GOP Presidential Candidates Blast Iran Deal in Primetime Debate

Ten Republican presidential candidates participated in Fox News’s primetime debate:

  • businessman Donald Trump,
  • former Florida Governor Jeb Bush,
  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker,
  • former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee,
  • neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson,
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz,
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio,
  • Kentucky Senator Rand Paul,
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Walker said that if the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, negotiated by the Obama administration and pending congress review, is signed and he is elected president, he will cancel it immediately:

I still remember, as a kid, tying a yellow ribbon around a tree in front of my house during the 444 days that Iran held 52 Americans hostage. Iran is not a place we should be doing business with.

To me, you terminate the deal on day one, you reinstate the sanctions authorized by Congress, you go to Congress and put in place even more crippling sanctions in place, and then you convince our allies to do the same.

This is not just bad with Iran, this is bad with ISIS. It is tied together, and, once and for all, we need a leader who’s gonna stand up and do something about it.

Paul criticized the agreement as well, mentioning former President Ronald Reagan as an example for a better approach:

I’m a Reagan conservative. Reagan did negotiate with the Soviets. But you have to negotiate from a position of strength, and I think President Obama gave away too much, too early.

If there’s going to be a negotiation, you’re going to have to believe somehow that the Iranians are going to comply. I asked this question to John Kerry, I said “do you believe they’re trustworthy?” and he said “No.”

And I said, “well, how are we gonna get them to comply?” I would have never released the sanctions before there was consistent evidence of compliance.

Huckabee mentioned Reagan as well:

Ronald Reagan said “trust, but verify.” President Obama is “trust, but vilify.” He trusts our enemies and vilifies everyone who disagrees with him. And the reason we disagree with him has nothing to do with party. It has to do with the incredibly dangerous place that this world is gonna be as a result of a deal in which we got nothing.

We didn’t even get four hostages out. We got nothing, and Iran gets everything they want. We said we would have anywhere, anytime negotiations and inspections, we gave that up. We said that we would make sure that they didn’t have any nuclear capacity, we gave that up.

The president can’t tell you what we got. I’ll tell you what the world got. The world has a burgeoning nuclear power that didn’t, as the Soviets, say “we might defend ourselves in a war.” What the Iranians have said is, “we will wipe Israel off the face of the map, and we will bring death to America.”

When someone points a gun at your head and loads it, by God, you ought to take them seriously, and we need to take that seriously.

Christie And King Angry Over Lack Of Aid For Sandy Victims


More after the jump.
Last Wednesday, New Jersey governor Chris Christie held a press conference and charged the House of Representatives for not voting on the $60 billion disaster relief package for his state and the other ones hit by Hurricane Sandy:

There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocence victims: The House Majority and their Speaker, John Boehner.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. National disasters happen in red states and blue states, and states with Democratic Governors and Republican Governors.

We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night.

Last night, politics was placed before our oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.

In an interview for Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom”, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) also slammed his own party members:

All we’re saying is treat us the same everybody else has been treated. And why the Republican party has this bias against New York, bias against New Jersey, bias against the northeast? They wonder why they’re becoming a minority party? Why we’ll be the party of the permanent minority? What they did last night was so immoral, so disgraceful, so irresponsible. We’re supposed to be the party of family values, and you have families starving, families suffering, families spread all over living in substandard housing. This was a disgrace.

Displaced NJ Voters Can Vote Anywhere in NJ or By Fax or By Email

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued a directive today to allow people displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote at any polling place in the state through the use of a provisional ballot. This will allow them to vote for President and Vice-President, United States Senator and any statewide question. Votes for various local offices will be counted if this is a vote for which the voter is otherwise eligible to vote. (That is, if you vote in a different legislative district than the one in which you live, your vote for the state legislator will not be counted.)

On Tuesday, polls will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in New Jersey. You can also vote today and tomorrow (Sunday and Monday) at  your county clerk’s office. Text 877877 or log onto www.elections.nj.gov to find your specific location.

The Governor also declared that displaced persons can vote by fax or email as if they were “oversea voters.”

Details follow the jump.

Any voter who has been displaced from their primary residence because of Hurricane Sandy is hereby designated as an “overseas voter” for purposes of the Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law, N.J.S.A. 19:59-1, et seq., consistent with the following procedures:

A. These displaced voters may submit a mail-in ballot application to the County Clerk of the county in which they live.  These voters may submit that application by email or fax.  The contact information for the applicable Clerk is available at the applicable county’s website or at the New Jersey Division of Elections website, www.elections.nj.gov.  Further information is available by calling the following  toll-free number: 1-877-NJVOTER (1-877-658-6837).

B. Upon receipt of the application, the County Clerk shall determine if the applicant is a qualified voter.  If so, the County Clerk shall electronically send the ballot and
the waiver of secrecy form to the voter by the method chosen by the voter (email/fax).

C. The County Clerk shall accept such electronic applications through 5 p.m. on November 6, 2012.

D. The voter must transmit the signed waiver of secrecy along with the voted ballot by fax or email for receipt by the applicable county board of election no later than November 6, 2012 at 8 p.m. 2. The statutory deadline for the receipt of mail-in ballots will be extended to November 19, 2012 for any ballot postmarked on
or before November 5, 2012.

