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The nation’s largest auto dealers association has apparently decided to end its long standing participation in the Cash for (Political) Clunkers program.
An historically dependable source of income for Republicans in the House and Senate, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has long contributed about twice as much to Republican election campaigns than to Democrats.
In 2008, the NADA gave $968,000 to Democrats and $1,892,000 to Republicans ($923,000 to House Democrats and $1,679,500 to House Republicans; $45,000 to Senate Democrats and $212,500 to Senate Republicans).
In 2006, the results were similar – the NADA gave $842,600 to Democrats and $1,978,500 to Republicans ($752,600 to House Democrats and $1,827,000 to House Republicans; $90,000 to Senate Democrats and $151,500 to Senate Republicans).
The ratio was also similar in 2004 – the NADA gave $714,500 to Democrats and $1,888,800 to Republicans ($630,500 to House Democrats and $1,698,800 to House Republicans; $84,000 to Senate Democrats and $190,000 to Senate Republicans).
But for the 2010 election, the Auto Dealers’ political contributions have dramatically shifted gears.
So far, the NADA has given $134,300 to Democrats and only $43,000 to Republicans. This figure includes $101,800 to House Democrats and $43,000 to House Republicans, and $32,500 to Senate Democrats and nothing at all to Senate Republicans.
The reasons for this unprecedented shift in the Auto Dealers’ political allegiance is pretty obvious: The Republicans have told Detroit and the nation’s auto dealers to drop dead, opposing both the Obama administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry and it’s hugely popular “Cash for Clunkers” program.
Here in Orange County, Republicans in Congress have benefited enormously in the past from the NADA’s political contributions.
In 2008, John Campbell (R-48th CD) – an auto dealer himself — received $10,000 from the NADA, which was the largest amount they gave to individual campaigns that year. In 2006, the year that he was elected to his first full term, they gave Campbell $20,000, also the largest amount given to any campaign and twice as much as they gave to anyone else.
Dana Rohrabacher (R-46th CD) received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, $5,000 in 2006, and $10,000 in 2004.
Ken Calvert (R-44th CD) also received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, as well as $5,000 in 2006 and $5,000 in 2004.
What did the auto dealers get for their money?
Recently, not much.
On the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, the auto bail out bill, Campbell voted “present” (citing his personal financial interest), while criticizing those who voted in favor.
Calvert voted “No,” calling it the “nationalization of the auto industry,” and Rohrabacher did not bother to vote at all.
On the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) program (the Cash for Clunkers bill), Campbell did vote “Aye” against his party, (apparently no longer concerned about his personal financial stake in the auto dealer business), as did Calvert, but Rohrabacher voted “No,” complaining that the bill is “nothing more than a subsidy to prop up auto manufacturers, many of which have already received billions in taxpayer money.”
As we get closer to the 2010 campaign, we’ll see whether the auto dealers again make the mistake they’ve made in the past of giving cash to these political clunkers.
So far, it seems that they’ve shifted gears and are driving in another political direction.
If I’m correct that Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor in order to lead a right wing movement that is ostensibly independent of the major political parties, then the next question is: where will she establish her new home and base of operations?
The Northeast is too liberal, the South is too connected to racial politics (and there’s too much competition for conservative leadership and not enough big money), Washington, D.C., is too much of an enemy camp, and the Midwest doesn’t have enough access to the media.
Texas is certainly a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for power with the Bush clan.
Florida also is a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for conservatives with both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.
Utah is solidly Mitt Romney and Mormon territory, and Arizona belongs to former running mate (and now political rival) John McCain.
And while Idaho might have the most ideologically receptive population, it is so far off the media radar that she might as well stay in Alaska.
That leaves California.
Specifically, Southern California.
And more specifically, Orange County.
Orange County is rich, conservative, and close to Los Angeles’ enormous media network.
And California has no nationally known conservative political figure (Arnold doesn’t count) to offer her any real competition.
In fact, the California Republican Party is so fractured because of the budget battle and the hang-them-all ideology of its tea party militants that the Republican establishment wouldn’t be able to offer any real competition to Palin’s brand of radical right-wing conservatism.
It might be very bad news for more moderate Republicans like Meg Whitman and for the statewide chances of the Republican Party, but you can bet that John and Ken would welcome her with open arms (and air waves).
Are you ready for the new Terminator?
California, here she comes!
Sarah Palin is not done causing headaches for the leadership of the Republican Party.
