MY MISSION is to alter the very framework of the nation's political dialogue. Read more



ICYMI: PoliticsNation on April 22

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From PoliticsNation

Case builds against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Former prosecutors Catherine Crier and Kelly Currie break down the charages against the 19-year-old accused of the Boston Marathon bombings.

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Happy Presidents’ Day: Read George Washington’s Farewell Address

Today our great country takes a day to remember all of the presidents who have led our country since its founding. In honor of George Washington’s birthday this Friday, the U.S. Senate will also read his farewell address. In this letter to “Friends and Citizens,” Washington warned that the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation’s domestic affairs threatened the stability of the Republic. He urged Americans to subordinate sectional jealousies to common national interests.

Take some time either today or later this week to read Washington’s farewell address, and have a wonderful and joyous Presidents’ Day!

Gilbert_Stuart_Williamstown_Portrait_of_George_Washington

Washington’s Farewell Address
1796

Friends and Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

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Collective Net Worth of Congress Increased $390 Million from 2008 to 2012

Underreported… I’ll say. At the end of 2012, the editors of Time Magazine posted their picks for most overlooked news of the year, and I think the fourth-most underreported story deserves far more attention than it initially received.

According to Roll Call, the collective net worth of members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives rose to $2.04 billion in 2012, up from $1.65 billion in 2008—an increase that averages out to nearly three quarters of a million dollars per congress member. Read the full story below, then share your thoughts.

From Roll Call

And Congress’ Rich Get Richer
Net Worth of Lawmakers Up 25 Percent in Two Years, Analysis Demonstrates

By Paul Singer and Jennifer Yachnin
Nov. 1, 2011, Midnight

Members of Congress such as Rep. Michael McCaul reported major increases in their net worth, and Congress’ collective net worth also increased. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 total, according to a Roll Call analysis of Members’ financial disclosure forms.

Nearly 90 percent of that increase is concentrated in the 50 richest Members of Congress.

Two years ago, Roll Call found that the minimum net worth of House Members was slightly more than $1 billion; Senators had a combined minimum worth of $651 million for a Congressional total of $1.65 billion. Roll Call calculates minimum net worth by adding the minimum values of all reported assets and subtracting the minimum values of all reported liabilities.

According to financial disclosure forms filed by Members of Congress this year, the minimum net worth in the House has jumped to $1.26 billion, and Senate net worth has climbed to at least $784 million, for a Congressional total of $2.04 billion.

These wealth totals vastly underestimate the actual net worth of Members of Congress because they are based on an accounting system that does not include homes and other non-income-generating property, which is likely to tally hundreds of millions of uncounted dollars. In addition, Roll Call’s tally is based on the minimum values of assets reported by Members on their annual financial disclosure forms; the true values of those assets may be much higher.

While wealth overall is scattered fairly evenly between the two parties, there is an interesting divide in the two chambers. Democrats hold about 80 percent of the wealth in the Senate; Republicans control about 78 percent of the wealth in the House.

And as protesters around the country decry the supposed consolidation of wealth in America, the trend can be seen starkly in Congress, a comparison suggested by American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar Mark Perry. The 50 richest Members of Congress accounted for 78 percent of the net worth in the institution in 2008 ($1.29 billion of the $1.65 billion total); by 2010 the share of the 50 richest had risen to 80 percent ($1.63 billion of the $2.04 billion total). The pie of Congressional wealth got bigger, and the richest Members are getting a bigger slice.

But there is still plenty to go around. Overall, 219 Members of Congress reported having assets worth more than $1 million last year; subtracting the minimum value of their liabilities brings the total number of millionaires in Congress down to 196 — again not counting any value on their homes or other non-income-producing property. If one were to assume that every Member of Congress has $200,000 worth of equity in real estate, the total number of millionaires would rise to 220 Members, just more than 40 percent of the Congress.

As with the general U.S. population, a few exceedingly wealthy people skew the averages for the rest of the membership. But still, by almost any measure, the average Member of Congress is far wealthier than the average U.S. household.

