Friday, September 28, 2012

Politifact: 'Taxes are lower on families than they've been probably in the last 50 years." Barack Obama on Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes"

Barack Obama says taxes on families are at their lowest point in 50 years

In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes that aired on Sept. 23, 2012, President Barack Obama defended his economic policies of the past four years, including his tax policies.

Interviewer Steve Kroft noted that on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has been arguing that Obama is "crushing economic freedom with taxes, regulations and high-cost health care." Obama responded, "Yeah, well, it's a lot of rhetoric, but there aren't a lot of facts supporting it. Taxes are lower on families than they've been probably in the last 50  years. So I haven't raised taxes. I've cut taxes for middle-class families by an average of $3,600 for a typical family."

The numbers

Since Obama said "probably in the last 50 years," we will be somewhat flexible on the time frame.

The most detailed look at this question comes from a table compiled by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group that has analyzed tax plans of the presidential candidates. The table calculates the average federal tax rate for four-person families at three different income levels -- one-half the median income, the median income, and twice the median income. The "average rate" means actual taxes paid as a percentage of a taxpayer’s income after deductions and exemptions. The table includes data from 1955 to 2011.

For one-half the median income and the median income, average tax rates were lower in 2009, 2010 and 2011 than any year back to 1955 except for 2008. So Obama's largely right for these groups.

For taxpayers earning twice the median -- which was just over $151,000 in 2011 -- tax rates were lower in Obama’s three years than in any year back 44 years, to 1968. But rates were lower for this group between 1955 and 1967. So by this measure, Obama’s claim wasn’t perfect either.

These figures account for federal taxes only, so we also looked at different data that included all personal taxes -- federal, state and local. A president has the biggest influence over federal taxes but can also indirectly influence state and local taxation by expanding or shrinking the size of federal payments to the states.

Using data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, we calculated the percentage of personal income spent on taxes back to 1962. We found that taxes as a percentage of personal income has varied in a narrow range over that period, never falling below 9.6 percent and never rising above 14.3 percent.

During the first three years of Obama’s presidency, taxes were 9.6 percent, 9.7 percent and 10.8 percent of personal income, respectively. Those are on the low end of this 50-year time span. The only other years to fall below the 2011 rate were 1964, 1965, 2003 and 2004.

So, again, Obama’s statistical claim isn't entirely correct.

Even though the exceptions to Obama's claim are few, they are significant -- none more so than 2008.
During the Bush presidency of 2001 to 2008, average tax rates declined steadily. But they bottomed out in 2008 -- which was one year before Obama took office, and the year in which the recession hit full force. They then rose slightly under Obama.
A key reason for the especially low rates in 2008 was the recession, experts said.

"One expects taxes, in the aggregate, to decrease in a recession," said Lawrence J. White, an economist at the Stern School of Business at New York University. The reason: employment shrinks, incomes fall and people move to lower tax brackets.

So while Obama’s policies, such as cuts to the payroll tax, did have some effect on today’s low average tax rates, the policies of his predecessor and the ripple effects of the poor economy Obama inherited also helped keep taxes at historically low levels.
"Taxes are historically low right now mainly because of the worst recession since the Depression, and the fact that we have record high progressivity in the tax code, meaning heavy reliance on relatively volatile high incomes," said William McBride, an economist with the Tax Foundation, a business-backed group.

Our ruling

Obama said, "Taxes are lower on families than they've been probably in the last 50 years."
On the numbers, his statistic isn't exact, but it's pretty close -- average tax rates are in fact lower than most years in the past five decades, at least for the three income groups we looked at.
However, the decline in average tax rates was already under way under Bush and the recession helped keep them low. We rate the claim Mostly True.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Meet Mr. Alan Lowenthal

Alan Lowenthal for Congress, Senator Lowenthal's 2012 Congressional campaign. For more information, please visit   -and his facebook page @

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Politifact: Mitt Romney said Barack Obama began his presidency with an apology tour - PANTS ON FIRE!

In his speech accepting the Republican nomination for president, Mitt Romney repeated a charge he’s made before: that Obama has traveled the world apologizing for America.

"I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators," Romney said.

We first fact-checked this claim back in 2010, when Romney published a book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.

Obama’s apology tour, Romney wrote, "is his way of signaling to foreign countries and foreign leaders that their dislike for America is something he understands and that is, at least in part, understandable. There are anti-American fires burning all across the globe; President Obama's words are like kindling to them."

"In his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City. He has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy."

It’s a common theme for some anti-Obama websites and commentators. But is it accurate?

Obama’s early travels and remarks

We looked at the seven separate speeches Romney mentioned in his book as apologies. (We've compiled those passages in a separate document.)

At times, Obama uses an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand formulation that he tends to employ right before he talks about two sides coming together.

At a town hall meeting in France in 2009, for example, Obama encouraged Europe to work with the United States, and admitted that the United States "has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." But he immediately said that Europe has been guilty of a "casual" and "insidious" anti-Americanism.

At a major address to the United Nations, Obama said, "I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. And this has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for collective inaction."

At a speech in Cairo on relations between the U.S. and the Islamic world, Obama got very close to regretting decades-old U.S. actions in Iran. But then he immediately countered with criticism of Iran. He did not make a formal expression of regret, but suggested both countries simply "move forward."

Looking back at those 2009 speeches, we noticed that Obama was most conciliatory when discussing torture and detention at the U.S. military installation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Typically, Obama would say that the U.S. must always stay true to its ideals, and that's why Obama "unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year."

Apologies -- or diplomatic language?

