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Saturday, October 11, 2008

MN GOP Pimps Sarah Palin for Donation Plea

I received another remarkable fundraising letter from Mr. Ron Carey, chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. This time, at least the appeal was addressed to me, rather than an imaginary spouse.

Here are some choice quotes from the letter:

'I don't know about you, but I take a lot of pride in the fact that America first got to know Sarah Palin right here, in St. Paul'.

Yes, Chairman Carey. And should I also be 'proud' of the footage from the McCain appearance in Lakeville MN, where he had to explain to a Minnesotan that Senator Obama is not an Arab. When he made a plea for some civility, the knuckle dragging crowd booed. That sort of hysteria is partly thanks to the unhinged rants of Caribou Barbie.

'There's only been a handful of truly "pivotal" political moments in our lifetimes. You and just witnessed one a few weeks ago'.

You need somebody to edit your grammar in these letters. Was 'There's' intended to be a contraction of 'There has'? If so, it should have read 'There have', as you later reference 'moments', which is plural.

Otherwise, I agree.... the nomination of Sarah Palin was a remarkable event. I hope we don't see anything like that again.

'And America's favorite 'hockey mom' dramatically changed the political landscape here in Minnesota, and all across America'.

Again, I guess I sort of agree with you. She is making an effective appeal to the lowest common denominator in the electorate. We are no longer supposed to focus on finding the best and the brightest for national leadership - instead, we get worked up over someone who talks like an Arctic Circle hillbilly.

'Today, Sarah Palin is in the crosshairs of a coordinated, vicious attack campaign.'

(Applause)

Go Ron. We need to defend poor Sarah against the vicious attacks from people like George Will, Peggy Noonan, Chuck Hagel, David Brooks, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, and those other commies at the National Review.

The letter than explains how the PCR program works, whereby a nominal ($50) contribution from myself, or $100 if I could get my imaginary, cheapskate wife to chip in, could get reimbursed by the state of Minnesota. Hmmmmm ... tax dollars at work.

Ron Carey continues:

'The State of of Minnesota's PCR program - and the devoted Republicans who take part in it - are our financial lifeline. We can't compete against the Democrats' money machine without it. Or without you.'

That's a remarkable statement... even for fundraising hype. The Republican party, the party of fiscal conservatism and 'paddle your own canoe, damn it' is telling me that without taxpayer help, they can't win. Please help us by putting your paw into the trough, and pulling out $50.

It gets better....

'If I receive your contribution of $50 or $100 on my desk before Friday, October 17th, I'll send you a commemorative foam 'Palin Puck', in honor of America's favorite "hockey mom", and the Democrats' worst nightmare, Sarah Palin.'

Yeah, that text was really bolded in the fundraising letter. I couldn't make up this crap if I tried. I have no need for a foam hockey puck, unless I can find two foam hockey sticks.

'P.S. Sarah Palin has thrown the Democrats for a loop. They just don't understand this self-described "hockey mom". But Minnesotans sure do'.

So - there are no Minnesotans who are Democrats????

Actually, Ron, I think Minnesotans do understand Sarah Palin. She's a lying, power hungry, smart-ass, narcissistic, creationist whack job, and Senator McCain, in my eyes, destroyed his credibility with this bizarre, cynical, insulting nomination'.

MDE Commenter: Norm Coleman Lost My Vote

Chestnut Says:
October 10th, 2008 at 10:01 pm
Fuck Coleman. Fuck Franken. Their both a coupe of nit-wits unfitting serious consideration.

Norm lost my vote last week when he voted for that goddam bailout bill. It’s clear he lacks the judgment to have the privilege of representing me anywhere.

Al Franken is a socialist pile of crap, who left Minnesota 30 years ago and who has spent the last 15 years peddling hate.

No self-respecting Minnesotan can vote for Al Franken. Nobody who votes for that ass is voting for the man, they’re casting a blind, stupid vote the party that has stood more often with tyrants and communists than it has with it’s own country.

Dean Barkley, for all his flaws, gets my vote. There’s nothing Norm can do to win me back.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Does Norm Coleman Have to Hide?

The Norm Coleman campaign booted the Minnesota Independent and the Uptake from their Press Conference yesterday. Their excuse: they weren't legitimate credentialed media. They didn't explain how they determined legitimacy.

