Once a year, Texas Monthly chooses the winner of the "Bum Steer Award" -- the "top blunder maker" of the year. Guess who gets the title for this year? Yes, Rick. And not just for his ups and downs on the national scene.
If you want the gory details, they're available at Texas Monthly and in a radio commentary here.
Christmas shopping this year included a startling increase in the sale of guns -- lots and lots of guns.
December holiday shoppers were not just interested in buying the hottest electronics and toys -- they also were purchasing record numbers of guns, according to the latest FBI figures on background checks required to buy firearms.
With a few days left in December, the FBI reports the number of background checks has already topped the previous one-month record -- set only in November -- of 1,534,414 inquiries by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System also known as NICS. Almost half a million checks were done in just the last six days before Christmas.
Two days before Christmas, NICS ran 102,222 background checks, which was the second-busiest day in history. The one-day record was set this year on Black Friday, the big shopping day following Thanksgiving, with 129,166 searches. By comparison, the previous one-day high was set November 28, 2008, when gun dealers made slightly less than 98,000 requests for background searches.
It's not possible to tell exactly how many guns have been purchased because buyers often take home more than one gun. ...CNN
You can measure the degree of desperation in a candidate by his willingness to consider Palin as a running mate.
As Right Wing Watch reports, during a Wednesday night tele-town hall hosted by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, a caller asked the former Speaker if he would consider Palin as a running mate. Gingrich responded that Palin “is certainly one of the people you would look at” and told the caller that he is “a great admirer of hers.” He also floated the idea of appointing her Secretary of Energy because, he said, “I can’t imagine anybody who would do a better job of driving us to an energy solution than Gov. Palin.” “Tell her that she would certainly be on the list of one of the people we would consider,” he added. ...Think Progress
It's not as though she doesn't still hover over the Republican party like an embarrassing sex video. Or political video, as it turns out.
The ad is decidedly low-tech and has run on some of Iowa’s smaller broadcast stations like WOI in Des Moines, a sign that the group is not putting much money behind its campaign.
But what the commercial lacks in sophistication it makes up for in audacity. “Crony capitalism and corruption in government is eating this country alive,” says the message on screen, which is displayed in simple white font against a black backdrop as a montage of still photos of Ms. Palin flash by. “This disease must be addressed by our next president or the crooks will still be running your candy store.”
The ad ends with Ms. Palin’s voice, taken from a political rally, saying, “God bless you, Iowa!” and it implores viewers, “Please, caucus for Sarah Palin.”
The group that placed the ad has been calling local television stations to inquire about their rates in recent days, explaining itself as an organization that is pushing Ms. Palin through Facebook. A Facebook page called “Sarah Palin’s Earthquake Movement” urges fans to donate money through a PayPal account. ...NYT
Palin makes the earth move? Low tech but redolent of the same old t&a.
No more trying to persuade Congress. President Obama has decided to fight Congress and his weapon will be economic justice.
Mr. Obama’s election-year strategy is an attempt to capitalize on his recent victory on a short-term extension of the payroll tax cut and on his rising poll numbers. As the stage is set for the general election in November, he intends to hammer the theme of economic justice for ordinary Americans rather than continue battling with Congressional Republicans, said the official, Joshua R. Earnest, the deputy press secretary, previewing the White House’s strategy.
“In terms of the president’s relationship with Congress in 2012,” Mr. Earnest said at a briefing here, “the president is no longer tied to Washington, D.C.” ...NYT
In other words, let the dead horse lie. Take the headlines away from Republicans in Iowa and focus on America.
Mr. Obama will step up his efforts to showcase unilateral measures he is taking to try to revive the economy, though he declined to give details. Mr. Obama has used his executive authority in recent weeks to provide job training for returning military veterans and help students pay back their student loans. Further underscoring the jobs theme, Mr. Obama plans to return to the road, starting with a trip to Cleveland in early January to speak about the economy. ...NYT
One risk the president faces is alienation from his own party. Of course, quite a few Americans would cheer him on. If some Democrats in Congress are sore that he hasn't stood up for them, they might have also have to face their own deliberate weakness. The leadership is with him.
“He has been emphatic in stating that he is running against obstructionist Republicans in the House,” said Representative Steve Israel, a New York Democrat who is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “As long as the president includes the word Republican when he says he is running against Congress, more power to him.” ...NYT
Good point. Obama needs an approval rating of more than 50%. He needs better employment numbers and he may get them. Above all, though, what could do the trick next November is creating a clear separation in the mind of the public between a president who's on their side and a Congress that clearly isn't.
Yet the strategy carries an inherent danger for the president, who risks being viewed as giving up on the legislative process in favor of politics long before Election Day. Obama still needs Congress’s support on other critical matters, such as installing several high-level appointees, including a pair of nominees to the Federal Reserve he announced last week.