In 2010, we quizzed several experts about whether Obama had apologized. Here’s a brief recap of what they had to say (read more here):

• Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy analyst with the the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Obama was definitely apologizing. He co-wrote an analysis on the topic: "Barack Obama's Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower."

"Apologizing for your own country projects an image of weakness before both allies and enemies," Gardiner said. "It sends a very clear signal that the U.S. is to blame for some major developments on the world stage. This can be used to the advantage of those who wish to undermine American global leadership."

• John Murphy, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studies presidential rhetoric and political language. He said Obama used conciliatory language for diplomatic purposes, not apologizing.

"It's much more a sense of establishing of reciprocity," Murphy said. "Each side says, okay, we haven't done great, but we have a new president and we're going to make a fresh start and move forward. I don't think that's an apology."

• Lauren Bloom, an attorney and business consultant, wrote the book, The Art of the Apology, advising businesses and individuals on when to apologize and how to do it.

She said Obama's words fell short of an apology, mostly because he didn't use the words "sorry" or "regret." "I think to make an effective apology, the words 'I'm sorry' or 'we're sorry' always have to be there," Bloom said.

Obama's remarks were really non-apologies, and they're not good in business or personal relationships, Bloom said. The one area where they can be useful: international diplomacy.

"Gov. Romney is trying to appeal to the inner John Wayne of his readers, and that has a certain emotional appeal," Bloom said. "For the rest of us, a level assessment of less-than-perfect human behavior is perfectly reasonable."

• We spoke with Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, a professor who tracked international human rights issues via the website Political Apologies and Reparations. Many of the apologies in the database relate to genocide or slavery.

"To say the United States will not torture is not an apology, it is a statement of intent," Howard-Hassman said. "A complete apology has to acknowledge something was wrong, accept responsibility, express sorrow or regret and promise not to repeat it."

Obama's Cairo address in particular was a means of reaching out to the Islamic world, not an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, she said.

"Whether he's apologizing or not, he's saying 'I respect your society and I respect your customs.' Maybe that's what Romney considers an apology, that gesture of respect," she said. "But a gesture of respect is not an apology."

Actual apologies

In the years since we first looked into this matter, Obama or someone in his administration has formally apologized for U.S. actions. In 2012, Obama apologized for the accidental burning of copies of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Obama sent the apology in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Officials hoped the formal apology would quell violent reactions against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

A few months later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized to Pakistan for a Nov. 26, 2011, incident involving the death of Pakistani troops. The apology was made as part of an effort to re-open supply routes to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

We should note that these apologies came toward the end of Obama’s first term, while Romney said Obama "began" his presidency with an apology tour.

Our ruling

Romney said Obama began his presidency "with an apology tour."

But a review of Obama’s foreign travels and remarks during his early presidency showed no evidence to support such a blunt and disparaging claim. (In later years, we found two formal apologies, but they were not at the start of his presidency and not part of a tour.)

While Obama's speeches contained some criticisms of past U.S. actions, he typically combined those passages with praise for the United States and its ideals, and he frequently mentioned how other countries had erred as well. We found not a single, full-throated apology in the bunch.

Calling those remarks "an apology tour" is a ridiculous charge. So we rate his statement Pants on Fire.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The NY Times: Don’t Tell Anyone, but the Stimulus Worked

Axel Koester/Corbis
Many people benefited from projects like this one near Los Angeles but had no idea that it was part of the Obama stimulus.

Republicans howled on Thursday when the Federal Reserve, at long last, took steps to energize the economy. Some were furious at the thought that even a little economic boost might work to benefit President Obama just before an election. “It is going to sow some growth in the economy,” said Raul Labrador, a freshman Tea Party congressman from Idaho, “and the Obama administration is going to claim credit.”
Mr. Labrador needn’t worry about that. The president is no more likely to get credit for the Fed’s action — for which he was not responsible — than he gets for the transformative law for which he was fully responsible: the 2009 stimulus, which fundamentally turned around the nation’s economy and its prospects for growth, and yet has disappeared from the political conversation.
The reputation of the stimulus is meticulously restored from shabby to skillful in Michael Grunwald’s important new book, “The New New Deal.” His findings will come as a jolt to those who think the law “failed,” the typical Republican assessment, or was too small and sloppy to have any effect.
On the most basic level, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is responsible for saving and creating 2.5 million jobs. The majority of economists agree that it helped the economy grow by as much as 3.8 percent, and kept the unemployment rate from reaching 12 percent.
The stimulus is the reason, in fact, that most Americans are better off than they were four years ago, when the economy was in serious danger of shutting down.
But the stimulus did far more than stimulate: it protected the most vulnerable from the recession’s heavy winds. Of the act’s $840 billion final cost, $1.5 billion went to rent subsidies and emergency housing that kept 1.2 million people under roofs. (That’s why the recession didn’t produce rampant homelessness.) It increased spending on food stamps, unemployment benefits and Medicaid, keeping at least seven million Americans from falling below the poverty line.
And as Mr. Grunwald shows, it made crucial investments in neglected economic sectors that are likely to pay off for decades. It jump-started the switch to electronic medical records, which will largely end the use of paper records by 2015. It poured more than $1 billion into comparative-effectiveness research on pharmaceuticals. It extended broadband Internet to thousands of rural communities. And it spent $90 billion on a huge variety of wind, solar and other clean energy projects that revived the industry. Republicans, of course, only want to talk about Solyndra, but most of the green investments have been quite successful, and renewable power output has doubled.
Americans don’t know most of this, and not just because Mitt Romney and his party denigrate the law as a boondoggle every five minutes. Democrats, so battered by the transformation of “stimulus” into a synonym for waste and fraud (of which there was little), have stopped using the word. Only four speakers at the Democratic convention even mentioned the recovery act, none using the word stimulus.
Mr. Obama himself didn’t bring it up at all. One of the biggest accomplishments of his first term — a clear illustration of the beneficial use of government power, in a law 50 percent larger (in constant dollars) than the original New Deal — and its author doesn’t even mention it in his most widely heard re-election speech. Such is the power of Republican misinformation, and Democratic timidity.
Mr. Grunwald argues that the recovery act was not timid, but the administration’s effort to sell it to the voters was muddled and ineffective. Not only did White House economists famously overestimate its impact on the jobless rate, handing Mr. Romney a favorite talking point, but the administration seemed to feel the benefits would simply be obvious. Mr. Obama, too cool to appear in an endless stream of photos with a shovel and hard hat, didn’t slap his name on public works projects in the self-promoting way of mayors and governors.
How many New Yorkers know that the stimulus is helping to pay for the Second Avenue subway, or the project to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central? Almost every American worker received a tax cut from the act, but only about 10 percent of them noticed it in their paychecks. White House economists had rejected the idea of distributing the tax cuts as flashy rebate checks, because people were more likely to spend the money (and help the economy) if they didn’t notice it. Good economics, perhaps, but terrible politics.
From the beginning, for purely political reasons, Republicans were determined to oppose the bill, using silly but tiny expenditures to discredit the whole thing. Even the moderate Republican senators who helped push the bill past a filibuster had refused to let it grow past $800 billion, and prevented it from paying for school construction.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It's Barack Obama?

