U.S. Politics

The Day American Democracy Died (January 21, 2010)



The government of the people, by the people, and for the people, has perished. Democracy was terminally ill for a long time and just lingering on life support. Freedom of individuals to choose their leadership has been trumped by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision known as Citizens United which gave corporations equal rights with the people. As then-candidate Mitt Romney famously quipped, “Corporations are people.” Importantly, that SCOTUS decision was not a fluke or accidental, it was part of a strategic long-game designed and engineered to shift the balance of power even further into the hands of plutocrats. It was a culmination of carefully packing the courts at all levels of government with judges favorable to big business at the expense of middle class.

With the legalization of political action committees (PACs), the amount of money that can be spent on elections is virtually limitless. Even worse, PACs often are allowed to conceal their donors and thus it is impossible to determine who is supporting the ads. Masquerading under innocuous sounding, and often misleading names, they sway unsuspecting voters, usually with emotional discourse devoid of accurate facts. More disconcerting are the ads and social media campaigns using overtly false information, and doing so with impunity.

The notion that people have a real choice is an illusion. What is left of elections are referendums about what appear to be the lessor of bad or even evil options. Like many others, rarely have I voted for any candidate. Rather, we have voted againstthe candidates we thought posed the most harm to the country. In the current presidential election cycle, the leading candidates of both parties hold the unenviable record of being the most disliked in history. Yet, inevitably the media keeps referring to the choices as “the will of the people.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. At present the voters mostly are stuck with the simply awful candidates that represent the plutocracy in which we live.

The will of the people no longer counts, even when actions are supported by an overwhelming majority, such as in the case of gun control legislation. Other examples include most of votes going to Democratic candidates in the 2014 elections, yet Republicans taking majority positions in both the House of Representatives and Senate. In fact, 20 million more votes were cast for the Democrats, but because of gerrymandering, their votes were concentrated in previously conceded “Blue” districts, but generally spread out in predominantly “Red” districts.

It was Tip O’Neil who once famously stated, “All politics is local.” That is an anachronism. Evidenced in the 2014 elections, vast amounts of external funding flooded states and districts that were considered to be “in play,” while only minimum amounts were spent in “safe” districts. A prior example was during the 2012 election to recall Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. In that election, outside groups provided over $33M to successfully influence the outcome.

While the campaign with most money does not always win, (think Jeb Bush), the ability to inundate the public with a storyline is usually a successful strategy.Campaigns built on lies too frequently are successful. It should be noted that many of these falsehoods are intentionally placed including an emotional hook. It is anticipated that the public, especially with social media, blindly will retransmit the counterfactual message. Readers should remember the nonexistent “death panels”that were supposed to be part and parcel of the Affordable Care Act. Using the tobacco industry model, climate change is under continual assault; raising doubt is enough. Some of my friends are certain that at any time now Federal agents are going to knock on their door to collect their guns. The critical question, in all cases, should be cui bono (who profits)? Unfortunately, the answer is with dark money, provenance often is impossible to trace.

A quote often, but incorrectly, attributed to Thomas Jefferson states, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” The sentiment is correct, but has clearly been abandoned in our current political climate. Conveyed by a variety of media the public is now inundated with misleading and overtly false information. Agencies that attempt to evaluate the validity specific statements and claims, themselves become suspect. What is most disconcerting are the educated people, who when confronted with demonstrable falsehoods, vociferously state, “I don’t care!”

In reality this is symptomatic of a larger problem, the loss of trust and confidence in our most fundamental systems and organizations. Specifically, I refer to the federal government, the established news media, big business, and even our educational institutions. The U.S. Congress approval rating hovers around record lows at only 14.5%. More important is the disapproval level near all-time highs at above 77%. That is little wonder as the recent sessions have accomplished less than any prior terms. The overt refusal to approve a nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat is a classic example of the partisan politics that has stagnated The Hill.

Confidence in the once-venerated U.S. Supreme Court has fallen to a new low with approval at only 30%. Given the blatantly political decisions that have been handed down in recent years, it is little wonder that trust in them has diminished. More problematic is that only 23% of the people indicated they had a lot of confidence in the criminal justice system. Yet incongruently, voters tend to support tough criminal laws and lengthy prison sentences. That sentiment has caused the U.S. to have the highest incarceration rates in the developed world and at considerable expense. Despite lack of trust in the system, people still support capital punishment for which retribution is a disturbing component. Heinousness of the crimes aside, executions cost more than imprisonment for life. More important, repeatedly the death penalty has been proven to be adjudicated on innocent suspects. Of course, it is applied disproportionately, mostly to people of color and/or from lower socioeconomic status.