In fact, my guess is that she is going to cause them far more pain in the near future than they or the media could ever have imagined.
At this point, politicians and the press are trying to decipher Palin’s motivation for her stunning announcement yesterday that she is resigning as governor of Alaska.
The standard analysis is that she is resigning in order to concentrate her efforts on securing the Republican nomination for president in 2012. As Bill Kristol told Fox News after Palin’s speech: “We just saw the opening statement of the 2012 campaign.”
Others — including NBC’s Andrea Mitchell — think Palin is stepping away from politics for good.
And some claim that Palin is resigning because of soon-to-be-announced scandals, including an alleged federal criminal investigation into the rebuilding of Palin’s home.
I think they’ve all missed the forest for the trees.
Sarah Palin isn’t done with politics.
But she might well be done with the Republican Party.
Rather than relying on alleged experts (who are not in Palin’s close circle) or taking the supposed word of unnamed sources, I suggest that the best indication of why Palin resigned – and what she plans to do – comes from Palin herself.
In her speech, she specifically states that she is not stepping away from politics. On the contrary, she repeatedly emphasized that she going to continue to work to “effect positive change,” although it would be from “outside government at this moment in time.” She was, she said, following in the never-give-up tradition of General Douglas MacArthur. “We’re not retreating,” she said, “we are advancing in another direction.’” (As the New York Times points out, Palin got the author of the quote wrong; it was not said by MacArthur, but by Maj. Gen. Oliver Prince Smith.)
She also was clear about the kind of “positive change” she planned to effect: she was going to continue to fight against “the heavy hand of federal government [intruding] into our communities with an all-knowing attitude,“ fight against “the obscene national debt that we’re forcing our children to pay because of today’s big government spending,” and “protect states’ rights, as mandated in the 10th Amendment.”
As she did during the 2008 campaign, Palin cast herself as the champion of the people: those “hardworking, average Americans fighting for what’s right” and those people “who still believe in free enterprise and smaller government and strong national security for our country and support for our troops and energy independence and for those who will protect freedom and equality and life.”
In other words, Palin sounded much same as she did during the presidential campaign – and she certainly didn’t sound like a person getting out of politics.
But there was a difference from her speeches during the presidential campaign.
And the difference involves the political party that she supports.
In her resignation speech, Palin said: “I’ll work hard for and I’ll campaign for those who are proud to be American and who are inspired by our ideals and they won’t deride them. I will support others who seek to serve in or out of office, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all, inside Alaska or outside of Alaska.”
Repeatedly referring to her course of action as “unconventional,” “a new direction” and “no more politics as usual” — and comparing her actions to those of William H. Seward, (Lincoln’s Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska — ”Seward’s Folly”), who took the “the uncomfortable, unconventional but right path to secure Alaska, so that Alaska could help secure the United States” — Palin dropped clue after clue that, like Seward, she too was going to take an “uncomfortable, unconventional but right path” to “help secure the United States.”
I think Sarah Palin told us what she is planning to do.
Yes, she is running for President.
But not necessarily as a Republican.
Sarah Palin has declared herself the leader of a movement, not merely a political party.
It was not a coincidence that Palin gave her speech on the weekend of Independence Day.
She just declared her independence from the Republican Party.
Republican crocodile tears flowed this weekend in Orange County as a group of city officials called F.I.S.T. – “Fight Insane State Theft” – comprised of 14 Orange County mayors and 42 city council members, nearly all of them Republicans – protested Republican Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to take away billions in state property tax revenue from their cities.
According to the Orange County Register, the group held a rally this past weekend in Placentia, joined by an array of Republican front organizations posing as anti-tax crusaders, including Citizens for a Better Placentia, Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers, and Yorba Linda Residents for Responsible Representation.
The Register notes that the protesters are “particularly concerned about losing funds for roads and other transportation projects.”
But it is the Republicans themselves – and their corporate funded anti-tax allies – who are themselves directly responsible for giving the state the power to take away property tax revenue from California cities.
Prior to 1978, local governments in California (as elsewhere in the nation) could set their own property tax rates and spend the money that they raised on local needs.
But the Republicans did not trust local governments or local voters with the power to tax local property or to spend that revenue as they thought appropriate.
So they decided to give the state the sole power to set property taxes and to give the state legislature the sole power to decide how that money would be spent.
Prop 13 took away the cities’ power to set property tax rates or levy property taxes, and gave all such power to the state — where it would be subject to Prop 13’s strict limits and the 2/3 rule – in other words, subject to the statewide anti-tax minority’s veto, regardless of the wishes or needs of local officials or voters.
