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California Governor Jerry Brown

California, Kansas, and lessons about taxes

07/21/14 11:40AM

Kansas, one of the reddest of the nation's red states, elected Republicans policymakers to dominate state government, and in 2012, they got to work slashing taxes. The goal was simple: cutting taxes, GOP officials said, would send Kansas' economy soaring.
The experiment failed miserably. Kansas' job growth has lagged behind neighboring states; it's facing a profound budget shortfall; the promised growth hasn't materialized, and the state's bond rating was downgraded in part due to tax breaks Kansas can't afford.
About 1,200 miles to the West, California offers a very different kind of case study. David Cay Johnston published a fascinating item in the Sacramento Bee over the weekend:
Dire predictions about jobs being destroyed spread across California in 2012 as voters debated whether to enact the sales and, for those near the top of the income ladder, stiff income tax increases in Proposition 30. Million-dollar-plus earners face a 3 percentage-point increase on each additional dollar.
"It hurts small business and kills jobs," warned the Sacramento Taxpayers Association, the National Federation of Independent Business/California, and Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee.
So what happened after voters approved the tax increases, which took effect at the start of 2013?
Well, let's put it this way: Kansas is probably looking longingly at California's numbers.
A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, July 19, 2014.

Not every international crisis is about Obama

07/21/14 10:54AM

E.J. Dionne Jr. reflects today on the impact of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the degree to which tragedies "concentrate the mind," or at least should. Of particular interest was E.J.'s point about our domestic debate: "The horror has been widely described as 'a wake-up call.' It's not yet clear if our dysfunctional, foolishly partisan and petty political system will even pick up the phone."
Partisanship -- defined as vigorous, principled disagreement -- has an honored place in democracy. We are in the midst of such a debate over foreign policy in both parties. [...]
That's good. What's not good is the habit of Obama's foes to make every foreign policy crisis about him, whether it is or not.
Agreed. This phenomenon has become a little too common, a little too reflexive, and in response to developments in Ukraine last week, a little too caustic.
Syria is in the midst of a brutal civil war? The right blames President Obama. ISIS advances in Iraq? The right blames President Obama. Innocents die in violence between Israelis and Palestinians? The right blames President Obama. Ukrainian separatists are accused of shooting down an airliner with Russian military equipment? The right blames President Obama.
This just isn't healthy.
In 1984, during the Republican National Convention, Jeane Kirkpatrick delivered a speech that included a catchphrase she repeated five times: "They always blame America first." In reference to Democrats, she went on to condemn the "blame America first crowd."
It was an ugly line of attack, but it caught on and became a favorite of the right, still embraced by prominent Republicans a generation later.
There's no point in casually throwing around such obnoxious attacks on other Americans' patriotism. That said, contemporary Republicans should pause to realize that the more they instinctively blame U.S. leaders for every international crisis, the more they open the door to the very criticism they once reserved for their rivals.
The National Debt Clock, a billboard-size digital display showing the increasing US debt, on Sixth Avenue August 1, 2011 in New York.

Remember the deficit? No one else does, either

07/21/14 10:06AM

It was just a few years ago that congressional Republicans, for the first time in American history, pushed the nation to the brink of default, holding the debt ceiling hostage and threatening to crash the economy on purpose unless President Obama met their demands. GOP leaders said the self-imposed crisis was absolutely necessary: the deficit was dangerously large, they said, so they felt compelled to prioritize deficit-reduction measures, by any means necessary.
It was a weird time. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), taken seriously by much of the Beltway, ran around arguing that Obama had created a "debt crisis." GOP lawmakers routinely hit the Sunday shows, pointing to the deficit and crying that the president was turning the United States into Greece. Mitt Romney hit the campaign trail with a campaign-made "giant, green, glowing debt clock," in order to focus voters on "the most pressing issue right now."
It really wasn't that long ago. And yet, here we are now, with Al Kamen asking a good question: "So whatever happened to the deficit?"
So what happened? Simple answer, of course, is that the deficit is way down and, for now, no longer a big problem.
This week's Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate for the fiscal 2014 deficit is $492 billion, or 2.8 percent of gross domestic product, which is pretty much where it was back in the early part of the Bush II administration  -- though it's expected to rise sharply in coming years.
Asked for comment, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former CBO director and top economic policy adviser to the McCain/Palin campaign, told Kamen, "Collectively, Washington has done essentially nothing, unless you count stopping making it worse."
This is surprisingly wrong.
A statue of former President Ronald Reagan is seen February 6, 2014 at the entrance to Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C.

