This post originally appeared on Think Progress. During an interview today with FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe on ABC’s Top Line, host Karen Travers noted that the cover of his upcoming book — Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto — says “lower taxes plus less government equals more freedom.” Travers then asked, “How does that less government sentiment square with this massive government effort down there in the Gulf to contain the spill?” In response, Kibbe was able to kill two birds with one stone: deflect criticism from BP and his own personal philosophy by saying that he expects government to act “when there is a natural disaster”:
KIBBE: Well I think if you look at what’s happened down there, it’s a sad story of government incompetence as well as negligence on the part of BP. And I think what you have to look at is when there is a natural disaster like this we do expect our government to do some things and to do them well. And the whole point of limited government is you want the government to be competent at those few things that we need it to do and this is an example where the government was asleep at the switch and there’s a series of regulations that led to deep drilling as opposed to more economical and safer options.
Watch it (starting at 4:00): Of course, natural disasters are uncontrollable events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Tens of millions of gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico due to an oil company’s negilgence and misconduct does not qualify. In fact, just last year, BP opposed stricter safety and environmental rules proposed by the U.S. Minerals Management Service. A BP executive tried to fight off the new regulations on Capitol Hill, saying that drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has been shown to be “both safe and protective of the environment.” Even though Kibbe lobbed the obligatory “negligence” charge at BP, what he didn’t explain is that he might have an interest in deflecting blame away from the oil giant. As ThinkProgress reported last month, FreedomWorks worked with BP to build grassroots support for opening up large sections of both the East and West coasts to new oil drilling. BP listed the group as part its “significant grassroots supporters” on a PowerPoint slide at a presentation by the BP-funded front group “Consumer Energy Alliance” at a conference in 2007.
Weeks after BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Politico reported that during the last 20 years, the company and its employees gave more money to President Obama than any other federal political candidate. Yesterday on Fox News Sunday yesterday, Sarah Palin tried to make it into a wider narrative. “I don’t know why the question isn’t asked by the mainstream media and by others if there’s any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration,” she said. Palin wondered if there is “any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to…grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.” Mainstream media outlet the Wall Street Journal did ask and it appears the answer doesn’t give cover to Palin’s charges:
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Republicans receive far more campaign money from the oil and gas industry than do Democrats. So far in 2010, the oil and gas industries have contributed $12.8 million to all candidates, with 71% of that money going to Republicans. During the 2008 election cycle, 77% of the industry’s $35.6 million in contributions went to Republicans, and in the 2008 presidential contest, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain received more than twice as much money from the oil and gas industries as Obama: McCain collected $2.4 million; Obama, $898,000.
Moreover, as Time’s Michael Scherer noted, the Politico article on BP’s donations “fails to provide the context readers need” considering Obama ran for president, and the numbers aren’t adjusted for “campaign inflation.” Even right-wing blogger Ed Morrissey warned the GOP not to “overplay their hand on this issue.”
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed an over-reaching and radical anti-immigration bill into law last week, various conservative media figures, pundits, and former officials have spoken out against it. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called it “un-American,” while Florida GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio said he has “concerns.” However, Republican members of Congress have largely remained silent — with only a handful offering support, coming out against the law, or declining to pick one side or the other. Yesterady on ABC News’ Top Line, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-AZ) chose the non-committal route. Top Line hosts Rick Klein and David Chalian asked Cantor where he stood on the law four times, but the Virginia Republican refused to go on record either way. At one point, Cantor tried to dismiss the questioning, calling it “a false choice,” without any real explanation as to why:
CHALIAN: How is that a false choice?! CANTOR: Because no one is going to accept the lawlessness. First and foremost, we are a country of laws. Now are you asking whether I think that America is a country of opportunity? Absolutely. Are we a country built on immigrants? Absolutely. CHALIAN: I’m asking you if you agree with Marco Rubio that the law goes too far. That’s what I’m asking. CANTOR: Listen, I can tell you this, I am for making sure that America remains a country that stands of freedom and opportunity for everyone and that means we ought to concentrate on enforcing the law and making sure that we enhance legal immigration so that we can continue to grow and prosper so that we can get America back to work.
Watch it: As ThinkProgress has previously noted, it appears that some Republicans are unwilling to alienate the right-wing base of their constituencies by coming out against the law. But at the same time, they are afraid to drive the GOP further away from Latinos. Cantor is trying to walk this fine line in a not-so-clever way.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Reports emerged over the weekend that RightNetwork, a new right-wing television and internet media venture, is set to be launched this summer to “entertain, engage and enlighten Americans who are looking for content that reflects and reinforces their perspective and worldview.” Actor Kelsey Grammer appears in a number of web videos promoting the network, complaining of “things that just aren’t right,” like “big government,” “more taxes,” “grown man tickle fights,” “trillion dollar deficits,” and “bureaucrats.” RightNetwork also appears to have the backing of Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor, a Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment company and Comcast subsidiary. “RightNetwork will be the perfect platform to entertain, inform and connect with the American majority about what’s right in the world,” Snider says in the company overview. In another video, a RightNetwork promoter, speaking at what seemed to be a Tea Party rally, explains who RightNetwork is marketing itself towards:
RightNetwork is going to be for people who work for a living, people who break their backs paying more than their fair share of taxes, for people who believe in this country and believe that we do not have to apologize to anyone.RightNetwork is for people that live in what they call “flyover country,” and what we call, “America.” RightNetwork, because what we’ve been seeing on TV, isn’t all of America.