For example, dividing the total wealth of Congress by the number of Members creates a mean (average) net worth for each Member of about $3.8 million (excluding non-income-producing property such as personal residences). By comparison, for the rest of the country, based on statistics released by the Federal Reserve, average household net worth is around $500,000 this year (including personal residences), according to David Rosnick, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

But a handful of Members of Congress are worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars — the richest Member of Congress this year, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), is worth a minimum of $294 million, meaning that McCaul’s own wealth has the effect of raising the average of every Member of Congress by about $500,000.

So a better number for comparison is the median, the number where half the group is above and half the group is below. For Congress, the median net worth in 2010 was about $513,000. For regular households, the Federal Reserve Board pegged that number at about $120,000 in 2008, and that number this year is probably around $100,000, Rosnick said.

While it is hard to make an exact comparison between Congress and the rest of the nation, what is clear is lawmakers “are all a lot richer than anything you would call a typical American,” Rosnick said.

And Congress appears to be getting richer faster than the rest of the nation. Citing Federal Reserve data, Rosnick said, “From the end of 2008 to end of 2010, aggregate household worth increased
12 percent.” That is about half the increase Congress achieved during the same time period.

The cautionary note in any Congressional wealth analysis is that significant changes in apparent wealth of Members do not necessarily represent an actual change in net worth.

For example, Rep. Darrell Issa reported this year that his 2010 assets were worth at least $295 million, nearly double what they were the year before. The reason for the change appears to be in part because the California Republican moved some properties from a single account into separate accounts. An account that Issa had listed as having a minimum value of $50 million in 2009 dropped to a minimum value of $25 million in 2010, but he added 11 accounts with a minimum combined value of $38.2 million. Even if none of the actual account (or property) values increased, the minimum value of those assets on paper rises by $13.2 million, or more than 25 percent.

Alan Ziobrowski, a professor of real estate at Georgia State University, has produced studies of Congressional investment patterns indicating that lawmakers in both chambers tend to fare better in their investment portfolios than the average American, in part because “[t]here is no doubt in my mind that they are trading in some way on information that is there.”

But he also points out that the Membership of Congress has turned over since 2008, making it difficult to compare wealth over time. “You’ve got different people,” he said.

In the aftermath of the 2010 elections that swept Republicans to power, about 20 percent of the Members included in the 2010 survey were not included in the 2008 survey.

ICYMI: NOW with Alex Wagner on December 26th

It appears that Republicans are suffering from political amnesia as the year-end deadline for Congress to reach a budget agreement approaches. Instead of relying on knee-jerk ideology, we must make an honest assessment of our economic history and current predicaments. Do current economic policies serve the interests of our citizens and promote the nation’s well-being? Are these policies faithful to our political ideals?

On Wednesday, I joined Ari Melber, Jonathan Chait, Joy-Ann Reid, Nick Confessore, and John Harwood on NOW with Alex Wagner to discuss budget negotiations in Congress, gun control, and Chuck Hagel’s Secretary of Defense nomination. Watch the videos below for highlights from our discussion and share your thoughts.

From NOW w/ Alex Wagner

Where were we before Boehner’s Plan B?
The NOW panel – including New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, the Grio’s Joy-Ann Reid, the New York Times’ Nick Confessore, CNBC’s John Harwood and author Catherine Crier – discusses the latest in the fiscal cliff proceedings.

Gun regulation: One step forward, many steps back
Will new concern about gun control after the Sandy Hook massacre spur legislators into action, or will people’s concern dwindle with the media’s coverage? Nicholas Confessore, Joy-Ann Reid, Jonathan Chait, and Catherine Crier discuss the NRA’s agenda and whether or not they’ve artificially frozen the debate on gun control.

 

Cabinet caution: Does Chuck Hagel stand a chance?
By opposing George W. Bush’s 2007 Iraq surge, former Senator Chuck Hagel endeared himself to anti-war Democrats but lost a lot of Republican support. Now Hagel, potentially President Obama’s pick for the next Secretary of Defense, is getting flak from Republicans and even some Democrats for his views on Israel, Iran, and his previous comments on gay rights.

NOW’s Best Moments of 2012
From angry attack muffins to fetching holiday sweaters and how to get your “wag’ on, a look back at the year at NOW.

