Morning Briefing: January 12, 2012

Home foreclosure filings and repossessions “fell to their lowest level since 2007 last year,” down 33 percent. While one in every 69 homes had a foreclosure filing and 804,000 homes were repossessed in 2011, more than 4 million homes have been foreclosed upon over the past five years.

President Obama proposed tax breaks for companies that bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. that they had outsourced to other countries, he announced Wednesday. He also plans to end tax breaks for companies if they continue to outsource jobs overseas. The U.S. has added manufacturing jobs for two consecutive years after a decade of losses.

Budget cuts have left the IRS “unable to adequately perform either of its primary duties — collecting taxes and providing the public with reasonable service,” according to a new report from the agency. Meanwhile, the agency’s portfolio of responsibilities is growing, further taxing it.

A Washington Post editorial out today calls on presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to release his tax returns, writing, “Romney’s determined lack of transparency…represents a striking and disturbing departure from the past practice of presidential candidates of both parties.”

A new Pew Research Center poll finds that almost two-thirds of Americans say there are “strong” or “very strong” conflicts between the rich and poor in American society. This is “an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.”

The Democratic National Convention banned corporate and lobbyist donations, so lobbyists are now trying to figure out how to get around the rules to still get access to officials at the convention. Politico reports that some groups plan to organize outside events or withhold their support entirely in face of the rules.

A Mississippi judge has blocked 21 of the 215 pardons granted by Gov. Haley Barbour (R) before he left office after the state’s attorney general charged that the pardons violated the state constitution. Four of the inmates who received pardons were serving life sentences for murder and have been ordered to appear in court later this month.

Senior administration officials announced plans to open new peace talks with the Taliban next week after the release of a controversial video in which U.S. marines appear to urinate on dead Afghan insurgents. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force condemned the “disrespectful act” as “inexplicable,” while Afghan President Hamid Karzai described it as “completely inhumane.”

And finally: While they may not have much hope of living in the White House, you can now get Herman Cain and Rick Perry to live on your bookshelf as action figures.

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