A byproduct of the clamoring for tougher criminal laws is the number of innocent people caught up by the furor to punish somebody. Across the nation, prosecutors, as elected officials, run for office based on their conviction rate. Of course, the public assumes that integrity is paramount and no ethical attorney would bring false charges and against an innocent suspect. This is simply wrong as cases of prosecutorial misconduct repeatedly come to light. A huge problem is that the offending prosecutors almost never are held accountable for their misdeeds. Note that 2015 saw the highest number of exonerations in history. If ever there was an argument against capital punishment, it is the number of those convicted of murder that were on that list. Because of the inherent weakness in the public defender arena, some innocent people take plea bargains just to avoid the risk of a harsher sentence.

The media does not fare much better in public trust and is in steady decline with only about 20% of the people having confidence in their accuracy. Appropriately, news originating on the Internet is even lower. Truly independent news sources is an archaic concept. Several factors play into that situation but the foremost is money. Print media has been especially hard hit, with many newspapers going out of business. Television news is driven by ratings and generally tied to the entertainment value of the station. Like many other industries consolidation by mega-corporations has limited diverse views, and nearly eliminated controversial reporting that would shed a bad light on sponsors or owners. As an example, here in Las Vegas the largest paper in Nevada was surreptitiously bought by Sheldon Adelson, a GOP mega-donor. When the leading columnist, John L. Smith, was told he could not write about the nationally influential owner, he resigned.

Polls indicate that citizens don’t have much confidence in big businesses either. They show a marked difference from small businesses but large companies only have about a 20% trust level. That is not a record low (16%) but close enough to it to be of concern. It is clear that most people believe that corporations place their financial interests well ahead of those of the public, or even the nation. Quarterly earnings reports are seen to be far more important than doing what is right or focusing on long-term goals. Product recalls and accusations of voluntary environmental damage certainly hurt their image. Then, of course, the exposure of dramatic price gouging by large pharmaceutical companies is yet another factor in trust degradation.

Many higher-level educational institutions are viewed as being too liberal in thinking, and thus suspect by conservatives. Right-wing talk radio hosts often lament that the younger generation is being corrupted and subversively indoctrinated in “progressive thinking.” A well-educated friend (Ph.D.), and GOP supporter, recently told me it was “impossible to be a Republican (professor) in a university.” Obviously he is not familiar with the philosophical position of Pepperdine University, where I received a master’s degree. While the notion that all colleges are liberal-leaning is held by many conservatives, that statement it is simply false. Consider the staff and faculty of such institutions as George Mason, Hillsdale, Brigham Young, or Texas A&M, which is the fourth largest university in the country. All are recognized as conservative institutions.

Integrally interwoven are universities and the financial system. Led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders some politicians have been quite vocal about the staggering inequality that exists in our financial system. In recent decades there has been a dramatic shift in wealth concentrated in a minuscule segment of the population. Stories abound about CEOs being compensated in millions of dollars, yet actively fighting the concept of raising the minimum wage for their employees. A recent poll found that many of the young millennials no longer trust capitalism. A logical explanation could be the predominance of the “winner take all” philosophy that has dominated financial institutions and large businesses. Yet, the conservative-aligned talk radio hosts choose to blame the “liberal-leaning” education they received.

A fundamental factor in American lives today is fear. Fear permeates everything we do from politics to sales. Big Pharma bombards us with sales messages for diseases and syndromes that didn’t even exist a short time ago. Appealing to emotion versus logic, the Internet carries concerns about perverts in bathrooms, vast voting fraud, and that refugees are only coming here to kill us. In reality, none of those areas are significant problems. Legal issue proponents call for a ban of sharia law, even though it doesn’t exist in the U.S. Crimes are committed by citizens and illegal immigrants alike. Yet when the same crimes are done by an immigrant, the acts are viewed as especially heinous. The unfortunate bottom line is that fear strikes an emotional chord and it sells. It sells both products and political issues.

