Catherine Rampell of the New York Times: "Americans nearing retirement age have suffered disproportionately after the financial crisis: along with the declining value of their homes, which were intended to cushion their final years, their incomes have fallen sharply. The typical household income for people age 55 to 64 years old is almost 10 percent less in today's dollars than it was when the recovery officially began three years ago...."
Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "The middle class is shrinking, and so is its share of America's income and wage growth, according to a new study released Thursday. The study from the Pew Research Center found that the middle class -- defined as Americans with incomes between $39,000 and $118,000 -- fell backward in income for the first time since the end of World War II, and the number of Americans who fit into that category shrunk from 61 percent in 1971 to just 51 percent in 2011.... The 'lost decade' for the middle class corresponds to declining tax rates for the wealthy and a growth in corporate profits. In the last 12 years, incomes for the wealthiest 400 Americans quadrupled even as their tax rates were halved, and executive compensation has grown 127 times faster over the last three decades than worker pay, one study found."
Matt Miller in the Washington Post: the real Medicare villains? Inefficient healthcare providers.
CW: meant to link this yesterday; forgot. Linda Greenhouse on the status of free speech. "... maybe it's time to stop looking for free-speech consistency and to acknowledge that most justices are no different from most of us. We all love the First Amendment -- when it suits us."
Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "... residents of Ilion, [New York,] a community whose history and economy are indelibly linked to one of America’s more celebrated gunmakers, are starting to worry about Remington's future. The recent mass shootings at a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Colorado and at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin have galvanized advocates of tougher gun laws in Albany, and Remington has made it clear that such laws could prompt it to leave New York for a more sympathetic state." CW Memo to dimwitted Remington execs: if you know how to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, you know how to manufacture other things, too. Why not retool for peace?
Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "Plans are underway for Mr. Romney to be nominated on Monday -- not Wednesday as previously thought -- because of a potential threat from Tropical Storm Isaac and concerns about a possible disruption during the roll call vote from Ron Paul supporters at the Republican National Convention next week."
Secret Mitt, Ctd. Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: "Denver TV reporter Shaun Boyd wanted to ask Mitt Romney about Todd Akin and the abortion controversy roiling the GOP Thursday. But the Romney campaign refused. In a broadcast on Thursday, Boyd revealed the Romney campaign's demand that she not ask about Akin.... Boyd told TPM that the Romney campaign offered her station an interview with Romney.... A campaign staffer whose name she didn't divulge told her what questions she wasn't allowed to ask.... Back in May, Romney snapped at Boyd when she asked about medical marijuana -- an issue before Colorado voters in November -- and gay marriage. She reported that dust-up with Team Romney on the air at the time, too." With video. ...
... CW: Okay, so Romney says attacks on his business career should be off the table, he almost never talks about his stint as governor, he has yet to release even one full set of tax returns & he & Lady Romney insist you people won't get access to more than two, he seldom talks about his religious beliefs or his work as a Mormon bishop, most important -- he won't reveal many of his policy proposals till after the election, and now reporters can't ask him about topical subjects. Mitt is not running for president; he's running for absolute dictator, and he is running as a dictator.
The Onion. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "Mitt Romney said Thursday night that big businesses are 'doing fine,' using similar language that the presumptive nominee has hammered President Obama for using to describe the private sector earlier this year.... Romney then added that the reason that big businesses are 'doing fine in many places' is because they are able to invest their money in 'tax havens.'" CW: Since Romney likes firing people, the campaign should fire the special valet responsible for dislodging Willard's foot from his mouth. ...
... "The Bain Files. Inside Mitt Romney's Tax-Dodging Caymen Schemes." John Cook of Gawker: "Gawker has obtained a massive cache of confidential financial documents that shed a great deal of light on those finances, and on the tax-dodging tricks available to the hyper-rich that he has used to keep his effective tax rate at roughly 13% over the last decade." Gawker has made the 950 pages of documents available online & is inviting analysis & commentary. ...
... ** Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times: "As part of his retirement agreement with Bain, Mr. Romney has remained a passive investor in the company's ventures and continues to receive a share of the firm's investment profits on some deals undertaken after his departure.... The documents also reveal that Bain held stakes in highly complex Wall Street financial instruments, including equity swaps, credit default swaps and collateralized loan obligations.... Bain private equity funds in which the Romney family's trusts are invested appear to have used an aggressive tax approach, which some tax lawyers believe is not legal, to save Bain partners more than $200 million in income taxes and more than $20 million in Medicare taxes."
