Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Romney’s Taxes

So the veil has been lifted off Mitt Romney’s tax returns for last year.

Romney’s total wealth is estimated at $190 million to $250 million.

The returns also show that over 2010 and 2011 Romney donated more money to charity, $7 million, than he will pay in taxes, much of that going to the Mormon church. The campaign stressed that Romney’s low tax rate was based on the fact that much of his income comes from 15% tax rate on capital gains, rather than the 35% rate on earned income as well as charitable deductions. They also note that much of the money comes from interest from Romney’s blind trust.

Kind of takes the sting out of being “unemployed,” doesn’t it?

Lest you think I have some kind of grudge against people making a lot of money, forget it. I don’t. I could not care less how much money he makes or how he chooses to spend it. I also think that if he and his accountants have figured out a way to game the system so that he pays as little in taxes as he can, then fine; isn’t that what H&R Block and Turbo Tax are selling us, the average guy with a job and a mortgage and bills to pay… or not?

Whether or not it’s fair is another matter. A totally fair tax system would not distinguish between income earned from working and income earned from investments. The criticism of Mr. Romney or anyone else who makes $33,048 in “less than a day” isn’t a battle of capitalism versus communism; it’s the difference between rewarding someone with a lower tax rate for making money in a way that is inaccessible to a majority of the people. Most Americans don’t have the luxury of investing enough money to earn an income from it alone.

And then there’s the disincentive to use that money for the greater good, and I don’t mean giving it away to the poor or “spreading the wealth.” The people who have $250 million are supposed to be the “job creators.” If that’s true, then where are the jobs that Mitt Romney has created? It sounds like he’s kept a lot of CPA’s busy, but unless his blind trust was the main force behind General Motors and Chrysler coming back (oh, the irony), it’s not doing a hell of a lot of good for the job market. So I’m not so sure as to why people should be rewarded with a lower tax rate for basically doing nothing. Sounds kind of like European socialism to me.

People with more knowledge about taxes and the tax code will have more insight than I do on this matter, but in a way I can see why Mr. Romney was reluctant to release his tax returns: they make him look like what people already think he is.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Election Results

Yesterday’s election results are in. In the biggest news, the voters of Ohio rejected the state’s new law strictly regulating the role of public sector unions.

With 97 percent of the unofficial count reported, 61 percent said “no” to Issue 2, the referendum on Senate Bill 5, compared to 39 percent who wanted to save a law that has proved to be one of the most controversial in recent memory.

This is a big kick in the ass for Gov. John Kasich (R), who basically admitted as much in a press conference.

Mr. Kasich, who ultimately became the primary face of the failed campaign to save the law, said it was time to “take a breath” before determining the next step.

Voters “might have said that it was too much too soon,” he said. “Maybe that was it. I don’t really know, except I know this: When you try to do big things, you must do a good job preparing the ground for people to understand what the issue is. … I’m not sure that we were offering them a solution to a problem that they didn’t think existed.”

In other words, he and the Ohio GOP didn’t do a good enough job of demonizing teachers, police, firefighters, and other public sector employees.

There was more good news: in Mississippi, the personhood amendment went down to defeat, and in Maine, voters rejected an attempt by their Tea Party governor to limit election-day voter registration. In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was re-elected by a wide margin, and in Arizona, State Senator Russell Pearce, the man behind the odious anti-immigration law, was recalled. In Michigan, voters recalled State Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) in retribution for his voting for cuts in education. And raise a glass to Costco in Washington state, where voters approved the sale of liquor in grocery stores. Cheers: it looks like a bit of sanity is being restored to the country.

It’s dangerous to predict from one year to another; a year ago, it looked like the Democrats and the progressives were buzzard meat at the hands of the Tea Party. But now that the country and the states have seen what fresh hell can be done at the behest of radical cranks, they are pretty much rejecting them. It wasn’t a clean sweep — Mississippi passed a photo ID law to vote, which is a backdoor way to make it harder for the poor, the elderly, and the disabled to vote — but it looks like a lot of the movement toward rich white Jesusland has been stemmed.