It’s enough to make even the most ardent Obama cynic scratch his head in confusion.
Amidst all the cries of Barack Obama being the most prolific big government spender the nation has ever suffered, Marketwatch is reporting that our president has actually been tighter with a buck than any United States president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Who knew?
Check out the chart –

So, how have the Republicans managed to persuade Americans to buy into the whole “Obama as big spender” narrative?
It might have something to do with the first year of the Obama presidency where the federal budget increased a whopping 17.9% —going from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. I’ll bet you think that this is the result of the Obama sponsored stimulus plan that is so frequently vilified by the conservatives…but you would be wrong.
The first year of any incoming president term is saddled—for better or for worse—with the budget set by the president whom immediately precedes the new occupant of the White House. Indeed, not only was the 2009 budget the property of George W. Bush—and passed by the 2008 Congress—it was in effect four months before Barack Obama took the oath of office.
Accordingly, the first budget that can be blamed on our current president began in 2010 with the budgets running through and including including fiscal year 2013 standing as charges on the Obama account, even if a President Willard M. Romney takes over the office on January 20, 2013.
So, how do the actual Obama annual budgets look?
Courtesy of Marketwatch-
  • In fiscal 2010 (the first Obama budget) spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion.
  •  In fiscal 2011, spending rose 4.3% to $3.60 trillion.
  • In fiscal 2012, spending is set to rise 0.7% to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget that was agreed to last August.
  • Finally in fiscal 2013 — the final budget of Obama’s term — spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion. Read the CBO’s latest budget outlook.
No doubt, many will wish to give the credit to the efforts of the GOP controlled House of Representatives. That’s fine if that’s what works for you.
However, you don’t get to have it both ways. Credit whom you will, but if you are truly interested in a fair analysis of the Obama years to date—at least when it comes to spending—you’re going to have to acknowledge that under the Obama watch, even President Reagan would have to give our current president a thumbs up when it comes to his record for stretching a dollar.

Of course, the Heritage Foundation is having none of it, attempting to counter the actual numbers by pretending that the spending initiated by the Bush Administration is the fault of Obama. As I understand the argument Heritage is putting forth —and I have provided the link to the Heritage rebuttal so you can decide for yourself—Marketwatch, in using the baseline that Obama inherited, is making it too easy on the President.
But then, with the Heritage Foundation being the creator of the individual mandate concept in healthcare  only to rebut the same when it was no longer politically convenient, I’m not quite sure why anyone believes much of anything they have to say any longer. With their history of reversing course for convenience, I can’t help but wonder, should they find themselves reviewing the spending record of a President Romney four years from today, whether they might be tempted to use the Obama numbers as the baseline for such a new Administration.
contact Rick at
Twitter @rickungar
NOTE: Some of the comments to this piece have gotten well out of control, involving threats and obscenity to other commenters and myself. While I welcome and encourage comments from all points of view, obscene remarks are removed and not tolerated. I’ll be happy to jump back into the conversation and reply to some comments when those who are misusing the forum settle down.

