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News for the Middle Class 7/22/2011


SPOTLIGHT: Hoekstra's firm defended Madoff

THE HILL: Michigan Senate candidate Hoekstra's firm defended Madoff
"Of the thousands of lobbying shops in Washington, Pete Hoekstra picked the one that meshed best with his own anti-middle class record — the one that just finished defending a guy who ran history's largest ponzi-scheme. If that doesn’t reinforce every point ever made about Hoekstra siding with special interests at the expense of the middle class, nothing will," said Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer. "It's one thing to bail out Wall Street and then turn around and protect taxpayer funded bonuses for bailed-out CEOs. But to take that kind of record and cash in with the firm that just finished defending the architect of history's largest ponzi-scheme is even worse." . . . Hoekstra's campaign stressed he had no connection to the Madoff case, and said Stabenow was trying to distract voters from her own record. "Democrats understand that Senator Stabenow can't run for reelection on her record of wasteful government spending that's hurt Michigan jobs," said Hoekstra campaign aide Brian Jones. "The bottom line is that Rep. Hoesktra was not at the firm during this time period."

MDP: Of the Thousands Of Lobbying Shops in DC, Pete Hoekstra Picked the One That Defended Bernie Madoff
Hoekstra’s History of Standing Up for Special Interests at the Expense of Middle Class Made Him A Perfect Fit for His New Employer in Washington, But Makes Him A Terrible Choice for Michigan

Just for starters, Hoekstra voted to give Big Oil companies $2.6 billion in taxpayer subsidies and voted to help big banks while taking $32,725 in campaign donations from them.  But when it came to middle-class families, Hoekstra refused to support an exemption from the Alternative Minimum Tax for 21 million Americans.

MLIVE: Sue Demas: Will Pete Hoekstra's connection to Bernie Madoff hurt him -- or is it much ado about nothing?
Now the first person to raise the Madoff issue wasn't a Democrat at all, but pollster Steve Mitchell, who consults for Hoekstra's GOP senatorial rival, Oakland County Resources Director John McCulloch. For the time being, McCulloch and other potential candidates like Rob Steele haven't folded when Hoekstra announced his entry. That could indicate they see Hoekstra as being vulnerable in a GOP primary. Maybe we'll see the Madoff ads there.


OE: Heat doesn't stop volunteers from circulating recall petitions
The Westland resident was spending the day collecting signatures for two petitions — the recall of Gov. Rick Snyder and repeal of P.A. 4 which gives expanded powers to emergency financial managers. “This is our first day (Tuesday) at this site. We were at Ann Arbor Trail and Merriman last week,” said Szalai. “We're getting about 300 signatures a day at this type of site.” . . . “My reason for signing is that the governor cost the film industry here a lot of jobs. I was working in films, now I had to go back to my lower paying job,” said Livonia resident Michael Catrow as he signed both petitions. . . . “We saw it and stopped. I never voted for him (Snyder). Let them tax the big people, not your working families,” said Judith McIntyre, who works part time as a teller for Northville Downs. Her husband is a Ford Motor Co. retiree.

OP: Skubick column: Snyder will face showdown with ultra right wing of GOP
One item is partial birth abortion bills. Another is a bill to ban the dumping of aborted fetuses in the garbage bin. And the list of right-wing wedge subjects goes on and on. Confronted with this, the governor gave, what was described, as an “arrogant” response. He suggested that somewhere along the line he and the senate GOP leader Randy Richardville would “look at the bills.” The career politicians in the room could read the shorthand; he was blowing them off. Then he reportedly made a remark about “some who have behaved badly” and that was a reference to Michigan Right to Life.

DAILY KOS: Michigan Gov. Snyder opens 'negotiations' with firing threats
Once again we see Republican "negotiating" tactics in action. With negotiations between Michigan and its public employee unions set to begin next week, Gov. Rick Snyder began making plans to fire people: . . . Oh, well, if it's a last resort, right? And required for the budget? Surely there was no choice besides firing people or effectively cutting compensation for everyone. Right? . . . About that—predictably enough, Snyder had seen cutting corporate taxes as an option: . . . And now we've reached the moment of Republican "Negotiating" 101. Open negotiations by saying, "If you don't give me everything I'm asking for, some of you are fired."

DN: Editorial: Realism needed from state worker unions
Concessions are a wiser course for employees than a hard-line stance that leads to layoffs
Gov. Rick Snyder is making contingency plans to lay off as many as 2,500 state workers because the unions representing them haven't been willing — so far — to discuss concessions needed to complete the 2011 budget. That many job cuts would be bad for the state and even worse for the unions, but there's not a realistic alternative if the intransigence continues.