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Frank Luntz: NRA not listening to public

Banning the ownership of assault and semi-automatic weaponry DOES NOT infringe upon the Second Amendment right to bear arms. NRA members polled by GOP strategist Frank Luntz suggest that a majority of gun owners are in favor of more sensible laws.

The NRA’s lobbying efforts are designed to protect the interests of gun manufacturers, not the public. When will capital-R Reason surmount the influence of big business?

Activists+Take+Part+Second+Amendment+March+DHjGLjn5kcQl

From The Huffington Post

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Highly Secretive Trade Agreement Designed to Exempt Multinational Corporations from Domestic Law

Leaked documents coming out of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations need greater public exposure before it is too late. Over the past two years, the United States has been meeting behind closed doors with eight Pacific nations, drafting an agreement designed to exempt multinational corporations from legal recourse if they violate domestic laws. If the leaks are anything at all representative of Trans-Pac’s final outcome, this agreement will set a dangerous precedent for government abdication of national interests to global corporatism.

We know that ‘hard to explain’ stories are sometimes ignored by mainstream media, but this could be a major game changer for the future of democratic self-governance, Rule of Law, and the ability of US citizens and political representatives to protect our national sovereignty. If you’re not getting more information on this story from sources you trust, you must demand a thorough investigation into how this dangerous trade agreement will limit our ability to hold foreign corporations accountable for activities on U.S. soil.

EFF created this infographic to capture the most problematic aspects of TPP, and to help users, advocates and innovators from around the world spread the word about how this agreement will impact them and their societies.

From Alternet

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Guns reduce and restrict liberty; they do not ensure our way of life.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the national security implications of corporate influence on government, democracy, and civil society. He echoed Lincoln’s warnings in his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction…

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

The following New York Times op-ed written by Firmin Debrabander is right on the money. Guns reduce and restrict liberty; they do not ensure our way of life.

From The New York Times

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Fracking Research at UT Austin Withdrawn Following Independent Review

Finally, a major university recognized a major bias in its science. An independent review by science administrators found that the head of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas received money from a firm involved in hydraulic fracturing for shale gas prior to releasing a report on its potential environmental impacts. After the review was recently made public, the paper was finally withdrawn, and the head of the Energy Institute accepted full responsibility and resigned.

Today, public education is under familiar economic pressures to conform to narrow standards and offer subjective knowledge. Interest groups are clamoring to insert their agenda’s into both the classroom and scientific studies. Steps such as those taken by the University of Texas at Austin might serve as a guideline for how ethical issues in our public institutions can be addressed justly without compromising the public’s trust.

From Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth

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Corporate Profits Reach Highest Percentage of GDP On Record as Total Wages Fall to Record Low

What’s good for corporations is not always good for the country, its people, or the capitalist system we allegedly defend; it’s time we make the distinctions. A little more than two years after the 2008 financial crisis, corporate profits were hitting record highs and our gross domestic product was growing again.

Today, our nation’s fiscal health depends more on increased consumption than on the production of goods and services. But average real wages for most workers have stagnated or fallen over the last thirty-five years, and good jobs are disappearing. Just look at the Commerce Department’s latest GDP report, which shows corporate profits have hit their highest percentage of GDP on record at the same time as total wages have fallen to a record low. Without employment or income, what’s the key to our economic recovery?

The Commerce Department's latest GDP report shows corporate profits have hit their highest percentage of GDP on record at the same time as total wages have fallen to a record low

From CNNMoney

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Infrastructure Spending Produces Big Returns for All Americans

Our public dollars are well spent creating platforms on which private enterprise can prosper. With interest rates at nearly zero, low labor costs, and the construction industry with all its suppliers scrambling for work, we should be pouring stimulus dollars into our schools, roads, and bridges. We should be building a new energy grid and sending wireless technology into every corner of the land. These are the measures that will produce big returns for all Americans.

With the economy recovering slowly and our nation’s roads and bridges crumbling, a new study from the San Francisco Federal Reserve found that making investments into infrastructure has substantial short- and medium-term benefits for the economy. Read their findings here or look below for a quick recap of the study and share your thoughts.

From Business Insider

STUDY: Every $1 Of Infrastructure Spending Boosts The Economy By $2

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