An Outline for Redemption

Restoration of confidence will not come easily in the U.S., but it is possible. There are a number of obvious steps that can, and should, be taken. We currently endure an antiquated two-party system as if we live in a binary world. While there are other political groups, such as the Libertarian Party or Green Party, when it comes to the outcome of elections they are insignificant. Like other third party attempts at the national level, while it may be emotionally satisfying at a personal level, at best they can act as a spoiler by diverting votes from one of the two major political parties.

The election primary enterprises conducted this year clearly have illuminated the serious fractures in the current system. Under the existing two-party system most voters are faced with the unenviable choice of selecting the person they disagree with the least. Both the Republican and Democrat parties suffer internal distress. This is not a new problem; but one exacerbated by limitless funds. In reality, politically connected plutocrats determine who will be the candidates most to their liking. Those options are then foisted upon the general public and the winner falsely anointed as “the will of the people.”

A viable option is to break the existing structure and subdivide into several major parties which would be more representative of our multipolar society. That would force the leading candidate from the national election to form a government based on coalitions. Hardly a new idea, this form of governance is practiced by half of the countries who freely elect their leadership. The overriding factor would be to insure that some of the subdivisions were strong enough to survive an onslaught from the residual system. Breaking the stranglehold of the current parties would create a situation in which many more political positions would have to be accommodated; yes, giving the people more control of their destiny. By design, it would force coalitions and cooperative exchanges in order to govern more effectively.




U.S. Politics

Supreme Court seems sympathetic to former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27:  Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell (2nd R) speaks to members of the media in front of the U.S. Supreme Court April 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard the corruption appeal from McDonnell, who and his wife were convicted of accepting more than $175,000 of gifts and favors from businessman Jonnie Williams, who wanted their help to promote his dietary supplement product called Anatabloc.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Bob McDonnell pleads his case | Getty Images


The Supreme Court heard former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s appeal of his sentence on political corruption charges Wednesday, and appears to be leaning in his favor. McDonnell was convicted and sentenced to two years for accepting gifts from a businessman, including a $20,000 Fifth Avenue shopping spree, more than $5,000 for a monogrammed Rolex and the use of a convertible Ferrari, a custom-made golf bag, and a sizable personal loan. The questions from the justices raised concerns that “the government’s concept of bribery was so broad as to criminalize many routine actions by public officials.”

After the hourlong argument, the last one for the current Supreme Court term, the question was less whether Mr. McDonnell’s conviction would survive, but whether the court would provide federal prosecutors a road map for revising its charges that could plausibly allow for a retrial. […]Justice Stephen Breyer said the government’s standard for criminal corruption was so vague that political figures wouldn’t know what conduct crosses the line and that federal prosecutors would become the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong through wide discretion over whom and what to charge.

He and other justices repeatedly sought a “limiting principle” to make sharper the distinction between permissible and illegal conduct in exchange for gifts or donations. […]

Justice Elena Kagan suggested the government had erred in the way it framed its charges, listing five separate things Mr. McDonnell did to help Mr. Williams as official acts. Instead, she suggested that there was one official action Mr. Williams sought, the Anatabloc study by state university researchers, and that the individual phone calls or meetings Mr. McDonnell arranged were better understood as evidence of the crime.


There’s widespread concern that the conviction has a chilling effect on how elected officials work with lobbyists and campaign donors. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that thousands of dollars, Rolexes, golf bags, and use of a Ferrari are all that commonplace for elected officials—but nonetheless, they’re kind of freaking out. It appears the court will ease their minds, at least a little.

Joan McCarter

U.S. Politics

Bush: I’d ‘Eliminate’ The Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling


AP Photo / Steven Senne


“If I could do it all again I’d eliminate the Supreme Court ruling,” Bush reportedly told CNN host Dana Bash. “This is a ridiculous system we have now where you have campaigns that struggle to raise money directly and they can’t be held accountable for the spending of the super PAC that’s their affiliate.”

Bush’s campaign is largely financially supported by the super PAC Right to Rise, which CNN reported gathered $117.6 million last year.

Campaign communications director Tim Miller reportedly started walking Bush’s comments back, according to MSNBC reporter Benjy Sarlin:

U.S. Politics

Welcome to our new plutocracy: Citizens United has effectively destroyed the First Amendment

Welcome to our new plutocracy: Citizens United has effectively destroyed the First Amendment
(Credit: CNN)


In today’s so-called “democratic” election process, Big Money doesn’t talk, it roars — usually drowning out the people’s voice.

Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of “free speech.” Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to “speak” in election campaigns. But wait — if political speech is measured by money then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That’s plutocracy, not democracy.

Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars’ worth of “free” speech.

Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need. The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts — but none of us has a million bucks to buy an equivalent amount of political “free” speech.

It’s not just cuts to taxes, regulations and some good public programs that are endangered by the Court’s ridiculous ruling, but democracy itself. That’s why a new poll by Bloomberg Politics found that 78 percent of the American people — including 80 percent of Republicans — want to overturn Citizens United. But those 358 families, corporations and Big Money politicos will have none of it. In fact, America’s inane, Big Money politics have become so prevalent in this election cycle that — believe it or not — candidates have found a need for yet another campaign consultant.

Already, candidates are walled off from people, reality and any honesty about themselves by a battalion of highly specialized consultants controlling everything from stances to hairstyle. But now comes a whole new category of staff to add to the menagerie: “donor maintenance manager.”

The Supreme Court’s malevolent Citizens United decision has produced an insidious platinum class of mega-donors and corporate super PACs, each pumping $500,000, $5 million, $50 million — or even more — into campaigns. These elites are not silent donors, but boisterous, very special interests who are playing in the new, Court-created political money game for their own gain. Having paid to play, they feel entitled to tell candidates what to say and do, what to support and oppose. A Jeb Bush insider confirms that mega-donors have this attitude: “Donors consider a contribution like, ‘Well, wait, I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.’”

Thus, campaigns are assigning donor maintenance managers to be personal concierges to meet every need and whim of these special ones. This subservience institutionalizes the plutocratic corruption of our democratic elections, allowing a handful of super-rich interests to buy positions of overbearing influence directly inside campaigns.

Donors at the million-dollar-and-up level are expecting much more than a tote bag for their “generous gifts” of “free speech.” Of course, candidates piously proclaim, “I’m not for sale.” But politicians are just the delivery service. The actual products being bought through the Supreme Court’s Money-O-Rama political bazaar are our government’s policies, tax breaks and other goodies — as well as the integrity of America’s democratic process. To help fight the injustice of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling and get Big Money out of our political system, go towww.FreeSpeechForPeople.org.

H/t: DB

U.S. Politics

Poll Finds 80% Of REPUBLICANS Agree With Bernie Sanders On Citizens United

Screen Capture – MSNBC


Sen. Bernie Sanders is often characterized by the media as an out of the mainstream presidential candidate, but a new CBS/New York Times poll revealed that 80% of Republicans agree with Sanders on the issue of getting money out of politics.

The CBS/NYT poll found that:

– 80% of Republicans believe that money has too much influence in our politics.

– 54% believed that most of the time candidates directly help those who gave money to them.

– 81% of Republicans felt that the campaign finance system needed fundamental changes (45%) or a complete rebuild (36%).

– 64% are pessimistic that changes will be made to reform the campaign finance system.

– 71% want to limit the amount that individuals can give to campaigns.

– 73% felt that super PAC spending should be limited by law.

– 76% thought that superPACs should be required to disclose their donors.

All of these positions are held by Bernie Sanders, and the opinion of the majority on each question is the exact opposite of the reasoning used by the majority of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision.

Where Republicans differ from the rest of the country is that a substantial number (48%) believe that money is free speech, and they believe that both parties benefit equally (62%), but among those who picked a party that benefitted more, they felt that Democrats (24%) benefitted more from the current campaign finance system than Republicans (6%). Fifty-five percent of Independents and 53% of Democrats felt that money is not free speech. Fifty-two percent of Democrats believe that Republicans benefit more from the current system.

In 2012, Sen. Sanders laid out why Citizens United is the threat to our representative democracy:

This is unprecedented and it is the most savage attack against American democracy, and the concept of one person, one vote that we have seen in our lifetime, and what it is is saying if you are a billionaire, you can buy elections. You can by politicians, and by the way, on the floor of the Senate, on the floor of the House, you can intimidate members, because you will be saying to them if you are going to vote against Wall Street, or the insurance companies, or the military industrial complex, you just do that, and we’re going to have millions of dollars in thirty-second ads in your state this weekend.”