If You Are a Fan of The NFL, NBA, or MLB Then You Are a Fan Of Socialism

If You Are a Fan of The NFL, NBA, or MLB Then You Are a Fan Of Socialism
If you support the NFL, NBA, MLB, or just about any professional sport, then you support socialism and taxes with the purpose of wealth redistribution and equality.  Why do people all over America love and support their professional sports teams?  Why are the NFL, NBA, and MLB so popular in the United States?  I believe that the answers to these questions can be explained by understanding how these organizations assess their success.  Professional sports organizations look at how many television viewers that they have, how many people purchase tickets to their games, and how possible it is for any team to win championships.  Essentially professional sports organizations find it very important to monitor how much money is generated, and how fair their system is.
These leagues have figured out that they can maximize the profitability of the entire league by implementing a system of equality that is very socialistic.  They have identified which advantages are unfair and have developed ways to manage and contain those advantages in a way that promotes healthy and strong competition and fairness.  I believe that the American people have already embraced democratic socialism via professional sports.  If the same type of rules were applied to the corporations and the Government in this country we would be as enthusiastic, supportive, and pleased with our local economy and Government as we are with our local football, basketball, or baseball team.
How are the NFL, NBA, and MLB Socialist?
The Salary caps, luxury taxes, players unions, and extremely rare possibility of revolving door (owners becoming players and vice versa) problems make professional sports socialistic.
Salary caps are a limit on how much money a team can spend on player salaries.  Salary caps are used to prevent wealthy team owners from being able to dominate the league by signing more top level players than their competitors.  Limiting salaries also keeps overall costs down.  This is extremely important to the leagues because keeping the economic power of each team close to equal brings greater economic benefits to the league as a whole and subsequently the individual teams in the league.  What the leagues have realized is that there needs to be parity between the teams and that every team should be given an opportunity to succeed because if the same team wins repeatedly, the fans will lose interest.  Salary caps also protect teams from themselves.  It prevents a team from spending itself into bankruptcy while trying to attempt to compete with wealthier teams.
The NBA has what is referred to as a soft cap because they can exceed their salary cap under certain circumstances.  The NBA however also has a luxury tax, and once a team exceeds a certain dollar amount then they have to pay a tax to the league which gets divided amongst teams with lower payrolls.  Did somebody say Robin Hood?  Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap, but indeed uses the luxury tax as their main equality mechanism.  The funds from the MLB luxury tax is used to pay players benefits and to their Industry Growth Fund which promotes and funds baseball around the world.
So how else is the NFL, NBA, and MLB Socialist?
The draft process used by professional sports organizations is very socialistic.  All sports fans are familiar with the draft process.  The draft process is what gives many fans hope that their team will be able to have a good season despite having a bad record the prior year.  In a draft, the worst teams have the first picks and the best teams pick last.  This process allows for the equal distribution of talent throughout the various teams in the organizations.  Without these mechanisms in place you would see the complete domination of the leagues by a few very wealthy teams.
How does this mean that Americans love, support, and prefer Democratic Socialism?
Substitute each team for American corporations and each professional sports league or association as the United States of America.  Substitute the league or association’s commissioner for the U.S. Government.  The Players Unions represent the unionized American workers.  If we were to adopt the structure of professional sports, we would encourage all corporate employees to unionize.
Given the prior analogical substitutions, we should apply the salary cap and luxury tax concept to American corporations.  We, via the U.S. Government should encourage healthy competition amongst our corporations and aspire for them to have a fair chance to succeed in their industry.  Why should we do this?  The answer is explained via a basic economic concept.  Competition is always better for the consumer because it reduces the price of goods and services.  We should either cap the salaries of employees or place a luxury tax that goes to competing corporations with less wealth just like in the NBA.
We should also parallel the concept of the professional sports draft.  Students with the highest grades and perceived potential should still receive higher initial wages than lower achieving students upon graduating, but should be essentially be drafted by the corporations with the least money first.  This would prevent the wealthy corporations from hogging the best talent as they frequently do.
In conclusion, the American people have already embraced socialism. Most Americans have no clue that it is indeed the socialistic structure of professional sports organizations that make them so beloved by so many.  Come on America, let’s play ball.

Want More Proof?

I Was a Welfare Mother from The NY Times Sunday Review

Gigi Rose Gray
Bethel, Conn.
I WAS a welfare mother, “dependent upon government,” as Mitt Romney so bluntly put it in a video that has gone viral. “My job is not to worry about those people,” he said. “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” But for me, applying for government benefits was exactly that — a way of taking responsibility for myself and my son during a difficult time in our lives. Those resources kept us going for four years. Anyone waiting for me to apologize shouldn’t hold his breath.
Almost 40 years ago, working two jobs, with an ex-husband who was doing little to help, I came home late one night to my parents’ house, where I was living at the time. My mother was sitting at the card table, furiously filling out forms. It was my application for readmission to college, and she’d done nearly everything. She said she’d write the essay, too, if I wouldn’t. You have to get back on track, she told me. I sat down with her and began writing.
And so, eight years after I’d flunked out, gotten pregnant, eloped, had a child, divorced and then fumbled my first few do-overs of jobs and relationships, I was readmitted to the University of New Hampshire as a full-time undergraduate. I received a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, a work-study grant and the first in a series of college loans. I found an apartment — subsidized, Section 8 — about two miles from campus. Within days, I met other single-mom students. We’d each arrived there by a different route, some falling out of the middle class, others fighting to get up into it, but we shared the same goal: to make a better future.
By the end of the first semester, I knew that my savings and work-study earnings wouldn’t be enough. My parents could help a little, but at that point they had big life problems of their own. If I dropped to a part-time schedule, I’d lose my work-study job and grants; if I dropped out, I’d be back to zero, with student-loan debt. That’s when a friend suggested food stamps and A.F.D.C. — Aid to Families With Dependent Children.
Me, a welfare mother? I’d been earning paychecks since the seventh grade. My parents were Great Depression children, both ex-Marines. They’d always taught self-reliance. And I had grown up hearing that anyone “on the dole” was scum. But my friend pointed out I was below the poverty line and sliding. I had a small child. Tuition was due.
So I went to my dad. He listened, did the calculations with me, and finally said: “I never used the G.I. Bill. I wish I had. Go ahead, do this.” My mother had already voted. “Do not quit. Do. Not.”
My initial allotment (which edged up slightly over the next three years) was a little more than $250 a month. Rent was around $150. We qualified for $75 in food stamps, which couldn’t be used for toilet paper, bathroom cleanser, Band-Aids, tampons, soap, shampoo, aspirin, toothpaste or, of course, the phone bill, or gas, insurance or snow tires for the car.
At the end of the day, my son and I came home to my homework, his homework, leftover spaghetti, generic food in dusty white boxes. The mac-and-cheese in particular looked like nuclear waste and tasted like feet. “Let’s have scrambled eggs again!” chirped my game kid. We always ran out of food and supplies before we ran out of month. There were nights I was so blind from books and deadlines and worry that I put my head on my desk and wept while my boy slept his boy dreams. I hoped he didn’t hear me, but of course he did.
The college-loan folks knew about the work-study grants, the welfare office knew about the college loans, and each application form was a sworn form, my signature attesting to the truth of the numbers. Still, I constantly worried that I’d lose our benefits. More than once, the state sent “inspectors” — a knock at the door, someone insisting he had a right to inspect the premises. One inspector, fixating on my closet, fingered a navy blue Brooks Brothers blazer that I wore to work. “I’d be interested to know how you can afford this,” she said. 

