Cartoon: If Watergate happened with today's media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 11:50pm in

I was busy gestating during the Watergate crisis, and not paying much attention to the news, but hopefully this re-creation will resonate with people who lived through it. This comic was of course inspired by the Nunes memo, about which an objective headline might look something like: “Republicans release piece of garbage intended to mislead public about the Russia investigation.”

An amazing and highly-relevant detail that should be household knowledge but that I learned only this week: the origins of Fox News can be traced back to the Nixon White House. The Nixon administration wanted more favorable coverage in the media and hatched the idea of creating a pro-GOP news network. Roger Ailes offered to do it, though it took some 25 years for the network to actually materialize. Via the late Gawker (which was sued out of business by billionaire Trump backer Peter Thiel):

But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the “prejudices of network news” and deliver “pro-administration” stories to heartland television viewers.

The memo—called, simply enough, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News”— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries.

Flash forward to February 1, 2018. Fox’s Geraldo Rivera tells Sean Hannity “Nixon never would have been forced to resign if you existed in your current state back in 1972, ’73, ’74.” (Hat tip to commenter MiketheLiberal who alerted me to this development, which I’d missed).

Between the corrupt Fox and an intimidated/lobotomized mainstream media deathly afraid of showing “liberal bias,” we have a crisis of journalistic ethics on our hands, one that deeply threatens American democracy and, ultimately, the freedom of the press itself.

(Full disclosure: I currently do editing work for the company that used to publish Gawker.)

Follow Jen on Twitter at @JenSorensen

Cartoon: The corruption cycle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/01/2018 - 11:50pm in

Lost in the shuffle of recent headlines about shutdowns and porn stars is the fact that Republicans are eviscerating Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A case in point.

I’m going to quote from myself here, from a post I wrote last April:

It’s not big or small government that I care about; it’s smart or stupid. In other words, it’s about policy, not “the government.” Once you start doing away with government, or the idea that government regulation is necessary, you grant more power to corporations and Wall Street. Government exists as a check on abuses of power by moneyed interests. While government can be corrupt to varying degrees, the fashionably cynical belief that all government is inherently corrupt is an idea that enables corruption.

The primary way to end government corruption is through campaign finance reform and publicly-funded elections. Anti-government libertarians have not supported candidates or policies that would lead to this outcome. Gorsuch will uphold Citizens United, ensuring future corruption of politicians by moneyed interests, furthering the right-wing ideology that government is inherently corrupt. And so the cycle continues.

We tend to talk about politics in terms of individual personalities.  But I think it’s more useful to look at the broken system of incentives, which invariably compromises even well-meaning public officials to some degree. (I’m talking about Dems here; the entire Republican party is nothing but a scam at this point.) This is not to say we can’t point fingers at specific people, but the problem is systemic. And nothing is going to change without the Supreme Court.

Sadly, much of our mediascape is now terribly corrupted as well, with Fox being almost pure disinformation; I’m not sure how you begin to fix this, but campaign finance is a start.

Follow Jen on Twitter at @JenSorensen

Cartoon: See no evil

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 11:50pm in


GOP, Media, Republicans

This comic was initially inspired by Sheriff David Clarke’s over-the-top tweetstorm last week. He railed against “fake news” and promised to “bitch slap these scum bags.”  “Punch them in the nose & MAKE THEM TASTE THEIR OWN BLOOD. Nothing gets a bully like LYING LIB MEDIA’S attention better than to give them a taste of their own blood” he added. In earlier times, a prominent supporter of the president making unhinged violent threats against journalists like this might have been perceived as scandalous and embarrassing, but it’s just another day in the Trump era, where this kind of authoritarian rhetoric has been normalized.

Just this last Sunday, hotheaded Trump adviser Stephen Miller had an interview cut off by Jake Tapper on CNN, providing some extra backdrop for the cartoon.

Follow Jen on Twitter at @JenSorensen

The Second Coming of ‘Yes, We Can’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/12/2017 - 6:40am in

Doug Jones’ convincing victory in Alabama is a hallelujah (and Hanukkah) moment for Americans who refuse to truckle under to the vicious, knuckleheaded maniac in the White House — not for one reason but for every decent reason a democratic majority can muster. But the Jones tide that washed over Alabama is more than cause for a day of exuberance. It points toward a solution for the wrecking-ball tendencies that have afflicted the Democrats since the election — and before.  Continue reading

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Alabama, Shaken

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/12/2017 - 7:42am in

The old saying is that success has many fathers.

