Cory Booker, the wunderkind mayor of Newark who was a hero when he rescued a neighbor from a burning house in April, apparently was dazzled by the bright lights of Meet the Press (5/20) and, falling under the spell of host David Gregory, was moved to pronounce that he was nauseated by the criticism of Bain Capital and other vampire capitalists by the Obama re-election campaign which he supports.

“[T]his kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” Booker said. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity, stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues. It’s either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it’s going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.”

ThinkProgress.org noted that executives of Bain Capital and other venture capital firms were among Cory Booker’s earliest and most generous backers. In his first run for mayor in 2002, Booker’s committees received more than $565,000 from venture capitalists, including at least $36,000 from people at Bain Capital.

Booker tried to walk back his criticism of the Obama campaign in a YouTube video (5/20). “Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign,” he said. “He’s talked about himself as a job creator. And therefore, it is reasonable, and in fact I encourage it, for the Obama campaign to examine that record and to discuss it.” But other centrist Democrats stepped up to criticize the Obama campaign’s decision to attack Romney for his work at the private equity firm. Former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr., a vice president of Merrill Lynch, said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe (5/21), “Private equity is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, private equity is a good thing in many, many instances.”

Booker’s and Ford’s remarks were picked up by the Romney campaign and used in an ad, “Big Bain Backfire,” that also used a line from Steven Rattner, the Obama administration’s former “car czar” and Wall Street alum, who said, “I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about.”

Joan Walsh noted at Salon.com (5/21), “Democrats are wringing their hands over the latest circular firing squad, but I think all the self-promotion and betrayal is a good thing. It should remind Democrats why many working and middle class people either sit out elections or don’t think there’s a big difference between the parties. For the last 20 years, folks like Rattner, Booker and Ford have tried to make sure their party courted Wall Street more slavishly than the GOP – and they often succeeded. We ought to remember that history before we get carried away with our populist high-fiving in the 2012 campaign, convinced that Obama deserves to win the fealty of the unemployed, underemployed and Occupy Wall Street, too.

It’s bad enough that Booker equated the Bain criticism with the plan by a conservative super PAC supporting Romney to run attack ads bringing up Obama’s ties with the controversial pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Walsh added, .”Maybe most unfair, Booker and Ford endorsed the GOP lie that Obama has it in for private equity generally, not merely the excesses of firms like Bain. They’re only egging on the Wall Street wusses who act like the president has nationalized the banks just because he signed on to the flawed Dodd-Frank bill and once called a few of them ‘fat cats.’ Booker and Ford are clearly only out for themselves, anxious to prove there are some Democrats who still love Wall Street. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us: Booker has teamed up with hedge fund moguls and other super-rich private equity folks (as well as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates) in the course of reforming Newark’s schools as well as generally advancing his career. (He’s also ignored public records laws to keep those big donors from scrutiny.)”

“The man has national aspirations,” Charles Pierce wrote of Booker at Esquire.com (5/21) “and, given the way the entire system has been rigged by John Roberts and the Super Supremes, when you have national aspirations, you make sure that the country’s actual owners are clear about exactly how much of a ‘ho you’re willing to be, and if that means you tromp all over the White House’s current messaging, and defang even the tepid criticism the president has had for clucks like Jamie Dimon, well, national aspirations are, after all, national. And have you ever rescued anyone from a burning house? So shut up.”

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) also joined the criticism of the ads attacking Bain. “I think they’re very disappointing,” he told BuzzFeed.com (5/22). “I think Bain is fair game, because Romney has made it fair game. But I think how you examine it, the tone, what you say, is important as well.” (Adam Serwer of MotherJones.com noted that Rendell received $1.74 mln from securities and investment sources and $1.45 mln from miscellaneous financial sources from 2001 through 2008, according to InfluenceExplorer.com.)

OBAMA SMEAR FUNDER DEMANDS MASSIVE SUBSIDY FOR BASEBALL STADIUM. Joe Ricketts’ plan to finance racially-charged ads attacking President Obama was undone when it was leaked to the New York Times (5/17). The proposed campaign, entitled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End his Spending for Good,” centered on Obama’s ties with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and suggested hiring an “extremely literate conservative African-American” to break down Obama’s image as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.” It was budgeted at $10 mln.