Sometimes, 'What Would Reagan Do?' is the wrong question

07/21/14 09:29AM

After the public learned last week that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had been shot down, killing all 298 people on board, it wasn't long before an obvious comparison came to mind: in September 1983, a Russian fighter jet shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007. The attack left 269 passengers and crew dead, 62 of whom were American, including a member of Congress.
Olivia Kittel noted that for many Republicans, President Obama should not only follow Ronald Reagan's example from 31 years ago, but also that Obama is already falling short of the Reagan example.
In the wake of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner crash, Fox News has rushed to conveniently rewrite history to disparage President Obama by drawing false comparisons to former President Ronald Reagan's response to a 1983 attack on a Korean airliner. 
After Fox News said Obama wasn't Reagan-esque enough, plenty of other conservatives soon followed.
Let's take a brief stroll down memory lane in case some have forgotten what actually happened in 1983.
After the Soviet pilot killed 269 people on a civilian airliner, Reagan's aides didn't bother to wake him up to tell him what happened. When the president was eventually briefed on developments, Reagan, who was on vacation in California at the time, announced he did not intend to cut his trip short. (Reagan's aides later convinced him to return to the White House.)
Last week, Obama delivered a public address on the Malaysia Airlines plane about 24 hours after it was shot down, calling the incident an "outrage of unspeakable proportions." Reagan also delivered stern words, but in contrast, he waited four days to deliver public remarks.
So what is Fox talking about?
Labor activists Ginger Jentzen and Jeremy Thornes listen during a Seattle City Council meeting in which the council voted on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Seattle, Washington.

GOP's take on minimum wage faces 'serious questions'

07/21/14 08:42AM

The debate over raising the minimum wage is generally pretty straightforward: proponents, mainly on the left, argue that raising the minimum would help alleviate poverty and boost buying power, which in turn helps the broader economy. Opponents, mainly on the right, argue that higher wages discourages hiring and stunts growth.
It's led to a spirited dispute, but the resolution of the argument can be nearly as straightforward if we consider the evidence.
New data show that the 13 states that raised the minimum wage this year are adding jobs at a faster pace than those that did not.
State-by-state hiring data released Friday by the Labor Department reveal that in the 13 states that boosted minimum wages at the beginning of this year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January to June. The average in the other 37 states was 0.61 percent, the Associated Press reports.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have fought consistently for a higher minimum wage, but have been unable to overcome opposition from congressional Republicans. But as we've discussed many times, GOP-imposed gridlock on Capitol Hill hasn't meant an end to the debate; it's simply shifted the debate to state capitols.
With this in mind, a variety of states, mostly under Democratic control, have approved wage increases, well beyond the floor set by federal law. In each instance, there were critics on the right in those states insisting that if their state passed a higher minimum wage, it would put their state at a competitive disadvantage. The result, conservatives argued, would mean weaker local economies.
Except, now we know they were wrong. States that raised their minimum wage have added more jobs than states that didn't.
Palestinian paramedics lift the body of a man from the Al Shejaeiya neighborhood, during a brief period of ceasefire requested by local rescue forces to retrieve dead and wounded from the Shuja'iyya neighborhood in east Gaza City, July 20, 2014.

