Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tax Expert: McCain’s Tax Cuts Are Aimed At The Rich ‘Even More So Than Bush’s Were’»

bushmccain.jpgIn 2001 and 2003, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) opposed President Bush’s tax cuts, arguing that he couldn’t “in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us.” But since then, McCain has ditched his concern about policies tilted towards the wealthy and now wants to double Bush’s tax cuts.

Examining McCain’s shifts on taxes today, the Wall Street Journal’s Martin Vaughan writes that “an apt description” for McCain’s tax proposals would be to say “that the wealthy would benefit most.” In fact, as the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards points out, McCain’s proposals are aimed at the wealthy “even more so than Bush’s”:

McCain’s apparent bent towards deeper tax cuts at the higher end of the income scale in his recent campaign proposals surprised many who recall his rejection of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts.

McCain’s proposals this year are consistently pretty supply-side, even more so than Bush’s were,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Earlier this year, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that McCain’s economic plan “would primarily benefit those with very high incomes.” In fact, under McCain’s plan, John and Cindy McCain would get a $300,000 tax break while middle class Americans would save only $319. The McCains save $60,016 more under McCain’s tax plan than under Bush’s.

In their more candid moments, McCain’s supporters admit that he is doubling down on Bush’s tax policies. In May, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that McCain’s “tax policies” would “be in effect a third Bush term.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News in June that McCain’s policies would “absolutely” be an “extension” and “enhancement” of Bush’s.

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McCain's slips, and Reagan's

With Democrats on the precipice of raising the age issue against John McCain, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont seemed to cross the line completely, then immediately backtrack, my colleague Ken Vogel reports.

Leahy told Vogel yesterday the media has given McCain a free pass on flubs including mixing up Middle East geography, Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and referring to Russia's relationship Czechoslovakia — a country that hasn't existed for 15 years.

"It was the same way with Ronald Reagan in the last few years he was president," Leahy said, referring to the belief that Reagan experienced early signs of Alzheimer's disease late in his presidency.

The press "let Ronald Regan get away with" slips, Leahy said, though he denied he was suggesting that McCain was experiencing mental decline.

"No, I'm just saying he gets a free ride," Leahy said.

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Georgia is the graveyard of America's unipolar world

Russia's defiance in the Caucasus has brought down the curtain on Bush senior's new world order - not before time

Seumas Milne

If there were any doubt that the rules of the international game have changed for good, the events of the past few days should have dispelled it. On Monday, President Bush demanded that Russia's leaders reject their parliament's appeal to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Within 24 hours, Bush had his response: President Medvedev announced Russia's recognition of the two contested Georgian enclaves.

The Russian message was unmistakable: the outcome of the war triggered by Georgia's attack on South Ossetia on August 7 is non-negotiable - and nothing the titans of the US empire do or say is going to reverse it. After that, the British foreign secretary David Miliband's posturing yesterday in Kiev about building a "coalition against Russian aggression" merely looked foolish.

That this month's events in the Caucasus signal an international turning point is no longer in question. The comparisons with August 1914 are of course ridiculous, and even the speculation about a new cold war overdone. For all the manoeuvres in the Black Sea and nuclear-backed threats, the standoff between Russia and the US is not remotely comparable to the events that led up to the first world war. Nor do the current tensions have anything like the ideological and global dimensions that shaped the 40-year confrontation between the west and the Soviet Union.

But what is clear is that America's unipolar moment has passed - and the new world order heralded by Bush's father in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1991 is no more. The days when one power was able to bestride the globe like a colossus, enforcing its will in every continent, challenged only by popular movements for national independence and isolated "rogue states", are now over. For nearly two decades, while Russia sunk into "catastroika" and China built an economic powerhouse, the US has exercised unprecedented and unaccountable global power, arrogating to itself and its allies the right to invade and occupy other countries, untroubled by international law or institutions, sucking ever more states into the orbit of its voracious military alliance.