Now our local Republican elected officials and Republican anti-tax front groups are outraged about “losing funds for roads and other transportation projects” — which, by the way, tend to benefit large landowners and developers more than local citizens — because the state wants to spend that money elsewhere.
This latest instance of Orange County Republican hypocrisy reminds me of an exchange from Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot:
Estragon: We’ve no rights any more?
Laugh of Vladimir, stifled as before, less the smile.
Vladimir: You’d make me laugh if it wasn’t prohibited.
Estragon: We’ve lost our rights?
Vladimir: (distinctly). We got rid of them.
So I ask our Orange County Republicans: Having given up our rights, are you now ready to amend Prop 13 to return the property tax power to local governments and local voters?
Neither response is a winning political strategy.
It is pure political stupidity — and bad economic policy — for Democrats to treat the tax protests with derision or contempt.
Rather than mocking the aims of the tea parties, Democrats should follow the lead of presidential candidate Barack Obama, who promised to “provide a tax cut for working families” and “restore fairness to the tax code and provide 95 percent of working Americans the tax relief they need.”
Obama also promised to provide tax relief for small businesses and startups by eliminating “all capital gains taxes on startup and small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation.”
What Obama recognized – and Democrats already seem to have forgotten – is that working families are in fact being over-taxed while the super rich have gotten a free ride – and that voters will cast their ballots for the party and the candidates who they believe will create a fairer tax code and reduce their tax burden.
And while it is certainly legitimate to point out that the anti-tax tea parties are being manipulated and guided by right-wing groups and talk-show hosts whose agendas are not the same as working and middle class voters, this point is devoid of political impact unless it is accompanied by a commitment to do a better job than these groups of protecting working class and middle class economic interests.
For too long, Democrats – especially in California – have allowed Republicans to dominate and set the terms of the tax debate.
As a result, Democrats have allowed Republicans to paint them as the party of higher taxes – and have allowed the super rich to pretend to defend the economic interests of working families and the middle class while in fact shifting the costs of government to those who are least able to afford it.
Instead of responding to the tax protests with mockery and contempt, Democrats need to insist on talking about the kinds of taxes that the government imposes and who pays them.
We should insist that all taxes be progressive and focused on overturning the Republican’s outrageous favoritism of the super rich.
Especially in the midst of the current recession, we should oppose any increases whatsoever in regressive taxes – such as the sales tax, the automobile tax, and the gasoline tax – that disproportionately hit working and middle class families, unless and until the state and federal tax code is revised to require that the super rich pay their fair share.
Of course these tax protest “tea parties” are a Republican sham — the Republican anti-tax activists not interested in reducing the tax burden on the middle class and working families, but in keeping the Bush tax breaks for the rich — but that does not mean that the underlying middle class protest — even rage — at their tax burden should be ridiculed. On the contrary, it means that the Democrats should insist on seizing the debate and turning it against the Republicans — as Obama did.
Democrats can win the tax debate – if they take the tax protest “tea parties” seriously.
I listened recently to Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, on the Los Angeles NPR radio program “Air Talk with Larry Mantle.”
The specific topic was the tax increase ballot measures, such as Proposition 1A, that were part of last month’s budget deal and are coming before California’s voters in a special election on May 19.
But Coupal wanted to talk about California’s taxes in general, and he made the claim that California’s taxes are the highest in the nation.
Wait a minute, I thought.
If Coupal is correct about Californians being so outrageously overtaxed — more than 30 years after the passage of Prop 13 – isn’t he admitting that both the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and its primary accomplishment – Prop 13 – have been dismal failures?
In fact, neither Coupal nor the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association really care about the amount of taxes that most Californians pay.
What they care about is the kind of taxes and who pays them.
And that’s far from the same thing as caring about taxes in general, or the taxes paid by the average Californian.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and Prop 13, was initially a project of Los Angeles’ biggest apartment landlords. Jarvis himself was a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Apartment Owners Association – initially concentrating his efforts in attempting to destroy rent control — and ran the campaign for Prop 13 from the Apartment Owners Association’s office.
The goal of Jarvis and his allies was not primarily to limit the taxes paid by California’s homeowners – at least not those who actually live in the houses that they own – or to limit the taxes paid by middle class Californians.