It was from a yard sale. “Take your hands off my clothing,” I said. My benefits were promptly suspended pending status clarification. I had to borrow from friends for food and rent, not to mention toilet paper.
That’s not to say we didn’t have angels: work-study supervisors, academic advisers and a social worker assigned to “nontraditional” students, which, in addition to women like me, increasingly included military veterans and older people coming in to retrofit their careers. Faculty members were used to panicked students whose kids had the flu during finals. Every semester, I had at least one incomplete course, with petitions for extensions. One literature professor, seeing my desperation, gave me a copy of “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin to read and critique for extra credit. “But it’s not a primer,” he cautioned. (Spoiler: she walks into the ocean and dies.)
With help, I graduated. That day, over the heads of the crowd, my 11-year-old’s voice rang out like an All Clear: “Yay, Mom!” Two weeks later, I was off welfare and in an administrative job in the English department. Part of my work included advising other nontraditional students, guiding them through the same maze I’d just completed, one course, one semester, at a time.
In the years since, the programs that helped me have changed. In the ’80s, the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant became the Pell Grant (which Paul D. Ryan’s budget would cut). In the ’90s, A.F.D.C. was replaced by block grants to the states, a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. States can and do divert that money for other programs, and to plug holes in the state budget. And a single mother applying for aid today would face time limits and eligibility requirements that I did not. Thanks to budget cuts, she would also have a smaller base of the invaluable human resources — social workers, faculty members, university facilities — that were so important to me.
Since then, I’ve remarried, co-written books, worked as a magazine editor and finally paid off my college loans. My husband and I have paid big taxes and raised a hard-working son who pays a chunk of change as well. We pay for sidewalks, streetlights, sanitation trucks, the military (we have three nephews in uniform, two deployed), police and fire departments, open emergency rooms, teachers, bus drivers, museums, libraries and campuses where people’s lives are saved, enriched and raised up every day. My country gave me the chance to rebuild my life — paying my tax tab is the only thing it’s asked of me in return.
I was not an exception in that little Section 8 neighborhood. Among those welfare moms were future teachers, nurses, scientists, business owners, health and safety advocates. We never believed we were “victims” or felt “entitled”; if anything, we felt determined. Wouldn’t any decent person throw a rope to a drowning person? Wouldn’t any drowning person take it?
Judge-and-punish-the-poor is not a demonstration of American values. It is, simply, mean. My parents saved me and then — on the dole, in the classroom or crying deep in the night, in love with a little boy who needed everything I could give him — I learned to save myself. I do not apologize. I was not ashamed then; I am not ashamed now. I was, and will always be, profoundly grateful. 

 A writer who was the co-author of Carissa Phelps’s “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time,” and is at work on her own memoir.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Randi Rhodes: IN DEPTH: Mitt Romney And The 47 Percent

With the release of video showing Mitt Romney demagoguing half of America, the choice becomes even more clear.

 On May 17, 2012, Mitt Romney was the keynote speaker at a private event in Boca Raton, Florida - an event that only recently came to light in secret video brought to light by James Carter IV, and given to journalist David Corn.

While the complete 49-minute video of the event is here (along with audio podcasts and the complete transcript), one of the most key sections of Mr. Romney's address is here:

Mr. Romney's vision of the economy is as obvious from this video as his fake laugh. It's clear what Mitt thinks about 47% of Americans - nearly half of America - when he says, "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Mitt doesn't even think he should try for the vote of 47% of the American people who disagree with him - a kind of laziness and arrogance all its own.

In fact, those 47% of Americans DO pay taxes. As you can see in the chart to the right from the Tax Policy Center, they may not pay income tax - but they do pay payroll tax. Many of that 47% are also elderly, or earn less than $20,000 per year.

That doesn't even count all the other kinds of taxes these Americans pay: gas tax, sales tax, property taxes and more.

That fact isn't going to stop Mitt Romney from trashing those in the 47%, while planning on raising taxes for the poor and middle class, so he can pay for his tax cuts for the rich.

We don't know if Mr. Romney thinks we're all stupid, but it's obvious he thinks HIS voters are stupid. Because in order to fulfill all of his promises on taxes and make his math work, Mitt's going to have to cut the earned benefits of everyone in the country - things like Medicare and Social Security - millions of Americans, including those who are planning on voting for him.

Contrary to what Mitt seems to think, many of those in the 47% don't just live in the stereotypical "blue states." Many of those Mitt wants to take earned benefits from, actually live in areas of the country that typically vote Republican:

In the end, Mitt is counting on laziness and ignorance. He's depending on Democrats and independents being too lazy, too tired, and too full of excuses to go to the polls. He's also depending on Republicans and conservatives to be ignorant, and vote against their own best intrests.