Now, pumped up with petrodollars, Russia has called a halt to this relentless expansion and demonstrated that the US writ doesn't run in every backyard. And although it has been a regional, not a global, challenge, this object lesson in the new limits of American power has already been absorbed from central Asia to Latin America.

In Georgia itself, both Medvedev's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence and Russia's destruction of Georgian military capacity have been designed to leave no room for doubt that the issue of the enclaves' reintegration has been closed. There are certainly dangers for Russia's own territorial integrity in legitimising breakaway states. But the move will have little practical impact and is presumably partly intended to create bargaining chips for future negotiations.

Miliband's attempt in Ukraine, meanwhile, to deny the obvious parallels with the US-orchestrated recognition of Kosovo's independence earlier this year rang particularly hollow, as did his denunciation of invasions of sovereign states and double standards. Both the west and Russia have abused the charge of "genocide" to try and give themselves legal cover, but Russia is surely on stronger ground over South Ossetia - where its own internationally recognised peacekeepers were directly attacked by the Georgian army - than Nato was in Kosovo in 1999, where most ethnic cleansing took place after the US-led assault began.

There has been much talk among western politicians in recent days about Russia isolating itself from the international community. But unless that simply means North America and Europe, nothing could be further from the truth. While the US and British media have swung into full cold-war mode over the Georgia crisis, the rest of the world has seen it in a very different light. As Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's former UN ambassador, observed in the Financial Times a few days ago, "most of the world is bemused by western moralising on Georgia". While the western view is that the world "should support the underdog, Georgia, against Russia ... most support Russia against the bullying west. The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be clearer."

Why that should be so isn't hard to understand. It's not only that the US and its camp followers have trampled on international law and the UN to bring death and destruction to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the early 1990s, the Pentagon warned that to ensure no global rival emerged, the US would need to "account for the interests of advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership". But when it came to Russia, all that was forgotten in a fog of imperial hubris that has left the US overstretched and unable to prevent the return of a multipolar world.

Of course, that new multipolarity can easily be overstated. Russia is a regional power and there is no imminent prospect of a serious global challenger to the US, which will remain overwhelmingly the most powerful state in the world for years to come. It can also exacerbate the risk of conflict. But only the most solipsistic western mindset can fail to grasp the necessity of a counterbalance in international relations that can restrict the freedom of any one power to impose its will on other countries unilaterally.

One western response, championed by the Times this week, is to damn this growing challenge to US domination on the grounds that it is led by autocratic states in the shape of Russia and China. In reality, western alarm clearly has very little to do with democracy. When Russia collapsed into the US orbit under Boris Yeltsin, his bombardment of the Russian parliament and shamelessly rigged elections were treated with the greatest western understanding.

The real gripe is not with these states' lack of accountability - Russian public opinion is in any case overwhelmingly supportive of its government's actions in Georgia - but their strategic challenge and economic rivalry. For the rest of us, a new assertiveness by Russia and other rising powers doesn't just offer some restraint on the unbridled exercise of global imperial power, it should also increase the pressure for a revival of a rules-based system of international relations. In the circumstances, that might come to seem quite appealing to whoever is elected US president.

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ABC Reporter Arrested in Denver Taking Pictures of Senators, Big Donors


DENVER -- Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.

Asa in custody
Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he was attempting to take pictures of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.
(ABC News)
More Photos

Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit.

(Click here to watch video of the arrest.)

A cigar-smoking Denver police sergeant, accompanied by a team of five other officers, first put his hands on Eslocker's neck, then twisted the producer's arm behind him to put on handcuffs.

A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.

Eslocker was put in handcuffs and loaded in the back of a police van which headed for a nearby police station.

Video taken at the scene shows a man, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County sheriff, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to the side of the entrance.

The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.

It was two hours later when Denver police arrived to place Eslocker under arrest, apparently based on a complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel, a central location for Democratic officials.

During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, "You're lucky I didn't knock the f..k out of you."

Eslocker was released late today after posting $500 bond.

