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Romney and Obama are getting a lot of attention, but there's a whole lot more in play this November.
Of the 100 seats in the Senate, 33 are up for a vote. Of those 33 races, 15 are predictable (Maria Cantwell has no reasonable chance of losing Washington State). Of the remaining 18, 7 lean towards the Democratic Party and 4 lead towards Republicans. And 7 races are too close to call at this point.
Those seven up for grabs states are Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Virgina and Wisconsin. Neither party knows if they'll be the majority after the election. Obama could win another four years only to find himself working with a Republican-controlled House and Senate. (Republicans are all but guaranteed to maintain control of the House of Representatives.)
We'll look into the other six races in the near future, but today let's focus on Massachusetts.
Current Senator Scott Brown (R-Truck) won his seat during the Tea Party wave of 2010, taking Ted Kennedy's seat after his 2009 death. Massachusetts is as reliably Democratic as it is hard to spell, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Harvard) currently holds a slight lead over Brown in the polls. But Brown was leading up until Warren's stellar speech at the Democratic National Convention.
During their first debate, Brown attacked Warren for identifying as Native American, claiming she looked to white.
"Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American," said Brown. "A person of color, and as you can see, she’s not."
Brown has continued this strange line of attack, and it's costing him in the polls.
But election day is still far enough away that this state is up for grabs. A race worth watching.
The first presidential debate went off last night, and bars in Seattle were packed. I personally watched the back and forth at Moe Bar surrounded by jeering drunk Seattleites while sipping on a double.
Which may be why I was so confused at the end when the media at large proclaimed Romney the winner.
Goofus v. Gallant
The general consensus was that Romney was the winner based on his aggressive attacks and Obama's weak rebuttals. But all I saw was Romney spouting make-believe and Obama grinning through it all.
Historically the first debate in any Presidential election favors the challenger. This trend is even more pronounced when the challenger has led such a bumbling campaign. While both campaigns were trying to play the low expectations game in the debate lead-up, Romney's been doing it for 9 months.
Romney's camp "leaked" the news that they were preparing pre-planned zingers for the debate. But the closest thing to a Romney zinger was probably this:
"The place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where you heart is." - Says the guy who left his heart in the Cayman Islands.
On the other hand, I'd credit Obama with getting a few good knocks, including his retort on the Romney/Ryan plan to privatize Medicare. When Romney assured current retirees that Medicare was safe for them, Obama replied "if you're 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this -- this will affect you.."
Just the Facts
Much can be said about impressions and zingers, but when it comes to whose arguments were factually accurate, Obama comes out drastically ahead.
While it's fair to say there were times Obama laid out arguments and numbers that were vague or cherry picked, Romney's statistics and proposals were straight out of Narnia.
Obama told voters that Romney's tax plan amounted to a $5 trillion dollar tax cut, which would add to the deficit or take away programs middle class Americans use.
Romney denied the claim. But The Washington Post finds that lacking any specificity on what loopholes Romney would close, the truth lies with Obama.
Romney's claim that Obama is raiding $716 billion from Medicare is patently false. The number comes from the lowering of payments to doctors and hospitals under Obamacare, not any money taken from seniors. While doctors could gripe about these cuts, the claim comes across exceptionally hollow from a man whose running mate would cut just as much in his plan to privatize Medicare.
Romney also stated that the Congressional Budget Office found that 20 million people will lose their insurance if Obamacare is enacted. Politifact ruled that a big old lie back in June.
The debate was 90 minutes long and brimmed with more falsehoods.
Overall I think a lot of people wanted to see Obama do more of the fact checking during the debates. Maybe he could have. But the news networks for the next few days will have plenty of time to call Romney on his claims. And Obama has two more debates to stand up for the truth.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis just released the music video to accompany Same Love, the Marriage Equality theme song in support of Referendum 74.
I think it's beautiful, but watch it yourself and tell us what you think.
Tacoma's 27th District Senate race is shaping up to be one of the more competitive races in Washington. Which is why the Bus is gearing up to head down to T-town to help out this Saturday, September 29th.
Jeannie Darneille is running for the seat being vacated by Senator Debbie Regala, who has held the position for the last twelve years. During that same time, Darneille has worked as the 27th District's State Representative alongside Regala, and for the past two years with Friend-of-the-Bus Rep. Laurie Jinkins. Both women have endorsed Darneille. So has the mayor of Tacoma and seven out of nine Tacoma City councilmembers.