Don't let him be right. Get educated. Make your choice. Vote.

How Do the 47% Vote? By CATHERINE RAMPELL
Mitt Romney asserted that the 47 percent of Americans who had no federal income tax liability would “vote for the president no matter what.”
Actually, a lot them don’t vote, and of those who do, many vote Republican.
There is, unfortunately, no data linking federal income tax rates directly to voting behavior. But we do have some demographic information about those 47 percent (technically, 46 percent, if you’re looking at the most recent year of data) of American households that don’t pay federal income taxes, and we can use those demographics to make some educated guesses about how those people might vote.
About half of people who don’t owe federal income tax owe nothing because their incomes are too low; that is, all of their income is exempted after they take the standard deduction and personal exemptions for taxpayers and their dependents. For the most part, these households make less than $30,000 a year.
In 2008, when voter turnout rates were at or around record highs, fewer than half (44.9 percent) of adults in households making less than $30,000 per year voted, according to Census Bureau data. And of those who did vote, a substantial chunk voted for John McCain, the Republican candidate: 25 percent of those making under $15,000, and 37 percent of those making $15,000 to $30,000.
What about the rest of households who don’t pay federal income taxes?
This group generally doesn’t pay federal income taxes because of various deductions and credits in the tax code, known as “tax expenditures.”
According to the Tax Policy Center, about three-quarters of these remaining households pay no income tax because of tax expenditures that benefit older people and low-income working families with children.
Older Americans vote in very high numbers. In 2008, 70.2 percent of people over age 65 voted, according to the Census Bureau. And in that election, older voters supported John McCain over President Obama by an eight-percentage-point margin, with 53 percent voting for Mr. McCain. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted last week, showed likely voters in the same age group supporting Mr. Romney by a 15-point margin – even wider than the gap on Election Day 2008.
It’s probably fair to assume, then, that many of the people who don’t pay federal taxes because they’re benefiting from expenditures aimed at older Americans will vote for Mr. Romney, not Mr. Obama.
Those benefiting from tax provisions for low-income working families with children are, by definition, poor, and as we’ve established, poor people lean strongly Democratic but they don’t vote in very high numbers.
The remainder of the households that don’t pay federal income taxes because of other miscellaneous tax expenditures (tax-exempt interest, itemized deductions, capital gains rates and so forth) are harder to pin down demographically, so it’s challenging to make educated guesses about their likely voting behavior.
Mr. Romney also said that this “47 percent” of people who don’t pay federal income taxes are the same people who are “dependent” on government services:
All right, there are 47 percent … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.
First of all, the nonpayers can’t be conflated with the service receivers; people of all incomes and tax liabilities receive government services, not just those who have no federal income tax liability.
Are the people who do depend more heavily on government benefits at least more likely to vote Democratic, regardless of their tax burdens? Maybe those are the people Mr. Romney had intended to imply would vote for Mr. Obama “no matter what.”
But as a portrait of the social safety net in The New York Times found last spring:
Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Randi Rhodes: VOTE: The 2012 Randi Rhodes Voting Guide

From registration to helping you find which candidate truly agrees with you, the answers are all here.

It's a fact. Whether you like it or not, whether you did your part or not in the last election, millions of Americans didn't. They stayed home. They didn't pay attention. They didn't seem to  care - until after the votes were counted.

Then they bitched. And moaned. And whined. And complained about the results, on both sides of the left/right divide. And you wished you could shut them all up.

Your wish could come true this year - but it's not gonna happen if you, and your friends, and your neighbors sit at home on Election Day.

Follow this handy guide below, and remember - read a legitimate newspaper or two before you vote!

STEP 1) Make Sure You're Registered To Vote
If you don't know if you're registered to vote, if you don't know if you've got the right documents to vote, if you don't know if the latest voter ID laws affect you? The place to go is
Whether you're in any of the 50 states, the U.S. territories, serving abroad, or living overseas will help you make sure you're ready to vote. will also help you find your polling place, tell you what your polling place voting hours are, send you reminders of when it's time to vote - even help you to vote early!

STEP 2) Make Your Choice
Randi has already said - more than once - what her decision is for President. That doesn't mean YOU have to make the same choice as she does.

In fact, you shouldn't just vote for someone because Randi does.

You should look at the candidate's policies, their past history, and their furture plans, and see which candidates support the kinds of things you believe.

There are several websites to help guide you through this process. One of Team Randi's favorites is the website

You can choose from any of the top six candidates for President on the iSideWith website: Barack Obama (Democratic Party), Mitt Romney (Republican Party), Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party), Jill Stein (Green Party), Virgil Goode (Constitution Party) or Rocky Anderson (Justice Party).

You might not even support who you think - so take the complete quiz, and find out who you side with.

Another website that can help you to be a better educated voter is Project Vote Smart.

There, you can break down your research by issue, candidate, or party. You can also take Project Vote Smart's 'VoteEasy' quiz, another way for you to check which candidate's policies and positions match up with your own.

No matter how much research you've done, no matter how long you've been registered to vote, the fact remains - if you don't get out and vote, all the rest of it is just BS.

We could put a funny video here to try and motivate you, or link to yet another website. The fact is, none of that is going to help.

This part is up to you.

Get your ass out there and vote. Because those who don't vote? Shouldn't complain. 

Humor in Truth

Friday, September 7, 2012

Randi Rhodes: CHART: Who Really Built That Debt? For some Republicans, the most pressing issue remains the debt. But who really built that problem?

