April 9, 2011

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By Zaid Jilani | ThinkProgress

Last night President Obama and congressional negotiators cut a deal to keep the government running, cutting “$38.5 billion under current funding levels, per Republican demands,” and $78 billion below what Obama called for in his initial 2011 budget.

Yet as Republicans and Democrats continue to battle over the deficit within a political framing that includes taking aim at Pell Grants for low-income students — which Obama preemptively proposed to cut, calling summer grants “too expensive,” while Republicans want far deeper cuts than that — Head Start funding, and other programs from Main Street Americans, there is one group of Americans that seems to be getting away without having any sacrifices demanded of them: the very richest.

As this chart from from Wealth for the Common Good shows, the top 400 taxpayers — who have more wealth than half of all Americans combined — are paying lower taxes than they have in a generation, as their tax responsibilities have slowly collapsed since the New Deal era as working families have been asked to pay more and more:

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February 18, 2011

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By Reginald Fields | The Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As many as 3,800 boisterous public workers from across the state descended on the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday, rocking the normally sleepy Capitol to protest a far-reaching bill that would restrict collective bargaining rights.

The union workers filled the Statehouse’s atrium, rotunda areas and adjacent stairwells as they listened to testimony on Senate Bill 5 being piped in over speakers from a heavily guarded second-floor hearing room. A smaller group of tea party activists were also in the crowd to support the bill.

Security was stepped up in and around the Statehouse where the public is normally allowed to move about freely. Highway Patrol troopers blocked access to hallways leading to the Senate room and turned people away as they stepped off elevators. Columbus police cruisers, typically absent at the Statehouse, lined each side of the Capitol, occasionally circling the building.

Not since 1997 when the Republican-controlled Senate removed a provision requiring that prevailing wage be paid on school building construction contracts has there been this heavy a union-backed protest inside the Statehouse while lawmakers are in session.

During that protest, union contractors jammed the Ohio Senate chamber and rotunda and caused so much commotion that a frustrated then-Senate President Richard Finan shattered his gavel trying to restore order.

But that was not the case on Thursday. While the protesters, many from the Ohio AFL-CIO and various police and fire and teachers unions across the state, were loud, the demonstrations were peaceful.

The highway patrol estimated the crowd at 1,800 on the low end. The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board put the crowd total at 3,800, explaining that nearly 1,000 were in the atrium alone.   [Read more]

December 19, 2010

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By Darrel Rowland | THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

There’s the guy who became a billionaire selling dog food, a couple of sports-team owners and the developer of an international spy museum.

That’s not to mention the convicted felon, the business leader who was the main financier of Bob Ney’s defense fund before the former Heath congressman went to federal prison, or the cowboy-hat-wearing industrialist who supports a mysterious out-of-state entity now delinquent in paying a record $5.2 million election fine in Ohio.

They are among an esoteric baker’s dozen of individuals and families who have led the way in bankrolling Ohio political campaigns during the past decade. Together, those 13 deep-pocketed donors poured more than $25 million into state races since 2000.

Despite limits placed on campaign contributions in the mid-1990s, Ohioans just witnessed the most expensive gubernatorial campaign in state history. In fact, every statewide nonjudicial race this year broke spending records, some of which had stood for 20 years.

When he signed legislation capping donations to candidates, parties and political-action committees in May 1995, Gov. George V. Voinovich said, “I’m confident there’ll be a substantial reduction in the amount of money spent on campaigns.” Others readily agreed.

Instead, the price tag for statewide campaigns in the past decade leaped almost 73 percent from the total for the 1990s, most of which had no limits on political contributions, according to a Dispatch computer analysis of more than 4.3 million state campaign-finance records involving more than $1.7 billion in transactions.

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December 15, 2010

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By ALEX ISENSTADT | POLITICO

Crossroads GPS—the conservative group that carpet-bombed Democrats with a wave of attack ads during the 2010 midterm election—is about to launch its first offensive of the 2012 election cycle.

The organization is rolling out a $400,000 radio ad campaign this week in the districts of 12 House Democrats who won reelection by the slimmest of margins.

The ad campaign, which urges the Democrats to support a vote this week on the tax cut package, marks one of the first major advocacy efforts by an outside group since the Nov. 2 elections and provides a clear signal as to which incumbent Democrats are viewed as vulnerable by GOP strategists in 2012.  [Read more]

October 20, 2010

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by Robert Reich | The Huffington Post

It’s a perfect storm. And I’m not talking about the impending dangers facing Democrats. I’m talking about the dangers facing our democracy.

First, income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it’s been in 80 years. Almost a quarter of total income generated in the United States is going to the top 1 percent of Americans.

The top one-tenth of one percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us.

Who are these people? With the exception of a few entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, they’re top executives of big corporations and Wall Street, hedge fund managers, and private equity managers. They include the Koch brothers, whose wealth increased by billions last year, and who are now funding tea party candidates across the nation.

Which gets us to the second part of the perfect storm. A relatively few Americans are buying our democracy as never before. And they’re doing it completely in secret.   [Read more]

October 12, 2010

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by John Wellington Ennis | Huffington Post

PAY 2 PLAY Blog

In the wake of recent revelations about foreign spending on U.S. elections, President Obama has called out the Chamber of Commerce for its anonymous donors toward campaign ads in a series of speeches over the weekend. Karl Rove has at once made uncharacteristically desperate efforts to deflect this from becoming an issue in the home stretch of the midterm elections. As Shakespeare observed in Hamlet, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

When Obama took to the campaign trail for the long weekend last Thursday, the news had spread from Think Progress’ report on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce receiving money from foreign donors.  Obama intoned to a crowd in Chicago“Right here in Illinois, in this Senate race, two groups funded and advised by Karl Rove have outspent the Democratic Party two-to-one in an attempt to beat Alexi — two-to-one. Funded and advised by Karl Rove.”

Karl Rove went to the last refuge of the scoundrel, Politico, and was quick to change the subject with a non-denial bringing up talking points about the stimulus and healthcare reform.   [Read more]