REPORT: Murdoch Considering Stepping Down As News Corp. CEO |
According to reports by CNBC, Rupert Murdoch is considering stepping down as CEO of News Corporation amid the hacking scandal in the United Kingdom and potential investigations in the United States. British police yesterday arrested Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of News Corp.’s News International group who resigned amid controversy just days ago. Britain’s two top police officials also resigned under a cloud over the past two days amid growing allegations of improper relationships between Scotland Yard officials and News International employees.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 18, 2011 at 8:36 pm
– by Michael Conathan
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of the Waterkeeper Alliance, has once again lambasted the Cape Wind project – a proposal to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod. Ironically, he placed his hit-piece in in the Wall Street Journal, a Rupert Murdoch media outlet that News Corp has “turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner’s conservative views,” as Joe Nocera explained in “The Journal Becomes Fox-ified.”
Cape Wind has received all of its federal permits and is on track to begin construction and become America’s first offshore wind farm. Kennedy’s hatred for the project – which would sit within eyeshot of his family’s famed compound in Hyannisport, MA – is longstanding, but in this piece he has found a new mask to cover the true motivation behind his distaste: looking out for the good citizen ratepayers of Massachusetts and attempting to portray Cape Wind as a “rip-off.”
It is simply impossible to portray Kennedy’s latest salvo in the ongoing battle over Cape Wind as anything less than utter hypocrisy. Kennedy suggests that the project, which has undergone more than a decade of environmental and economic review, could be supplanted by “renewable” power from Canadian hydroelectricity – the same alternative that has been proposed to replace Vermont Yankee’s nuclear energy. And yet in 2004 as a senior attorney for the Natural Resource Defense Council, Kennedy penned a piece titled “Hydro is Breaking Our Hearts.” His article lamented that hydro development in Canada had “turned pristine rivers into power corridors, ancient lakes into holding tanks, and a sacred homeland into an industrial complex.”
Yet Canadian hydropower is precisely the solution he proposes to replace Cape Wind’s green electrons. Apparently his own Hyannisport sacred homeland is somehow … more sacred?
House Republicans are planning to hold a vote tomorrow on the radical “cut, cap, and balance” plan, which stipulates that the federal debt ceiling only be raised if a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is sent to the states for ratification. As we’ve noted time and again, such an amendment is a phony solution to the nation’s budget challenges, and would force the government into actively making economic downturns worse.
But the current version of the amendment that the GOP is pushing is even worse than all that. In addition to preventing the government from taking steps to ameliorate an economic downturn, the plan would also cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP. To get a sense for how radical this is, the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — which eviscerated Medicare and Medicaid — still has spending above that level in 2040.
As the Center for American Progress’ Michael Ettlinger and Michael Linden noted today, actually getting spending down to that level would require 25 percent cuts in every government program, including the Pentagon and Social Security (or, of course, deeper cuts for every program that gets left untouched):
In 2016, for example, we estimate that total federal spending is likely to be around $4.4 trillion, or 22.9 percent of GDP. [...] Of that $4.4 trillion in 2016, about $520 billion will be interest payments on the debt — an area Congress can’t directly cut. That leaves about $3.9 trillion in noninterest spending, from which Congress would have to slash about $1 trillion in order to bring total spending down to 18 percent of GDP. This would require a 25 percent cut to everything in the federal budget — from Social Security to veterans’ benefits to the Pentagon to education. Congress could try to protect some programs from such severe reductions but then, of course, other areas would have to be slashed even more.
Cutting spending so deeply would reduce the federal budget to the level at which it was in 1966, when the country’s needs and demographics were very different. No President in the last 50 years, including conservative icon Ronald Reagan, has even proposed a budget with spending so low. But the GOP is willing to have the country default on its obligations unless Congress adopts this radical path.
Torchwood: Miracle Day is one of the most intensely political things I’ve ever seen on television. Through two episodes, everything from health care, to extraordinary rendition, to the death penalty, to drug stockpiling, to the ethics of abortion and contraception in a world where the population’s exploding. What’s exceptional about Miracle Day, though, is not just that it’s tackling the issues of the day, but the way it’s using science fictional conceits and our affection for existing characters to reframe key issues rather than simply to pose the same questions again.
Charlie Jane Anders has a wonderful outline of the show’s core dilemma: what happens to every aspect of health care, from management to chronic conditions, to disease control, to organ donation, in a world where no one dies? Miracle Day isn’t throwing out the world of politics — people are still opposed to abortion and contraception, and with swamped emergency rooms, there are still questions about health care rationing. But rather than fighting over death panels and mandates to purchase insurance, the events of Miracle Day totally upset the rules, making the question not about how we’re going to pay for health care, but how we’re going to deliver it at all when there aren’t enough beds, enough drugs, enough doctors. In the real world, of course, the payment question’s still there, and still important. But shifting the framework and the questions we ask about the issues, even temporarily, is the kind of thought experiment science fiction’s made for.
And on a smaller scale, I thought the rendition scenes were more effective than Charlie Jane did. It’s one thing to show the impact of extraordinary rendition on a family we’ve just met a couple of minutes ago, like in Rendition. It’s entirely another to see character’s we’ve gotten to know over three or more years torn away from their kids on a tarmac, dragged limp up a set of moveable steps and into a plane. It’s easy to abstract experiences we haven’t had, and that no one we know have had or are likely to have. Art can provide an emotional connection to those kinds of issues, things we oppose in principal but not out of an actual visceral objection to them.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made headlines a year ago with his claim that “there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy.” And in recent weeks, numerous lawmakers and presidential candidates have relied on the false tax-cuts-produce-revenues talking point to justify the GOP’s economic platform.
Presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty extended the argument to all tax cuts, telling Fox News that “whether it be the Bush tax cuts, the Reagan tax cuts, or other tax cuts, they always produce an increase in revenue. There’s no dispute about that.” Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), presidential candidate Herman Cain, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have all made similar remarks.
But Rep. Trent Frank (R-AZ) took the argument a step further by pinpointing an exact figure in the supposed revenue increase enacted by the Bush tax cuts in a July 15 interview with ThinkProgress.
We know that if we grow this economy, that nothing will do more good toward bringing in additional revenues to government. And that’s not to theory; that’s a historical observation. Even the much-maligned Bush tax cuts brought in an additional $100 billion a year to government coffers. We forget that unless someone is out there producing, there’s no tax revenue. There’s no revenue. There’s no nothing for anyone.
The data compiled by the White House’s Office for Budget and Management could not prove Frank to be more wrong. In fact, federal revenues from individual income taxes saw a $136 billion decrease between 2001 and 2002, the year the first round of the Bush tax cuts went into effect.
Although Frank could have been referring to a $97.8 billion increase in federal income tax revenues between 2003 and 2004, such a jump is largely dependent on an unexpected $57.6 billion rise in the corporate income tax revenues. Both rounds of the Bush tax cuts did not apply to the corporate income tax rates and thus had no role in 2004′s larger revenue intake.
During Clinton’s last year in office, the personal tax revenue collected measured up to 10.2 percent of GDP; in 2004, it only came in at 6.9 percent of GDP, the lowest figure seen since 1951 and almost a full percentage point below the lowest figure reported during Reagan’s presidency. Even before the housing bubble burst in 2008, the federal government was not seeing personal income tax revenues close to their pre-Bush tax-cuts levels when measured as a percentage of GDP.
Ironically, in the moments before his defense of the Bush tax rates as good fiscal decision, Frank criticized President Obama as being out of touch “with all mathematical reality” when it comes to stymieing the growth of the national debt.
Former State Dept Spox: ‘The Claim That Israel Will Attack Iran Is Not Credible’ |
Over the past few years, various media outletshave beenreporting that Israel will likely attack Iran over its nuclear program. Perhaps one of the most well known is Jeffry Goldberg’s cover story in the Atlantic last year reporting that “there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July.” (Of course that never happened.) Former State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley joined the fray today on Twitter, saying, “The claim #Israel will attack #Iran soon is not credible. The strategic costs, while not static, still outweigh the prospects of success.” Crowley later tweeted, “The #ArabSpring has sufficiently complicated #Israel’s strategic calculus that it is more likely to show restraint in the immediate term.”
The Incidental Economist’s Don Taylor embraces some parts of Stephen Parente’s so-called grand bargain on the debt ceiling — which includes 1) ending the tax preference of employer paid insurance, 2) transitioning Medicare to defined contribution program for those under age, 3) block granting Medicaid, 4) adjusting several aspects of the ACA (lessen subsidy triggers, end taxes imposed on device makers, etc.) — noting it probably makes a lot sense to end the huge government subsidy to employer sponsored coverage. “Capping or ending the tax exclusion would greatly improve the cost-saving potential of the newly passed reform. And such a policy is flexible, and would work well alongside any imaginable change (either to the right or left) to the framework enacted by the Senate bill,” he writes.
A lot of people would agree that tying health care coverage to employment is probably not the most efficient way to pay for services and results in all kinds of inefficiencies and economic costs. But the fact of the matter is that most Americans still receive coverage through their jobs — and will continue to do so even after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. And even though I see the argument which says that the exchanges are a better structure for connecting people to insurance, I’d argue that this kind of change should probably be put off until after the exchanges are up and running. You want to give states and the federal government an opportunity to work out all of the kinks in the new system before you end a subsidy that encourages employers to provide stable and quite satisfactory (if you ask them) policies to their employees and force those employees to look elsewhere for insurance.
After all, if you want to learn about the consequences of sudden change, look no further than the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, which established Medicare Part D. During the initial enrollment period, “there was confusion about which prescriptions would be covered by the enormous number of plans from which an enrollee could choose” while the “intricacies of choosing a plan and the transition of medical information overwhelmed the government computers,” which was never actually tested prior to the transition.
As a result, “Sacramento resident Randi Sanford, 50, who has cystic fibrosis, had to go without the antibiotic infusions she needed to fight an infection because the new Part D prescription drug benefit would not cover the procedure when administered at home.” “Patricia Franks, 69, of Gerber in Tehama County had to borrow blood pressure medication from a brother-in-law after her pharmacist refused to fill her prescriptions,” and “San Francisco’s Johnny Wilson, 49, who is HIV-positive, had his medication only because he had laid in a three-month supply before the new program started.” By the time he got his Medicare drug card, however, “he was down to his last pills.”
You can see these kinds of problems occurring with any sudden change of benefits, especially with something as large as the phasing out or eliminating the employer tax credit for health insurance.