Pres. Obama & Gov. Christie Survey Hurricane Damage

Remarks at Brigantine Marina after surveying damage from Hurricane Sandy

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  And thank you all for coming today.  I want to thank the members who are here as well.  And obviously, I want to thank the President.

We spent a significant afternoon together surveying the damage up and down the New Jersey coastline; we were on Marine One together to be able to show the President that personally.  I had an opportunity to see it, and we had an opportunity to discuss it at length.  And then, going over to the shelter here, being able to meet with folks to have them see the President and his concern, and the concern that all of us have for making sure that things get back to normal as quickly as possible.

We have lots of challenges.  One of our challenges now is to get back to normalcy.  And so the things we need to do is to make sure that we get power restored as quickly as possible; make sure that people have clean drinking water, and waste water treatment plants are working; hospitals are taken care of the way they need to; and that we get kids back to school.

And so, I discussed all those issues today with the President, and I’m pleased to report that he has sprung into action immediately to help get us those things while we were in the car riding together.  So I want to thank him for that.  He has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit.  I think this is our sixth conversation since the weekend, and it’s been a great working relationship to make sure that we’re doing the jobs that people elected us to do.  And I cannot thank the President enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.  And I heard it on the phone conversations with him, and I was able to witness it today personally.

And so we’re going to continue to work.  The state government is here.  We’re doing what we need to do.  We’re coordinating with FEMA, and I want to thank Administrator Fugate for being here and for the input he’s already had in helping to make our operation even better.  And we will move on from here.

What I said yesterday I really mean.  I know there has got to be sorrow, and you see that and the President has seen that today in the eyes — the faces of a lot of the folks he’s met.  And that sorrow is appropriate; we’ve suffered some loss.  Luckily, we haven’t suffered that much loss of life and we thank God for that.  But we have suffered losses, and this is the worst storm that I’ve seen in my lifetime in this state.  But we cannot permit that sorrow to replace the resilience that I know all New Jerseyans have.  And so we will get up and we’ll get this thing rebuilt, and we’ll put things back together, because that’s what this state is all about and always has been all about.

And so for all of you who are here — and I met a bunch of you today at Brigantine who disregarded my admonition — (laughter) — to get the hell out of here — you’re forgiven this time.  You are forgiven this time, but not for much longer.  We’ve got to make sure when all of you look around and you see all this destruction, that’s fine — but you know what, all that stuff can be replaced.  You look to your right and to your left, to your husband or wife, your son or your daughter — those are the things that can’t be replaced.  So I’m glad that we don’t have that kind of loss of life to have to deal with.

So I want to thank him for being here today, for bringing his personal attention to it.  And it’s my honor to introduce to all of you the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

Transcript of President’s remarks follow the jump.
President Barack Obama: Thank you, everybody.  Let me just make sure that I acknowledge the folks who are here, because they’ve played an important role in this.

First of all, your congressional delegation — Senator Bob Menendez, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Congressman Frank LoBiondo, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, and Brigantine Mayor Philip Guenther.

Obviously, this is a federal, state, and local effort.  And the first thing I want to do is just to thank everybody who has been involved in the entire rescue and recovery process.  At the top of my list, I have to say that Governor Christie throughout this process has been responsive; he has been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm.  And I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.  So I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.

I want to thank the congressional delegation because part of the reason we’re going to be able to respond quickly to all this is because they helped to make sure that FEMA financing was in place, and we’re very appreciative of those efforts.  And I want to thank Craig Fugate; sometimes people just think FEMA and they don’t think the people behind them, but Craig lives and breathes this stuff, making sure that we’re providing the help that people so desperately need in these situations.

I want to thank all the first responders who have been involved in this process — the linesmen, the firefighters, the folks who were in here shuttling out people who were supposed to “get the hell out” and didn’t.  You’ve helped to save a lot of lives and a lot of property.  And one of the things that you learn in these tragedies is, the first responders — keep in mind their homes usually are underwater too, or their families have been affected in some way, and yet they make those personal sacrifices to help other people.  So we really appreciate them.

I’m just going to make a couple of comments.  Number one, and most important, our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones.  It’s true that because of some good preparation, the loss of life was kept lower than it might have been, but for those individual families, obviously their world has been torn apart.  And we need to make sure that everybody who has lost a loved one knows they’re in our thoughts and prayers — and I speak for the whole country there.

For those like the people I just had the chance to meet on this block and throughout New Jersey and throughout the region whose lives have been upended, my second message is we are here for you, and we will not forget; we will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need until you’ve rebuilt.

At this point, our main focus is on the states of New Jersey, which got hit harder than anybody; the state of New York, particularly lower Manhattan and Long Island.  We are very concerned about some situations in Connecticut as well, and we’re still monitoring West Virginia where there are heavy snows in some inaccessible areas.  But for the most part, those four states are really bearing the brunt of this incredible storm.

What we’ve been able to do is to pre-position and stage commodities — water, power generators, ambulances in some cases, food, medical supplies, emergency supplies — and we have over 2,000 FEMA personnel that are on the ground right now.  Their job, now that we’re moving out of the search-and-rescue phase, is to make sure that they are going out and talking to individual communities so that people know exactly how they can get the help that they need.