Ricketts, a right-wing billionaire and founder of TD Ameritrade, moved quickly to publicly reject the plan after it leaked. His spokesman said it “reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion.” But Judd Legum and Josh Israel of ThinkProgress noted that statement “seems somewhat disingenuous as the Ricketts had already given ‘preliminary approval’ for the $10 mln concept after seeing a separate ad about Jeremiah Wright.” Nevertheless, Ricketts’ spokesman confirmed the billionaire’s intention to spend money attacking Obama through an organization he controls called “Ending Spending Political Action Fund.”

While Ricketts claims to be a critic of government spending, ThinkProgress noted there is one area where he is open to government spending: He’s seeking a $150 mln government subsidy for the Chicago Cubs, which he owns with his family, to renovate Wrigley Field. He also wants a 50% cut of any increase in city and county amusement tax revenue above 6%, forever, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

In a video posted by another organization he controls, Taxpayers Against Earmarks, Ricketts says, “I think it’s a crime for our elected officials to borrow money today, to spend money today and push the repayment of that loan out into the future on people who are not even born yet,” ThinkProgress noted. “Of course, that’s what he is attempting force the taxpayers of Chicago to do for the benefit of his team and his family,” Legum and Israel noted.

SANDERS: BANKS REGULATE CONGRESS. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gets the award this week for succinct analysis, in remarks to Ed Schultz on MSNBC (5/16) on the likelihood of Congress reining in reckless bankers after JPMorgan admitted it lost $2 bln in derivatives trading.

Schultz asked: “How hard is it going to be for the Senate to do what the American people want them to do when Wall Street is so terribly influential and some say the banks own the Senate?”

Sanders replied: “Ed, let me tell you what many others might not tell you. You know, some people think, well, gee, the Congress regulates Wall Street. I think the truth is that Wall Street regulates the Congress. They have untold, unlimited amounts of money, money which is used to get the deregulation — you recall during the ’90s, in a bipartisan way, to get the deregulation which drove us into the brink of financial collapse. They have all kinds of lobbyists on Wall Street. They make all kinds of?campaign contributions, so it will be hard. But on the other hand, as your polls show, the American people understand how dangerous Wall Street can be. They want Congress to stand up and if we do what the American people want, it will be the right thing.”

Sanders called for bringing back the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banks from investment banks. “You need to say that if we’re providing federal insurance for large banks ... you can`t go gambling. You’ve got invest in the economy. ... If investment banks want to invest, get involved in Las Vegas-type activity, let them do it, but not with federal insurance.”

For the record, Sanders has received $30,400 from miscellaneous finance and $12,250 from securities and investment sources out of $5.3 mln raised. His top source of contributors is “retired” ($387,260), according to OpenSecrets.org. His Republican opponent, John MacGovern, had raised $12,882 and had spent $21 as of 3/31/12.

BANKS BOUGHT TEA PARTY. The 15 freshmen Republican representatives in the House Tea Party Caucus each ran in 2010 on a populist anti-Wall Street message, highlighting their opposition to bank bailouts like the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and criticizing Washington for enabling the banking sector as it became “Too Big to Fail.” After winning, all fifteen received significant PAC contributions from the banking industry — and have become a reliable vote and mouthpiece for the financial industry, a ThinkProgress analysis of campaign contributions, voting records and public statements reveals.

Rather than campaigning on a typical pro-business platform, the Tea Party freshmen tapped into public resentment of big banks and bailouts. For example, then-candidate Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) said on her campaign website that she “opposes government bailouts” and “would have voted against TARP and the auto bailout.” Jeff Landry (R-La.) said bailouts of private businesses had “corrupted our free market system by rewarding the irresponsible and penalizing the responsible,” blasting “bank bailouts, which led to taxpayer money directly or indirectly going into multi-million dollar bonuses.”