The importance of context amid turmoil

07/21/14 08:00AM

On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry concluded his appearance with a big-picture assessment: "[T]he American people ought to be proud of what this president has done in terms of peaceful, diplomatic engagement, rather than quick trigger deploying troops, starting or engaging in a war of choice. I think the president's on the right track -- and I think we have the facts to prove it."
Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on the same program and called Kerry's perspective "ridiculous and delusional." The Republican senator added, "It scares me that he believes the world is in such good shape."
There's a lot of this going around. Many U.S. observers look at the world -- war in Ukraine, deadly violence in Israel, deteriorating conditions in Central America forcing unattended children north, civil war in Syria -- and see a planet unraveling. The turmoil, they insist, is not only terrifying, but also unlike anything Americans have seen in recent memory.
Indeed, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said last week that there's "greater turmoil" in the world now than at any time "in my lifetime." McCain's lifetime includes the entirety of World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.
There's no denying that the tumult is scary, and for those affected and confronted with bloodshed first hand, heartbreaking. That said, for those arguing that the entire world is unraveling before our eyes, some context is in order. This exchange on ABC yesterday between George Stephanopoulos and The New Republic's Julia Ioffe rang true:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julia Ioffe, I was struck by a piece you wrote this week, where you said it was somewhat egotistical, I think it was our word, for us to focus on how great the turmoil is in the world right now. We have to put it in context.
IOFFE: That's right. You know, I talked to a bunch of historians. Every generation has this moment that they believe that they're the ones able to identify a moment of great change and great turmoil that is unique and different and worse than all other moments of turmoil and change that came before. I mean, just look at what happened in 2001, you had the second intifada in Israel-Palestine, you had the September 11 attacks, had the invasion of Afghanistan, that was a pretty bad year, too. And we're still alive. We're still here. We're still kicking.
Quite right.

Plane investigation and other headlines

07/21/14 07:58AM

Pressure grows on Putin as forensic experts reach the Malaysian plane crash site. (NY Times)

Two Americans killed in Gaza fighting. (AP) Sec. of State Kerry heads to Egypt today to meet about the crisis. (NPR)

TX Gov. Rick Perry to mobilize TX National Guard troops at the border. (The Monitor)

Pres. Obama signs an executive order to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination today. (AP)

Pres. Obama also awards a Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts today. (Army)

Court: no execution unless Arizona reveals drug source. (Arizona Republic)

ISIS forces last Iraqi Christians to flee Mosul. (NY Times)

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Brenda Buckner, of Lakeridge, Va., holds up a bible in Washington, on May 5, 2009.

This Week in God, 7.19.14

07/19/14 09:03AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of our nation's capital, where the prospect for a new museum is raising eyebrows.
Currently, the National Mall and its surrounding area offer a wide variety of history museums, science museums, and art museums. Is it time for a Bible museum? Hobby Lobby's corporate owners apparently believe it is.
The evangelical Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby, the chain of craft stores, made history two weeks ago when the Supreme Court overturned the Obama administration's mandate that family-owned companies must provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.
Now, the family is looking to build a permanent presence on the Washington landscape, by establishing a sprawling museum dedicated to the Bible -- just two blocks south of the National Mall.
It's a reminder of the Oklahoma-based Green family's broad ambitions. What started as a national arts-and-crafts chain has now ventured into legal and educational efforts, which includes school curricula and now a possible D.C. museum.
Some of the details of the museum plan are murky, but Hobby Lobby president Steve Green reflected last year on the ostensible goal, telling an audience last year, "This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don't know it, our future is going to be very scary."
The reported target date for opening the Bible museum is 2017. As the New York Times' report added, the Green family's Museum of the Bible nonprofit organization bought a 400,000-square-foot space for the facility in 2012 for $50 million.
Also from the God Machine this week:
Plane crash followed NATO alert on rebels

Plane crash followed NATO alert on rebel capability

07/18/14 11:02PM

Rachel Maddow whittles away the unsubstantiated reports in the Malaysia Airlines plane crash investigation and points out that NATO warned the world on June 30th that Russia was training Ukrainian separatists on vehicle-borne anti-aircraft capability. watch

Putin response risks Russian credibility

Putin crash response risks Russian credibility

07/18/14 11:01PM

Nina Khrushcheva, professor of foreign policy and international affairs at New School University, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine complicates international relations for Vladimir Putin. watch

Not everyone interested in the facts on MH17

Not everyone interested in the facts on MH17

07/18/14 10:53PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the spate of conspiracy theories floated in the wake of the shooting down of flight MH17, spread by people with an interest in making accountability more difficult, some of whom are in control of the crash site and evidence. watch

Crash site poorly secured for investigation

Crash site poorly secured for investigation

07/18/14 10:38PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the widely scattered debris from the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet and the access to the site by rebel fighters, media, well-wishers and others who make it harder for investigators to gather important... watch

Plane investigators face vexing circumstances

Plane investigators face vexing circumstances

07/18/14 10:25PM

Kathryn Higgins, former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, talks with Rachel Maddow about the difficult conditions investigators face at the site of the wreckage of MH17, and what conclusions those investigators can be expected to reach. watch