And with unemployment still above 8 percent, Obama cannot afford to look as if he is out of big ideas. The White House is planning to roll out more in its series of “we can’t wait” small-scale economic initiatives that do not require congressional approval, but those might not be enough to convince voters that the president is doing everything he can to improve the economy. ...WaPo
According to Gallup, Obama has lost his lead in the popularity polls. But an Associated Press report, posted early this morning, questions -- as well it might! -- the reliability of polls.
At this point four years ago, national polls taken in the run-up to presidential primaries said to get ready for a faceoff between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton. And in 2004, Howard Dean was coasting to the Democratic nomination to face President George W. Bush.
They sure didn't! And by the way, only 5% of adult Republicans vote in Iowa's caucuses even in their best years.
Polls are better at revealing issues.
This year, polls have consistently shown two dominant themes in the GOP race:
—A tepid response to the GOP field among Republican voters.
Earlier this month, an AP-GfK poll found that amid Gingrich’s rise, Republican dissatisfaction with the lineup of candidates also rose. The wild swings among the anyone-but-Romney crowd have lifted nearly all of the candidates at some point this year, but none has fit the bill exactly. Republicans don’t actively dislike Romney — 73 percent say he’s a strong leader, 81 percent call him likable — yet his best showing in any horse race poll this year remains around 30 percent, and no other candidate has pulled a strong showing among the remaining 70 percent of the party.
—A deep anger among Republicans toward Obama.
This sentiment has buoyed Romney through the rise and fall of other candidates. Poll after poll reinforces his status as the candidate who runs most competitively with Obama and is seen as the most electable. And Republicans sure would like to see Obama voted out of office. In the latest AP-GfK poll, 89 percent of Republicans said he deserved to be voted out, and three-quarters said they expected him to lose....AP/WaPo
Sometimes it's easy to think that our income tax system, allegedly progressive and fair, is in fact a tool of the super-rich who use it to keep the rest of us poor. Of course, if you think about it, our tax system is the rosemary's baby born of naive, often greedy members of Congress adding a twist here and there over years and decades. Once out of their hands and on the books, it does indeed become a tool of the super-rich. They're the only ones who can afford the assistance of costly tax attorneys and lobbyists to manipulate tax laws to benefit their interests.
Take stock options, for example.
The stock market’s rebound from the financial crisis three years ago has created a potential windfall for hundreds of executives who were granted unusually large packages of stock options shortly after the market collapsed.
Now, the corporations that gave those generous awards are beginning to benefit, too, in the form of tax savings.
Thanks to a quirk in tax law, companies can claim a tax deduction in future years that is much bigger than the value of the stock options when they were granted to executives. This tax break will deprive the federal government of tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade. And it is one of the many obscure provisions buried in the tax code that together enable most American companies to pay far less than the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent — in some cases, virtually nothing even in very profitable years. ...NYT
That's not a leftist fantasy, it's American reality. The Times uses an example that makes me sit up straight. Back when satellite radio -- Sirius -- was taking off as a public company, this household not only bought a satellite hook-up, but it also invested in a few shares of Sirius ("penny") stock for 17¢ a share. That was even before its CEO, Mel Karmazin, was given options to buy the stock at 43¢ a share. Of course Karmazin and the company have done way better than us mini-investors.
... In the dark days of June 2009, Mel Karmazin, chief executive of SiriusXM Radio, was granted options to buy the company stock at 43 cents a share. At today’s price of about $1.80 a share, the value of those options has risen to $165 million from the $35 million reported by the company as a compensation expense when they were issued.
If he exercises and sells at that price, Mr. Karmazin would, of course, owe taxes on the $165 million as ordinary income. The company, meanwhile, would be entitled to deduct the $165 million as additional compensation on its tax return as if it had paid that amount in cash. That could reduce its federal tax bill by an estimated $57 million, at the top corporate tax rate.
Under standard accounting rules, companies calculate the fair market value of the options on the date they are granted and report that value as an expense, disclosed in regulatory filings. But the Internal Revenue Service allows companies to claim a tax deduction for any increase in value when those options are exercised, usually years later at a much higher price. The tax savings are listed in regulatory filings as “excess tax benefits from stock-based compensation.”...NYT
Sweet deal. One kicker is that these individuals and companies not only benefit from the deal, they get to use our money to do so. In other words, as they pay less, you're paying more.
...Some financial services companies that have seen the value of the options they issued after the market collapse rise significantly — including Goldman Sachs and Capital One Financial — were able to weather the crisis, in some part, because of the billions in federal bailout money they received.
“The reason the C.E.O.’s and corporate boards gave all those options during the crisis is because they expected the market to recover — and because the economy is cyclical, everyone knew it would recover,” said Sydney Finkelstein, a professor of management at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “And the whole game is played with other people’s money — the market’s money and the taxpayers’ money.” ...NYT