People are spending more time with news than ever before, but they are increasingly finding it on the Internet while the cable TV audience declined, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, in its State of the News Media 2011 (stateofthemedia.org) reported. In December 2010, 41% of Americans cited the Internet as the place where they got “most of their news about national and international issues,” up 17% from a year earlier. When it came to any kind of news, 46% of people now say they get news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40%) for the first time. Only local TV news is a more popular platform in America now (50%). The new wild card in digital is mobile. A new survey released as part of the State of the News Media finds that 47% of Americans say they get some kind of local news on mobile devices such as “smart” phones or other wireless devices (such as iPads). As of January 2011, just 7% of Americans owned electronic tablets, according to the new survey, but that is nearly double from four months prior; and 6% of American adults have e-readers.

Cable News’ audience declined substantially. In aggregate, the median viewership fell 13.7% across the entire day in 2010. Prime-time median viewership fell even more, 16%, to an average of 3.2 mln, according to Pew’s analysis of Nielsen Market Research data. Daytime fell 12%. And for the first time in a dozen years since Pew has been monitoring it, every channel was losing. CNN suffered most, as its median prime-time viewership fell 37% to 564,000 viewers, and MSNBC beat it in total viewers during prime time for the first time. But Fox fell, too, 11%, while MSNBC declined 5%.

Network News audiences fell again in 2010. Evening news audiences fell by 752,000 viewers, or 3.4%, from 2009 and have been on a downward trend for three decades. Network evening news is, however, still an extraordinarily powerful source of information in America. Some 21.6 mln people on average watched one of the three programs each night. That is roughly four times the combined number watching each cable news channel’s highest-rated program. In the morning, an average of 12.4 mln people tuned in each day over the year, 3% fewer than in 2009. That is the sixth consecutive year of losses. The PBS NewsHour averaged 1.1 mln viewers nightly during the 2009-10 season, basically unchanged from the year before.

Newspapers — Circulation also continued to decline, 5% weekdays and 4.5% Sunday for the six-month period ending 9/30. The good news is that the losses in 2009 were double that. Online audience, though imprecisely measured, did grow some, and many papers can claim their overall audience is bigger than ever, but the data suggest that it did not fully compensate for print losses industrywide. One survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, finds the total audience that reads newspapers, in print and online, at least three times a week dropped by 6 percentage points over the last two years. By this count, 40% of Americans report reading a newspaper in any form, down from 46% in 2008 and 52% in 2006. The number of those who reported reading “yesterday” print and online now sits at 37%, down 2 percentage points from 2008.

Magazines — Circulation for the six news magazines in the report fell 8.9%. By far the largest portion of that, subscriptions, fell 8.6%, but that number is controlled, based on how much magazines want to spend to “buy” readers. Newsstand sales, which is a smaller component, dropped 17.7%. Circulation for the magazine industry as a whole dropped 1.5%. [Note: TPP circulation remains stable, but it’s still too low, so spread the word!]

Radio’s audience has remained among the most stable, as 93% of Americans listened to AM/FM radio at some point during the week in 2010, according to Arbitron, and this has dropped only 3 points in the last decade. Fewer people get their news from radio, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which found 16% of Americans say they get most of their national and international news from radio, down 6% from 2009. And 34% of Americans said they got some news on the radio “yesterday,” down from 43% in 2000. NPR, by contrast, has flourished as commercial all-news radio programming has become scarcer. NPR’s audience grew 3% in 2010, according to NPR internal data, to 27.2 mln a week. That is up 58% since 2000.

But the biggest change in radio listening may be just ahead. More than 90% of political talk shows on commerical radio preach to the right wing, reflecting the political preferences of station owners, while progressive talkers are limited to less 100 commercial radio stations and the Internet. But a good deal of radio listening occurs in cars, and Pew noted, “we are on the brink of Internet radio being widely available there for the first time. Toyota is including Pandora in its multimedia system in all new models in mid-2011. Pandora also signed a deal with Pioneer that would put its online radio service in at least six other car manufacturers by the end of 2011.” More than quarter of Americans (27%) said they were “very interested” in online radio in the car in 2010; this is up 17 points from 2009. (Coincidentally, telecom corporations are lobbying against “net neutrality” rules that would guarantee the free flow of information on the Internet.)