So this whole effort to put huge unprecedented unbelievable amounts of money is the one percent saying look, we’re not content that the top one percent owns forty percent of the wealth. We want more. We want more. We want more, and we’re going to buy the political process to get what we want. So this is the worst assault on the basic democratic traditions which have made our country great that you and I have seen in our lifetimes, and what it means, we have to overturn Citizens United. We have to pass a disclose bill, disclosure legislation next month, which at the very least forces these CEOs to get on television when they do a negative ad, and say I approve this message, and it forces us to know who is contributing.

Overall, 84% of Americans agree with Bernie Sanders that money has too much influence in U.S. politics. Seventy-five percent favor donor disclosure and 77% favor limiting contributions.

Hillary Clinton and President Obama also favor getting the money out of politics, but both of them have been forced to raise huge sums of money in order to be competitive.

Bernie Sanders isn’t as far out of the mainstream as the media likes to believe, and it is also clear that mainstream America wants their country back from the billionaires who are attempting to take it over.

Jason Easley

Citizens United · Internal Revenue Service

Chris Hayes explains why Citizens United is the real scandal behind the IRS scandal

Chris Hayes screenshot


The Raw Story

MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Monday night explained how the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling lead to the current IRS scandal.

The IRS on Friday admitted that it had targeted tea party groups applying to be social welfare nonprofits with extra scrutiny.

Hayes said the Citizens United ruling obscured the line between political organizations and social welfare organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Unions and volunteer fire departments. Political organizations have been categorized under section 527 of the federal tax code, while social welfare organizations fall under section 501(c)(4).

“Citizen’s United said essentially any organization of any kind can spend money out of its general treasury to run political ads,” Hayes said, “and that decision brought about a pivotal moment for politics and taxes and campaign spending in this country and we’re still dealing with the fallout.”

Republican strategist Karl Rove and Democratic strategist Bill Burton used the Citizens United ruling to their advantage ahead of the 2012 elections. Both used social welfare nonprofits to run overtly political ads, allowing them to intervene in political campaigns without disclosing their donors. Hayes remarked that their example obviously inspired others to do the same.

“Suddenly, the IRS starts getting a flood of new applications from other political groups and strategists saying, ‘Oh, oh, it turns out I too want to set up a social welfare organization that just so happens to be focused on taking the country back from Barack Hussein Obama,’” he said. “Now, here is the thing the IRS appears to have done unequivocally wrong, that we all agree was absolutely inexcusable. They reacted to all this by targeting one part of the ideological spectrum in looking at whether this flood of new applicants passed the smell test. Being skeptical about a new wave of wolves in sheep’s clothing invading the nonprofit game was entirely appropriate.”

Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC

Economic Inequality · Economy

Would A $15 Minimum Wage Work?

Jobs Cityscape   -   http://mariopiperni.com/

Seems there’s no real concern for “the people”…just “the corporations”.  Ask the SCOTUS Justices who voted to allow Citizens United.

Mario Piperni

Diana McGinness believes so.

“Cut, cut, cut entitlements!”

“Reduce the debt!”  We need to broaden the base (i.e more taxes on the 47%)!

“Reduce the size of government!”

Turn on any cable news network and that’s all you’ll hear.

And the only answers the politicians have are:  raise more taxes and/or cut entitlements (not defense, of course) or both.

We hear the GOP wants to cut food stamps and other programs that help the poor.  That something must be done with SS and Medicare because they’re going broke and Medicaid needs to be cut back, too, because we just don’t have the money.  And the Democrats refuse to let these programs take a hit.

People are tired of paying taxes to help the “lazy 47% who don’t pay taxes, is the complaint.

The economy is too sluggish, it’s not growing!

So we’re in gridlock as usual with no answers that either side is willing to accept.

Is there an alternative?  Maybe.

What if we could add  $169,260,000,000 to the economy?

Add $25,389,000,000 to the treasury each year in the form of taxes (without increasing anyone’s taxes.  Over 10 years, that’s $2.5 trillion add to the Treasury that could be earmarked to reduce the debt/deficit.

Reduce the costs of programs providing food stamps, housing vouchers, and the big one – Medicaid?

Collect $10,494.120,000 more annually in FICA premiums to shore up Social Security and Medicare.  That’s over $1 trillion in 10 years, that would surely strengthen each of these programs for the coming years without making major changes in the program.

How, you ask?

Increase the minimum wage to $15.00.

Using 2010 numbers, the poverty level for 1 person under 65 was $11,344.  That’s someone making $218.15 per week, or $5.45 an hour.  The working poor receive assistance in the form of housing vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid and pay little, if anything in the form of federal taxes.