But in Congress, the Tea Party has toed the line for big banks. Eleven of the 15 have become co-sponsors of HR 3461, a top priority for the American Bankers Association. According to Americans for Financial Reform, the legislation would “tilt the playing field further in the direction of excessive deference to industry interests and tie the hands of regulators attempting to protect the public interest.” The bill would make it harder for bank examiners to do their job, giving regulatory responsibilities to an industry that’s already shown it can’t police itself.

The lone Tea Party freshman member of the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), has consistently voted with the industry and the Republican majority for weaker regulation of the sector. And of the 15, all but McKinley and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) voted for the GOP’s 2013 budget proposal, which included the repeal of a key component of the financial sector regulation.

Their rhetoric has also become extremely friendly to the financial industry. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) famously yelled at a constituent: “Don’t blame banks, and don’t blame the marketplace for the mess we’re in right now! I am tired of hearing that crap! This pisses me off!” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) bashed financial regulations as “part of a pattern of government interference in the private sector.” Rep. Blake Fahrenthold (R-Texas) warned “excessive regulations will hurt our financial institutions.” Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.) said that by regulating banking and financial institutions, “what they’re doing is getting into our lives. And many of us are trying to find a way to get them to pull back.” And several of the freshmen criticized Dodd-Frank’s regulations for limiting credit availability for small businesses.

SICK AMERICANS SEE HEALTH CARE PROBLEMS. Three out of four sick Americans say that the cost of health care is a very serious problem, and half label the quality of care as a very serious problem, according to a new poll out (5/21) from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. The poll surveyed both the general public and those with a serious illness, medical condition or disability. Among the general public, 87% think the cost of care is a serious problem and 65% believe the cost of care has gotten worse over the last five years.

More than 40% of sick Americans say the cost of their medical care over the last 12 months has caused a “very serious” (20%) or “somewhat serious” (23%) problem for their family’s finances. One in six sick Americans say there was a time in the past 12 months when they could not get the medical care they needed, either because they couldn’t afford it (52%) or because their insurers would not pay for it (24%).

Of both the recently sick and the non sick, 78% said that not being able to afford the tests or drugs they need was a major reason for the problems in quality of care.

Of those who had been hospitalized overnight during the past 12 months, 51% said they were very satisfied with the quality of care they received.

GOP GOVS CONTRADICT ROMNEY’S JOBS SPIEL. Mitt Romney continues to insist that President Obama has made the economy worse, but he is finding it increasingly hard to keep Republican governors on the script.

ThinkProgress.org noted that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), for instance, issued a press release (5/21), touting “encouraging indicators that Florida’s economy is steadily moving in the right direction,” telling his constituents that nearly a quarter-million jobs were available. The unemployment rate was down 2.2 points to 8.7%.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)’s web site touted the “thousands of Virginians working again” and the ways the state’s economy is growing again. “Through a bipartisan effort in Richmond, and the hard-work, innovation and dedication of the people of Virginia, our economy is recovering. There is a lot to celebrate in our Commonwealth. With unemployment at over a 3-year low, agricultural exports at a record high, and thousands of Virginians working again, this is a great time to recognize all the great things happening in our tremendous Commonwealth.”

An during an April event with Romney, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) told Otterbein University students that there are tens of thousands of open jobs and that “we’re doing much better in Ohio now. ... We have a web site called Ohio Means Jobs. There’s probably about 80,000 jobs listed on there. … Look through that, and you’re going to find a lot of exciting opportunities. … There’s a lot of really exciting things in this state where you can go and work.”

Travis Waldron noted at ThinkProgress that across the country, in fact, unemployment rates are falling and jobs are returning to state economies, as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ April jobs report detailed. “As Romney continues to ignore the fact that the economy is recovering, facts — and the Republican governors who have endorsed him — are telling a different story.”