LIBS KEEP MSNBC IN THE BLACK. Right-wingers continue to suggest that progressive talk shows can’t make money, but MSNBC appears to be thriving with its liberal-oriented programming in the evening. Fox News, with its 2mln right-wing viewers, maintained the lead in cable TV revenues, with an estimated $816.3 mln in profits on $1.5 bln in revenues in 2010, according to estimates by the market research firm SNL Kagan, cited in the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2011. But MSNBC, which achieved profitability in 2004 after hiring aggressively liberal host Keith Olbermann, netted $172 mln in profits on $382.5 mln in revenues in 2010. (CNN/HLN, despite falling behind MSNBC in ratings, got an estimated $559.6 mln profit on $1.23 bln in revenue, as it was still able to charge more for ads based on its 30-year-old brand name.) MSNBC’s 220,000 viewers in the preferred 25-54 demographic and 845,000 total viewers in primetime (4/21) were about half the viewers of Fox News, who scored 378K/2,177K viewers but held a wide lead over CNN’s 125K/622K and Headline News’ 100K/347K. Lawrence O’Donnell, who replaced Olbermann at 8 p.m. ET in January, has consolidated his position, drawing 280K/1,099K (4/21), compared with Olbermann’s 303K/1,231K a year earlier (4/29/10). Rachel Maddow’s 343K/1,064K is strong in the 25-54 demo, and Ed Schultz’s 250K/761K are respectable numbers and — more importantly — shows that an economic populist can draw those numbers. And MSNBC is grooming another progressive host in Cenk Uygur, who drew 179K/673K at 6 p.m. ET (4/21).

OLBERMANN RETURNS TO CABLE TV IN JUNE. Keith Olbermann, who abruptly quit his MSNBC show in January, announced (4/26) that he will debut a new cable news program on Current TV at 8 p.m. ET June 20. In a video posted at his website (foknewschannel.com), Olbermann said “I wanted to go somewhere that I could expand upon and enlarge upon the work I’d already done, a place where journalistic integrity and analytical honesty would never be compromised by corporate synergy.” Olbermann quit MSNBC just a few days after the FCC approved the merger of NBC and Comcast, prompting speculation that Olbermann was concerned about the new management. He said he was “delightfully started at the free hand” given by Current TV, which was co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore in 2005. (Comcast also owns a 10% stake in Current TV.)

RISING GAS PRICES PUMP UP OIL CO. PROFITS. The increase in crude-oil and gas prices is expected to lift earnings by 50% at Exxon Mobil Corp. and about 33% each at Chevron and ConocoPhillips, compared with a year earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported (4/25). Despite the sky-high profits, Pat Garofalo noted at ThinkProgress.org (4/25), House Republicans voted unanimously in March to preserve the billions in subsidies that oil companies receive from the federal government. In April, the House approved another bill that would restrict the Interior Department’s ability to review offshore drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to expedite more drilling. However, Steve Hargreaves of CNN Money noted (4/25) that more drilling won’t drive prices noticeably lower. A 2009 study from the government’s Energy Information Administration found that opening up waters that are currently closed to drilling off the East Coast, West Coast and the west coast of Florida would yield an extra 500,000 barrels a day by 2030. The world currently consumes 89 mln barrels a day, and by then would likely be using over 100 mln barrels.

After OPEC got done adjusting its production to reflect the increased American output, Hargreaves wrote, gas prices might drop a whopping 3 cents a gallon.

Since there is no shortage of oil supplies on the world market, the real cause for the gas price increase is speculation in oil and gas futures. Energies futures markets used to be the domain of companies like airlines and shippers, which appropriately use trades to hedge against price volatility, but the markets are increasingly dominated by speculators who are only interested in making profits, Alex Seitz-Wald noted at ThinkProgress.org.

Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.) told ThinkProgress a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) told him a significant portion of what we’re paying here is due to the speculation.

Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said, “There is also, obviously, a lot of manipulation. It’s a little hard to detect it. But there actually been articles in the last couple weeks talking about the Koch Brothers, in addition to all their other good works, have been involved in oil speculation over the years. So there is an an international market that is subject to manipulation.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) added, “I still fell like speculation drives up the prices. And I would he happy to see us do more about that.”