We expedited our emergency declarations for the state of New Jersey and local counties that have been affected.  What that means is, is that people can immediately start registering for emergency assistance.  And one of the things I want to emphasize to the people of New Jersey and throughout the region:  Now that you’re safe, your family is safe, but you’re trying to figure out where you’re going to stay for the next couple of days, et cetera, it’s very important that you know that there is help available to you right now, for example, to find rental housing or to be able to pay for some groceries.  Over at the community center we saw a young woman who had a newborn, or I guess probably an eight-month old, still needs diapers and formula, and has run out.  Those are the kinds of basic supplies and help that we can provide.

If you call 800-621-FEMA — 800-621-FEMA — or DisasterAssistance.gov — if you’ve got access to the Internet, you can go to DisasterAssistance.gov.  What that allows you to do is to register right now so that you can immediately start receiving help.  We want to make sure that you get everything that you need.

Just a couple of final points.  Obviously, our biggest priority right now is getting power turned back on.  We were very pleased that Newark got power yesterday; Jersey City is getting power we believe today.  But there are still big chunks of the community, including this community right here, that don’t have power.  And so it’s hard enough cleaning up debris and dealing with boats that have been upended and roads that are blocked; when people don’t have power, though, obviously they’re disabled in all sorts of ways and it’s hard to get back to normal.

So yesterday, I had a chance to speak to the CEOs of the utilities from all across the country.  And a lot of the states that were spared, that were not hard hit, or some states as far away as California, they have pledged to start getting equipment crews, et cetera, here into New Jersey and New York and Connecticut as quickly as possible.

And one of the things that we’ve been able to do — just to give you a sense of how this is an all-hands-deck approach — we’re able to get C-17s and C-130s, military transport planes, potentially, to move assets, personnel to speed up the process of getting power up and running as soon as possible.

Our first priority is water filtration plants and some other critical infrastructure in the state; for that, we’ve got emergency generators.  We’ve got a Navy ship that has some helicopters that can help to move assets around the state as well.  And so we’re going to be working with Governor Christie’s office and local officials to identify what are those critical infrastructure, how can we get what’s needed as quickly as possible.

Just a couple of other things that we’re concerned about — one is, as power starts coming back on, we want to make sure that people can also get to work.  Obviously, there are a lot of folks in Jersey who work in New York, in the city, and in other places where transportation may be hobbled.  One of the things I mentioned to the Governor is the possibility of us using federal assets, military assets, as well as taking inventory of assets from around the country that can be brought in so that we can help people get to their work.

And Governor Christie also mentioned the importance of schools.  The sooner we can get our kids back into school, the sooner they’re back into a routine; that obviously helps the families and helps the kids as well.

So we’re going to have a lot of work to do.  I don’t want anybody to feel that somehow this is all going to get cleaned up overnight.  We want to make sure that people have realistic expectations.

But what I can promise you is that the federal government will be working as closely as possible with the state and local officials, and we will not quit until this is done.  And the directive that I have given — and I said this yesterday, but I will repeat; and I think Craig and others who are working with me right now know I mean it — we are not going to tolerate red tape.  We’re not going to tolerate bureaucracy.  And I’ve instituted a 15-minute rule, essentially, on my team:  You return everybody’s phone calls in 15 minutes, whether it’s the mayors’, the governors’, county officials’.  If they need something, we figure out a way to say yes.

As I was just gathering around, I had a chance to talk to some of the young people here who have been volunteering, going up and down the block cleaning up debris.  And when we were over at the community center, there was a restaurant owner who, for the last 18 hours, had been cooking meals, just as his contribution to the recovery process.  And some of the folks were saying the food was better than they got at home.  (Laughter.)  You had a 15-year-old young man whose mother was disabled, and he was making sure that she was okay, and taking on extraordinary responsibilities for himself but also for his mom.

And when you see folks like that respond with strength and resilience, when you see neighbors helping neighbors, then you’re reminded about what America is all about.  We go through tough times, but we bounce back.  And the reason we bounce back is because we look out for one another and we don’t leave anybody behind.

And so my commitment to the people on this block, the people in this community, and the people of this state is that that same spirit will carry over all the way through until our work is done.  All right?

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)    

Why The Secrecy With Romney’s Taxes?

It is a long-standing tradition for Presidential candidates to make their income tax return history public. To the right is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tax return for 1913, the first year the United States assessed an income tax having passed the 16th amendment, two decade before he become President. This tradition is important since it gives the public the transparency it needs to understand possible conflicts of interest their chief executive might have.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has resisted calls to do so, but even his supporters have urged him to reconsider. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) spoke on Morning Joe this morning:  

“I’ve released all of my tax returns…and I released them every year after I filed them, right after I filed them, to the public of New Jersey so they can see everything. And I think that’s the right way to go and that’s what I would tell Gov. Romney to do.”

Mitt Romney may not have a job right now (as he famously pointed out to a group of unemployed Floridians, but he does have plenty of income from his stake in Bain Capital and his other investments amounting to $190 million to $250 million. The politically embarrassing thing is that his investment income is only taxed at 15% while the tax rate for wages goes up to 35%.

“It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything. My income comes overwhelmingly from some investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income or earned annual income.” – Mitt  Romney

In addition, having no “earned income” the millionaire Romney probably pays no Social Security and Medicare payroll tax whatsoever while “Joe Schmoe” probably pays an additional 15% if he is self-employed or 7.5% if he is employed with his employer making up the difference.