Which would make Darneille's ascension seem like a slam dunk. But she's being challenged by Jack Connelly, a Tacoma area lawyer who has donated $571,100 of his own money to his campaign.
"Grassroots campaigning has proven time and time again that it works in this district," said Zach Powers, Darneille's Campaign Manager. "This is a district that responds to the power of people. That's what Jeannie's campaign is about. Jeannie is all about talking to voters herself. We have a lot of support from local elected officials and community leaders who know what Jeannie has done and want to enable her to continue that work."
Powers is confident that boots on the ground can beat out money spent over the airwaves.
"It's a campaign that's been fueled by young people, we've had interns and volunteers from two of the high schools in our district, we've had interns from UW Tacoma and PLU and all sorts of leaders from the young professional community who are pitching in."
"We'll be talking to voters on Saturday about the job Jeannie's already been doing. Jeannie's been State Representative for 12 years, and a nonprofit director for 30 years. Jeannie has a wonderful vision of the future."
Darneille was one of the Representatives who voted for and helped pass Marriage Equality back in January. In contrast, her opponent does not support the freedom to marry.
"I think Marriage Equality is an extremely important issue in the 27th," said Powers. "Jeannie's much more than just an approving vote, she's also been a champion for the community. She was the director of the Pierce County AIDS foundation for 18 years. She has been an advocate for LGBT issues and worked for decades on anti-discrimination issues."
What other issues might excite young voters?
"Jeannie's been a longtime advocate for education, a public school mom, a teaching aide volunteer, someone who actually has her Masters in Education. She absolutely recognizes that funding education isn't negotiable. "
No better way to spend a Saturday.
Saturday, October 13th the Bus will be headed South to help Bud Sizemore (D-Only He Can Prevent Forest Fires) drum up support in the 47th.
Sizemore is running to represent the 47th District, which includes Kent, Auburn and Covington. The newly drawn district lies in South King County and looks like a cross between a cowboy boot and a melted isosceles triangle.
"The one greatest impact for this election and this district will be voter turn out," reported Sizemore in a phone interview September 24th.
"Being a fire fighter for 19 years in the district and a councilmember for four, I have a very deep investment in this community."
"My goal is to be a middle class family legislator, actually going down to Olympia and representing issues for middle class families."
Sizemore's opponent, Mark Hargrove (R-Bacon) became notorious during this year's Marriage Equality hearing. Hargrove testified a Jack in the Box commercial gave him reason to vote against the freedom to marry.
"I certainly will vote to approve R-74," said Sizemore. "My hopes are the voters affirm the law and we provide equality and the legislature doesn't have to deal with that issue any longer."
The 47th district had the lowest voter-turnout in King County during the primary.
"In 2008 the district had 80% voter turnout, and only 68% in 2010," said Sizemore. "I think between marriage equality, marijuana legalization and the presidential election, that combination will improve turnout. There's probably no greater disparity on these issues than between my opponent and myself."
How will the Bus trip help?
"Having 40 or 50 or more people come into the 47th district with the enthusiasm that the Bus brings could be the difference in this election. Current House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan lost his first election here by 133 votes."
Over the weekend, Mother Jones obtained secret footage of Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney talking to a group of rich donors at a private fundraiser back in May.
In the video, Romney is heard saying "47% of people are dependent on the government" and "pay no income tax".
First off, I'm morally obliged to point out that as a presidential candidate who refuses to release his tax returns in order to prove he's paid any income tax, perhaps he's speaking from personal experience.
But let's focus on the other 46.99%. When Romney refers to people who pay no income tax, he's referring to a 2010 study that found 47% of U.S. residents pay no federal income tax. That number was 46.4% in 2011.
The vast majority of these families are living at close to the federal poverty level. According to a report by the Non-Partisan Tax Policy Center, in 2011 24.3 million families paid no income tax because they earned less than $10,000 a year.
Nearly three quarters of Americans who paid no federal income tax did so because they were working poor, the elderly, or received tax credits for having children. Some middle class families were able to write off tuition expenses and itemized deductions to bring their tax liabilities down to $0.
Closer to Home:
While Romney's claim is factually accurate, it's oversimplified. Among the 46% of American's who pay no federal income tax, nearly all pay local state, county, and city sales taxes. All working Americans pay Payroll Taxes. Renters and homeowners both end up paying property taxes. Smokers and drinkers are taxed heavily via sin taxes. Car owners pay gas taxes (and the occasional toll).