... Matthew Mosk & Emily Friedman of ABC News: "The private equity firm founded by ... Mitt Romney made use of arcane techniques in several of its Cayman Islands-based funds to avoid U.S. taxes, according to a trove of Bain Capital's private audit and finance records made public on the website Gawker [Thursday]. The audited financial statements of one of the Cayman Islands funds make note of the use of 'blocker' entities, which are used to help retirement accounts and nonprofit entities avoid some taxes. Financial statements for another fund note that it 'intends to conduct its operations so it will … not be subject to United States federal income or withholding tax....'" ...
... Richard Adams of the Guardian: Mitt Romney's assets are so broad-based "it's almost as if Romney needs to make a financial disclaimer for every policy position he takes." CW: Of course, he won't. Ethics are just not his thing.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Willard tells how his years at Bain taught him how to be an excellent president. I'm sure some of you could help him revise it to make his pitch a tad more honest.
Fellow Robber Barons, I promise you a New Gilded Age. Eric Lipton & Clifford Krauss of the New York Times: "By proposing to end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling and coal mining on government lands, Mitt Romney is making a bid for anti-Washington voters in key Western states while dangling the promise of a big reward to major campaign supporters from the energy industry."
Nicholas Riccardi of the AP: "... Mitt Romney said Thursday his plan to provide health insurance to everyone in Massachusetts was superior to the one it inspired, President Barack Obama's much-debated national law."
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "A colorful team of advertising gurus -- including a onetime 'Wheel of Fortune' contestant, a guy nicknamed for a 'Super Mario' character and a burly Texan who came up with the 'Beef, it's what's for dinner' slogan -- have converged on the campaign's drab headquarters [in Boston] to dream up the ads they hope will propel Romney to the White House." CW: they call themselves "Mad Men." But anyone who would try to sell Mitt Romney can't even measure up to Don Draper's dubious moral standards.
Paul Krugman on Ayn Rand aficionado Paul Ryan: "In pushing for draconian cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that aid the needy, Mr. Ryan isn't just looking for ways to save money. He's also, quite explicitly, trying to make life harder for the poor -- for their own good.... very much in line with Rand's worship of the successful and contempt for 'moochers.'" Ryan also bases his views on monetary policy on a speech by a character is Atlas Shrugged who "denounces the notion of paper money and demands a return to gold coins. For the record, the U.S. currency supply has consisted overwhelmingly of paper money, not gold and silver coins, since the early 1800s.... So ... Mr. Ryan ... wants to turn the clock back not one but two centuries.... Mr. Ryan is considered the modern G.O.P.’s big thinker. What does it say about the party when its intellectual leader evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels?" ...
... Obviously, Krugman gets his inspiration from the comics. Thanks to contributor Platteville Walt for the link. Daily Kos publishes Tom Tomorrow's strips:
Melissa Boteach of the Center for American Progress lays out the ways Romney/Ryan would undermine the welfare-to-work program by drastically cutting programs on which the working poor rely. In the meantime, of course, they have employed the diversionary tactic of falsely accusing Obama of "gutting" the work requirement of the law. Here's a handy chart:
Julia Preston of the New York Times: "Republicans have adopted a party platform on immigration that would require employers nationwide to verify workers' legal status and deny federal financing to universities that allow illegal immigrant students to enroll at lower in-state tuition rates.... The party's platform stance comes as Mitt Romney has been moving to court Hispanic voters before the general election.... Recently, Mr. Romney has sought to soften his stance, saying he would consider a Dream Act for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.The party platform offers no support for that proposal."
Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney unveiled an energy plan Thursday that he said would make North America energy independent by 2020.... His plan would allow states more control over the development of energy resources on federal lands within their borders, as well as aggressively expand offshore oil and gas drilling -- including along the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas -- as part of a broader effort to reach energy independence.... Mr. Romney has raised considerable money from donors with ties to the oil industry."
Peter Orszag in the Washington Post exposes 5 myths about Paul Ryan's budget, beginning with "If you take out everything Ryan is assuming and look at his concrete proposals, his budget is not fiscally conservative. Without the magical reductions in Medicaid, other spending and tax breaks, his plan would expand the deficit in 2040, not reduce it." CW: something weird about the Post's publication of Orszag's opinion piece: in one iteration (here), it begins with these remarks:
I've worked closely with Rep. Paul Ryan. He's an honest and amiable guy. In part because of his winning personality, Ryan ... has convinced many in Washington that his budget blueprint is a serious proposal for solving our long-term fiscal problems. Unfortunately, it’s not....
... But in the for-print iteration, which I linked above, this preamble is missing.