ThinkProgress noted that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law passed last year actually calls for regulators in the CFTC to crack down on speculation, but conservative commissioners have thus far blocked the implementation of the law. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have tried to defund and defang the CFTC, which would leave the markets at the mercy of speculators.

VERMONT MOVES TOWARD SINGLE-PAYER HEALTH PLAN. The Vermont Senate (4/26) gave final approval to a bill that would set up a single-payer health-care system in the state. The Senate rejected most amendments offered by Republicans before finally passing the bill 21-9. The bill will have to be reconciled with the House, which passed a similar bill 92-49 (3/24). The Senate inserted a series of thresholds that must be met before the state can set up its publicly financed system, to be called Green Mountain Care, the Associated Press reported. Vermont Public Radio reported that legislative leaders believe it will be easy to resolve those issues.

Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has said he will sign the bill, which will make Vermont the first state where “health care will be a right and not a privilege.”

A major hurdle that remains is that Vermont must obtain a waiver from the federal health care reform act, which allows states to pursue their own approaches to health care reform in 2017. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has introduced a bill to move the waiver date up to 2014. President Obama has endorsed the change in the waiver date.

State Rep. George Till (D-Jericho), a physician who supports the move, said more than a quarter of Vermont’s doctors he surveyed said they would leave the state if Vermont moves to a single-payer system. But another doctor noted that the survey was unscientific and there was no way to prove that all the respondents were doctors or were from Vermont. Peggy Carey, interim chairperson of the Vermont chapter of Physicians for a National Health program, said she has the names of more than 200 doctors from 39 states who would seriously consider moving to Vermont if it adopts a publicly financed single-payer system.

One of the out-of-state doctors who would consider relocating is Scott Graham, a family physician in Marion, Ky. “I would certainly consider moving to Vermont if it passed single payer,” he said. “The idea of having one set of rules, one form for billing, and knowing that all patients are covered – that would be wonderful.”

GOP SLASHES FOOD STAMPS. There are plenty of bad things about the House GOP’s budget in addition to privatizing Medicare and converting Medicaid to block grants. The Republican budget also would convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) to block grants and funding would be cut 20%. That would save $127 bln between now and 2021, but it also would hurt millions of low-income Americans who rely on food stamps, particularly during a recession. Meteor Blades noted at DailyKos.com (4/20) that between December 2007 and December 2009, as 8.4 mln people lost their jobs and others were forced into part-time work, SNAP’s caseload rose by 45% and its spending by 102%. Although that demand is expected to decline as unemployed people find jobs, this is no time to make arbitrary cuts that punish people who have little recourse — 93% of SNAP benefits go to households below the poverty line, now set at $22,350 for a family of four.

PENTAGON: SLASH OUR BUDGET. As congressional leaders engaged in a last-minute game of chicken over the federal budget (4/8), John Norris noted at ForeignPolicy.com (4/13), the Pentagon quietly issued a report that received little attention: “A National Strategic Narrative,” under the pseudonym “Mr Y,” that argues that the US is fundamentally wrong when it comes to setting its priorities, particularly with regard to the budget and the use of resources.

The piece was written by two senior members of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, a Navy captain and a Marine colonel, in a “personal” capacity, but Norris, executive director of the Sustainable Security program at the Center for American Progress, wrote that “it is clear that it would not have seen the light of day without a measure of official approval. Its findings are revelatory, and they deserve to be read and appreciated not only by every lawmaker in Congress, but by every American citizen.”

The report says Americans are overreacting to Islamic extremism, underinvesting in our youth, and failing to embrace the sense of competition and opportunity that made America a world power. The United States has been increasingly consumed by seeing the world through the lens of threat, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness, and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world, Norris wrote. “Courageously, the authors make the case that America continues to rely far too heavily on its military as the primary tool for how it engages the world. Instead of simply pumping more and more dollars into defense, the narrative argues: ‘By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans — the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow — we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.’

“Yet, it is investments in America’s long-term human resources that have come under the fiercest attack in the current budget environment,” Norris wrote. “As the United States tries to compete with China, India, and the European Union, does it make sense to have almost doubled the Pentagon budget in the last decade while slashing education budgets across the country?”