Here in Washington, we have the most regressive tax system in the country. According to a 2009 study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Washington's poorest residents pay 17.3% of their incomes in local taxes. That same study found that our state's richest residents pay only 2.9% of their incomes into local coffers.
People With Six Glass Houses:
The rich don't just benefit locally from a rigged tax code. In 2011, the Tax Policy Center found approximately 4,000 "tax units" earning more than one million dollars that year paid zero income tax. Members of this group benefited overwhelmingly from reduced rates on capital gains and dividends that normally are taxed at just 10 to 15%. (For contrast, a teacher earning $40,000 a year pays a marginal rate of 25%.)
These are the same types of families that can write off a $77,000 loss on a dancing horse. They are also the same types of families that Romney's tax proposal would overwhelmingly benefit.
The next time Romney derides Americans who are "dependent on the government", it might be useful to remember he's not talking about working class citizens. He's talking about his yacht club buddies who have written the tax code. People who don't believe "the government has a responsibility to care for" anyone. People who hold private fundraisers and speak freely only when they think they're among like-minded individuals.
It's election season, and the Bus wants to put your voice front and center. Want to write about all the happenings between now and November? Attend campaign parties across the state? Design animated kitty gifs? Then the Media and Policy Internship sounds right for you!
As a Media and Policy Intern, you'll get the chance to:
MAP interns will talk to people in the know, analyze policy and campaign promises, run HELLA numbers, and receive more high fives than is probably reasonable.
Media Interns will be expected to submit weekly written content, attend pitch meetings once a week, and kick it at Bus Events. (So many events!)
Please answer the following questions/prompts in a separate document and then e-mail them as a PDF file to mediainternship[at]washingtonbus[dot]org. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis with a final deadline of October 7th.
Describe yourself in no more than two paragraphs. Extra points if you can do the whole thing without using conjunctions.
What name or issue on the ballot are you most excited for this November? Why? How would you get other people just as jazzed up about it?
Who would put on a better improv comedy routine, Joe Biden or Paul Ryan? Because....?
Paul Ryan is out with a new ad that airs in Wisconsin starting today. Watch the whole thing real closely.
Notice that? The ad says absolutely nothing about him or his policies, but that's not new. ("We don't want a government controlled society," as if his opponent was going to choose your breakfast cereal.)
But more relevant: it's a Paul Ryan for U.S. congress ad. You know, just in case that whole Romney-Ryan ticket doesn't pan out.
The blog's been dead as I've been gearing up for the school year to start - but this week has been too crazy to completely miss.
The Republican National Convention has come and gone. Mitt Romney is officially the nominee. And some things can never be unseen.
The whole thing was ripe with missed opportunities. The Republican National Convention purportedly sets the candidate for the Party. Romney's had that in the bag for months now, so the convention instead should be a giant opportunity to sell the Romney-brand.
Now that it's over, polls show little to no benefit from the entire week-long affair.
Paul Ryan managed to pull off a pretty impressive feat. His speech on Thursday night brought consensus between both Fox News and The New York Times. Unfortunately for him, both agree he's an incredibly attractive liar.
Ryan's speech was embarrassing, but it paled in comparison to Clint Eastwood's incoherent ramblings.
The 82-year-old actor went off the rails and held an imaginary conversation with an empty chair. It was painful to watch.
And The Daily Show killed it all week. My personal favorite's below, but seriously go and watch the whole thing.
The Democratic National Convention starts today. We'll see if they can do any better.
The answer is probably not. But in case you do, Dan Savage, author of the Savage Love sex-advice column had Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) over for a dinner and at home debate.
The full video is available below.
Spoiler Alert: My thoughts after the jump.
This November Washington residents will be voting on Initiative 502, an ACLU-sponsored initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in Washington State.
In their endorsement, the Seattle Times Editorial Board gave a nod to opponents of I-502, who dislike the DUI-style provisions created by the new bill.
But they also fall into the trap of pretending there is not currently a law against driving while under the influence of marijuana.
According to RCW 46.61.502:
"A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:
And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW46.61.506; or while the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug;
The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state shall not constitute a defense against a charge of violating this section."
There is currently a zero-tolerance rule for driving while under the influence of non-alcoholic drugs. I-502's "new" DUI threshold would raise the current limit by setting one.
Tuesday night the nascent non-profit organization 21 Progress held an Economic Justice Dinner and Workshop aimed at training young leaders on the importance of the labor movement in creating progressive social and economic justice.