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE COMPARISONS. It has become a popular talking point on the right and even among some on the left that unemployment in the US during the Obama administration approached Great Depression levels in the 1930s, but the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the official unemployment rate (U3 for wonks) in the Great Recession peaked at 10.1% in October 2009 and that’s less than half the 24.9% peak unemployment rate in 1933. Since October 2009 the unemployment rate has declined to 8.1% in April. (The U6 “underemployment” rate, which counts people who have part-time jobs but are looking for full-time work or have looked for work in the past year, peaked at 17.4% in October 2009 and had fallen to 14.5% in April . Economists have figured that a comparable underemployment rate during the Great Depression in 1933 would be about 37%.

When it comes to comparisons with Europe, the US also compares favorably. Economically distressed nations such as Greece and Spain, which were forced by bankers to adopt austerity budgets to repay their debts, have seen their unemployment rates shoot up past 20%, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The average for the 17 countries in the Euro Zone was 10.9% in March (ranging from 5% in the Netherlands, 5.2% in Luxembourg and 5.6% in Germany to 24.1% in Spain). The US unemployment rate in March was 8.2% (ranging from 3% in North Dakota, 3.9% in Nebraska and 4.3% in South Dakota to 11.7% in Nevada).

JUDGE STRIKES DOWN INDEFINITE DETENTION. A federal judge in New York (5/16) struck down highly controversial provisions of the current National Defense Authorization Act that allowed indefinite detention of terrorism suspects and threatened journalists with prosecution under the prohibition of providing "material support" to terrorists.

US District Judge Katherine Forrest, who was appointed to the court in New York's Southern District by President Obama, ruled in favor of a group of civilian activists and journalists and said the law could have "chilling impact on First Amendment rights" for journalists, activists and potentially all US citizens. "An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an 'associated force' without even being aware that he or she was doing so," the judge said in issuing the preliminary injunction.

Undeterred, the US House on the next day soundly rejected an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for next year that proposed that anyone arrested on American soil on suspicion of terrorism would get a fair trial in a civilian court, where their guilt would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Adam Serwer reported at MotherJones.com (5/18). The amendment sponsored by Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) was defeated on a 182-231 vote, with only 19 Republicans joining Amash in support, while 19 Dems voted against it, according to *The Hill* (5/18). Instead, the House passed an amendment that affirmed habeas corpus rights for US citizens only.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee who shepherded the law through the Senate last year, codifying policies asserted by the White House since after 9/11, said he sees no reason to change the law. "I read the administration's briefs, and I think the administration was right and [the judge] was wrong," Levin told Michael McAuliff of HuffingtonPost.com. He said he favors battling it out in the courts.

STEIN HALF-WAY TO GREEN NOMINATION. After winning primaries in Maryland and Delaware, Dr. Jill Stein claimed (5/14) that she has half the number of delegates she needs to win the Green Party's 2012 presidential nomination. With 200.5 delegates required to win the nomination, and over 101 delegates in hand, Dr. Stein has won over 75% of all delegates allocated. The next nearest candidate, Roseanne Barr, has 14%. "I am thrilled to be well on my way to representing the Green Party in this year's presidential race," said Dr. Stein, who is beginning her search for a running mate. "We're the only party that isn't corporately owned, and I am proud to stand for those who are committed to putting their votes where their values are."

Dr. Stein, a physician from Lexington, Mass., is proposing a Green New Deal for America, "an emergency program that will create 25 million jobs, end unemployment, and transition our country to a green economy. It will guarantee public higher education and Medicare for all. It will break up the big banks. And it will end corporate domination of elections." See (jillstein.org).

CHAMBER TO SPEND OVER $50M ON ELECTIONS. US Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue said his corporate lobbying group plans to spend more than $50 mln on the 2012 elections, USA Today reported (5/21). The Chamber recently filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to keep its ability to spend unlimited money influencing American elections intact.

WHO’S CHECKING WHO? Arizona Secretary of State made the headlines in mid-May when he came out as “birther curious” and was demanding proof from Hawaii that President Obama actually was born there, as his birth certificate states, but Nick R. Martin reported at TalkingPointsMemo.com (5/21) that Hawaii officials are requesting proof that Bennett is qualified to investigate Barack Obama’s birth certificate. “Sure, Ken Bennett says he’s the man in charge of deciding whether President Obama is eligible to be on Arizona’s ballot in November, but the response from people in Hawaii’s government has been: Prove it. In essence, they’re giving Bennett a taste of his own medicine, making him jump through a series of hoops to prove he has the legal authority to investigate the matter, much the same way the birthers have made Hawaii prove time and time again that the president is indeed a natural born citizen of the United States,” Martin wrote.