Excellent Ad Against Florida's Amendment 2



It's the Florida Bachmann amendment.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Geoff Michel and Ron Carey Use "Lifestyle" Code Word to Gay-Bait Ash Madia - DFL Silent

While the DFL made a huge deal out of the press conference held by Ron Carey and Geoff Michel that attacked Ash Madia for being a carpetbagger. The DFL claimed that these were racist attacks. This in my view is weak. Andy Birkey points out that the attacks were about gay baiting.

While Republican Party representatives took heat this week for claiming in fliers that DFL candidate Ashwin Madia had the “wrong demographics” to serve the people of the 3rd Congressional District, they got off lightly with respect to the not-so-veiled undercurrent in their attack on Madia’s “lifestyle.” By larding in mentions of Madia’s household (he’s a renter, not an owner) and his hobbies (he’s not a soccer coach), the tacit insinuation that Madia must be gay is made easier to politely ignore. But it appears to be the real payload behind GOP efforts to point out Madia’s purported, um, difference from the stolid homesteaders of the 3rd District.

“Gutter politics are a gross insult to the good people of our district,” Rep. Jim Ramstad said Tuesday while praising Republican candidate Erik Paulsen for upholding of the “proud tradition of clean politics and ethical campaigns.” But as history demonstrates, there is a long and unadmirable record of flogging a political opponent’s unmarried status as a genteel means of throwing the race into the gutter. And since no accusation is ever actually made, the implication is not really susceptible to rebuttal. It just hangs out there with a wink.

It’s ironic that a tactic like this should arise in a race to replace Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad, who himself was single for most of his congressional career, until he married Kathryn Mitchell in October 2005.

But as I said, there’s a long track record behind this kind of ploy.

The Republican Party of Minnesota’s newest attack line on Madia’s unmarried status (he’s only 30 years old, after all) mirrors that of veteran political operative Karl Rove.

The circumstances were ripe for Rove to encourage surrogates to ask around if she might be a lesbian, and as Richards defended her position that her appointments were made on merit regardless of sexual orientation, the press began asking her if she was a lesbian. Richards lost the election to George W. Bush, with some political experts claiming the defeat was spearheaded by the whisper campaign.

Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of Arizona, faced a similar smear campaign in 2002 when Republicans posted “Vote Gay” posters next to her campaign posters. Harold Ford, Jr., ran for Senate in Tennessee in 2006. His single life resulted in rumors that he was gay — that is, until his Republican opponent, Bob Corker, painted him as a womanizer (and added racial undertones for greater effect).

Are Minnesota Republicans as adept at whisper campaigns as Rove? Probably not. But the term “lifestyle,” employed by party chair Ron Carey, is certainly a loaded term; it’s commonly used in religious-right circles as a derogatory term connoting gays and lesbians.


Notice that the DFL was totally silent about the gay-baiting. Lifestyle is definitely a code word. The DFL won’t publically go after gay-baiting. They never have about Michele Bachmann - even though that’s major political liability.

But then why should they. They get unconditional support from most so-called “gay rights groups” who do more to be allies in progressive coalitions, than what their mission is about - which is gay rights.

Harold Ford was a notorious womanizer - but still pranced around championing "traditional marriage" while campaigning for the Senate. He deserved to lose. If we are going to talk about lifestyles, why not talk about Norm Coleman's "unconventional marriage" as AM 1280's Mitch Berg calls it - or to put it more bluntly: the Norm Coleman lifestyle. I get a bit tired hearing gays getting blamed for the distruction of the institution of marriage when it appears that the people doing that are the straight people involved in said legal marriages.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Bad Idea - Al Franken's 401(U) Proposal

From his campaign website:

The 401(U)
Saving for retirement is an investment in economic security – it should be part of every family's budget, not a luxury for the wealthy. Unfortunately, our struggling economy puts this goal out of reach for too many Minnesotans. Meanwhile, our government's system for encouraging long-term savings simply doesn't work effectively. Al Franken proposes a bold new system to help families put something away for retirement – at almost no cost to the taxpayer.

There are three fundamental flaws in our current system for encouraging retirement savings.

First, it doesn't work effectively for nearly half of American workers who have no employer-sponsored retirement plan – 1.2 million workers in Minnesota.

Second, saving for retirement is far too complicated. Even when workers are given the option of joining employer-based plans, many do not take it because it is incredibly difficult to enroll, let alone to research the details of various plans and investment portfolios. And when they leave a job, they cannot take their retirement account with them.