LSJ: Editorial: Immigrants can help fuel state's recovery
Snyder's ideas for wooing entrepreneurs are sound|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

LSJ: Schneider: Inquiry response time leaves something to be desired
Average citizen Pamela Heos got blown off recently by the folks in Gov. Rick Snyder's office, and it looks like somebody will go to the woodshed for it. Or, in the diplomatic language of Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel: "Appropriate action is being taken with the team member in this particular case." In her email reply to my inquiry, Wurfel also wrote: "The head of our Constituent Services Division has contacted Ms. Heos directly to express our deep apologies. ... We're also fully reviewing the standards, process, protocols and customer service expectations with the full team to avoid this happening again." Now, that's what you call solid responsiveness to unresponsiveness.|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

DN: Prisons director: Security a concern in privatizing meal service
Michigan's prisons director says he has serious reservations about privatizing food and other services, as called for in its recent budget. . . . Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections, vented some of that frustration Thursday. The department "has failed to live within its means," or "find the kind of savings… that would bring the per-prisoner costs in line," Proos said. . . . Mel Grieshaber, executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization union, said privatizing food services would mean extra cost for the state. Department officials who oversee prisoners making meals also provide security today, but officers will likely have to be assigned to help a contractor, he said. "I would give this director and this new department leadership a little breathing room," he said.

DFP: Headline: Brian Dickerson: Nonviolent sex offenders ensnared in state's red tape
Karen Johnson, the manager of the Sex Offender and Registry Enforcement Unit who signed the letter addressed to Fawcett, did not respond to my repeated requests for an explanation. But State Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said a deceased offender isn't removed from the department's master registry unless the offender's family mails a death certificate to the registry enforcement unit -- a step she speculated had not taken place in Fawcett's case. . . . In a random search of more than 100 offenders in four metro Detroit ZIP codes Thursday, every single offender whose file I reviewed was identified as "NON-COMPLIANT" or "ABSCONDER." . . . "We did underestimate the volume of information we had to process," State Police spokeswoman Banner conceded. "We underestimated how well (offenders) were going to carry out their new duties."|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

MCC [Mackinac Center]: Snyder Shedding No Light on Bulb Issue
[GOP agenda = jobs? Nope. It's light bulbs!]
Gov. Rick Snyder is keeping everyone in the dark as to where he stands on trying to help Michigan escape the upcoming federal ban on incandescent light bulbs. . . . “We're meeting this week in Lansing to plan out a schedule for after we return in the fall,” said Rep. Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth, Chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee. “I expect to be taking it (the light bulb bill) up within the first five weeks.”


MLIVE / WJR: Audio: Jesse Jackson returns to Detroit, calls on Justice Department to 'restore democracy' in Michigan
'We have a profound economic crisis in the country and the state," Jackson said this morning on WJR-AM 760. "There's nothing about the economic crisis that should allow one to demolish democracy. The vote remains sacred even in a time of crisis."

HP: Jesse Jackson in town again
Poll: Michigan voters would repeal emergency manager law
The Gongwer News Service, a publication that covers politics in Michigan and Ohio, released results of a poll last week that said if an initiative to repeal Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, were placed on the November 2012 ballot, 53 percent of the likely voters polled would reject it and only 34 percent would vote to keep it.

HP: Officials: Welfare-limiting bill will trigger violence
"This is the kind of legislation that's following Public Act 4 that has no regard, no compassion, no sympathy or empathy for people who have fallen on hard times," he said. Commissioner Eddie Marshall said that if the law is signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, "There's going to be chaos, there's going to be bloodshed." "I just hope that my vision is wrong," Marshall said. "Because if it's right, it's going to be rough."

DFP: Michigan reels in $76M with tax amnesty program
The amount collected fell short of the $88-million goal set by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Legislature when they authorized the program in 2010. But treasury officials expressed overall satisfaction with the result. . . . "While the Treasury will not have a final analysis for several weeks yet, I am very pleased with the success of the 2011 Tax Amnesty program," State Treasurer Andy Dillon said in a statement.

DFP: Michigan House speaker orders staff, budget cuts
Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger ordered staff and budget cuts in the state House of Representatives on Thursday, saying they were "unfortunate (but) necessary" because of overall budget tightening. The Marshall Republican ordered cuts of 13.9% for member offices, a 7.5% cut in the budget for central Republican and Democratic staff and 5% for the nonpartisan employees of the House clerk and business office.