The workshop was led by Mark McDermott, a longtime social justice advocate and former trade unionist who has spent his retirement years giving presentations on the history of labor and it's connection to income inequality.
"The group that was absolutely absent from all of our previous presentations were folks like you," said Sharon Maeda to an audience of people in their 20's. Maeda organized the event and is the Executive Director of 21 Progress. "You have just lowered the demographics of Mark’s workshops by a couple of decades.”
McDermott led a rousing discussion on the early labor movement, speaking with emotion about the challenges his working-class grandfather had undergone without any of the protections workers have today.
"My grandfather gets laid off. Then he gets hit by a car and suffers internal injuries," said McDermott with tangible emotion. "He can't get healthcare, he can't get insurance, he begins a death spiral. Without healthcare he was dead man walking, then lying down."
"In these desperate times the unemployed began organizing. Began overcoming the acts of white racism."
McDermott told the story of organized labor's violent beginnings: protesters asking for liveable wages were shot at and killed by police officers who sided with factory owners.
The University of Washington and Washington State University could possibly be in the stock market business once again, this time with funds required to cover their operating expenses. Come this November, if SJR 8223 is approved by Washington voters, the UW and WSU could potentially invest around 25% of the public funds they receive in the stocks and bonds of private companies, associations, or corporations. The goal is to generate returns on those investments that could be used for educational purposes like lowering tuition and increasing financial aid for students who really need it.
This sounds pretty risky, especially since UW and WSU have been historically prohibited from doing this by the state constitution. Schools run year-round and a loss in the stock market has an immediate negative impact. The Washington Investment Board (a.k.a. Money Experts) will have the authority on how and where the public money will be invested. By investing in low risk stocks and bonds, these schools could see an increase in revenue.
Due to the crazy amounts of recession in all of our lives (minus the 1 percenters) it’s easy to see that these universities need another way to make money and this could take the form of “safe” gambling by the Washington State Investment Board. Both UW and WSU are adamantly in support of this measure. During a Public Hearing in February, Margaret Shepherd and Chris Mulick, the respective Directors of State Relations for UW and WSU, both spoke in favor of the bill. They claimed SJR 8223 would provide an alternate avenue of funding beyond tuition and taxes. These types of investment are projected to bring in an extra $10-20 million a year!!! Sounds like a lot of money, huh? Hold your horses hot shot……..
Over the last 3 years, Washington State has cut $5 Billion (that’s right that’s Billion with a capital B) from early learning, K-12, and higher education. More cuts to education were considered, but were thankfully avoided through cuts in other parts of the state budget. So those $10-20 million that SJR 8223 is projected to generate through private investment are drops in the bucket compared to the amount that have already been cut from these universities' budgets.
In 2000, students paid 28% of the cost of education through tuition. In 2013, students will be paying 65% of the cost of education. Universities have hiked tuition due to the meager amount of funding these schools receive from the state. There’s not enough blood in my system to donate to make up for those expenses!
This measure seems like it’d bring in more revenue, but in the end it’s up to the voters to pass. I know that a lot of students currently paying a ridiculous amount of money to go to school and high school students who dream of attending UW and WSU could benefit a bit from this new revenue.
If Washington is really serious about investing in education, the state is going to need more revenue and SJR 8223 might be a way to do this. But state lawmakers who oversee the budget also need to fund higher education and exercise more ways to bring in revenue. Washington’s future prosperity depends on it.
Over the weekend, Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as
the next president of the United States his running mate.
Ryan being named the Vice Presidential candidate is a huge deal, in no small part because Ryan is well known as an incredibly far-right Republican in the House. Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future", release in 2008 and again in 2010, set the stage to slowly kill Medicare, raise retirement ages, privatize social security (Grandpa needn't retire during economic slumps or market crashes), and cut taxes for the super-wealthy while offering no help to the middle class.
Mitt Romney spokesperson Erik Fehrnstrom compared the Republican Primary to an Etch-A-Sketch back in March. His point: the Republican Primary was all about appealing to a base that was ultraconservative, and Romney would switch gears during the general election to appeal to a more moderate America.
At the time, I believed him. Romney's gay-rights supporting,
ObamaRomneycare creating, moderate record as Governor of Massachusetts made it easy to think Romney was appealing to the Republican base and would pivot back during the general.
But Paul Ryan as VP shatters any chance of Romney appealing to moderates. Moderate voters don't like replacing guaranteed medical coverage for Grandma with a voucher program that won't keep up with rising insurance costs.
No matter how hard you shake.