“The GOP Wants to Raise Your Taxes”

Harold Meyerson, bless him, is shrill. The WaPo‘s only non-Villager columnist has the perfect short-form payroll-tax summary to email your low-information-voter acquaintances and family members:

America’s presumably anti-tax party wants to raise your taxes. Come January, the Republicans plan to raise the taxes of anyone who earns $50,000 a year by $1,000, and anyone who makes $100,000 by $2,000.
__
Their tax hike doesn’t apply to income from investments. It doesn’t apply to any wage income in excess of $106,800 a year. It’s the payroll tax that they want to raise — to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent of your paycheck, a level established for one year in December’s budget deal at Democrats’ insistence. Unlike the capital gains tax, or the low tax rates for the rich included in the Bush tax cuts, or the carried interest tax for hedge fund operators (which is just 15 percent), the payroll tax chiefly hits the middle class and the working poor…
__
Republicans like to complain that Democrats practice “class warfare” and “the politics of division,” as House GOP leader Eric Cantor argued on this page Monday. What the Republicans’ position on the payroll tax makes high-definitionally clear is their own class warfare on working- and middle-class Americans. Their double standard couldn’t be more obvious: Tax cuts for the wealthy are sacrosanct; tax cuts for everyone else don’t really matter. Norquist, Cantor, Ryan, Camp, the Journal editorialists and the whole Republican crew give hypocrisy a bad name.








Senator Brown (not that one, the good one)

I met with a representative from Sherrod Brown’s campaign last Thursday evening. They’re starting early because they anticipate a tough race. I appreciate that she contacted me, and allowed me to play expert on my little neck of the woods. I hope I was helpful. I have all sorts of directives I must deliver, as we all do, here at Balloon Juice. She was able to eat dinner while I was haranguing her and I suspect she works constantly, so that’s good. Not a complete waste of time for her.

First, some background on Sherrod Brown and the state of the race:

Brown is a liberal populist, and has been his entire career in Congress. From speaking with local people here, I know he emphasizes trade issues and middle class concerns when he meets with them. That’s a good fit for this county, because the median income is 32k and we (still, barely) have a manufacturing-based local economy. My personal feeling is that Brown’s long commitment to those issues puts him in a good position in 2012. He didn’t change. The county came around to his way of thinking:

Rep. Sherrod Brown became the first Ohio Democrat elected to the Senate since 1992. He had vowed to campaign as a progressive and not move to the center, confident that voters dissatisfied with the economy and Republican leadership would respond.
In defeating two-term incumbent Mike DeWine (R), Brown emphasized the frustrations of the middle class. He criticized free-trade agreements and accused DeWine of doing the bidding of big business on issues of health care and energy policy. Brown, who voted against the Iraq war and the USA Patriot Act, charged that DeWine was ineffective on the Senate intelligence committee.
Brown, 54, was first elected to the Ohio legislature at age 21, straight from Yale. A seven-term member of Congress, he says the Senate is his final stop. During the campaign, he crisscrossed the state with his wife, Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

I have gotten very good feedback on Brown’s attention to constituent services. We have a local manufacturer who does his own DC lobbying: he or his wife lobby on trade issues that are specific to their family business. They both told me that Brown and his staff were well prepared when they arrived, had clearly researched their company and the specific trade issues that apply to their company. They were impressed. They compared Brown favorably to Voinovich, and they voted for and supported Voinovich. They felt Brown was more responsive to their concerns than Voinovich was, and more knowledgeable about their business.

The top-tier challenger to Brown is Mandel. Mandel is currently the Treasurer of the state of Ohio. Mandel is raising a lot of money.

When northern Ohio businessman Benjamin Suarez makes a big campaign contribution, few people are surprised. He owns a direct marketing company that does $100 million annually in sales, and he has a history of giving to Republicans. But in the current election cycle, a large number of his employees and their wives — many of whom have never before given to federal campaigns — have contributed to two specific congressional candidates: Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth), who represents Ohio’s 16th District

The company’s spokesman, Lauren Capo, said the company did not reimburse employees or provide money for the contributions, though she later emphasized that she couldn’t “speak on the behalf of anyone, other than our brand and products.” Federal campaign finance law prohibits a corporation from providing bonuses or salary increases to employees to reimburse them for political contributions. Among the employees who gave, many of them are managers, directors, or executives, according to federal election filings. Some of them, however, list their occupation as “writer,” “copywriter,” or merely “marketing.” Campaign finance experts said it was especially surprising to see individuals with those titles giving such large amounts.

“A $5,000 contribution from someone who makes $300,000 a year is completely normal,” said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington. “A $5,000 campaign contribution from someone who makes $30,000 a year strikes me as unordinary”.

Unordinary. That’s all he’s saying.

What’s interesting about this research on Mandel donors is that Ohio Republicans have a history here . In 2005, there was a huge GOP scandal in Ohio regarding (among other things) “conduits”. Conduits are people who make a donation and then are reimbursed by another party for that donation. The Toledo Blade is not alleging that these generous donations going to Mandel are illegal or improper. They’re simply raising the question of why someone who makes (perhaps!) 30k a year might donate 5k to a GOP Senate primary race. Given the recent GOP history in Ohio, it’s a fair question. It’s unordinary.

In any event, I was able to make suggestions for how Brown might approach a campaign in my little corner of the state. He’s very popular among local Democrats. On the other side, I honestly have not heard any real vitriol directed at him from local Republicans. Right now, this far out, he has strong support from our base (here, anyway) yet has somehow managed to not inflame and enrage local Republicans. Not a bad place to be.