Throughout the entire 2012 Republican National Convention, the party elite thought they'd use a version of the debt clock, as a kind of visual joke. Their idea was to point the finger at President Obama, and pin the nation's debt on the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the fact checkers at the CBPP and Ezra Klein at Wonkblog spoiled the GOP's visual lie-fest - with a chart!

While the original chart is great, some of Randi's listeners still want to know, in a quick and easy fashion: Who's responsible for most of the debt? So Team Randi added a few tweaks to the chart, and as you can see below, it's pretty obvious where the blamefor America's debt lies:
If you'd like a more in-depth look at how most of America's current debt actually came from decisions made during the George W. Bush administration, check out the full research at Ezra's Wonkblog, or over at the CBPP.

Randi Rhodes: FACT CHECK: Barack Obama, Promises Kept It's been nearly four years. How many promises did President Obama actually keep?

It's a habit for virtually any candidate running for virtually any race - making huge amounts of promises.

For President Barack Obama, that habit wasn't any different when he ran for President in 2008. Multiple organizations counted hundreds of promises back then, and as the President's first term is nearly complete, these organizations are counting up the successes and failures. So far, the general consensus seems to be that President Obama has either kept, partially kept, compromised with Republicans to reach his goal, or in some way made progress, on most of his promises.

Here are three examples, as fact-checked by CBS News:
  • On Tax Reform: "I will -- listen now -- I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95 percent of all working families, because, in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class."
  • On Health Care: "Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American."
  • On Foreign Policy: "I will end this war in Iraq responsibly..."
For an even longer list of President Barack Obama's accomplishments, click here.

Randi Rhodes: Big Dog Beat Down!

Last night the Democrats showed what you can get done when you have a former president that you can actually invite to the convention. Bill Clinton gave the mathematical, fact-based argument that Republicans should have had Paul Ryan deliver. Of course, the problem with that is that none of the math or the facts supports what Paul Ryan wants to do. Explaining how he balanced four budgets, Clinton said “I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.” The Republican answer to arguments based on arithmetic is to slash funding for education. If nobody understands math, nobody is going to be bothering them with those silly arithmetic arguments.

Obama came out on stage at the end of Bill Clinton’s speech. Usually when a candidate shows up before the climactic final night, it’s to kiss his wife. After that speech, Obama owed Bill Clinton a kiss. Bill Clinton is perfect for stumping for a Democratic President—he’s  synonymous with economic prosperity AND Republican shenanigans. Some people say that Bill Clinton does a better job of explaining Obama’s policies than Obama does. That’s fine, as long as Bill keeps doing a better job of explaining Obama’s policies than Mitt Romney does lying about them.

Some of Bill Clinton’s best lines were ad-libbed. He was working on this speech for weeks, and he continued to work on it, even as he was delivering it. Clinton pointed out that no president “could have repaired all the damage he found in just four years.” Hell, it even took George Bush a full 8 years to cause that much damage!

Fact checkers working the Democratic convention were pulling overtime to find any facts that didn’t check out. Fact checking Bill Clinton basically boils down to “Yup, those were all facts, alright.” A Bill Clinton speech has almost as many facts as a Paul Ryan speech has lies. Fact checkers would be better off fact-checking the lyrics to the song the Democrats played when Obama got the votes for the nomination. Are Kool and the Gang really telling the truth in “Celebration”? In the song, Kool and the Gang make the assertion “Everything is gonna be alright.” That claim is not verifiable. Also, the blanket statement “We’re gonna have a good time tonight” is clearly based on pure speculation.

Today’s Homework | Discuss | Blog Archive

Sister Simone "Nuns on the Bus" Campbell brought down the house yesterday in Charlotte by shredding the Romney/Ryan budget and fiercely supporting Obamacare...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bill Clinton's DNC Speech 9/5/12 Part 1

Pres Clinton: “What’s the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!” Politifact says: TRUE

LOVING THE DNC 2012 RIGHT NOW!!! Pres Clinton: “What’s the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!” Politifact says: TRUE. #DNC2012
 Democratic presidents "have been considerably more effective at creating private-sector jobs."
Carolyn Maloney on Thursday, January 21st, 2010 in a floor speech in the House

Congresswoman says Democratic presidents create more private-sector jobs

As the recession continues to inflict economic pain on most Americans, the political battle to frame the debate rages on. In a House floor speech on Jan. 21, 2010, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., held up a chart showing job creation statistics under two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
"This chart goes back to 1992, the year that President [Bill] Clinton was elected," Maloney said. "It shows that during his time there was very robust job creation in the private sector, and then during the Bush years it fell dramatically. This dark line is the job creation, going up during the Clinton years, falling dramatically under the [George W.] Bush administration. It also shows that Democrats have been considerably more effective at creating private-sector jobs."
We wondered whether that pattern held true for other presidents as well, or whether Maloney had simply chosen two presidencies that conveniently showed her party in the most favorable light. So we ran the numbers and got some interesting results.
We did this by turning to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site, where visitors can customize data tables on national employment statistics. We used the month-by-month totals for nonfarm employment in the United States. (We actually ran the numbers twice -- once using Maloney's cited statistic, private-sector employment, and a second time using the combination of private-sector and government employment. It turned out that the general trends were virtually identical, so we'll be sticking with the statistics on just private-sector employment below.)
The BLS data go back to 1939, but since that fell in the middle of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, we skipped forward to Harry Truman and compared him and all of his post-World War II successors.