Norris also noted that the budget deal that kept the government going lopped $8 bln off funding for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development. Defense spending was left untouched. “Congress doesn’t seem to have gotten the wake-up call,” Norris noted.

He added that use of the pseudonym “Mr. Y” was a takeoff on George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow, published under the name “X” the following year in Foreign Affairs, that helped set containment as the cornerstone of US strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.

PULITZER GOES TO HEALTH REFORM ALARMIST. Joseph Rago in April was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in recognition of his editorials for the Wall Street Journal that condemned President Obama’s health care reform. “During his obsessive attack on health care reform, Rago claimed the initiative would destroy U.S. health care, ‘accelerates the march toward a totally state-driven system,’ and yes, Rago warned ‘medicine will be rationed by politics,’” Eric Boehlert wrote at MediaMatters.org (4/19).

“That’s just a small taste of Rago’s relentlessly shrill attacks from last year; not the serious tone often associated with winning the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.”

Among the entries that won Rago the Pulitzer was a December effort in which he defended the widely debunked lie that the Obama health care reform equaled “government takeover of health care”; that the federal government would be in total control of health care in this county, the way the government is in socialist countries.  “Rago insisted the lie was true after PolitiFact not only deemed the claim to be false, but also awarded the whopper its ‘Lie of Year’ title last December,” Boehlert wrote.

FactCheck.org, an independent fact-checking group run by the University of Pennsylvania, has debunked it several times, calling it one of the “whoppers” about health care and saying the reform plan is neither “government-run” nor a “government takeover.”

FLORIDA: CORPORATE DREAM COME TRUE. Florida has long been a case study in out-of-control sprawl and wanton environmental destruction for many decades, but in the mid-’80s the state attempted to get its act together by passing a growth management law that reined in the freedom of local governments to sell their souls to the nearest deep-pocketed developer.

That was then. Now Florida is governed by Republican super-majorities in both the House and Senate and an arch-conservative in the governor’s office and the developers are fighting back. The growth management law is about to be gutted — along with just about every other currently existing hindrance to the corporate freedom to gouge as much cash as possible out of the Sunshine state.

The Orlando Sentinel has the deeply depressing, but essential story. An overwhelming flood of corporate campaign donations to Republicans in Florida has achieved an astonishing capitalist makeover. It’s pay-off day!

“Business interest groups in Tallahassee are already describing this year as a ‘generational opportunity’ to pass sweeping ‘free-market’ reforms that have sat on their shelves for years.

“From new restrictions on personal-injury lawsuits against automakers, limits on unemployment pay and benefit cuts for public workers to a wave of tax breaks for individual companies, the Legislature is advancing virtually the entire business-lobby playbook this session — measures that in previous years would have been too polarizing to pass.”

AT&T is pushing for rate hikes and deregulation of state oversight. A private prison operator is pushing a bill that would privatize more prisons. A power utility wants permission to tax Florida residents to pay for building solar power plants. Health insurance groups are seeking changes in how Medicaid is run. The Florida Association of Realtors wants to cut property taxes. Universal Orlando wants tax breaks to encourage film and TV production at its own studios. And so on.

Pigs at the trough. — Andrew Leonard at Salon.com.

MICHIGAN DICTATORS SEIZE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. A new law in Michigan that allows the governor to name “emergency managers” with dictatorial powers to take over local governments and break contracts has stirred protests as the dictators have taken over the Detroit public school system and the impoverished former industrial town of Benton Harbor. The Detroit school dictator issued layoffs to all 5,466 public school teachers while the Benton Harbor dictator banned the city commission from taking any action without his written permission.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) approved a state takeover of Benton Harbor’s finances last year under the previous law, but the new law signed by Gov.Rick Snyder (R) gives the “emergency manager” virtually unlimited power over local governments, MichiganMessenger.com reported (4/20). As many as nine local governments and school districts may require state review under Michigan’s new Emergency Manager law, state Treasurer Andy Dillon said (3/16) as Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill into law, but Dillon declined to name those governments. As more people around the state become alarmed that their local government might be dissolved, petitioners are seeking to gather signatures from 161,305 people, or 5% of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election, to call a referendum to overturn the law. See (facebook.com/rejectemergencymanagers).