Two men who identified themselves as being from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix went to the Hawaii Department of Health in Honolulu (5/21) requesting verification of President Obama’s birth certificate, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (5/21). A Hawaii deputy attorney general gave the men information concerning the legal requirements to obtain such a document, which are posted on the Health Department’s website. The two men then left the office, a Health Department spokeswoman told the newspaper.

A taxpayer-funded deputy joined a volunteer on the trip to Hawaii, Sheriff Joe Arpaio told the Arizona Republic of Phoenix. “It’s one deputy, so what? We have security issues, too, that I can’t got into,” Arpaio told the Republic (5/18). “For six months we were not spending any money. When you’re doing investigations sometimes things change, you put more resources into it.” Arpaio has said the investigation, which has cost nearly $40,000, was funded through private donations and he hopes costs of this trip will be paid back through private donations. Arpaio is under federal investigation on complaints that his department ethnically profiled Latinos.

NUKE CHIEF TO STEP DOWN. Under a withering assault from the nuclear industry, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko is stepping down, effective upon the confirmation of his succesor. The resignation followed months of bureaucratic knife-wielding by the four industry-backed members of the five-person panel.

Ryan Grim reported at HuffingtonPost.com (5/21) that Jaczko and the pro-industry commissioners clashed over his opposition to using Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a depository for nuclear waste. The commissioners further accused him of heavy-handed leadership when he put the NRC on emergency footing following the Fukishima disaster in 2011. They argued that he was pushing forward too fast with costly new safety regulations.

Grim reported that Bill Magwood, a Democrat who had done nuclear safety consulting for the company that owns the Fukishima nuclear power plant, spearheaded the effort to oust Jaczko. Magwood publicly accused Jaczko of abusive behavior toward women, charges that were never backed up, and were mocked by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as “McCarthyist” in their lack of specificity.

“This is the ugly underbelly of large corporate lobbying,” a former Democratic staffer, who has worked with the men at the center of both controversies and is now a corporate lobbyist himself, told Grim in December. “It really is by any means necessary.”

Jaczko’s term was set to expire in June 2013, and given the controversy, it wouldn’t have been difficult for the GOP to bottle up his re-appointment. The move gives the White House time to appoint its own nominee, but the decision will likely be left to Reid, who is a strident opponent of turning Yucca Mountain into a waste depository.

“I am confident whomever replaces Chairman Jaczko will share his commitment to protecting the safety of the American people over the interests of a single industry. This is an opportunity for the nuclear industry to demonstrate its commitment to public safety by supporting a Chairperson who puts the safety of American citizens first,” Reid said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee, praised Jaczko’s efforts. “Chairman Jaczko has served the interests of the public extremely well on the commission,” Sanders said in a statement. “He has a consistent voting record supporting the swift implementation of strong safety reforms.”

Sanders added, “For his efforts to hold the nuclear industry accountable, Chairman Jaczko was subjected to repeated personal attacks made by some of his colleagues and pro-industry advocates in Congress. I am extremely disappointed he is leaving the Commission.”

CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS SUE BIRTH CONTROL RULE. The University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America, the Archdiocese of Michigan and the Archdiocese of New York are among 43 Catholic institutions that filed a lawsuit against an Obama administration regulation requiring employers and insurers to offer preventing health services — including contraception — without additional cost sharing. The suit, one of 12 filed (5/21), argues that the requirement violates the Catholic institutions’ religious freedom– even though regulators have included an accommodation for religious organizations. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has called the challenges “unbelievable” and claimed, “This isn’t a religious or political issue – it’s a medical issue, and that’s where we should keep it.” A CBS News/New York Times poll in February found that 61% of respondents support the coverage rule, with the same 61% support among self-professed Catholics.

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2012


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