GOP Angles for More Campaign Cash, Less Disclosure

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 7:10am in

Last week Senate Republicans passed a tax bill that hands massive tax breaks to corporations and the rich at the expense of low-income and middle-class Americans. But as bad as that is, things could get even worse. Waiting in the wings on Capitol Hill are proposed GOP spending bills that would help the wealthy winners in this year’s epic tax rewrite lock in their power. Continue reading

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Moore Is Less: Alabama, the Senate and the Nation Will Suffer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/12/2017 - 6:15am in

Amid all the craziness surrounding Roy Moore’s race for the US Senate and the seeming willingness of Alabama’s likely voters to send a man of such dubious merit and morality to Capitol Hill (where, admittedly, the bar already is pretty damned low), I keep thinking of a line from the Randy Newman song “Rednecks.” Continue reading

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Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/11/2017 - 6:45am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

November 9, 2017 Ryan Grim on the GOP and its issues • Rachel Sherman, author of Uneasy Street, on the consciousness of the rich

The GOP Tax Plan Tells Us Everything About Who Matters In American Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/11/2017 - 6:43am in

This post originally appeared at HuffPost.

The United States is the richest country in the history of the world. Last year, the genius and muscle of the American people generated more than $18.6 trillion in wealth. This year, our brains and brawn will combine to create well over $19 trillion. Despite all the debt theatrics of the Republican Party during the Obama presidency, we owe just $6.2 trillion to other countries — less than four months of our collective labors at their present value.

RELATED: Democracy & Government

 Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republican Tax Cut Plan Will Drive Up Deficit and Debt

BY Simon Johnson | November 1, 2017

Under these circumstances, the question of what the American government can afford is functionally meaningless. If any nation has ever been able to afford quality housing, education, health care, parks, museums — anything — the United States can.

And we don’t need to tax anyone, rich or poor, in order to afford these fine things. The wealth — the fruits of our labor — already exists. Taxes are a way of managing the bookkeeping system, of setting national priorities for the distribution of wealth created by good ideas and hard work.

That’s key: Our country’s wealth is created by everybody. It’s not created by rich people. Rich people are what happen when the bookkeeping units we use to keep track of that wealth — the dollars — get stuck on particular individuals. Sometimes these people fall into the world possessing such accounting anomalies in the form of inheritances. Sometimes they siphon them from other people through the daily operations of commerce. Sometimes Washington decides to hand them more.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and congressional Republicans proposed a multitrillion-dollar tax cut for a particular slice of very wealthy citizens. There is much more than math at stake: These are matters of justice, social prestige and political power. There is no economic law that governs how the $19 trillion we produce each year must be distributed. Figuring out who should get how much of that $19 trillion is a political choice — and the Republicans’ choice is to give much of that money to a few hundred financial dynasties.

The GOP says its plan is an effort to “fix our broken tax code,” and there can be no doubt that the code is broken. Our fabulously wealthy nation is mysteriously plagued by poverty. More than 40 million Americans currently live in poverty, including 11.5 million children. Over 41 million people live in what the US Department of Agriculture defines as “food insecure households.” Millions of Americans literally could not afford to eat at some point during 2016. Families living a little higher up the economic ladder generally have a tenuous hold on their middle-class status: 78 percent of US households report living paycheck to paycheck.

RELATED: Democracy & Government

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a news conference to express their opposition to the GOP tax reform plan in Washington, DC, on Oct. 25, 2017. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

GOP Tax Cuts Won’t Pass This Year — Or Maybe Even Next

BY Michael Winship | October 31, 2017

These economic troubles persist as Wall Street and Silicon Valley are increasingly dividing the spoils of the broader economy among themselves. The financial sector is supposed to function as a sort of utility for manufacturing, agriculture and other elements of what economists call the “real” economy. But today it accounts for nearly 30 percent of corporate profits — about triple its share from three decades ago. Since 2000, compensation in the financial sector has increased at nearly three times the overall rate in the economy. Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook now mimic financial giants by acquiring tech startup after tech startup and then using their merged muscle to consume the profitable activity of others. Google and Facebook together take in 60 percent of the digital advertising market and collected 99 percent of all online ad revenue growth in the past year.

The GOP tax plan won’t resolve any of those problems. Republicans have assembled a host of tax changes that will ensure that more and more of the nation’s wealth goes to the people who already have most of it. It’s a strategy to inflate existing fortunes, increase profits on Wall Street and enhance the social dominance of people who make their living from investments over people who make their living earning wages and salaries.

The heart of the Republican plan is a permanent cut to the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The benefits of that will accrue to people who own corporations. If you hold stock in a corporation and the tax rate on that corporation’s profits falls, the value of your stock will rise. You become wealthier without doing anything. It doesn’t matter if the company you own pays its workers a living wage, develops state-of-the-art technology or names violent felons to its board of directors. However prudently or recklessly that company had been earning a profit, it will suddenly become more valuable to its owners.