Instead, the goal of Jarvis, the anti-tax Republicans – and of Prop 13 – was to limit the taxes paid by the largest and richest commercial landowners and landlords.
By that measure – and only by that measure — his work and the work of his successors such Jon Coupal — has been a tremendous success.
Of course, as a direct result of Prop 13’s cap on business and commercial property taxes – and its equal treatment of all property taxes regardless of the kind of property owned – the rest of our taxes have increased.
In particular, Californians have been pummeled by increasing regressive taxes, such as the sales tax, the gasoline tax, and the vehicle registration tax.
But the Republican anti-tax movement doesn’t care – and has never cared — about those kinds of taxes.
And by talking about taxes as though all taxes were the same and applied equally to everyone, the Republican anti-tax movement continues to protect the giant landlords whose taxes they’ve keep down and to bamboozle the middle class voters whose taxes continue to rise.
The next time you hear one of the anti-tax Republicans – or an avid John and Ken Show listener — strike a phony populist pose as they complain about California’s high taxes, ask them this:
How have the Republican anti-tax crusaders limited taxes on the middle class or the average Californian?
Why do they make no distinction between taxes on owner-occupied property and taxes on business, commercial and landlord property?
Why do they insist on making no distinction between progressive taxes – which require the richest Californians to pay more – and regressive taxes – which require us all to pay the same?
When you don’t get an answer to these questions, ask yourself this one:
How stupid do they think we are?
Based on their success in protecting the landlords and the rich by foisting California’s tax burden on the middle class, I’d say they have good reasons to think we’re pretty damn stupid.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
— Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Like the Russians did to the British at Balaclava in Tennyson’s famous poem, California’s Republicans have set a deadly trap for Democrats that they won’t be able to escape.
When the state’s more than $40 billion shortfall and budget stalemate was resolved last month, it was on condition that several tax increase propositions — most notably Prop 1A — be placed before the voters. Governor Schwarzenegger has set May 19, 2009, as the date that the voters will decide the fate of these propositions in a special election.
Schwarzenegger and the state Democratic leadership support these tax increase propositions.
The Republicans – who acquiesced in both the budget and its tax increases by permitting the minimum number of their party members to vote for the deal that ended the stalemate – are now likely to oppose them.
Joining the Republicans in urging that voters reject the tax increase propositions will be the state’s powerful and well-funded anti-tax organizations, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.
As a result, the voters will see an intense, expensive, and high publicity campaign leading up to the May 19 special election that pits Democrats (and their union allies) arguing for higher taxes against Republicans (and their anti-tax allies) calling for no increase in taxes.
Once again, the Republicans will be the party saying no to taxes and the Democrats will be forced to be the party of tax increases.
To most voters, it will not matter that the budget deal was explicitly premised on the state getting the increased revenue from these taxes.
Nor will it matter to the Republicans that they tacitly agreed to these tax increases when they signed off on the state’s budget.
Instead, the Republicans will seize the opportunity of the special election to make amends to the state’s anti-tax forces – which are mad as hell at them for agreeing to the state budget – and to paint the Democrats – once again — as profligate spenders who want to tax Californians to death.
To make matters worse for the Democrats, the propositions that are going before the voters on May 19 are mostly hikes in regressive taxes and state fees – including increases in the state’s income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax and vehicle fees – that hit middle class pocketbooks hardest.
Again, it will not matter to voters that it was the Republicans who insisted that if the state’s revenue is increased, it be increased by the most regressive kinds of tax measures.
Nor is it likely to matter to voters that for decades the Republicans and the state’s anti-tax forces have forced the middle class to bear the brunt of the state’s revenue needs because of Prop 13’s constitutional command not to tax commercial or business property differently than owner-occupied homes, and the Republicans’ steadfast commitment to protecting the rich by opposing any form of progressive taxation.
The reason that these facts are unlikely to matter to voters is that the Democrats have done a terrible job of making these arguments in the past, and specifically failed to make these arguments during the heat of the most recent budget battle.
California’s Democrats should have taken their cue from the Obama campaign and insisted that the state’s already battered middle class be protected from any tax increase.
And like Obama, California’s Democrats should instead have called for balancing the state budget through higher taxes for the very rich who have benefited so disproportionately from both the Bush tax cuts and the financial deregulation that has led to our national economic crisis.
But it’s probably too late to do that now.
The tax trap is set.
And California’s Democrats are riding right into it.