That should provide a bit of comfort to the Obama campaign, and a cold glaring lesson to the GOP: as Rachel Maddow noted, more people in Ohio voted to reject the anti-union law than voted for John Kasich for governor last year.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Short Takes

It’s Election Day in Ohio and several other states. If you live there and the Republicans will let you, please vote.

Greece — The parties are still working out the details of a coalition government.

Meanwhile, Italy is the next big thing on the financial risk tailspin.

In the U.S., home prices start to fall again.

Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach at Penn State, stands accused of sexual abuse of children.

Bank of America agrees to settle a lawsuit for overdraft fees to the tune of $410 million.

Boring Job — After a delay, the tunnel project in Miami’s port could start on Wednesday.

R.I.P. Joe Frazier, heavyweight boxer.

Tropical Update — There are two disturbances in the North Atlantic: Subtropical Storm Sean. and Invest 98. Neither are near land.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Buyer’s Remorse

Tomorrow’s election in Ohio could be an indicator of the backlash to come.

A new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) shows Ohio Democrats and public employee unions likely to win a big victory on Tuesday in the referendum on Republican Gov. John Kasich’s anti-public union bill, SB-5.

The poll shows only 36% of Ohioans will vote to support the law, while a decisive 59% oppose the bill and will vote to repeal it.

Kasich’s own approval mirrors those numbers, with only 33% approval and 57% disapproval. Kasich was elected in the 2010 Republican wave, defeating incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland by a 49%-47% margin. However, when asked if they could vote again, the respondents in this poll chose Strickland by a 55%-37% margin.

From the pollster’s analysis: “Democrats are almost unanimous in their opposition to SB 5, supporting repeal by an 86-10 margin. Meanwhile there’s division in the Republican ranks- 30% are planning to vote down their Governor’s signature proposal while only 66% are supportive of it. Independents split against it by a 54/39 spread as well.”

Ohio is the second state where the overreaching of the new governor has been put to the voters. Wisconsin already went through several recalls back in the summer, and while it didn’t switch the state back to the Democrats, there are several GOP state legislators who are out of work thanks to their votes to knock down public unions at the behest of Gov. Scott Walker (R), who now faces recall himself.

Here in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) approval rating has “inched up” to 37% after he stepped on a couple of rakes with some of his more radical ideas, such as drug testing for welfare recipients. That new law has been blocked by a federal judge over a little technicality called the Fourth Amendment.

It’s typical for voters to feel buyer’s remorse after an election; the governing is never as much fun as the campaign, and especially when a party or a candidate gets the impression that just because they won the election, they can do whatever they want. All three governors — Kasich, Walker, and Scott — all seemed to think that their narrow wins entitled them to a huge mandate. What it actually did is provide them with enough juice in their resume to enjoy their forced retirement in two years. For Mr. Kasich, it’ll be back to his old job at Fox, and Rick Scott can go back to ripping off Medicare.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Short Takes

Put it to a vote — Greeks could oust the prime minister over the referendum on the bailout deal.

Libya — It’s not all quiet there yet.

MF Global
, the firm headed by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, filed for bankruptcy and can’t account $700 million.

The FBI arrested four Georgia militia members for plotting attacks on federal office buildings.

The woman who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment got a year’s severance pay.

It was Election Day in South Florida yesterday.

R.I.P. Dorothy Rodham, 92, mother of Hillary Rodham Clinton; Gilbert Cates, 77, the TV producer of the Oscar telecasts.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Short Takes

Tunisians vote in the first post-Arab Spring election.

Speaking of elections, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was re-elected.

Stalemate — Banks in Europe don’t have a deal yet for the Greek bailout.

Another dead satellite — this time, a German one — crashed to earth, but no one knows where.

Environmentalists rally in Miami.

Tropical Update — There are two areas of tropical weather — here and here — to keep our eyes on.

World Series — The Cardinals — specifically Albert Pujols — walloped the Rangers in Texas 16-7 for to win Game 3.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Short Takes

Bangkok escapes flood waters.