WISCONSIN DEMS HOPE TO RECALL 6 GOP SENS. Wisconsin Democrats have filed recall petitions against five Republican senators who voted for the union-busting bill in apparent violation of the state’s open meetings act, and a sixth petition was expected to be filed before the deadline, Chris Bowers reported at DailyKos.com (4/26). Democrats need to win three seats to regain the Senate majority. Republicans have filed petitions against three Democratic senators, but failed to meet the deadline to recall two others, the Associated Press reported (4/25).

Democracy for America, the group started by Howard Dean following his 2004 presidential campaign, said it raised nearly $800,000 to run ads and help with the recall campaign. In addition, 2,500 volunteers signed up with DFA to help gather signatures. The group, with 25,000 members in Wisconsin alone, expects that number to only grow.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has nearly 25,000 Wisconsin members, also poured resources into an ad campaign to keep momentum behind the recall efforts. Their efforts focused on three GOP state senators (Alberta Darling, Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper).

CORPORATIONS OUTSOURCED 2.9M JOBS SINCE ’01. Corporate America has cut 2.9 mln jobs in the US over the past decade while hiring 2.4 mln people overseas, the Wall Street Journal reported (4/19). The Journal noted that this is actually a sharp reversal from trends in the late 1990s, when these major companies were creating more jobs in the United States than overseas. Yet by 2001, things took a turn for the worse, and these corporations have been adding more jobs abroad than at home.

S.C. SEN. SICS TEA PARTY ON CORPORATE TAX BREAKS. At the Tax Day Tea Party in Columbia, S.C. (4/18), after the routine speeches blasting the Obama administration and liberals, state Sen. Tom Davis (R) explained to the crowd that corporations are dominating South Carolina by hiring lobbyists, then demanding huge tax giveaways from the “ruling elite” of politicians. After the speech, Lee Fang of ThinkProgress.org spoke with Davis about corporate influence in politics and his fight against tax giveaways to powerful businesses. Those tax breaks have ballooned from $34 mln in targeted tax credits in 1998 to over $1 bln this year in a state where the general fund is $5.1 bln. “Who pays the bill are those folks out there that don’t have the power to hire lobbyists,” he said.

Fang noted (4/23) that the real Boston Tea Party was a revolt against a corporate tax cut given to the East India Trading Co., which gave the British corporation a monopoly over the tea trade in colonial America, and many of the current Tea Party movement are receptive to the anti-corporate message. “The anti-corporate streak of the Tea Party has been muffled by corporate-dominated front groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, which are both run by lobbyists,” Fang wrote. “But in ThinkProgress’ conversations with ordinary Tea Party activists, many have expressed concerns that corporate lobbyists have far too much influence in politics. When asked about massive subsidies given to the oil industry, or the fact that dozens of some of the most profitable corporations in America don’t pay a dime in corporate income taxes, Tea Party activists have agreed with progressives that there is a structural imbalance in the political system towards corporate power.

“Notably, many companies like Koch Industries (which funds fronts like Americans for Prosperity) have falsely claimed to represent the spirit of the Boston Tea Party. In fact, Koch Industries has used its lobbying power to demand a $50 million tax break from states like Kansas, and has lobbied to pollute tens of billions of dollars worth of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for free.”

‘THE DONALD’ TAKES THE LOW ROAD. If Donald Trump has proved anything in his abortive run for president — which MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell insists is just a way to generate publicity for Trump’s NBC TV show — it is that “The Donald” is at best a moron who is tone-deaf to the racist appeal of his questioning whether President Obama’s “certificate of live birth” issued by the state of Hawaii qualifies as a “birth certificate” (the state of Hawaii seems to think so). Trump said he has sent a team of researchers to Hawaii to disprove the fact that Obama was born there. Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper (4/26) that he learned the the birth certificate is “not there and it doesn’t exist.” Who told him that? “Somebody,” Trump said.