Watch it: Other videos on the company’s website promote right-wing comedy shows; a program called “Running” profiles six conservative first-time candidates for Congress; and, a show called “Poker and Politics” features right-wing media figure Andrew Breitbart. Comcast is currently finalizing a deal to purchase NBC Universal. Late last year, Comcast VP David Cohen suggested the possibility that the company would launch a right-wing network to compete with Fox News, but added that Comcast “wouldn’t tamper with NBC or MSNBC’s operations.” Politico reports today that “RightNetwork has, in fact, pitched Comcast, but the company has yet to decide whether to pick it up.” However, a Comcast official wrote on the company’s blog today that “we have no partnership” with RightNetwork and “have no plans to launch or distribute the network.”
Cross-posted from Think Progress. Part of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) argument that President Obama has allegedly turned the United States into a socialist, totalitarian state is her claim that since he took office, the federal government has taken control of the “private economy.” First, the feds allegedly owned 30 percent of the private economy, then she recently upped it to 51 percent. “Once the president signed the health care bill…that effected 51% government takeover of the private economy,” she said last month. Last night on CNN, Bachmann tried to explain her reasoning and in doing so, threw in a new tall tale:
BACHMANN: The story in our country has been the federal government takeover of private industry. The federal government literally, in 18 months’ time, has taken either direct ownership or control of 51 percent of the private economy. Eighteen months ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private. But today, the federal government literally owns banks., the largest insurance company in the United States. The federal government owns over half of all home mortgages today in the United States — Chrysler, G.M. the student loan industry and now health care.
Watch it: One problem for Bachmann’s argument is that the U.S. government doesn’t own any banks. Anything that might come close to making this claim true would be the existence of the Federal Reserve, which has been around since the early 20th Century. She could perhaps be referring to the bank bailouts (which happened under President Bush). But even in this case — while the U.S. government’s influence on American financial institutions has certainly increased since TARP — its ownership in any of the nation’s banks is paltry (6 percent of Bank of America and 7.8 percent of Citigroup as of early 2009, for example). And, it is helping the banks to get back on their feet while earning a profit for taxpayers. Another problem for Bachmann is that the government doesn’t own any percentage of the “private economy.” As TPM once noted of Bachmann’s claim:
The private and public portions of an economy fluctuate over time, depending on the needs and policy decisions of the era. But at the end of the day, this year’s private economy is 100% private, too. The private economy of 1928 was also 100% private. And even in 1945, in the midst of heavy defense spending and regulations from World War II and the New Deal, the private economy was 100% private!
Even giving Bachmann the benefit of the doubt, “total government expenditures haven’t been near half of GDP since 1944″ and “in 2009, they were 20.9 percent.” Bachmann went from 30 percent of this alleged government ownership to 51 percent because health care reform passed, but as noted, “[W]e’ve said time and again, the government isn’t ‘taking ownership’ of health care. Insurance will still be provided by private companies, and care will still be provided by private doctors.”
To coincide with tax day, Tea Party groups gathered in cities across the country yesterday to “denounce what they regard as excessive taxation and government spending.” “We’re going to protest excessive taxes,” one tea bagger at the rally in Washington, DC said. But at a fundraiser in Miami yesterday, President Obama seemed perplexed by the tea baggers’ motivations, noting that he helped usher in a tax cut last year for nearly all but the richest Americans:
OBAMA: We cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans just like I promised we would on the campaign. […] So I’ve been a little amused over the last couple days where people have been having these rallies about taxes. You would think they would be saying, “Thank you!” That’s what you’d think!
Watch it: Indeed, taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years. “The relation between what is said in the tax debate and what is true about tax policy is often quite tenuous,” said Tax Policy Center co-director William Gale. “The rise of the Tea Party at at time when taxes are literally at their lowest in decades is really hard to understand.” Nearly 47 percent of Americans will pay no federal income taxes for 2009 because either “their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability.”
Last week, Forbes magazine published what the top U.S. corporations paid in taxes last year. “Most egregious,” Forbes notes, is General Electric, which “generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.” Big Oil giant Exxon Mobil, which last year reported a record $45.2 billion profit, paid the most taxes of any corporation, but none of it went to the IRS:
Exxon tries to limit the tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that (legally) shelter the cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi. No wonder that of $15 billion in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas.