Warren Buffett recently deplored how unfair our tax system is when millionaires pay a lower tax rate than ordinary Americans. A Spectrem Group survey shows that 68% of millionaires agree. Being the poster child for the inequity in our tax system is certain a political liability for Romney. Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has proposed a flat 15% tax, but Romney’s tax plan maintains the current disparity against earned income and in favor passive investment income.

At Monday’s Debate, Romney was pressed on this tax issue. He still would not commit but suggested that he might release his 2011 tax return once he becomes the Republican nominee.

Kelly Evans (Wall Street Journal economics correspondent): Governor Romney, Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum — and now vocally tonight Governor Perry — are calling for you to release your tax records. The Obama campaign is asking for the same thing. Governor, will you release your income tax records?

Mitt Romney: You know, I looked at what has been done in campaigns in the past with Senator McCain and President George W. Bush and others. They have tended to release tax records in April or tax season. I hadn’t planned on releasing tax records because the law requires us to release all of our assets, all the things we own. That I have already released. It’s a pretty full disclosure. But, you know, if that’s been the tradition and I’m not opposed to doing that, time will tell. But I anticipate that most likely I am going to get asked to do that around the April time period and I’ll keep that open.

Evans: Governor, you will plan then to release your income tax records around April?

Romney: I think I’ve heard enough from folks saying, look, let’s see your tax records. I have nothing in them that suggests there’s any problem and I’m happy to do so. I sort of feel like we are showing a lot of exposure at this point. And if I become our nominee, and what’s happened in history is people have released them in about April of the coming year and that’s probably what I would do.

Why not release them immediately?

Why not release the entire record and not just the upcoming return which is due in April?

Mitt Romney’s father Gov. George Romney (R-MI) ran against Richard Nixon for the Republican Nomination in 1968. He released a full 12 years of income tax records almost a year before the election. Why doesn’t his son do the same?

Does Romney fear that there is something in his tax return which would jeopardize his chances in the Republican primary? Is that why he wants to wait until his victory is fait accompli?

Is Romney, concerned with anti-Mormon bigotry, worried that detailed records of his tithing to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might derail his campaign?

According to Sam Younman of Reuters,

Tax analysts say Romney may have good reason to be reluctant to release his returns.
His vast fortune is invested in dozens of funds linked to Bain Capital LLC, the powerhouse private equity firm he co-founded and led for 15 years. Several Bain funds have offshore connections and take advantage of tax breaks used only by the U.S. financial elite.

His tax returns could shed light on how Romney and Bain use offshore strategies to avoid taxes, said Daniel Berman, a former U.S. Treasury deputy international tax counsel and now director of tax at Boston University’s graduate tax program. Bain funds in which Romney is invested are scattered from Delaware to the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, Ireland and Hong Kong, according to a Reuters analysis of securities filings.

With these tax shelters in place is his tax rate really even 15%? Accordingly, John Marshall suggests the Romney is working on unwinding some of these tax shelters for his 2011 Tax Return so that his tax rate will not be so embarrassingly low.

Time’s Adam Sorensen believes this the “the perfect campaign issue” for Democrats:

It lies at the intersection of the personal, professional and political identities they plan to foist on Romney in the general election: the privilege they hope will make it hard for voters to relate to Romney, the erstwhile career in private equity that they hop will taint him as a economic predator rather than a turnaround artist, and the regressive tax policies they hope can drive a wedge between the Republican party and the middle class.

Chris Clizza at the Washington Post’s The Fix contrasts Romney and Obama:

The political problem for Romney in all of this is not that he’s wealthy. (President Obama is quite wealthy in his own right thanks to the success of his books.) It’s that the way Romney talks about money can make him seem drastically out of touch with average people — an issue that is exacerbated by the fact that he is running for president in a time of incredible economic hardship… Being rich isn’t the problem. Being unaware that lots and lots of other people aren’t (and what that means in real terms) is.

Video comparing the tax cut of the top 1% to the total income of the bottom 99% after the jump.

Horror on the Hudson

Part 2 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

“Children are not like roads. They will not remain static over the next few years and they will not get the chance to redo these school years when the economy gets better.”

– Debra Fuchs-Ertman, Scarborough, Maine

William Paterson’s distinguished career as New Jersey’s governor and senator, and subsequently as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, is a tad tarnished by his service as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

The framers of the Constitution are habitually hailed as visionaries. Not altogether true. Paterson balked at the Virginia Plan for proportional representation in Congress. He predicted that the most populous states would dominate the agenda in Congress. Proportional representation would leave New Jersey and the other small states on the margins of power.

Paterson ultimately accepted the Connecticut Compromise that affords each state equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House.

With 8.7 million people, New Jersey is today America’s 11th most populous state, ranking immediately above Virginia. These days it seems as if the least populous states dominate the agenda, leaving the larger states – New Jersey among them – on the margins of power. Moral of this story? New Jersey and you, congested together.

More after the jump.
As Smoky the Bear might say, only you can prevent the collapse of the George Washington Bridge. If the GW crashes into the Hudson River, can you live with the scenes of twisted metal and the screams of the victims on your conscience?

As the wealthy lap up their luxury, the rest of us are now expected to find more money we do not have to rebuild our bridges and roads and supply jobs for the building trades unions.

Such is the message conveyed by our leaders in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, if indirectly through intermediaries. They refuse to raise taxes on the rich or profitable corporations, yet they want us to pay higher tolls and fees.