CNN researchers spoke with Dr. Chiyome Fukino, former Hawaii Department of Health Director and a Republican, who inspected the original birth certificate, which she said was “absolutely authentic,” but she said the “certificate of live birth” is the only birth certificate issued by the state for official usage. She also disputed Trump’s suggestion that Obama is hiding that he’s a Muslim, pointing out that no birth certificate from that time mentions faith.

Aware of Trump’s claim that no one remembers baby Obama, CNN talked with Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), who remembers celebrating the birth with Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, as well as Dunham’s college adviser and another mother who gave birth in the hospital when Obama was born. She remembered because “in those days, there were hardly any other black babies.”

On 4/25, Trump also raised questions about how the future president — who Trump said had been a “terrible student” — was admitted to two Ivy League schools — Columbia University and Harvard Law School. Obama served as editor and president of the prestigious *Law Review* and graduated magna cum laude with a doctorate in law. “We don’t know a thing about his guy,” Trump said of Obama, who wrote two best-selling autobiographies, royalties from which are the basis for his fortune.

What we know about Trump: After problems at a private school, young Trump was sent to the New York Military Academy, where he graduated in 1964 with honors. He attended Fordham University for two years before transferring to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He inherited his fortune from his father, a real estate developer. Trump’s business acumen is so acute that he has managed to lose money on casinos and his businesses have gone through bankruptcy four times. Trump recently bragged of swindling Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi on a rental deal on which Trump reneged. Trump has been married three times. And polls show him the leading Republican candidate for the presidential nomination in 2012.

BILL CLEARS LA. STATE HEALTH CARE PRIVATIZATION. A bill before the Louisiana Legislature could clear the way for the state to use money from the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB), the agency that manages state employees’ health insurance, to help plug a $1.6 bln budget hole, TalkingPointsMemo.com reported (4/26). TPM previously reported (4/21) that Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is quietly pushing to privatize the agency, a move which critics charge puts the state and 250,000 employees at risk of paying more in the long-run. They also say that plans for a sale are at least partly motivated by the OGB’s half-billion-dollar surplus fund — money that could help alleviate the state’s immediate budget trouble. (Neither the Governor’s office nor the Division of Administration, which oversees OGB, have returned numerous requests for comment from TPM.)

INHOFE DEFENDS FRACKING GAS WELLS. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is perhaps Congress’ most reliable defender of dirty energy and skeptic of climate change, but he picked a bad day to extol the virtues of hydraulic fracturing, a new and relatively untested method for extracting natural gas also known as “fracking,” as he insisted on Fox News host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show (4/21) that fracking his “never poisoned anyone” nor ever contaminated groundwater. As ThinkProgress.org noted (4/21), the previous day a blowout at a Pennsylvania natural gas well engaged in fracking spilled thousands of gallons of toxic chemical-laced water, “contaminating a stream and forcing the evacuation of seven families who live nearby as crews struggled to stop the gusher,” the AP reported. Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, referenced the Pennsylvania spill in his interview, but said that it has “nothing to do with fracking” because it was a stream, not groundwater that was contaminated.

But fracking has contaminated groundwater. A recent New York Times investigation confirmed that waste from fracking has contaminated groundwater and even drinking water with toxic and radioactive chemicals. The process relies on pumping toxic chemicals deep underground to break rock, and between 2005 and 2009, “hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals” have been pumped into wells. Large amounts of radioactive material have been found in water supplies near fracking sites, many Pennsylvanians have gotten sick, the tap water in homes near fracking sites have caught on fire, and a home in Cleveland, Ohio blew up.

ThinkProgress also noted that the oil and gas industry has been Inhofe’s top contributor over his political career, giving him over $450,000 in the last election cycle alone, even though Inhofe wasn’t up for reelection. Inhofe’s single largest campaign donor is oil conglomerate Koch Industries.

IMMIGRANTS PAY TAXES TOO. Tax Day was an appropriate time to underscore the often-overlooked fact that unauthorized immigrants - like everyone else in the United States — pay taxes. They pay sales taxes. They also pay property taxes—even if they rent. At least half of unauthorized immigrants pay income taxes (and if they don’t, it’s largely the fault of their employers). Add this all up and it amounts to billions in revenue to state and local governments. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (itepnet.org) has estimated the state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households that are headed by unauthorized immigrants — which may include members who are US citizens or legal immigrants — paid $11.2 bln in state and local taxes. That included $1.2 bln in personal income taxes, $1.6 bln in property taxes, and $8.4 bln in sales taxes. States receiving the most tax revenue from households headed by unauthorized immigrants were California ($2.7 bln), Texas ($1.6 bln), Florida ($806.8 mln), New York ($662.4 mln) and Illinois ($499.2 mln). In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants—and their family members—are adding value to the US economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers and entrepreneurs as well.

