rescue, these bailouts that themselves often need bailing out. You would think by now we would figure it out, that the bill for all of these rights is looking more than the right scary, and the folks who can pay more than a right too few. Yet the demands just keep on coming. Egged on by politicians who kind of act like the guy in the bar who shouts "Drinks on the house!" then he up and walks out the bar, leaving it up to others to figure out how to strategically invest money they do not have. On drinks they always know will leave the house broke. It rings hollow. Forget a bill of rights for those who say they can't pay. Where is the bill of rights for the rest of us who have no choice but to pay? [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 3/10/15]

Fox News Radio Host: "A Student Debt Bailout?" Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan posted the headline, "A Student Debt Bailout? President Obama Proposes Change In Bankruptcy Law!!" to his website on March 11. [Fox News Radio, 3/11/15]

But The Plan Requires A Review Of Bankruptcy Laws, Not A Bailout

Wall Street Journal: Plan "Direct[s] Administration Officials To Study" Bankruptcy Law As It Pertains To Student Loans. The Wall Street Journal wrote on March 10 that Obama's executive action requires officials to review "whether to expand bankruptcy options for 'all student loan borrowers,'" noting that one official said the review would "likely focus" on loans from private lenders:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday directed administration officials to study whether to expand bankruptcy options for "all student loan borrowers." An administration official said the bankruptcy review would likely focus on whether to expand bankruptcy options for borrowers with student loans made by private lenders--such as SLM Corp.'s Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo & Co.--that aren't backed by the government.

Private loans make up about 10% of all student loans, with the remaining 90% made by the federal government.

Any bankruptcy-law changes would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled Congress, which has broadly opposed the president's agenda. [The Wall Street Journal3/10/15]

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Plan Requires Lenders To Help Students Understand Repayment Options. In a piece covering the president's speech on his plan, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that "[t]he plan also requires third-party lenders to better inform students of repayment options," in addition to the "creation of a centralized complaint system." [Atlanta Journal-Constitution3/11/15]

The Washington Post: Plan Aims To Review Whether To Treat Student Debt Like Other Forms Of Debt. The Washington Post's Post Politics blog went into further detail about the action Obama signed on Tuesday, noting the different regulations for student debt versus other types of debt, like mortgage and credit card:

The memorandum ordered administration officials to study whether changes to bankruptcy laws would be needed. Student loans cannot currently be discharged in bankruptcy, but other types of debt, including mortgages and credit card balances, can be wiped out. Obama also called for officials to review whether changes to statues and regulations are needed when it comes to flexible repayment options for all borrowers. They will also review whether mortgage and credit card protections can be applied to people with student loan debt. [The Washington Post, Post Politics Blog, 3/10/15]

And Experts Agree That Borrowers Need The Protections In This Plan

The Institute For College Access And Success: Borrowers "Urgently Need" Components of This Plan. Independent, nonprofit The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) released a statement on March 10 commending the president's commitments to taking steps that "borrowers urgently need," including a centralized system for complaints and "fairer and more consistent treatment":

"Today's Presidential Memorandum takes many steps that we have advocated for and that borrowers urgently need, including a coordinated system for accepting, tracking, and reporting complaints, a single portal for borrowers to manage their federal loan accounts, fairer and more consistent treatment for borrowers in bankruptcy, elimination of the need for borrowers in income-driven repayment plans to submit annual income information that the government already has, and regular public reporting of more comprehensive loan data." [TICAS, 3/10/15]

Consumers Union: Obama's Proposed Reforms Are Important To Keep Those With Student Debt In "Good Standing." Consumers Union Staff Attorney Suzanne Martindale said in a March 10 statement that Obama's plan includes "really important steps" to keep student borrowers in "good standing:

"For too long, student loan servicers have provided inconsistent or misleading information, muddying up a system that's already hard for students to navigate. These reforms are really important steps toward keep borrowers in good standing on their loans, so they're making affordable payments instead of sliding toward default." [Consumers Union, 3/10/15]

Fox News Has A History Of Downplaying The Student Debt Crisis

Fox Hosts Have Previously Promoted Various Myths About The Reality Of The Student Debt Crisis. Multiple Fox News figures have promoted conservative myths about the more than $1 trillion student loan debt held in the U.S., including the idea that students can just find cheaper colleges, that student loans drive up college costs, and that student loan forgiveness is a taxpayer-funded bailout. [Media Matters4/25/14]