Comfort-Zone Redistricting

Dave Weigel at Slate catches “The End of White Southern Democrats in the House“:

Georgia Republicans, who control every piece of the redistricting process, have drawn up a plan that would take black Democrats out of Rep. John Barrow’s district. If it passes, Georgia — which gave John McCain a 52-47 victory margin in 2008 — would have 10 lean-Republican districts and four strong Democratic districts. Which Democrats would survive? Why, that would be Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, John Lewis, and David Scott [all African-American]
__
I see a pattern. Both Georgia and North Carolina were fairly evenly divided in the 2008 presidential election — they have large, heavily Democratic black populations, and relatively large white populations who are still open to voting for Democrats. But between them, if the new district maps elect the people they’re supposed to, the South’s megastates will send 20 Republicans, six black Democrats, and one white Democrat to the House. The effect outside the South: A smaller, more liberal Democratic conference.

I guess the Teahadists love their “fewer, but purer” mantra so much they’re eager to force Democrats to embrace it as well (/snark). Elbridge Gerry‘s bastard offspring are going to be very, very busy loading the political dice over the next few months…








Darryl Issa, “Champion”

The NYTimes has a rather terrifying investigative article on the many ways in which “A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself“:

VISTA, Calif. — Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
__
Just a few steps down the hall, Representative Darrell Issa, the powerful Republican congressman, runs the local district office where his constituents come for help.
__
The proximity of the two offices reflects Mr. Issa’s dual careers, a meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.
__
Most wealthy members of Congress push their financial activities to the side, with many even placing them in blind trusts to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest. But Mr. Issa (pronounced EYE-suh), one of Washington’s richest lawmakers, may be alone in the hands-on role he has played in overseeing a remarkable array of outside business interests since his election in 2000.
__
Even as he has built a reputation as a forceful Congressional advocate for business, Mr. Issa has bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multimillion-dollar businesses, started an insurance company, traded hundreds of millions of dollars in securities, invested in overseas funds, retained an interest in his auto-alarm company and built up a family foundation.
__
As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts…

In case you’ve forgotten why Rep. Issa is any more important than every other Republican thug currently at large in the Capital, here’s Steve Benen’s explanation, from the Washington Monthly, way back in January:

GETTING TO KNOW DARRELL ISSA…. The new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is, of course, Rep. Darrell Issa, a far-right California Republican. As we’ve seen in recent months, Issa is set to make quite a name for himself — he’s accused President Obama of being “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times”; he’s asked business leaders to set his regulatory agenda for him; and he’s signaled an interest in launching a series of White House witch-hunts.
__
But before we get annoyed by where Issa’s going, it’s worth pausing to appreciate where he’s been. In a fascinating piece for the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza takes a close look at Issa’s rise to great wealth and political power and some of the “troubles” the right-wing congressman has had along the way.

Many politicians have committed indiscretions in earlier years: maybe they had an affair or hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Issa, it turned out, had, among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.

Yes, the man House Republicans have tasked with investigating potential White House wrongdoing spent a fair amount of his adult life as an apparent criminal…

When it comes to Republicans, it’s always projection, isn’t it?








Eric Cantor, Terrorist or Just Terrorist-Supporter?

Reuters econoblogger Felix Salmon, discussing the proposed S&P downgrade earlier this evening:

Firstly, talk of debt-to-GDP ratios and the like is a distraction. You can gussy up your downgrade rationale with as many numbers as you like, but at heart it’s a political decision, not an econometric one.
__
Secondly, the US does not deserve a triple-A rating, and the reason has nothing whatsoever to do with its debt ratios. America’s ability to pay is neither here nor there: the problem is its willingness to pay. And there’s a serious constituency of powerful people in Congress who are perfectly willing and even eager to drive the US into default. The Tea Party is fully cognizant that it has been given a bazooka, and it’s just itching to pull the trigger. There’s no good reason to believe that won’t happen at some point.
__
Finally, it’s impossible to view any S&P downgrade without at the same time considering the highly fraught and complex relationship between the US government and the ratings agencies. The ratings agencies are reliant on the US government in many ways, and would be ill-advised to needlessly annoy the powers that be. On the other hand, the government has been criticizing them harshly for failing to downgrade mortgage-backed securities even when they could see that there were serious credit concerns. So by that measure they have to downgrade the US: the default concerns we saw during the debt-ceiling debate were real and can’t be ignored.[…]
__
Do the mandarins at S&P — people who, it seems, can’t even get basic macro sums right — really want to cost the US economy tens of billions of dollars a year by downgrading the country’s debt and causing all manner of potential market mischief as a result?

Looks like the answer is yes. My emphasis; much more detail at the link.

Steve Benen in the Washington Monthly, yesterday:

Remember the Promise Keepers? Say hello to the Promise Breakers

“What we have to be, I think, focused on is truth in budgeting here,” Cantor told The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. He said “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”

He added that younger Americans will have “ample time to try and plan our lives so that we can adjust” to the post-Medicare society…
__
[N]ote the rhetoric the oft-confused House Majority Leader uses: the United States has made promises to the public, and as far as Eric Cantor is concerned, “many” Americans will simply have to accept that those promises “are not going to be kept.”
__
Why not? Because Republicans say so. Promises to Grover Norquist are sacrosanct, but promises to senior citizens are not…

If national security! ! eleventy-one! requires that Gitmo remain open, why aren’t the patriotic Republicans demanding that Eric Cantor be renditioned there posthaste, so that Jack Bauer’s bastard offspring can use Whatever Means Necessary(tm) to get a complete list of the traitors and fifth-columnists whose goal is to destroy the American economy?