That’s just great if you own tons of stock. But according to Gallup polling, only about half of Americans own any stock at all — through a retirement account or otherwise. Most households that do own stock don’t own very much. Only 22 percent of households own at least $25,000 worth of stock, research from New York University economist Edward Wolff shows.

At the top of the distribution, however, stock ownership accounts for a tremendous share of new wealth. On average, households in the top 1 percent receive about 36 percent of their income from financial assets, while the 400 wealthiest American households receive almost 75 percent of their income from capital gains and dividends. It’s not hard to figure out the target market here.

Not so long ago, President George W. Bush took a lot of heat for slashing the tax on capital gains — the tax you pay when you sell stocks, bonds or real estate investments. It was, critics said, a shameless giveaway to the idle rich. The current GOP tax plan offers a similar benefit without the hassle of having to actually sell any investments: When stock prices go up due to a drop in corporate taxes, the people who own the stock get richer. And because the GOP bill will also ultimately eliminate the estate tax, owners of financial assets could pass their holdings to their heirs tax-free in perpetuity, allowing financial dynasties to grow and grow independently of the intelligence or enterprise of those stewarding any particular generation of family wealth.

No trained economist seriously believes that shoveling unearned benefits to people who just happen to own or inherit financial assets is good for growth, productivity or anything else. And Republicans aren’t really trying to hide what they’re up to. In addition to the corporate rate cut, the GOP would allow companies to immediately write off the full value of new capital investments — when, say, a company purchases new equipment or technology. This tax perk would actually encourage some worthwhile activity: If businesses invest in improving their longer-term operations, they will realize an immediate economic benefit from the tax code. Cutting the corporate tax rate down to 20 percent doesn’t encourage anything except a one-time jolt to asset prices.

When Republicans dole out big tax cuts, they typically offer something for low- and middle-income families to make the process a little less unseemly. It’s not clear if they’ll be able to include those perks this time around, and the slapdash, piecemeal approach to helping everyone outside the capital class makes their priorities perfectly clear. When the tax framework was released Thursday morning, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) talked up a slightly more generous child tax credit and some additional deductions for middle-class families. The bill itself shows many of the additional deductions are countered by the elimination of other popular deductions. The expanded child tax credit expires after five years, to be replaced by an increase in taxes on families with children, while the corporate rate drops to 20 percent forever. Republicans on Thursday couldn’t promise that their bill wouldn’t ultimately raise taxes on middle-class families. It’s even conceivable that bona fide rich people could end up worse off under the plan if they draw their incomes from a high garden-variety salary, rather than stock or interest.

So never mind the budget deficits and growth projections. The GOP tax plan is a simple political statement about who matters more in American democracy: the heirs to hedge-fund fortunes or everyone else in the country. Trump and the Republicans have chosen the dynasts. This is not a necessity; we could easily afford a different set of priorities. Social domination by the financial sector is a choice.

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GOP Tax Cuts Won’t Pass This Year — Or Maybe Even Next

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/11/2017 - 4:34am in

On Sunday’s edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, guest Bruce Bartlett referred to the right-wing hosts of Fox & Friends as “those three idiots.”

This gave show host Brian Stelter the vapors, but it was simply Bartlett being Bartlett: blunt, astute, opinionated and — to our minds at least — accurate. His knowledge of government and the attendant industries of money, media and manipulation that swirl around it are second to none.

Bruce Bartlett has his own conservative bona fides: A veteran staffer on Capitol Hill, he was staff director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, then senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House and deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush administration. But as Bill Moyers noted in late June, Bartlett is “a man of fierce intellectual independence — and courage, too. Telling the truth about Republican economic policies during the George W. Bush presidency got him fired as a senior fellow at a conservative think tank and brought to an end his long career as an esteemed GOP ‘insider.’”

Nonetheless, today, Bartlett is a sought-after writer and commentator who, among his other outlets for speaking out, keeps current a smart and often acerbic Twitter feed: @BruceBartlett. A quick scan of it quickly reveals no love lost for the current administration.

We set out to interview him about his new book, The Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks, a timely subject given the constant hammering of the press from Trump and the proliferation of disinformation and conspiracy theories from Fox News, talk radio and the internet.

In the second half of this interview we’ll focus on The Truth Matters, but first we took advantage of his expertise in economics and tax policy to get his thoughts on the next big legislative battle: Trump and the Republican Party’s crusade for tax cuts.