Fraud Squad, the Portrait. Found this over in Right Wing World while checking out a site that uses some of my stuff. A screenshot of a video, the image struck me as a study in made-for-TV fakery: Mitt and his sidekick all dressed up in their "regular people" disguises complete with frozen-friendly grimaces, poised in front of a Murican flag for an extra dose of "authenticity." Maybe their real selves -- if they have real selves -- are behind that blue curtain.
Susan Saulny & Christine Haughney of the New York Times profile Janna Ryan, Paul Ryan's wife.
AND Contributor Marvin Schwalb passes along these hilarious "Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews." Cursor through & pass 'em on. ...
** PLUS this Harvard Law School Revue (I spelled that right) article -- complete with footnotes -- by one Baroque Yo Mama is the real deal. Read it.
Rasmussen Reports: "Embattled Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has now jumped to a 10-point lead over her Republican challenger, Congressman Todd Akin, in Missouri's U.S. Senate race. Most Missouri Republicans want Akin to quit the race while most Missouri Democrats want him to stay." CW: Rasmussen, a Republican pollster, isn't particularly reliable. ...
... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "Given the very well-documented pro-GOP 'house effect' of Rasmussen polls, some will wonder if ol' Scott [Rasmussen] put a thumb on the scales for Claire." ...
... Nate Silver: "My view is that the Rasmussen Reports poll represents a more-realistic portrayal of the race as it stands now" than does the Public Policy poll, conducted 48 hours earlier, which showed Akin with a one-point lead over McCaskill. ...
... Alexander Burns of Politico: "Todd Akin hasn't had many high-profile supporters with him in the trenches this week, but Mike Huckabee became an important and emphatic exception Thursday afternoon, sending a message to his own supporters that accuses Republican elites of trying to drum a good man out of a winnable Senate race." ...
... David Graham of The Atlantic: Huckabee's "jab at the RNC is especially pointed. That's because Huckabee is scheduled for a primetime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, with a 7 p.m. address on Monday in Tampa. And he's one of the most well-liked figures in the GOP, a friendly, affable guy with a wide reach (through radio and TV) and almost unparalleled cachet among Christian conservatives, meaning he's nearly untouchable.
E. J. Dionne provides a transcript of part of his interview with Elizabeth Warren. Topics: the Affordable Care Act & the application of her religious beliefs.
Right Wing World
"The Crackpot Caucus." Tim Egan: "On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers." Egan provides a brief rundown of some of the most prominent ignoramuses in Congress.
New York Times: "Daryl Hine, an admired poet who adhered to classical themes, complicated formal structures and intricate rhyming patterns to explore themes of philosophy, history and his own sexuality, died on Monday in Evanston, Ill. He was 76."
New York Times: "Apple won a decisive victory on Friday in a lawsuit against Samsung, a verdict that will give Apple ammunition in a far-flung patent war with its global competitors in the smartphone business.... That is not a big financial blow to Samsung, one of the world's largest electronics companies. But the decision could essentially force Samsung and other smartphone makers to redesign their products to be less Apple-like, or risk further legal defeats."
New York Times: "China is moving ahead with the development of a new and more capable generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles, increasing its existing ability to deliver nuclear warheads to the United States and to overwhelm missile defense systems, military analysts said this week."
New York Times: "Several people were shot, one of them fatally, by a gunman outside the Empire State Building shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday, according to the police and city officials. The gunman was killed by the police, officials said."
New York Times: "A volley of American drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt early Friday killed at least 18 people, security officials said, marking a sharp escalation of the controversial C.I.A.-led campaign that continues to roil relations with Pakistan."
New York Times: "A court on Friday sentenced Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who admitted killing 77 people, to at least 21 years in prison after ruling that he was sane when he carried out his country's worst peacetime atrocity. The sentence was the most severe permitted under Norwegian law, but it can be extended at a later date if he is still deemed to be a danger to society."
Washington Post: "Scores of mutilated, bloodied bodies have been found dumped on the streets and on waste ground on the outskirts of Damascus in recent days, apparently the victims of a surge of extrajudicial killings by Syrian security forces seeking to drive rebel fighters out of the capital and its suburbs."
New York Times: "International nuclear inspectors will soon report that Iran has installed hundreds of new centrifuges in recent months and may also be speeding up production of nuclear fuel while negotiations with the United States and its allies have ground to a near halt, according to diplomats and experts briefed on the findings."
iCrooks. AP: "South Korea's Samsung won a home court ruling in its global smartphone battle against Apple on Friday when judges in Seoul said the company didn't copy the look and feel of the U.S. company's iPhone, and that Apple infringed on Samsung's wireless technology. However, in a split decision on patents, the panel also said Samsung violated Apple technology behind the bounce-back feature when scrolling on touch screens, and ordered both sides to pay limited damages."