DFP: Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel questioned over open meetings


DFP / DN: Michigan lawmakers attack White House's 56 m.p.g. proposal
DFP: Radio ads against m.p.g. proposal go back on air
DFP: Detroit Three moves to bring on 1st hourly blue-collar workers since crash of 2008

The bipartisan group of 14 Michigan members of Congress, including both of the state’s Democratic senators, called the 56 m.p.g. target “not reasonably feasible” and claimed it would hurt the U.S. auto industry. “Such a proposal would push beyond the limits of reasonably feasible technology development and would have significant negative ramifications for U.S. jobs and competitiveness,” states the letter, obtained by the Free Press.|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

DN: Chrysler wild card in talks with UAW - It will resist wage, cost-of-living hikes; could seek arbitration
DFP: Detroit 3 automakers hope to reduce health care costs in next UAW contract
DN: Bailout era changes how UAW bargains|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

DN: U.S. completes Chrysler exit; Fiat now majority owner


DFP: Editorial: Asian carp: Step up prevention against the invasion of fish of doom

MDP: Walberg Attacking Minimum Wage, Overtime for Workers
Attack is Congressman’s Latest Against Middle-Class Workers
“Middle-class families continue to be assaulted by the GOP,” added Brewer. “Whether it’s unfair tax increases, cuts to public education and public safety, or the elimination of Medicare, Republicans will stop at nothing to dismantle the middle-class. Tim Walberg should focus his time on ending subsidies for oil companies and eliminating obscene bonuses for Wall Street CEOs instead of attacking middle-class workers.”

TOL: Lessenberry: Hoekstra's return enlivens Michigan's U.S. Senate race
Michigan Republicans have a long history of disparaging Ms. Stabenow in sometimes blatantly sexist terms. They call her ineffectual and clueless, and sometimes openly mock her off-again, on-again weight problems. But time and again, when the votes are counted, she wins -- usually by large margins.

POLITICO: John Conyers at mercy of redistricting
OP: Senate race: Hoekstra in, McCulloch stays

JCP: Editorial: Cash isn't everything in politics
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg should be in good spirits these days. He has raised more than $500,000 in six months to prepare for next year’s election. He has no declared rival. And Michigan’s political maps are changing to make his 7th Congressional District seat a little more friendly. Is the job Walberg’s as long as he wants it? Don’t count on it. Walberg has more than $320,000 in the bank, but other incumbents have had more money and still lost. As Exhibit A, look at former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer. He spent $3.3 million in his last campaign, far more than Walberg, and still lost. Simply put, politics can be fickle. Walberg looks like a good bet to win re-election in November 2012. Still, let’s wait until next summer before calling this race.

SPOTLIGHT: Deal or no deal?

USAT: Op-Ed by President Obama: Go 'big' on debt deal
In the short term, my No. 1 focus is getting our economy back to a place where businesses can grow and hire. That's why I want to take a number of steps right away, like extending tax relief for middle-class families and putting construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and highways. But over the last few months, I've also said that I'm willing to cut historic amounts of spending in order to reduce our long-term deficits. I'm willing to cut spending on domestic programs to the lowest level in half a century. I'm willing to cut defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. I'm willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, so we can meet our obligations to an aging population. . . . Yes, we should make serious spending cuts. But we should also ask the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations to pay their fair share through fundamental tax reform.

MSNBC: Headline: Obama faces angry Dems as debt talks hit crunch
Leading Democrat expresses concern that the Tea Party faction has convinced president to 'go along with a deal that basically gives them everything they want'

WAPO: Debt-limit talks: As Obama, Boehner rush to strike deal, Democrats are left fuming
More savings would be generated through an overhaul of the tax code that would lower personal and corporate income tax rates while eliminating or reducing an array of popular tax breaks, such as the deduction for home mortgage interest. But the talks envisioned no specific tax increases as part of legislation to lift the debt limit, and the tax rewrite would be postponed until next year. . . . When “we heard these reports of these mega-trillion-dollar cuts with no revenues, it was like Mount Vesuvius. . . . Many of us were volcanic,” said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). White House budget director Jacob J. Lew denied that a deal without taxes was in the works. “We’ve been clear revenues have to be part of any agreement,” he told reporters. . . . “The president always talked about balance, that there had to be some fairness in this, that this can’t be all cuts. There has to be a balance. There has to be some revenue and cuts. My caucus agrees with that,” Reid said. “I hope that the president sticks with that. I’m confident that he will.”

NYT: Op-Ed by Grover Norquist: Read My Lips: No New Taxes
But ultimately, the pledge is only one expression of the Republicans’ commitment to shrinking the size of the federal government. The Republican leaders — Mr. Boehner, Representative Eric Cantor, Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Jon Kyl — have repeatedly and clearly stated that they will not allow a net tax hike to be imposed on the American people as part of a debt ceiling deal — especially when the goal of that deal is to reduce the runaway spending now damaging America’s economic future and killing the jobs we need.


DNC: Almost 200 Days of GOP Control in the House and Still Nothing on Jobs
During the past 198 days, they have attacked health reform, financial services reform, women’s health, programs for low-income families, early-childhood education, National Public Radio, Big Bird, clean energy, and more.