CHRISTIANS INCOMPATIBLE WITH CAPITALISM. More Christians believe their values are at odds with capitalism and the free market than believe they are compatible, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (4/20). Among Christians in the US, only 38% believe capitalism and the free market are consistent with Christian values while 46% believe the two are at odds, the poll, conducted for the Religion News Service, showed.

Nearly two-thirds (66%) say that it’s fair for wealthier Americans to pay more taxes than the middle class or those less well off. Younger people (age 18-34) are significantly more likely than older Americans (age 65+) to say it’s fair for wealthier Americans to pay more taxes than others (75% vs. 62%).

There is agreement across party lines, with 58% of Republicans and 75% of Democrats saying it’s fair for wealthier Americans to pay more taxes. Those identifying with the Tea Party movement are evenly divided on this question (49% agree, 50% disagree).

Strong majorities of all religious groups except white evangelicals also say it’s fair for wealthier Americans to pay more. White evangelicals are evenly divided on this question (50% agree, 49% disagree).

Overall most (61%) Americans disagree that most businesses would act ethically on their own without regulation from the government. Less than 4-in-10 (37%) believe that they would. This holds true across political and religious lines, with the lone exception of those who identify with the Tea Party movement (53% agree).

Generally, Americans across the religious landscape agree clergy should be speaking out on social issues, but are more divided about economic issues. Minority Christians stand out as one group that says it is important for clergy to speak out about a range of economic issues in addition to social issues. More religious groups say it is important for clergy to address the gap between the rich and the poor than other economic issues. 

Sixty-one percent of minority Christians, 61% of Catholics and 51% of white evangelical Protestants say this is an important issue for clergy to address. 

Among those identifying with the Tea Party, more say it is important for clergy to address social issues like abortion (61% very important) than economic issues like reducing the deficit (37% very important).

See the poll at (publicreligion.org).

KING GETS CHALLENGE. Christie Vilsack, wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and former first lady of Iowa, announced (4/20) that she was exploring a run against Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron) in the reconfigured 4th District. When Iowa lost a district after the census, the nonpartisan redistricting board placed King and current 4th District Rep. Tom Latham (R-Ames) in the same district. Latham has announced he will move into the 3rd District to face Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines). The northwest Iowa district is the most conservative of the four districts, voting 50.2% for John McCain in 2008, but Vilsack campaigned widely for her husband during his two successful races for governor and helped with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and King will have to explain his vote to cut Medicare. She also was executive director of the Iowa Initiative, an advocacy group aimed at preventing unwanted pregnancies. See (christievilsackforiowa.com).

The new configuration also placed Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Mount Vernon) in the 1st District with fellow Dem Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo, but Loebsack said he would move to Johnson County (Iowa City) in the 2nd District, where no incumbent currently lives.

LAWMAKER’S BIG FUNDRAISER NETS $650. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) made a big splash at his first fundraiser after winning his House seat last year but campaign finance reports show he netted just $650 after expenses, McClatchy Newspapers reports (4/15).

After paying singer LeAnn Rimes and other costs, Denham’s special fundraising committee reported spending $212,250 on the night. Unfortunately, the event raised just $212,900. Said Democratic fundraiser Michael Fraioli: “It’s an industrial-strength waste of money, and the people who gave the money are going to resent it.” (PoliticalWire.com)

NEGLECTED ANNIVERSARY. Henry Farrell of CrookedTimber.org noted (4/22) that it has been eight years since Charles Krauthammer, one of the cheerleaders of George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq on the charge that it was making weapons of mass destruction, made the confident assertion that “[UN weapons inspector] Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.”

Matt Yglesias noted at ThinkProgress.org (4/22), “In a related development, Krauthammer continues to be employed as a major television commentator and newspaper columnist.”

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2011


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