Sunday, April 12, 2009

How Do A Few Hundred Families Control American Financial Policies? Look No Further Than Corrupt Hacks Like Blanche Lincoln And Rob Portman

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Big Business investments that have paid off well: Lincoln & Nelson

This month Blanche Lincoln, conservative Democrat of Arkansas is probably the most reviled senator among grassroots Democrats-- and the most beloved by plutocrats and the politicians-- of both parties-- they own. But it isn't only for the most obvious reason, her breaking with the other 57 (or 58, if you count Al Franken) Democrats in the Senate in regard to Employee Free Choice. Not only did Lincoln, at the insistence of her financial backers at the Chamber of Commerce and WalMart, declare that she would join the Republican party filibuster of Employee Free Choice, she joined with the extreme right of the GOP on another crucial matter: fair taxation or, as she and the right would like to see it, unfair taxation. Carl Hulse in today's NY Times explains how a gaggle of reactionary Democrats, in thrall to their wealthy campaign contributors, is endangering President Obama's agenda for change by demanding making the estate tax even less fair than it already is-- less fair the Republican way: more billions for the billionaires and multimillionaires.
Studies show that the tax hits merely a sliver of wealthy American families. A proposal by President Obama would leave it at current levels, affecting only estates valued at more than $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples.

But now some Democrats have joined Republicans to call for setting the threshold even higher, in a rebellion that could have important consequences not just for the future of the death tax but also for Mr. Obama’s efforts to pay for his ambitious policy agenda.

If that Republican-backed plan is approved, it could deprive Mr. Obama of about $100 billion for his initiatives on health care, energy and education when alternative sources of revenue are already dwindling. That prospect is plain outrageous to top Democrats, who see efforts to spare the wealthy as particularly ill-timed given the economic pain being experienced by many of lesser means.

“This isn’t for the wealthy, this is for the super-wealthy,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said as the Senate took up the estate tax issue during its budget deliberations. “Even in the best of times, there is no question that we could find a better use for an extra $100 billion.”

Lincoln enlisted 9 other Democrats in her pay-back to the Walton family, the WalMart heirs that have helped finance a political career that has been a catastrophe for Arkansas working families. Lincoln is using deceptive Republican Party talking points, pushed by right-wing Big Business interests-- the ones that have lavished millions of dollars on her career-- to describe the estate tax. She claims it is "devastating to family businesses that are a prime source of jobs in her state. 'In a time when our government has handed out billions upon billions to failed Wall Street banks,' she said, 'it is time we provide a little relief to our businesses on Main Street.'”

As she always does when supporting her wealthy campaign contributors, Lincoln is just plain lying-- and advocating another giveaway to the people who need it least and will do the least with it to get the economy going again, an economy suffering because of the greed-and-selfishness economic policies supported by the Republican Party-- and by a small handful of fake Democrats like Blanche Lincoln.

More Big Business investments that have paid off: Bush & Portman

The GOP is organizing around promising the super-rich that they will repeal the estate tax. One of their least attractive Senate candidates, the Bush Regime's favorite Ohioan, Rob Portman, has raised $1.7 million for his campaign in the first quarter and is being supported by Big Business interests from outside Ohio because he has a clear record of always supporting special interests against working families. Since first getting into politics Portman has taken in $910,349 from the FIRE (finance/insurance/real estate) sector-- and has repaid that investment many times over while he served in Congress's Ways and Means Committee and then in the Bush Regime as the U.S. Trade Representative, facilitating the off-shoring of American jobs and finally as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, where he played an active and decisive role in wrecking the U.S. economy. Observers expect that the current campaign for the Senate will double the total amount the FIRE sector funnels into his career and bring it more in line with other crooked politicians they can count on-- like the aforementioned Lincoln, who has benefited to the tune of $1,671,292 so far, a number that is also expected to rise dramatically this year as Big Business works hard to ensure her re-election.

Keep in mind that the House has already passed, as part of the Budget, President Obama's proposal to keep the estate tax at a 45% on estates worth over $3.5 million-- keeping in mind that there is no tax-- not one dime-- on what you leave to your spouse up to $7 million. Lincoln and the other reactionary Democrats have joined with the GOP to demand a 35% rate and an exclusion for $10 million. This morning Toledo, Ohio's Blade, a newspaper unlikely to support Portman's bid for the Ohio Senate seat, made it clear what they think of treacherous Democrats like Lincoln who have gone over to the Dark Side and work on behalf of the three or four hundred wealthiest families this anti-Obama bill would benefit. The 9 other Democrats who signed on to Lincoln's special amendment for very rich campaign contributors are-- along with every single Republican, of course-- Max Baucus (MT), Evan Bayh (IN), Maria Cantwell (WA), Mary Landrieu (LA), Patty Murray (WA), Bill Nelson (FL), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR) and Jon Tester (MT).
Unemployment is up, the stock market is way down, the federal government is spending trillions to jump-start the economy, and deficits are being tallied in numbers too big to comprehend. But the United States Senate didn't let that stop it from offering a tax break to the wealthiest Americans.

The amendment was the brainchild of Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas (home to the Wal-Mart owning, estate-tax-hating Walton family) and Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, home to a lot of retirees who mistakenly think reducing the tax will protect their families when they die. In fact, the change would help only about one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation's people, the superwealthiest, because nobody else is rich enough to owe the tax in the first place.

Entrenched interests blather about reducing or, better yet, repealing what they like to call the "death tax," allegedly to protect vast numbers of regular folks from having to sell family farms and small businesses to pay the tax.