“The pain of higher tolls is nothing compared with the pain we would feel if the span of the George Washington Bridge collapses,” writes Mitchell Moss in a New York Daily News op-ed.

“There are dozens of critical maintenance projects like that – basic improvements that need to be made to keep things running smoothly,” the urban policy professor continued. “Contrary to popular belief, tolls are actually the best way to pay for highways and bridges.”

In a letter to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ricke C. Foster, president of the Contractors Association of Eastern Pennsylvania, writes: “The state has suffered for decades without the needed funds to invest in our highways and public transit systems. The recent recommendations by the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission offer a commonsense solution to our state’s transportation problem, in particular, raising additional funds specifically from transportation users.

“The cost for a typical motorist will be only 70 cents per week in the first year, growing to a still-modest $2.50 per week by year five – less than the cost of a gallon of gasoline,” he continues. “It’s a plan that will put Pennsylvania back on track to economic recovery and provide for our long-term prosperity.”

No argument. Our infrastructure has long been deteriorating. We know that. Likewise, repair projects to this end will create many jobs. We also know that the governors of both New York and New Jersey had until then refused to raise taxes on the wealthy; NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed his mind in December 2011. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has rebuffed all calls for imposing a production tax on ultra-profitable corporations that have been extracting shale gas underneath Pennsylvania land.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey antagonized motorists on both sides of the Hudson when in late August 2011 it proposed massive toll hikes on its bridges and tunnels across the Hudson and its bridges between New Jersey and Staten Island.

A commission in Pennsylvania recommended increases in taxes and fees to pay for repairs of state roads, bridges and mass-transportation systems. The increases would include annual vehicle and drivers’ fees.

As a man of vision, could William Paterson have envisioned this scenario?

The Port Authority originally proposed raising tolls for E-ZPass users from $8 to $12 and drivers who pay with cash would be charged almost double, from $8 to $15 for each trip. Fares for the PA’s subway-style service known as PATH would rise from $1.75 to $2.75.

The PA mess swiftly got ugly. Letters to the editor that were published were almost unprintable. Union workers filled some hearings to argue that the toll increases would produce jobs and upgrade the infrastructure, the NY News reported.

“This plan will be a lifeline for New York City workers, but it will also be a lifeline for our city’s infrastructure,” said Bernard Callegari, a member of Construction & General Building Laborers’ Local 79.

So poor and middle-class citizens should pay higher tolls and train fares so we can give Callegari and his friends jobs – jobs that will probably provide higher salaries than many of these people currently earn.

Also, union representative Michael McGuire said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch. We have serious infrastructure needs.”

Added Local 79 member Dennis Lee, “Haven’t we learned something from (the bridge collapse in) Minnesota when all those people died? Are we looking to be a Third World nation?”

Joe Valentine, vice president of Taxpayers of Staten Island, engaged in a shouting match with a union member after saying, “They come in here and try to intimidate me and the rest of Staten Island. You people are not even from Staten Island…I want your hands out of my pocket.”

Few people would be surprised if the unions and politicians orchestrated this spectacle. The Port Authority would get its toll and fare hikes and the unions would get their jobs. Everyone else would be squeezed even more.

The unions’ conduct is a sure way to lose sympathy. Any reasonable person would be pleased for anyone to find work, but opponents of the tolls are probably anxious to see these guys waiting in long employment lines.

If the politicians were behind it, they artfully played the divide-and-conquer game.

What the union members should have done was team up with the commuters. Instead, they apparently fell for the oldest trick in the book.

What’s more, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie balked at the PA’s toll-hike proposals – even though they appoint the members of the authority. They claimed they were caught flatfooted by the news.

Nor did anyone acclaim the governors as knights in shining armor who rescued them from the high tolls. The PA reduced the toll hikes considerably, but would raise the PATH fares 25 cents each year for the next four year instead of boosting it by $1 in one year.

Is it necessary to raise tolls to fund infrastructure repairs? Some of the wealthiest people in the world live in New York and New Jersey. They were already paying extra taxes before Christie ended it in New Jersey and Cuomo agreed to let them run out in New York. Cuomo campaigned on a no-tax pledge and must contend with a Republican-controlled state Senate.

Christie sacrificed money for schools and community services to soothe the rich. As a precursor to the toll increase, fares on New Jersey Transit trains rose nearly as much as 50 percent on May 1, 2010; a round-trip from Trenton to New York increased from $21.50 to $31.

So it’s strange to read Christie’s words in The New York Post: “What’s the cost of not paying higher tolls, if in fact we stop investing in our infrastructure to the region?…It’s about creating good-paying jobs for building tradesmen and women across our state, to put them to work on these projects.”

Rob Wonderling, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, tried to justify Pennsylvania’s fee increases in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed: “Additional proposals called for generating the revenue through an increase in the annual vehicle and drivers’ fees to inflation – by $13 and $5, respectively. The fees paid by these citizens have not been adjusted since 1987.”

So a failure to adjust said fees for 24 years obligates an increase. Maybe the state can think about adjusting the fees downward.

___________________________________________________

“I came in full of idealism – I was going to change my city,” Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s most populous city, told a New York Times reporter. “You get involved in government because you want to do more for the people, you want to show them that government can work and local government, by and large, really does work for the people.”