Third, the system is upside-down and backwards. Because our current savings incentives are based on tax deductibility, a wealthy employee in the 35% tax bracket gets 35 cents for every dollar he or she saves, while an employee in the 10% bracket receives only 10 cents (and an employee who pays no taxes gets nothing). It is therefore no surprise that of the nearly $200 billion a year we spend to encourage retirement savings, about half goes to the top 10% of earners, while 10% goes to the bottom 60%.

Al Franken will propose a new account, called a 401(U), to address each of these flaws.

The 401(U):

Universal. Every firm with more than 10 workers that does not provide a qualified pension plan would be called upon to offer universal automatic payroll-deduction retirement accounts (modeled on current IRAs) as a default for their workers. Employers would not have to sponsor any retirement plan; they would not make matching contributions; and they would not have to comply with traditional retirement plan rules. They would not manage the plan at all. They would merely deposit a portion of their employees' paychecks into standard, easy-to-open retirement accounts that would be managed and maintained by participating financial institutions. And to cover whatever administrative costs accompany these 401(U)s, employers would be given tax incentives similar to those now offered to firms that open qualified pension plans. This new savings vehicle would provide a no-hassle option to millions of workers who have no employer-sponsored retirement account. It is designed not to replace existing employer-sponsored plans, which Al Franken would seek to promote as the savings vehicles of choice, but rather to encourage more employers to move toward sponsoring an employer retirement plan.

Automatic, portable, easy – and workers keep control. Workers would automatically have a portion of their paychecks directly deposited into their 401(U), unless they explicitly opt out. Account funds would be invested responsibly in low-cost, diverse portfolios. And 401(U)s would be fully portable. Families would be free to withdraw funds from their URA after age 65, or at any time for education expenses or the purchase of a first home. 401(U)s would also preserve autonomy and choice. Workers could opt out of the program, or any of its specifics, at any time. They could also shape their account to fit their unique needs.

Generous. Current tax deductions for retirement savings would be replaced with a generous 30% government matching contribution that would be the same for all households. For each dollar that a worker puts into a 401(U), the government would add 30 cents, up to a contribution limit similar to IRAs. The same 30% match would apply to existing retirement savings vehicles such as 401(k)s. This matching contribution would be deposited directly into workers' retirement accounts. The result for a great number of middle class workers would be a tripling of the incentive to save. Many more workers who currently get no incentive to save – because they pay no taxes – would receive a generous incentive. (The system would be designed to ensure that workers making less than $250,000 are held harmless.)

What would it cost?
The shift from tax deductions to matching contributions is close to revenue-neutral.



I wonder where Mr. Franken gets his input on the existing system....

'Incredibly difficult to enroll'

Says who? I've changed jobs a few times, and have never found enrollment to be 'incredibly difficult'. Yes, sometimes there is a waiting period before you're eligible, but the enrollment form is not complicated.

'And when they leave a job, they cannot take their retirement account with them'

That just isn't true. Every plan has vesting rules, but employee contributions are usually fully vested right away. The portion that may take time to vest would be the employer contribution.

This 401(u) proposal says that employers would not make any contribution to the plan. Employer contributions to retirement plans are often considered part of an employee's compensation, and also provide an added incentive by matching a portion of the employee's contribution. Why take away that feature?

Nor does the Coleman campaign press release on this topic make any mention of the 30%government match.

Even if a worker doesn't currently have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, they have the option of a self-directed IRA, for which the tax deferral is provided.

The details of how and where these accounts would be invested needs some more fleshing out.

I don't buy the argument about the unfairness of the incentive, based on progressive taxation. If somebody is paying an effective tax rate of 35%, even after deductions for retirement savings, the US Treasury should be saying 'Thank you' to that taxpayer. A worker can actually lower their effective tax by virtue of taking advantage of the incentive. The underlying math makes no sense.

The proposal makes no mention of whether or not the withdrawals from the would be taxable. Withdrawals from 401(k) or traditional IRA's are taxed as ordinary income, so any incentive provided for the original contributions are recaptured when the retiree pays taxes on the withdrawals. Are withdrawals from the 401(U) taxable? If not, this is far from a revenue neutral idea. Franken is only looking at one part of the cycle.

It's an incomplete and ill-advised idea.