Michael Winship: The Republicans are proposing $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Do you think it makes sense?

Bruce Bartlett: Let me put it this way: I don’t believe that our economy needs this sort of tax cut at this time, and certainly not one that is grossly, overwhelmingly, [weighed] toward the ultrawealthy. I think there are policies that the economy does need, and $1.5 trillion will go a long way toward meeting those needs. So if we’re going to raise the debt by at least $1.5 trillion, I think we should do it in a way that is much more likely to raise growth and improve the lives of the people.

MW: In fact, on Monday morning, you tweeted that our major cities are dangerously vulnerable to flooding, but there’s no money proposed for infrastructure, only tax cuts.

RELATED: Economy & Work

Welder on High Steel - San Francisco. (Photo by Greg Younger/ flickr CC 2.0)

Where Have All Those Great Infrastructure Jobs Gone?

BY Kristin Miller | August 31, 2017

BB: That’s correct. And I think it’s sad that Donald Trump, who said he wanted to have a big infrastructure program, has apparently abandoned that in favor of a tax giveaway to the wealthiest people in the United States.

My feeling is that the economy is suffering from a lack of aggregate demand — that is to say, spending. And we need to be doing something to get that going. One way is to get people who don’t have jobs to get jobs. Then they have money to spend. Or to raise wages — then people who are working will have more money to spend. So I think that that is what the economy needs, but if you cut taxes for the ultrawealthy, this does not lead to any increase in spending at all, because the ultrawealthy already have everything they could possibly want. They have no unmet needs. They’re not going to go out and buy second and third yachts just because they’ve gotten a tax cut. All they’re going to do is save the money.

On the surface, that sounds like a good thing, but the fact is, interest rates are so ridiculously low, this is pretty strong evidence that we don’t really need additional saving. We need spending. And therefore, I think to the extent that there’s any potential growth effects of this tax cut, it’s correctly characterized as trickle down and I just don’t think that is going to work or have any meaningful effect on the economy.

MW: Trump has said, “There’s no way that the middle class doesn’t greatly benefit” from the proposed tax cuts.

BB: Well, that’s just a lie… the middle class really isn’t going to get any kind of tax cut and in fact it’s going to get screwed in lots of ways. For example, he’s talked on many occasions about getting rid of the deduction for state and local taxes. He’s talked about reducing the ability of people to save in 401(k)s. These are tax increases, really, that are going to hurt the middle class.

So what his economic advisers have done is come up with this ridiculous rationalization that workers will see a huge increase in their wages if we cut the corporate tax rate. The fact is that we have experience with this. We don’t need to look to some esoteric mathematical model to know what’s going to happen. You can very easily go to, which is the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and look up real median wages and you can see what happened after the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which lowered the tax rate on corporations from 46 percent to 34 percent. And if you look at what happened to wages in the 10 years after 1986, wages fell. They did not go up. They fell. Workers were worse off.

Now I’m not saying there’s a cause-and-effect relationship. I’m not saying that cutting the tax caused workers’ wages to fall. All I’m saying is that we have a real-world experience in which the results were the exact opposite of what the administration is asserting.

RELATED: Economy & Work

New Yorkers and visiting demonstrators protest during a march on Tax Day demanding that President Donald Trump release his tax returns in New York City on April 15, 2017. (Photo via EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images)

The GOP Tax Plan is What We Knew it Would Be — Tax Cuts for the Rich

BY Josh Bivens and Hunter Blair | September 28, 2017

MW: And yet there are Republicans who claim that these proposed cuts are in the fine tradition of Ronald Reagan.

BB: Well, that’s just a lie, too. And I know because I drafted the 1981 tax cut.

MW: That’s why I mentioned it. [laughs]

BB: Oh, OK. [laughs] Well, in 1977, while working for [New York Republican congressman] Jack Kemp, I drafted what came to be called the Kemp-Roth tax cut. It was endorsed by Ronald Reagan in 1980 during the campaign, and he sent the same exact piece of legislation that I developed to Congress in February of 1981 — and it was signed into law in August of 1981.

So this makes another interesting point, by the way, which is that the Republicans are convinced that they can just ram this tax reform package through. Really, it’s just a tax-cut package — I mean, Trump himself has said it’s not really tax reform, it’s just tax cuts. They think they can enact this in the next couple of weeks, before the end of the year.

But here you had Ronald Reagan, who had vastly greater powers of persuasion and had vastly more competent staff than Trump has, proposing legislation that was bipartisan, was very popular, and was in fact needed very badly in 1981 because inflation was pushing people into higher tax brackets. You had a legitimate need for a big tax cut, and yet it still took him from February to August to get this legislation enacted.