Finch caved to the same forces as other mayors, laying off 160 city employees. Mayors throughout the nation, gathering in Washington during late January 2011, testified to similar nightmares of cutting services, sending city workers to the unemployment lines, raising taxes and bracing for declining tax revenues and aid reductions from their own states, according to the NY Times.

The 200 mayors pressed their federal agenda as they visited President Obama and members of Congress, urging more spending on transportation and retaining the Community Development Block Grant program.

Many of these mayors expected their state governments to withhold more funds rather than help them since most states face moderate to devastating deficits. Among our largest states, California, population 36.9 billion, at the time faced a $25.4 billion deficit; Illinois, 12.9 million, $15 billion; Texas, 24.7 million, $13.4 billion; and New Jersey, $8.7 million, $10.4 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as reported in the NY Times.

Four states – Alaska, Arkansas, North Dakota and Wyoming – were not projecting shortfalls, according to the study.

The following June, mayors gathered in Baltimore where they called upon the president and Congress to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so that the money spent on military ventures could be diverted to the needs of the cities. In the preceding decade, $1.3 trillion was spent on Baghdad and Kabul.

So, cause and effect? Rats are swarming the underground. The jobless rate rises as stocks crash. Public school students confront class warfare. More blood flows on the city streets. And riots could come to a neighborhood near you.

“We have a lot of kids graduating college, can’t find jobs,” says Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who keeps contractors well sustained. “That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here.”

Even political rival Jumaame Williams, a city councilman, is on the same page with Bloomy: “I don’t think it’s far-fetched that there could be civil unrest if people are not able to feed their families, just as it’s not far-fetched that if young people can’t get opportunities, violence will increase.”

A taste of the fallout as our societal nightmare worsened just as the 10th anniversary of 9.11 was observed. Especially as cuts imposed by state legislatures began to take effect.

Then 11 days after the anniversary, we learned that 46.2 million Americans were officially subsisting at the poverty level…in 2010. Of those, 1.6 million were living in New York City, up 75,000 from 2009, and nearly 400,000 resided in Philadelphia, up 64,000, according to New York and Philly papers.

The Census Bureau released these and other alarming figures in its 2010 American Community Survey, which reported that the national poverty rate rose from 14.3 percent to 15.1 percent in 2010, the third consecutive annual increase. However, one in five New Yorkers lived in poverty in 2010 while the poverty rate in Philadelphia rose 1.7 percent that year, from 25 to 26.7 percent. Other hard-hit cities were Los Angeles, Miami,
Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Minneapolis.

“A 1.7 percent increase from 25 percent to 26.7 percent poverty may not sound like a lot, but that’s nearly 23,000 more children, parents, brothers and sisters struggling to get by each and every day,” noted Kathy Fisher of Public Citizens for Children and Youth in Philadelphia.

Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, added, “Increasing poverty is simply a confirmation of what we see every day in ever-longer lines at food pantries and soup kitchens. It is also latest proof our city and state policies are failing in fundamental ways.”

It was a real surprise on Labor Day 2011 when a rat chomped on a woman’s foot as she sat on a bench waiting for a J train, inside the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station. Half-crazed from the attack, she rushed to a service booth and was taken to a hospital. She was treated and released.

The attack was unusual, sources told The New York Daily News, because the J train platform has a low rodent population. Now the platforms for the 4, 5 and 6 trains are “a rat fest,” said a transit worker.

In the wake of heavy layoffs, union officials and employees blamed less frequent garbage collections and failure to adequately seal trash storage rooms.

“I’ve heard of rats running over people’s feet,” the transit worker said. “But I’ve never heard of anyone actually bit.”

Trenton, N.J., laid off 105 police officers, nearly one-third of the force, on Sept. 16, 2011, to save $4 million, according to the Associated Press. Mayor Tony Mack attributed the layoffs to the loss of $28 million, from $55 million, in state funds from the past year. That follows steep police layoffs in Newark, Camden and Atlantic City.

“We’re losing the streets,” said Trenton Officer Maria Chell-Starsky, laid off after six years on the force. “We might as well just hand the city over to the gang members.”

Likewise, violence rose in the two major cities linked by the New Jersey Turnpike. Philadelphia’s homicide rate increased slightly during the 9/11 weekend with seven slayings in addition to 14 nonfatal shootings, The Philadelphia Daily News reported. The following weekend, gun use in New York prompted Cuomo to spout about gun control and related issues, The New York Daily News reported.

“It has been decades where we have been fighting Washington for sensible laws controlling guns, and we need those laws passed, and we need them passed now,” the governor said.

Basic law-enforcement services have suffered in the adjoining Midwestern states of Kansas and Missouri. A controversy among three arms of government has inflamed Topeka, Ks., after the Shawnee County District Attorney refused to prosecute suspects in misdemeanor cases of domestic abuse.

After the county commission cut his $3.5 million budget by 10 percent in 2011, District Attorney Chad Taylor said, his office would cease prosecuting misdemeanor cases of domestic violence. Topeka’s City Council, in turn, voted that October to repeal a local law categorizing domestic violence as a crime, The NY Times reported. That would compel Taylor to prosecute the cases since they would remain a crime under state law.

In addition to losing money, Taylor pointed out that violent crime has increased. “I feel like my office and public safety are a priority,” he said.