Using the federal minimum wage in 2010 of $7.25 and the then number of working people making poverty level or less in wages of 10,500,000 you can extrapolate those numbers as follows:

10,500,000 x $7.25 per hour for 40 hours @ 52 weeks = $158,340,000,000 in wages annually. FICA at 6.2% for these workers would contribute $9,817.080.000 to SS/Medicare. Of course, some of these are part-time jobs, so this is merely an example.  But for every person who can be removed from government assistance, that’s less tax dollars needed to support them.

And if you think a person flipping burgers doesn’t deserve $15 per hour, consider how much of your tax dollars are going to subsidize their wages so they can be paid $7.25 to flip those burgers.  One way or the other, the consumer/tax payer is paying a considerable amount to get that burger flipped.

Now change the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour and extrapolate the numbers:

10,500,000 x 15.00 per hour 40 hours @ 52 weeks = $327,600,000,000 in wages annually.  FICA would be a contribution of an additional $10,494,120,000.  Over 10 years that would be over $1.4 Trillion dollars.

With a 15% tax rate, those wages would contribute $25,389,000,000 annually in revenue to the Treasury and could be targeted to directly reduce the debt.  Over 10 years that would be a $2.5 Trillion deduction, in addition to the reduced expenditures for food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid.

Add an additional $169,260,000,000 increased purchasing power to the economy.

Increasing the minimum wage would also add to the treasuries of states in the form of sales tax, income tax, among other taxes these dollars would generate.

A two-person working household could generate $30 per hour providing them income to save and possibly purchase a home.

The counter-argument will be that increasing the minimum wage will reduce jobs.  There are many studies that disprove that argument. There are several papers (links here) that refute that argument.

The other counter- argument will be that the cost of everything will go up and the jobs will move overseas.

First, these are service industry jobs…now 7 out of 10 in the U.S.  – it’s going to be hard to ship them overseas.  Are you going to order your burger from the McDonald’s in China and have it flown over to the pick up window?  I think not.  Nor is the Wal-Mart worker going to be shipped over there either so you can restock the shelves yourself.

As for the cost…two things to consider.  Are you going to pay $15-30 for a McDonald’s Big-Mac?  I think not.

Prices are determined based on the floor (the lowest price a seller can sell a product for) and the ceiling (the highest amount a consumer is willing to pay), and on competitor pricing.

And while the prices may go up — if the consumer is willing to pay and competitors are not competing — the consumer/taxpayer is already paying.  If the end game allows your taxes to be reduced and you, the consumer, have the freedom to choose where you will make your purchases — based on competitive prices and your willingness to pay and the fact that you have more money to spend then haven’t we all won?

When you look at the trillions of dollars that are currently not being invested in our economy via our workers, but are sitting on the shelf waiting to invest…the only question I have is is – who better to invest in than the workers and our economy?

An interesting idea but my concerns would be the impact a $15 minimum wage would have on American competitiveness in global markets. Diana addresses this point.

Yes, that is an argument for manufacturing jobs – but most of those are gone already – some are coming back because, in part, the Chinese are demanding higher wages.

But the service industry jobs are what I’m referring to – they can’t take those overseas.  And with so many of our jobs now in that category (7 out of 10) and these being the lowest paying jobs out there, it’s a place to begin.

Your thoughts?

Rep. Allen West

Allen West plagued by scam PACs

A Matt Wuerker cartoon is shown. | Matt Wuerker

Oh well, sounds like karma to me…


It’s the inevitable, if unsightly, convergence of the Internet, tea party, the post-Citizens United campaign-finance era and the presence of a Democrat in the White House who is despised by many conservatives. Political operatives can create a PAC and corresponding website on the cheap, drop some cash to rent an email list and, voilà— in come the small-dollar contributions from grass-roots Republicans eager to support any effort aiming to turn out President Barack Obama or reelect the fiery West.

Except those chunks of $25 and $50 don’t often find their way to any serious campaigns to beat Obama or boost West.

“The vast majority of the groups that we know are engaged in this have done nothing for West,” said Jill Holtzman Vogel, the congressman’s campaign attorney.

And, with the outfits that have given to West, those contributions pale in comparison to the money they’ve raised using the freshman Republican’s name.

According to media trackers and West campaign officials, none of the many conservative super PACs purportedly raising money for the congressman is airing TV ads on his behalf.