Breaking Nooz: Geoff Michel Committed to Voting in Favor of the Municipal Domestic Partnership Law

I talked with Geoff Michel at the Bethlehem Lutheran event Mark H described earlier. Michel said he "made a mistake" when he voted against the bill allowing for municipalities to offer domestic partner benefits. He agreed to vote for the bill the next time it comes up. I neglected to ask him to co-sponsor. OutFront Minnesota should follow up by asking him to co-sponsor this legislation.

Breaking Nooz! Norm Coleman Attacks Al Franken on a Substantive Issue

The Drama Queen republishes the press release.

COLEMAN FOR U.S. SENATE PRESS RELEASE: “FRANKEN PROPOSES REPEAL OF 401(k) AND IRA ACCOUNTS AND CREATES NEW TRIPLE TAX ON RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS”
October 8, 2008 2:05 pm

ST. PAUL – Incredibly, at a time when middle class Minnesotans are struggling to save for retirement, Al Franken has boasted that he will raise taxes on retirement savings by repealing the deduction for 401(k)s and IRAs, the primary retirement savings vehicles for middle class Minnesotans.

“Al Franken’s proposal would eliminate many Minnesotans’ ability to save through 401(k) and IRA accounts, both regular and Roth.” said Cullen Sheehan, Campaign Manager for Coleman for Senate. “Incredibly, Franken proposes to instead impose a triple tax on 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts. Al Franken’s plan would be much worse for Minnesotans saving for retirement, and once again is a reckless, ridiculous and wrong approach to helping middle class Minnesotans.”


I think this is the first time Coleman has challenged Franken on substance. Coleman is having trouble with this story.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Disgusting

The performance by Sen Geoff Michel and Ron Carey has been condemned as being "racist." I am skeptical of the racism claim, though some of the language Michel and Carey use seem like "code words." Certainly the discussion of "lifestyle" is code. I took the attacks on Madia to be about him being single. 37% of the public is single.

The carpetbagger point is a fair point. But the discussion of "lifestyle" and "not like us" is appealing to the worst in people.

Shame on both Geoff Michel and Ron Carey.

Paying a mortgage does NOT qualify or disqualify one for being in congress. Owning property does not qualify or disqualify one for being in congress. Being married does not qualify or disqualify one for being in congress.

The DFL put together more edited excerpts in a Youtube.



Note that the DFL had no objection to the expressed hostility towards single people.

Best Monday Night Quotes

I'm paraphrasing, but here are my favorites:

David Letterman, referencing Sarah Palin's quote that 'the heels are on, and the gloves are off....'

'That sort of thing used to cost Eliot Spitzer $1,000'.

Jon Stewart, commenting on Palin's appeal to 'Joe Sixpack and hockey moms', all in the same breath.....

'So the appeal is to alcoholics who drive children to various after school activities?'

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Senator Geoff Michel to Speak on Bi-partisan ship

This isn't a joke.

Click on the title of the post for details.

The church I attend, Bethlehem Lutheran at 4100 Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis, is hosting a series of Wednesday forums covering various public policy topics. The forums are open to the public.

Bridging the Partisan Divide

6:30 pm Wednesday, in the Commons
OCTOBER 8 – Senator Geoff Michel (R- Edina) will come and talk about how we can get past partisanship to solve the long range problems that challenge our communities in Minnesota.

The series will continue throughout October with additional speakers, including representatives from Luther Seminary to help us understand our role as people of faith in working to overcome partisanship to help solve the many public policy challenges we face in Minnesota and in the United States.


Senator Michel has made at least one previous appearance at these forums. In December 2005 I heard him speak about the Minnesota 2020 project, which is a bi-partisan workgroup focusing on the demographic shifts in the state population, and the related impact on the state budget.

It's an important topic, and Senator Michel wilted under questions from the polite audience. He didn't demonstrate any kind of depth of knowledge. Perhaps he's aspiring to be the GOP Vice Presidential nominee someday.

I pay fairly close attention to the Legislature, and the only time I hear about Minnesota 2020 is in off-season forums.

Since the DFL gained a veto-proof majority in the Minnesota Senate, Senator Michel has consistently been a reliable team player for the GOP, including supporting the governor's veto of the transportation bill.

He has also weighed in with some preposterous statements about the contest for the 3rd congressional district, suggesting that because the DFL candidate isn't married and doesn't own a home in the district, he's disqualified for the office.

I can't wait to hear Senator Michel preach the gospel of bi-partisanship. I'll have a few questions for him.