Shelly Buhler, chairperson of the Shawnee County Commission, said she did not expect Taylor to follow through with his warning that he would no longer prosecute domestic violence. “We had hoped that he would not put that group of victims at risk, that he would find some other way to absorb the cuts,” she said.

“To have public officials pointing fingers while victims of domestic violence are trying to figure out who will protect them is just stunning,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

In Missouri, a county public defender wondered aloud: “Is someone in prison who might have been acquitted if we had had more resources?”

Rod Hackathorn, public defender for a three-county district including Ozark County, adds, “You don’t know. I’m sure that it’s happened, and I don’t know who it has happened to. And that (is) the scariest part of this all.”

Hackathorn’s district was one of two in Missouri to announce in summer 2010 that it was turning down cases because they are overburdened and lack staff to serve all defendants, The NY Times reported. Nine other districts were taking steps to follow suit, and Public Defenders in other states have either sued over their caseloads or rejected new cases.

In one instance in Missouri, Christian County Judge John S. Waters said, “It flies in the face of our Constitution. It flies in the face of our culture. It flies in the face of the reason we came over here 300 and some-odd years ago to get out of debtors’ prison…I’m not saying the public defenders aren’t overworked. I don’t know how to move his case and how to provide what the law of the land provides.”

The public defender’s office had repeatedly begged the judge to release it from representing a defendant charged with stealing prescription pain pills and a blank check because of its workload. The Missouri Supreme Court subsequently rescinded the assignment pending further court proceedings.

“What you have is a situation where the eligible pool of  clients is increasing, crime rates are potentially increasing, while the resources often for public defenders are going down,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, president and chief executive of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Public-funded legal defense for indigent citizens charged with serious crimes was required as a result of the 1963 Supreme Court ruling, Gideon v. Wainwright.

However, Missouri’s public defenders office told the Times that $21 million more than $34 million it was slated to receive in 2010 is needed to staff it adequately. That would fund 125 more attorneys, 90 more secretaries, 109 more investigators, 130 more legal assistants and more space.

Due to school program cuts in Toledo, Ohio, boxing emerged as a popular sport by February 2011. A NY Times article chronicles how hundreds of teen-agers participated in boxing clubs after the school district terminated all athletic teams for middle school students and high school freshmen. Also cut were high school cross-country, wrestling, golf and boys’ tennis teams, along with all intramural activities that include cheerleading and dance teams.

Parents are willing to pay for boxing activities, as nurse’s assistant Tambria Dixson pays $90 monthly to a gym for her three sons. “Paying for it is a struggle,” she says. “But the kids in our neighborhood who aren’t involved in athletics are getting involved in gangs. So yes, it’s worth it.”

Because the California legislature is constrained from raising taxes, the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts filed a lawsuit against the state in late September 2011 claiming that Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature illegally manipulated the state’s voter-approved education funding formula to shortchange them by $2 billion, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Brown and the legislators circumvented a mandate to allocate 40 percent of state spending on schools in 2011 by converting more than $5 billion to local monies. The teachers union agreed to the plan, but a grouping of school boards and administrators chose to file suit. “We were really terribly underfunded before the recession began three years ago,” said Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. “There just has to be a stop to those sorts of cuts.”

No argument from the legislative majority, which is Democratic, but a two-thirds majority is required to increase taxes to offset severe cuts in school aid. Republicans occupy more than one-third of the seats and, predictably, refuse to cooperate

One victim of California’s 2011 budget cuts was the Los Angeles Unified’s elementary school library system, which laid off 227 of its 430 library aides and halved the hours of another 193 aides.

Jean Ross of the California Budget Project said in a statement quoted by LATimes columnist Steve Lopez, “Policymakers should not balance state and federal budgets at the expense of the families who have been hardest hit by the economic downturn…Policymakers should focus on proven strategies for improving the state’s competitiveness – strengthening our schools, our colleges and universities, and other public structures that are fundamental to job growth and a healthy economy.”

Lopez wrote, “Don’t we deserve a full public discussion in which we can question the wisdom of destroying an elementary school library system in a district with huge reading deficiencies?”

The school system in Scarborough, Me., was confronted with losing more than $1.1 million in state money, federal stimulus funds and other revenue sources, which translates to the equivalent of 12 full-time teaching positions and part-time jobs, according to The Portland Press-Herald.

The Board of Education spent an hour on March 17, 2011, listening to 13 residents, all of whom assailed the proposed cuts. Critics pointed to how the cuts affect class size, how programs should be upgraded and not diminished and the difficulties caused by activity fees.

“Children are not like roads,” said Debra Fuchs-Ertman. “They will not remain static over the next few years and they will not get the chance to redo these school years when the economy gets better.”

As Pittsburgh riders endured a transit crisis in March 2011, George Washington probably never imagined what would become of the triangular segment of land jutting out onto the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, where they formed the once-strategic Ohio River.

A case could be made that Pittsburgh’s Point State Park – first the site of Fort Duquesne and then Fort Pitt – indirectly inspired the creation of America. In 1754, then-Lt. Col. Washington led colonial troops toward that site to ensure construction of a British fort to control those waterways.

Along the way, Washington’s troops fought French soldiers in a brief battle at a spot known as Jumanville Glen. The engagement triggered events leading to the French-Indian War, which led to England’s demands for taxation to pay for the war, which set the course toward the Revolution.

Downtown Pittsburgh is located directly behind the park. It is the center of a region populated by almost 2 million people.