Israel releases the names of the prisoners that it plans to release as part of their swap with Palestine.

U.S. cuts back the number of troops it plans to leave in Iraq.

The campaign in Ohio to repeal the ban on collective bargaining by public employees heats up.

Foreclosures could be the Achilles heel in the housing recovery.

Tropical Update — There’s a disturbance over the Yucatan.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Short Takes

Still not over — the European debt crisis makes their recession continue.

Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin, acting governor of West Virginia, won a special election to make him governor… for a year.

The Ford Motor Company will add more jobs and raise salaries and bonuses under their new UAW agreement.

The House passed another continuing resolution to keep the government going for another six weeks.

Five GOP candidates will boycott the Univision debate because of Marco Rubio’s hurt fe-fe’s.

Miami-Dade County wants in on the new casino action.

Tropical Update — TS Philippe makes the turn and heads east.

The Tigers lost 10-1; the series is tied at 2 each. Meanwhile, the Rays lost to the Rangers, so there won’t be a Florida team in the World Series this year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Isn’t That Special?

There were two special elections yesterday to fill vacant House seats; one in Nevada, and one left by the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). The Republicans won both, even though Mr. Weiner’s district was seen in the past as being a safe Democratic seat.

Some are seeing them as portents of doom for the 2012 election, but then, the Democrats have won special elections where Republicans were expected to win, but those were not predictors for the 2012 election because, well, they weren’t. John Cole at Balloon Juice summed it up:

If the Republican wins, this proves that the Democratic party is in disarray and that Obama will lose in 2012.

If the Democrat wins, this will mean nothing since it was a Democratic seat and the fact that the Democrats had to spend so much money on it shows the Republicans are motivated and Obama will lose in 2012.

See how easy that was? This punditry gig is awesome.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Short Takes

A fourth night of violence in Britain.

He started it — North and South Korea exchanged gunfire.

The stock market rallied yesterday, gaining back a bit of the loss from the previous sessions.

Recall in Wisconsin falls one short of switching the state senate to the Democrats.

Tropical Update: Invest 92 hasn’t moved much; still way off east in the Atlantic.

The Tigers lost to the Indians in 14 innings and a two-hour rain delay.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Short Takes

Rupert Murdoch denies any responsibility for the phone hacking scandal.

Foreign Currency — Pakistan is accused of contributing to U.S. politicians, including Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN).

Democrat survives recall election in Wisconsin.

A panel recommends that birth control be offered for free under the new healthcare law.

It’s still really hot in the Midwest.

Two Miami high schools under threat of closure get a reprieve.

Tropical Storm Bret is no threat to land as it heads out to open sea.

The Tigers beat the A’s.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Short Takes

The brother of Afghanistan’s president, a power broker in his own way, was assassinated by a trusted bodyguard.

The debt crisis in Europe is reaching the bigger countries like Italy and Spain.

The hacking scandal in Britain could doom the Murdoch empire.

Fool them once — The “fake Democrats” all lost in the recall primaries in Wisconsin.

Janice Hahn, the Democrat running in the special election in California, has been declared the winner.

The heat wave continues in the Midwest and heads for the Northeast.

Two Miami high schools may close.

Ted Danson will replace Lawrence Fishburne on C.S.I.

The National League won the All-Star game.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Democrat Kathy Hochul Wins in NY 26

This normally wouldn’t get a lot of attention, but the race to fill the House seat in upstate New York became a referendum on the Republicans and Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, they made it a national election, and they lost decisively.

Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.

The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether they should rethink their party’s commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability heading into the 2012 elections.

Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.

On Tuesday, she captured 47 percent of the vote to Ms. Corwin’s 43 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 9 percent.

To give you an idea how conservative this district is, it went for Carl Paladino over Andrew Cuomo for governor last fall. It was also Jack Kemp’s district when he was in Congress.

The spinning has already begun: “Well, you know, special elections don’t really mean anything, and Jack Davis, the Tea Party dude was really a Democrat in disguise and hey, how about those Yankees?”