[T]his is very much in the Republican playbook. They cut taxes, they lie and say they will not lose revenue. When the revenues collapse, they say, “Let’s slash spending for the poor. That is what’s causing the deficit, not huge tax cuts to the rich.”

— bruce Bartlett

So I think the idea that they’re going to get this done in the next couple of weeks, when they have absolutely no clue as to what the hell they’re doing, is just rank nonsense.

MW: You wrote that you think the ultimate goal of the GOP is to create a deficit so large that Medicare and Medicaid can be decimated.

BB: That’s correct. The Republicans don’t advertise this, but in fact they all believe in a theory that I call “starve the beast,” which says that the purpose of cutting taxes is to create a deficit which will then justify spending cuts. Under normal circumstances, you’re not going to be able to cut popular programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, but if the deficit gets really, really big, people may be frightened of it and be willing to accept as necessary spending cuts that would not otherwise be politically plausible.

We saw an excellent example of this strategy just recently in the state of Kansas. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his party rammed through huge tax cuts relative to the size of the state, equivalent to what Trump and the Republicans in Washington are proposing, and they even hired economist Arthur Laffer of Laffer curve fame, paid him $75,000 [but] he didn’t even do a real study. He just lied and said this tax cut is going to be so powerful, it’s going to lead to so much additional growth and jobs that revenues will not decline, so we won’t have any increase in the state’s debt.

Well, what happened is, of course, revenues collapsed. The state — states have to operate under a hard balanced-budget requirement — was hemorrhaging revenues. They were desperate to balance the budget. But did they say, “Okay, these tax cuts apparently are not working, let’s just go back and restore the taxes that previously existed”? They did not do that. What they said was, “We must slash spending for the poor, we must slash spending for education, we must slash spending for police and fire and roads and bridges” and all kinds of popular programs that would have been impossible to cut except under the circumstances of an extreme fiscal disaster.

RELATED: Democracy & Government

Architect of Reagan Tax Cuts Says Trump Should Not Use His Plan

BY Karin Kamp | August 18, 2016

So this is very much in the Republican playbook. They cut taxes, they lie and say they will not lose revenue. When the revenues collapse, they say, “Let’s slash spending for the poor. That is what’s causing the deficit, not huge tax cuts to the rich.”

MW: Is there any evidence at all, as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claims, that the stock market would fall if there’s not a corporate tax cut?

BB: I think it’s highly unlikely, but I can’t say for sure. But I think to the extent that the stock market embodies any Trump policies, they’re not tax policies, they’re deregulation policies. I think the stock market likes that. But I also think they like low interest rates that the Federal Reserve has given us and I think that they like the fact that the fundamentals of the economy are pretty strong. And of course, the stock market has been rising pretty much continuously for quite a few years and it’s kind of stupid to look at one part of that general trend and say, oh, this is because of Trump. He’s really just benefiting from policies that were already in place on Election Day.

MW: What do you think would be appropriate for us to do as far as tax reform goes?

BB: Well, look, I think the tax code could certainly be cleaned up and improved in lots of different ways. But I think unless they follow the same three principles that underlay the 1986 tax reform, we’re unlikely to get anything that is worth doing. And those three principles were revenue neutrality — that is, you’ve gotten rid of tax loopholes and things of that sort to pay for any reduction in rates. So you’re not depending on growth effects. You’re just saying I’m going to raise taxes by a dollar and I’ll cut taxes by a dollar so we’re held even.

The second principle of the Tax Reform Act of ’86 was distributional neutrality. That is, the tax cuts were about the same in percentage terms regardless of your income. So the rich did not benefit disproportionately, the middle class and working classes got something meaningful out of this legislation.

And the third provision, that this administration has completely ignored, was bipartisanship. The 1986 Tax Reform Act was genuinely and popularly bipartisan, had the support of the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership, and this is one reason why it was well-designed legislation.

And so Trump has abandoned the three critical principles that underlay the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and that’s why he’s come up with something that bears absolutely no similarity to that legislation. No matter how many times he lies about it, it’s just not true.

MW: So to reiterate, you think there’s little or no chance that this will get through by the end of the year?

BB: Well, let’s just say I would be shocked beyond belief. In fact, I’m not sure whether they can pass this before the end of next year. I just think that making the sausage — you know, it’s one thing to talk about the theory of making sausage and it may be rather tasty at the end of the day, but the making of the sausage is kind of disgusting and we’ve just now begun the process of sausage making. I think they’re going to have a lot of problems, especially in the Senate.

Coming: Bruce Bartlett on his book, The Truth Matters.

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