The Florida Republican’s campaign has sent cease-and-desist letters to a number of the groups and filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission, copies of which the campaign shared with POLITICO. But the organizations have been only mildly deterred and some continue to raise funds for themselves with marketing that would suggest they represent the actual campaign.

One organization, CAPE PAC, has a Google ad headlined, “Allen West in 2012: Join our Campaign & Help Us.” The URL goes even further: It is “www.allenwest2012.co.”

Yes, that’s “.co,” not “.com.”

A click on the link takes the reader to CAPE PAC’s main home page, something that a spokesman for the group said was a concession to the West campaign’s demands. Previously, the link directed readers to a CAPE PAC Web page meant to look like West’s actual campaign site.

U.S. Politics

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien confronts director of Citizens United’s anti-Obama film

Soledad O'Brien screenshot

The movie is based on a book by Dinesh D’Suza called The Roots of Obama’s Rage.  It was debunked by several news organizations including Media Matters.

The director Steve Bannon, who was interviewed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, feels no obligation to correct any of the dis-information associated with the movie.

The Raw Story

CNN host Soledad O’Brien on Monday questioned Steve Bannon of Breitbart.com over falsehoods in his new movie The Hope and The Change.

The film, a project of the conservative group Citizens United, highlights 40 Democrats and Independents who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 but no longer support him. One person in the film complains that taxes have gone up, while another complains about the bank bailout. However, tax rates have actually gone down and the bank bailout occurred under President Bush.

“Voters can be low information voters,” Bannon said. “They can be mid-information voters. We went and took a pool of voters, right, who voted for President Obama who are active in the voter pool, registered voters who are likely to vote. Some said they are not going to vote because they may not vote for President Obama. But we got their feelings. And some of them had information that’s not absolutely perfect. I mean, a lot of them don’t know a lot about Obamacare.”

“It sounds like it doesn’t matter to you if the information of the voter is accurate,” O’Brien replied.

“No, it matters but when they’re talking about their own personal beliefs, some of that is in there, absolutely,” Bannon said in defense.

“But taxes going up isn’t a personal belief, it’s a fact, right?” O’Brien shot back.

“It was a belief of hers,” Bannon answered.

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GOP Fundraising

Coal miners say they were forced to attend Romney event and donate

Mitt Romney speaks to coal miners

This sort of thing has gone on for years, so from that perspective, there’s no surprise there.

However, with the Citizens United decision to allow private donors to give any amount they want, why are employers (mostly in right to work states) asking/forcing their employees to give to the politician of the company’s choice?

The Raw Story

A group of coal miners in Ohio feel they would have been fired if they did not attend an Aug. 14 event with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and contribute to his campaign — and to make matters worse, they lost of day of pay for their trouble.

In phone calls and emails to WWVA radio host David Blomquist, employees at the Century Mine in Ohio said they feared retaliation if they did not attend the Romney event.

“Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time,” the employees told Blomquist. “Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events.”

“I realize that many people in this area and elsewhere would love to have my job or my benefits,” one worker explained. “And our bosses do not hesitate in reminding us of this. However, I can not agree with these callers and my supervisors, who are saying that just because you have a good job, that you should have to work any day for free on almost no notice without your consent.”

“We do not appreciate being intimidated into exchanging our time for nothing. I heard one of your callers saying that Murray employees are well aware of what they are getting into upon hire, or that they are informed that a percentage of their income will go to political donations. I can not speak for that caller, but this is news for me. We merely find out how things work by experience.”

Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that the charges were untrue.

“There were no workers that were forced to attend the event,” Moore said. “We had managers that communicated to our work force that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event. We had a pre-registration list. And employees were asked to put their names on a pre-registration list because they could not get into the event unless they were pre-registered and had a name tag to enter the premises.”

“What about not getting paid for an eight-hour day?” Blomquist wondered. “If the mine was shut down for the visit, I understand, but wouldn’t it be fair — let’s use the word ‘fair’ — to still pay these individuals for that day? I mean, it wasn’t their fault they weren’t working.”

“Our management people wanted to attend the event and we could not have people underground during Romney’s visit,” Moore insisted.

“But why not still pay then their wage for that day?” Blomquist pressed.

“By federal election law, we could not pay people to attend the event,” Moore replied. “And we did not want anyone to come back and see where anyone had been paid for that day.”

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