What happens now is that Republicans and the Villagers are going to stop calling Paul Ryan’s plans “bold” and “courageous” and, if they haven’t already, start running away from him as if he had the plague: “Well, you know, I never really liked the plan, but it’s a good starting point for a discussion and we need to look at all the options, and hey, how about those Tigers?”

The only questions that remain are: What made the Republicans think that voting en masse in April to support the Ryan budget and ending Medicare as we know it made any sense at all, and why did they think they could get away with it? Is their hatred for President Obama so blinding that even such political geniuses as Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich wouldn’t see that coming up with an attack on the most popular government plan in generations would spell disaster for them? In terms of letting passion and emotion overtake the sensibilities and political astuteness, this plan is the political equivalent of Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Canary In the Coal Mine

There’s a special election today in upstate New York to fill the seat of Chris Lee (R-NY) who resigned after posting his bulging biceps on Craigslist last winter. The race is between Jane Corwin, the Republican in this very GOP district, and Kathy Hochul, the Democrat. There’s also Jack Davis, a Tea Partier, in the race. But recent polls indicate that Ms. Hochul has a slight lead, and the issue isn’t just local; it’s turning out to be a referendum on the Republicans’ plan to kill off Medicare as we know it.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

All politics is local, indeed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Short Takes

A deadly tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, yesterday.

President Obama is off to Europe.

Syria is now going after social media to shut down protesters.

The special election in New York’s 26th district is getting national attention.

The Feds want to deny bail to the South Florida terror suspects.

The Heat beat the Bulls in Game 3.

The Tigers finally took one from the Pirates.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Running Away from Ryan’s Plan

The Republicans are figuring out that the Ryan Medicare plan is toxic.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said Thursday he has no interest in bringing up House Republicans’ proposal to replace Medicare with subsidies for private insurance if it’s not going to pass the Senate.

“I’m not really interested in laying down more markers,” said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.). “I’d rather have the committee working with the Senate and with the president to focus on savings and reforms that can be signed into law.”

Translation: they don’t want to get tagged with being the people who tried to kill off one of the most popular programs the government has come up with in the last fifty years.

There’s one small problem: every Republican in the House of Representatives voted for it. Not only do the Democrats know that, they’re already running ads about it. And it’s also showing up in the polls. In New York, for instance, there’s a special election coming up on May 24. It’s in a strongly Republican district, but thanks to the Ryan budget proposal, the Democrat has a real shot at winning.

Mr. Camp also admitted that another one of the Republicans’ signature plans — to repeal the healthcare bill that was passed last year — is dead. It’s not like they actually had a chance at repeal, but that’s what they were all shouting about, so it’s funny to see them slink away from it like they never even brought it up.

The Republicans always talk about “shaking things up” when they run for office. Ironically, the only ones so far to be all shook up are the Republicans.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Take It Off

The Democrats have wasted little time taking advantage of the Republicans’ vote for the Ryan budget.

That’s a good start.

By the way, it looks like even some Republicans are beginning to notice that the Ryan budget would take away their Medicare.

Americans clearly don’t want the government to cut Medicare, the government health program for the elderly, or Medicaid, the program for the poor. Republicans in the House of Representatives voted last week to drastically restructure and reduce those programs, while Obama calls for trimming their costs but leaving them essentially intact.

Voters oppose cuts to those programs by 80-18 percent. Even among conservatives, only 29 percent supported cuts, and 68 percent opposed them.

To quote the immortal teabagger refrain: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Short Takes

Down to the wire on the budget.

There was a powerful aftershock in Japan from the March 11 earthquake.

They’re calling it a stalemate in Libya between the rebels and Qaddafi’s forces.

Nearly 40 political prisoners from Cuba are headed to Spain.

The Supreme Court race in Wisconsin looks better for the incumbent after a bunch of votes were “found.”

The number of people looking for work fell again last week.

The Tigers lost to the Orioles. Tonight is the home opener at Comerica against the Royals.

Thursday, April 7, 2011