Eslocker and his ABC News colleagues are spending the week investigating the role of corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the convention for a series of Money Trail reports on ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."

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Harriet Miers Must Testify, Judge Says


A federal judge denied the White House's last-ditch attempt to block a former aide from testifying before Congress as part of the investigation into the U.S. Attorney scandal.

Bolten Mier
Todayis ruling is expected to pave the wave for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to testify before Congress in the coming months. It also urges the White House to turn over documents subpoenaed from former chief of staff Joshua Bolten.
(ABC News)

Today's ruling by Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is expected to pave the way for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, who returned to her old law firm in Texas, to testify before Congress in the coming months. It also urges the White House to turn over documents subpoenaed from former chief of staff Joshua Bolten.

"If the government is trying to run out the clock on the 110th Congress, today's decision suggests that Judge Bates won't let them," said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, praised the decision and pledged to schedule a hearing for Miers shortly.

"I am heartened that Judge Bates recognized that the public interest in this matter is best served by the furtherance of the Committee's investigation," he said in a statement.

The decision came in response to the White House's request for a stay to Bates' ruling last month requiring Miers and Bolten to comply with congressional subpoenas until an appeal is complete.

In his decision, Bates ruled that such a stay was not legally required.

"Without any supporting judicial precedent whatsoever -- and, indeed, in the face of Supreme Court case law that effectively forecloses the basis for the assertion of absolute immunity here -- it is difficult to see how the Executive can demonstrate that it has a substantial likelihood of success on appeal, or even that a serious legal question is presented," Bates wrote.

Indeed, he wrote, there was little harm to the White House or Miers if she were to appear before the committee because the administration could still appeal its claim of immunity.

Instead, Bates wrote, if she did not testify, "there is a very strong possibility that the Committee will be unable to complete its investigation before Congress expires. That may leave important public concerns regarding the nation's federal criminal justice system unaddressed."

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Miers and Bolten in June 2007, after the White House declined several requests from Democrats for information. When the two failed to comply with the subpoenas, the House held them in contempt and sought court help to enforce the decision.

Despite White House protest, Bates ruled last month that the two did not have blanket immunity from congressional inquiries, although they could invoke executive privilege in response to specific questions or requests.

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Kucinich tells DNC: 'Wake up America!'

DENVER -- He might not have had the marquee billing of a Mark Warner or a Hillary Clinton, but Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) nonetheless whipped his party faithful into a frenzy Tuesday evening.

The Ohio lawmaker and liberal stalwart who earlier sought the Democratic presidential nomination delivered a passionate address calling on those in the audience here in Denver and watching at home to "wake up" and prevent another four years of Republican rule.

"Wake up America," Kucinich declared from the podium of the Democratic National Convention. "In 2001 the oil companies, the war contractors and the neocon-artists seized the economy and added $4 trillion of unproductive spending to the national debt. ... Trillions of dollars for an unnecessary war paid for with borrowed money."

Though he never mentioned GOP nominee John McCain by name, Kucinich's address was in line with Democrats' strategy to take a harsher tone of attack against the Arizona Republican and his party.

"We cannot afford another Republican administration," Kucinich said. "Wake up, America; the insurance companies took over health care. Wake up, America; the pharmaceutical companies took over drug pricing. Wake up, America; the speculators took over Wall Street. ... Wake up, America; we went into Iraq for oil."

Kucinich, a favorite of the party's liberal base who has led a push to impeach President Bush, enumerated some of the administration's most egregious abuses but said they would not dampen Democrats' spirits. As his speech crescendoed to its peak, the audience rose in boisterous applause.

"This administration can tap our phones -- but they can' t tamper our creative spirit," he said. "They can open our mail, but the can' t open economic opportunities. They can track our every move, but they lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline, and electricity skyrockets. Now, they have skillfully played our post 9/11 fears, and they've allowed the few to profit at the expense of the many."

This video is from C-SPAN, broadcast August 26, 2008.

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