Mother Jones’ Adam Weinstein notes that, despite benefiting from corporate welfare in the U.S., Exxon complains about paying high taxes, claiming that it threatens energy innovation research. Pat Garofalo at the Wonk Room notes that big corporations’ tax shelter practices similar to Exxon’s shift a $100 billion annual tax burden onto U.S. taxpayers. In fact, in 2008, the Government Accountability Office found that “two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005.”
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Today during a speech in Portland, ME, President Obama made fun of the naysayers who have been spreading “misinformation” and “fearmongering” about the historic health care reform legislation that he signed last week. Referring to House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) claim that reform is “Armageddon,” Obama said that after he signed the bill, “I looked up at the sky to see if asteroids were coming. … You know what? It turned out, it was a pretty nice day!” He then took a jab at pundits and reporters in DC who have been touting polls that show Americans are still divided on reform:
OBAMA: You have to love some of the pundits in Washington. Every single day since I signed the reform law, there’s been another poll or headline that said, “Nation still divided on health care reform.” “Polls haven’t changed yet.” Well, yeah. It just happened last week! It’s only been a week! Can you imagine if some of these reporters were working on a farm? You’d planted some seeds and they came out the next day and they looked. “Nothing’s happened! There’s no crop! We’re gonna starve! Oh no! It’s a disaster!” It’s been a week, folks. So before we find out if people like health care reform, we should wait to see what happens when we actually put it into place! Just a thought.
This post was originally published on Thinks Progress. Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stirred faux outrage over the House Democrats’ plan to use a “self-executing rule” to pass the Senate health care reform bill, saying Americans would “have standing to sue against” the bill and that it’s “breathtakingly unconstitutional.” The claim has now turned into the latest fact-free GOP talking point to try to kill reform; Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) picked up on the theme yesterday. “It really tramples on the Constitution of the United States,” he said on the House floor. Today, the Daily Caller’s Jon Ward asked Pence if it was “correct” to call the rule “unconstitutional.” “Well I think it’s probably unconstitutional,” he said, adding, “My background in law and constitutional issues suggests to me it’s unconstitutional.” But later in the interview, Pence admitted that he had voted for self-executing rules in the past:
THE DAILY CALLER: My question is, though, that Democrats say you voted for self-executing rules yourself on three occasions. PENCE: Yeah, sure.
Pence said those votes were different because, he claims, the House is passing the Senate bill without technically voting on it. “The Senate bill has never passed the House.” Later, Pence admitted that the House wouldn’t actually be voting on the bill anyway:
THE DAILY CALLER: So procedurally they’re not voting for the Senate bill, and I understand your point about how legislation of this magnitude has never been passed, but for all practical purposes won’t it still be considered a vote for the Senate bill, a vote for reconciliation? PENCE: I don’t think so.
Pence then became confused. “If you say that you don’t think this will be perceived as a vote for the Senate bill, you can’t go out and run ads against House Democrats saying they voted for health care,” the Daily Caller noted. “You lost me on that one,” Pence replied. “What do you mean?” This morning on ABC, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) admitted that the self-executing rule is legal and has been used many times — even by Republicans — in the past. “The rules of the House allow for this type of deeming provision, it’s called a self-executing provision which means that once the bill, the rule for the next bill passes, the Senate bill is automatically is deemed as having passed,” he said.
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Included in both the House and Senate health care reform bills each chamber passed last year is a mandate for individuals to buy health insurance. Offering support for the measure, President Obama has compared the idea to states’ requirements that those who drive cars must purchase auto insurance. “Under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance,” Obama has said. However, Republicans are strongly opposed to this provision, with many even claiming (wrongly) that the mandate is unconstitutional. Mike Huckabee picked up on this point last night on Fox News. “People don’t want [it],” Huckabee complained. “And 34 different attorney generals across America are prepared to file a lawsuit against the federal government on the constitutional grounds that you cannot require a citizen to purchase something in order to be a citizen.” But then, Huckabee inadvertently made the case for the mandate:
HUCKABEE: No one is required to own or drive a car. A lot of people in New York City where I am right now, they live their whole lives and never own an automobile. So they don’t have to have a car therefore they don’t have to have insurance. You can’t live and breathe without some form of health. If the requirement is that you have to have health insurance, it’s not just you have to have it if you plan to be healthy or you have it if you plan to breathe and inhale and exhale. That’s the difference here. So yes, driving is a privilege. Not everybody has to drive, but everybody has to live.
Watch it: What Huckabee so eloquently stated is precisely the point. Those who choose to drive must buy insurance. But we don’t necessarily choose to live. As Huckabee noted, “everybody has to live.” And he’s right, the “difference” is, no one is forcing anyone to drive, but staying alive is an absolute necessity. Therefore, having health insurance is a more cost effective way to satisfy that goal. The President is a convert to the insurance mandate provision, having opposed it during his run for the presidency in 2008. However, most Republicans are converts to opposing it. For example, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a key player in the Senate’s health care negotiations, once supported the mandate, has cited the very same auto insurance analogy Obama used. But now, due the the GOP’s obstruct-at-all-costs tactics, the Iowa senator is “very reluctant to go along with an individual mandate.”