Los Alamitos’ Republican Mayor Dean Grose recently sent an email to friends that showed a picture of the White House with a watermelon patch imposed as the White House garden under the title “No Easter egg hunt this year.”
One of the people who received the email was local business woman Keyanus Price, an African American. She said she was horrified and appalled.
I won’t pretend that I’m appalled.
In fact, I’m delighted.
Once again, Orange County’s Republican officials have exposed themselves as among the most racist, and moronic, politicians in the country.
If I were a Republican, I’d be deeply embarrassed.
But I’m not.
Grose said that he didn’t think the email was racist. “The way things are today, you gotta laugh every now and then,” Grose said when the email was made public.
Now Grose has said that he’ll resign.
No doubt the Orange County Republican Party will find another brilliant public servant to take his place.
It now appears that Dean Grose is planning to resign only from his ceremonial job as mayor, not from his seat on the Los Alamitos City Council.
Grose is also not planning to resign as a director of the League of California Cities Orange County Division and the Southern California Association of Governments (where he represents the communities of Cypress, La Palma and Los Alamitos).
You can tell Grose what you think of his email by sending him an email of your own:
Last week I wrote that the Obama campaign should serve as a master class in winning elections for Democrats, but, unfortunately, not enough California Democrats are playing attention to the Obama campaign’s most important lessons.
These Obama inspired lessons are:
1. Blame Republicans and Present a Democratic Solution
2. Use the Internet
3. Expand the Electorate
4. Champion the Middle Class
I’ve already discussed the first two of these lessons, pointing out that during the state budget fiasco, the Democratic leadership failed to place the blame for the crisis squarely on the Republicans, and failed to present a clear Democratic solution to the state’s budget and economic problems.
I also pointed out that although the Internet is a potential game changer for California Democrats – as a less expensive and far more effective alternative to the Republicans’ expertise in direct mail – we have failed to capitalize on this advantage by building effective, informative and user-friendly websites, as well as building membership in Democratic groups on social networking sites such as facebook.
The importance of the Internet and its related technologies was underscored last week when the California Republican convention made improvement in their use of technology a primary objective. The California Republican Party website now promises that their “Technology Leadership Committee is racing ahead bringing together leaders in California’s tech community to help make our state party the national leader in the use of new and emerging technologies in our operations and communications. The initiative is chaired by David Kralik of Newt Gingrich’s organization.”
This means that California’s Republicans are well aware of the devastating effect that Obama’s edge in technology and Internet use had in the last election, and are racing — and spending money — to catch-up. Democrats cannot let this happen.
The remaining two Obama inspired lessons are:
3. Expand the Electorate
4. Champion the Middle Class
Let’s tackle them now.
3. Expand the Electorate
The Obama campaign succeeded in large part because it expanded the Democratic electorate by bringing far larger numbers of young people, students, and immigrant groups into the process than ever before. Obama specifically targeted these groups and the result was millions of additional votes.
The California Young Democrats movement is doing a terrific job of maintaining the momentum of the Obama campaign and getting young people involved in the state Democratic Party.
Where we are falling short is in regard to immigrant groups.
Amazingly, here in Southern California, few election campaigns outside of Los Angeles and Santa Ana provided literature, emails, or websites in Spanish.
Neither website has anything in Farsi, Vietnamese, or any of the other languages of California’s immigrants.
This must change. We need to create Democratic Party literature and web materials in Spanish, Farsi, Vietnamese, and other languages.
We also need to campaign in predominantly immigrant and less affluent neighborhoods.
Despite the fact that so many Mexican immigrants in Southern California live in apartments, our Democratic candidates have tended to campaign only in areas of private homes, entirely ignoring apartment complexes.
While I’m aware of the problem of scarce resources, it seems to me that we cannot continue to fail to campaign directly to hundreds of thousands of potential voters, especially those who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democrat.
4. Champion the Middle Class
Throughout the presidential election, Obama positioned himself as the champion of the middle-class and painted his Republican opponent as the champion of the very rich.
Obama also made middle-class tax cuts a centerpiece of his campaign promises. The result was millions of votes from the suburban middle-class -– and electoral vote victories in states that had long gone Republican.
The suburban middle-class that tipped the electoral scales for Obama is probably the single most important voting group in California – especially in Southern California.
Yet despite Obama’s lesson, our local Democrats continue largely to ignore the middle-class, and related groups such as homeowners and small business owners.
How can we expect to win in districts where self-identified middle-class, homeownering voters form the majority of the electorate without talking specifically to them and about their needs?