But the Tax Policy Center says that only five of every 100,000 people who die this year-- that's .005 percent-- will be small business owners or farmers rich enough to owe the tax. And virtually none of them would have to sell their business to pay.

Tax opponents conveniently avoid mentioning that, or that right now no taxes at all are owed on the first $7 million couples are worth. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 15,400 people will have to file estate tax returns this year, and only 6,200 of them will actually owe any tax at all.

The don't-tax-the-rich crowd also ignores other deductions which typically lower the effective rate on estates to less than 20 percent. So, the tax burden on the nation's elite is much smaller than they'd have people believe. And lest we forget, philanthropy by the ultrarich often is driven by tax advantages that accrue from charitable giving. Reduce the estate tax and that incentive will decline as well, with devastating effect.

With the government bleeding red ink, the last thing senators ought to be doing is adding to the deficit by cutting taxes on those best able to pay their fair share.

Lincoln has nothing to worry about from the mostly brainwashed Arkansas electorate. The state doesn't have a functioning democracy and last year not one Republican challenged a Democratic incumbent and not one Democrat challenged a Republican incumbent for any federal office. Nor were there any primary challenges. In terms of democracy, Arkansas is in the worst shape of any state in the union-- and that's the way its feudal lords and ladies want it.

This is a good moment to point out an entirely different editorial than the one from today's Blade. You've read us talking about how the root of all political evil in this country-- including especially places like Arkansas-- is the system of legalized bribery that allows political whores like Rob Portman and Blanche Lincoln to sell out their constituents for career financing for the super-rich, who are then given license to systematically plunder the rest of us through the special interest legislation passed by the same legislators they have invested in. This week Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation explains the Fair Elections Now Act (and the grassroots Donor Strike) that is bubbling up from the progressive grassroots (while the Know Nothing grassroots buys into Fox's teabag parties). Katrina, as usual, "gets it":
At this perilous moment, as we face key battles on the economic crisis, climate change, healthcare, and a slew of other issues, it's important to recognize that these fights will not be settled in one fell swoop this year or next, but will play out over the coming decade or more. Working against bold, progressive solutions on all of these issues is a constant problem: big money donors hold sway, shifting the policy debate and shafting the common good. Only through real campaign reform will we level the playing field so that the voices of ordinary people are heard loud and clear inside the Beltway.

That's why it's so important that the Fair Elections Now Act has been introduced in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support, and that a savvy coalition is rallying public support for it, including: Change Congress, Public Campaign, Common Cause, Public Citizen, US PIRG, Brennan Center for Justice, Americans for Campaign Reform, MoveOn, and others.

Change Congress-- an organization launched by Lawrence Lessig and Joe Trippi to reduce the influence of money in politics-- has taken the lead on organizing an online strategy. Lessig said, "My view is it's finally time for us to do what Teddy Roosevelt suggested we do about 102 years ago, which is to bring about an election system where what's driving the results is fear about how voters in the district will respond, rather than fear about how the funders will respond."

The bill provides qualified candidates the opportunity to run with a mixture of small-dollar contributions and public money. Candidates who raise a large number of small contributions ($100 or less) from their home state qualify for a set amount of public money that will make them competitive. If the candidate chooses, he or she can continue to raise small donations and receive a 4:1 match-- up to a specified cap-- in order to compete on a level playing field with wealthy, self-financed candidates and those raising money in the traditional way. There are also resources in the bill for media time when candidates get to the general election. In determining the caps and amounts of money required to make candidates competitive, advocates did some good research on how states with these kinds of laws have worked and also examined the fundraising stats of past Congressional races.

This brand of public financing is different from campaign finance reforms that simply attempt to regulate the flow of money in the political process. Candidates participating in this system must rely exclusively on small donors. By matching small donations with public funds, it's a way of putting political clout in the hands of ordinary people.

This path creates a new world of possibility for up-from-the-grassroots political organizing and fresh-faced candidates. It plays to the strengths of community organizers and membership based organizations and could be a critical building block for progressive power across the country. David Donnelly, the national campaigns director for Public Campaign who has worked on this issue for decades, said that the bill "provides enough money for [participating] candidates to be competitive in just about every single race in the country."

The coalition is using the current two-week recess to get additional cosponsors for the House and Senate bills. One key strategy to push for cosponsorship is through demonstrating the electoral cost of a member's failure to support the bill. That's largely accomplished through Change Congress' Donor Strike.

The Donor Strike allows individuals to pledge to withhold money from any politician who doesn't cosponsor the Fair Elections bill. Based on the previous election cycle, the withholdings by donors taking the pledge has now crossed the $1.1 million mark, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein the biggest loser at $288,000.

If the Fair Election bill passes, people like Blanche Lincoln and Rob Portman will be replaced in Congress by political leaders interested in working for the betterment of the country, rather than the betterment of their wealthy donors. Take a look at the clip-- and then think about contacting your own members of Congress; everyone has three, a representative and two senators:

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1 Comments:

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Warren said...

I telephoned several of Blanche Lincoln's state offices last week and a conversation I got into with a staffer in Fayetteville puzzled me. We spoke for over 5 minutes about EFCA and this man told me in no uncertain terms that I was only the 3rd person he has heard from that supported EFCA. He stated that he receives hundreds of calls hoping that it is defeated. Our call really got heated, but if what he said is only half true, no wonder blanche is backing the Waltons.

 

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