Fox News Poll: Romney, Perry, Bachmann Top 2012 GOP Picks
CNN Poll: Perry near the top in GOP nomination race

Romney’s support among GOP primary voters has dropped 6 percentage points in recent weeks, from 23 percent in early June to 17 percent in the new poll, which asked about announced and potential candidates. Close behind Romney is undeclared candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry at 14 percent.  Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann comes in at 10 percent -- up from 4 percent in early June. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Texas Rep. Ron Paul all receive 9 percent.  Giuliani and Palin have not declared their candidacy.

THE ONION: News brief: God Urges Rick Perry Not To Run For President
AUSTIN, TX—Describing Texas Gov. Rick Perry as grossly unqualified for the position, God, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, urged Perry not to run for president of the United States Wednesday. “I prayed last night and asked the Lord to support my candidacy, and He said no,” Perry told reporters outside the Texas Capitol, explaining that God had cited the governor’s rejection of federal stimulus funds to expand state jobless benefits, his irresponsible speculation about Texas seceding from the union, and his overall lack of concrete solutions to nation’s problems as reasons why He could not endorse a Perry presidential bid. “I believe God made some valid points about my lack of credentials, and He’s absolutely right. My extreme beliefs when it comes to social issues and states’ rights are not only disturbingly narrow-minded, but would also make me a horrible president.” When reached for comment, God said He would not be present at Perry’s much-talked-about Christian day of prayer on Aug. 6, calling the governor’s use of his public office to endorse a religion both “irresponsible” and a violation of the Constitution.,20981/

NYT: 538 blog: G.O.P. Governors Swing Right, Leaving Voters Behind
Unlike for the Democrats, there is almost no ideological diversity within the group: essentially all of the current Republican governors are quite conservative, taking moderate positions on at most one or two issues. Also unlike the Democrats, there is no correlation between the ideology of the governors and the ideology of the states. Whether you have a Republican governor in a fairly liberal state like Maine, a moderate state like Ohio, or a conservative one like Idaho, his agenda is likely to be highly conservative. . . . So just a year ago, there were plenty of moderate Republican governors — most of them in liberal or moderate states, where they were often quite popular. Now there are almost none, save some borderline cases like Mr. Daniels and Mr. Herbert. The unsurprising result is that Republicans now have a group of extremely unpopular governors — particularly Mr. Scott of Florida, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John R. Kasich of Ohio and Paul R. LePage of Maine, all of whom have disapproval ratings exceeding 50 percent. Other Republican governors in crucial swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania also have below-average ratings.

GRP: University of Michigan study: Republicans, Tea Party used Twitter more effectively than Democrats [in 2010 election]
"The conservative candidates---Republicans and Tea Party members---definitely used Twitter more visibly and showed a more coherent set of messages and topics," assistant professor Eytan Adar said in the release. "They also followed each other much more closely. I think it's fair to say they were much more cohesive in a lot of ways and at the end of the day that makes for a stronger campaign." Researchers found the top terms in Republicans' posts were "spending," "bills," "budget," "WSJ" (Wall Street Journal), "Bush" and "deficit." While Republicans tweeted an average of 723 times, Dems averaged 551 tweets during the study period, covering "education," "jobs," "oil_spill," "clean_energy," "Afghanistan," and "reform."


WAPO: Editorial: Time for the House to move on repealing Defense of Marriage Act
President Obama gave the bill a welcome boost on the eve of the hearing. This is not the first time he has called for DOMA’s repeal, but it was important that he did so now that a bill is under consideration. When, as Mr. Lewis said, people look back decades from now, it will be reassuring to know that the White House was on the right side of this defining civil rights issue.

USAT: Editorial: Murdoch the buccaneer runs up against limits
WSJ: Editorial: News and Its Critics - A tabloid's excesses don't tarnish thousands of other journalists

Several former Murdoch minions are already under arrest or under pressure to talk, and though it seems improbable that Murdoch would have specifically approved hacking, you'd have to be blind not to see there's more to be learned. Why else would Murdoch's son and heir apparent, James, so adamantly resist releasing his former executives from non-disclosure agreements, presumably signed in exchange for handsome reward? And beyond the legal issues is the fact that the Murdochs created a culture that encouraged such behavior. As in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, the question is what did they and their subordinates know, and when did they know it. When the answers are in, the Murdochs may learn the same painful lesson that Richard Nixon ultimately did: It's the coverup that gets you.


States Hit Hardest By Deadly Heat Wave Slashed Energy Assistance For Poor
The cuts began after Congress eliminated millions of dollars in potential aid, forcing state lawmakers to scale back energy assistance programs. . . . Michigan saw the biggest drop in its federal funding, which tumbled from $238 million to $38 million. Texas' funding fell by $28.6 million. The situation could get worse next year. President Barack Obama has proposed cutting funding for the program to $2.5 billion.

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