We also did some minor massaging of the numbers in order to make the statistics more comparable.
First, we calculated how much the number of jobs rose or fell on each president's watch. Then we divided that result by the number of jobs there were when the president began his first term, in order to get a percentage increase in jobs over that president's tenure. This enabled us to minimize the effect of population growth, which would otherwise credit later presidents with larger employment increases than earlier ones.
Next, we divided this job growth percentage by the number of years the president occupied the Oval Office, creating a statistic that calculates percentage job growth per year as president. This allowed us to more fairly compare the job growth rates under, say, Gerald Ford with those of two-termers such as Ronald Reagan and Clinton.
Finally, we lumped the Democratic presidents' annual job-growth percentages together and averaged them, and did the same for the Republicans. Because President Barack Obama has served just one year in office -- a length of time that some would consider statistically problematic -- we ran the Democratic numbers both with and without Obama, so that readers could choose their preferred statistic.
Before we provide the final totals, let's run down how each president did. Here are the average annual percentage increases in jobs for each postwar president:
Harry S. Truman (Democrat): increase of 2.95 percent a year
Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican): increase of 0.50 percent a year
John F. Kennedy (Democrat): increase of 2.03 percent a year
Lyndon B. Johnson (Democrat): increase of 3.88 percent a year
Richard M. Nixon (Republican): increase of 2.16 percent a year
Gerald R. Ford (Republican): increase of 0.86 percent a year
Jimmy Carter (Democrat): increase of 3.45 percent a year
Ronald Reagan (Republican): increase of 2.46 percent a year
George H.W. Bush (Republican): increase of 0.40 percent a year
Bill Clinton (Democrat): increase of 2.86 percent a year
George W. Bush (Republican): increase of 0.01 percent a year
Barack Obama (Democrat): decrease of 3.0 percent a year
(Can we take time out here to say how surprised we are that Eisenhower, who presided over the "happy" 1950s, managed an anemic half-percent job growth per year, while Jimmy "Malaise" Carter finished second with 3.45 percent annual job growth?)
Now for the totals. If you exclude Obama, Democrats averaged 3.03 percent annual job growth, compared to 1.07 percent for Republicans -- a nearly 3-to-1 advantage.
If you include Obama, the Democrats still held a significant edge. With Obama included, the Democrats averaged 2.03 annual job growth, compared to the same 1.07 for Republicans -- about twice as high as the GOP.

And based on some quick calculations he did, Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless said that the U.S. working-age population actually grew slightly faster under Republican presidents, making the Democratic accomplishment even more impressive.

So the statistics are clear: Democratic presidents have been more successful at creating jobs. But how much importance should we assign to this fact? We hereby list some caveats that we and several historians we contacted came up with.
-- The president actually deserves less credit for the good times -- and less blame for the bad times. It's a truism of politics that when things go well, the president generally gets too much credit, and when things don't go well, the president usually gets too much blame. Shouldn't the Republican Congress of 1995-2001 get a share of the credit for Clinton's robust job growth? Shouldn't the Democratic House that served under Reagan? Most experts would say yes and yes.
-- Timing can be hugely important. "Statistics about employment growth over presidential terms are dominated by the timing of the business cycle, including Federal Reserve policy, and have no apparent connection to economic policies attributed to the White House, as opposed to Congress," said Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. One example: Clinton had the good fortune to enter office when the economy had just undergone a recession. This relatively low starting point made it easier for him to rack up big gains over eight years. The converse is true for George W. Bush: He took office right as the tech bubble was bursting, meaning that any jobs he added to the nation's total amounted to digging the country out of a jobs hole.
-- Outside factors can play a big role. Truman's private-sector employment numbers likely benefited from the post-World War II demobilization of troops. (Private sector jobs grew at 2.95 percent per year during his presidency, compared to 2.7 percent a year for all jobs.) Meanwhile, Lyndon Johnson took office right as the first wave of baby boomers was turning 18, a fact that almost certainly boosted his job-creation figures. And research by James D. Hamilton, an economist at the University of California at San Diego has shown that oil price shocks -- something entirely out of a president's control -- have caused most postwar recessions.
As Yale political scientist David Mayhew points out, conclusions drawn from a relatively narrow data set -- in this case, just 12 postwar presidencies -- need to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, most experts we spoke to agreed that the pattern is too consistent to dismiss out of hand.
And it's not the only one that reflects a strong correlation between an economic factor and the president's partisan affiliation. In his 2008 book Unequal Democracy, Princeton University political scientist Larry Bartels showed that changes in income inequality are strongly correlated with the president's party. Under every postwar Republican president, Bartels concluded, the gap between rich and poor has grown, and under every Democratic president except for Carter, that gap has shrunk. (For those on the lookout for ideological bias, Bartels made a point of writing in his introduction that he is "an unusually apolitical political scientist" who last voted in 1984, for Reagan. "I was quite surprised to discover how often and how profoundly partisan differences in ideologies and values have shaped key policy decisions and economic outcomes," he wrote. "I have done my best to follow my evidence where it led me.")
Ultimately, the experts we contacted said that, despite the caveats, Maloney's calculations, and our expansion of them, were justified.
"This is a reasonable exercise in the scheme of things," said liberal economist Dean Baker. "Obviously, luck matters a lot, but when there is a consistent pattern over more than 60 years, it starts to look like more than just luck."
Kevin Hassett, an economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a former economic adviser to the Republican presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain, argued that the best way to evaluate presidents is to look at their policies. Still, he added, calculations like Maloney's "are worth doing. They can be thought-provoking and can ignite debates that help inform."
So the significance of this pattern is open to question, but on the facts, the evidence is clear: We rate Maloney's statement True, not just for the two presidents she cited, but for the postwar presidency as a whole.