Yet in the Pittsburgh suburb of Ross, Tyler Boyer told a Post-Gazette reporter that he waited 70 minutes for a bus on March 28, 2011, the first weekday when severe cuts in bus service went into effect. He said four packed buses passed him until he joined with others to carpool downtown.

For five years, Kara Griffith caught a 7:27 a.m. bus in New Kensington each day to her job as a financial consultant in Pittsburgh, but on March 28 she had to start arriving at the stop at 7:05 a.m.

“The buses are packed. It’s standing room only. Some buses will pass you up,” she said. “For what I pay each month for a bus pass, and I get this kind of service? You raise your rates but give us poor service?”

One day earlier, Allegheny County’s Port Authority eliminated 29 bus routes and reduced service on 37 other routes while laying off 180 drivers and other employees. The authority blamed a $55 million deficit on the loss of state funds.

No doubt that Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and the remainder of America’s founders would feel proud and fulfilled that a great country evolved from a task that originated with them. However, they would probably be aghast to discover that an important city like Pittsburgh would be stripped of basic services provided by its transportation system.

Not to mention all the other cities, schools and towns that have been devastated in the wake of this recession.    

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Robert Hudson may well have died so the city of New York could collect a fine from his wife for neglecting to wear her seatbelt. Maybe.

If the account presented by his widow’s attorney is true, Hudson was possibly victimized by New York’s desperate search for revenues to compensate for the money it has lost over the years. New York’s practice reflects the efforts of other cities and states to raise money.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has transformed this process into an art form, but it occurs in plenty of other places, especially in large cities and populous states. For decades, taxpayers in major cities and large states have been filling up the bulk of state and federal treasuries to the point that cities and states cannot support themselves.

To break this out, the federal government receives much more money from large states than elsewhere because that’s where the money is. Not only do we have a greater number of citizens to pay taxes in these states but a high percentage of the wealthy live in places like Beverly Hills, Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Fairfield County in Connecticut.

Not to mention suburbs like Newton in Massachusetts, Bethesda in Maryland, Lower Merion in Pennsylvania and Teaneck and Cherry Hill in New Jersey.

Likewise, these cities and wealthier communities stuff the coffers of state governments in higher proportions. The statehouses in Albany, Springfield and Sacramento stay in business largely thanks to downstate New York, Chicago and vicinity and Los Angeles County.

Of $8 billion in state sales tax revenues, Pennsylvania receives one-fourth of the total from seven counties, Philadelphia and its four suburban counties and two counties around Pittsburgh, according to state documents.

What kind of money does that leave for a city or a county, or a state? When they are in trouble, they must find ways to compensate. Often, the methods are outlandish and extreme, maybe enough to induce a fatal heart attack.

An account in The New York Daily News reported that Robert Hudson, 72, drove his wife Doris, also 72, to a Queens Village pharmacy on Jan. 14 so she could obtain medicine, and she took her seat belt off when they arrived.

Two police officers arrived, accused her of not wearing the belt and told her she would receive a summons, but she had no identification with her.

Hudson’s attorney, Bonita Zelman, told a Daily News reporter that police prohibited her husband from driving home to get the identification, so instead he spent 45 minutes walking home a half-mile back and forth.

While he was gone, Mrs. Hudson obtained her medicine and the officers wrote her a summons on the basis of her name and address from the prescription, the News reported.

The Hudsons subsequently returned to the car and drove off. After driving a block or more, Robert Hudson collapsed behind the wheel and later died at Franklin Hospital.  

“There was no reason not to let him drive home,” Zelman raged. “He wasn’t the one getting the summons. Instead, they had him walk home. He tried to walk as fast as he could, but he’s 72 years old and some of the walk is uphill.”

Mrs. Hudson disputed police claims that the officers were willing to write the summons without inconveniencing Mr. Hudson.

The News quoted an unidentified police official who said the officers “showed poor judgment.”

Reading between the lines, if Mrs. Hudson’s story is true, the officers were probably under relentless pressure to return to the police station with a stack of tickets that would generate wads of cash for the city.

Police officers elsewhere in New York have complained about being forced to make quotas, and this is typical of many local and state governments, and they do this with agencies other than police departments.

The Hudson episode would be an extreme example of how New York gropes for new money, but it is no isolated incident. A few years ago, some women were each fined $250 for wading into the ocean at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn after 7 p.m. Even if they violated the law, why were the fines so steep?

Not only members of City Council but also state legislators fumed over a plan for the fire department to charge at-fault motorists $365 and $490 for any kind of car accident with the intention of raising $1 million yearly, a tiny fraction of the department’s $60 million budget gap.

“This cracks open a door that if we don’t close now, they’ll kick open and start charging fees for 911 or garbage pickup,” state Sen. Eric Adams of Brooklyn told a Daily News reporter.

Added Councilman Peter Vallone of the Astoria section of Queens: “Firefighters are supposed to provide help, not assess damage and who is to blame. They are simply not set up to be judge and jury at the scene.”

More than 3.2 million parking tickets were contested in 2010, 15 percent higher than those contested the year before, stated the 2010 Mayor’s Management Report, according to the News. More than $600 million from parking tickets were collected by the Finance Department in 2010.

New Jersey’s school aid cuts had a strange downhill impact. Gov. Chris Christie axed state aid to the schools by $1 billion to contend with the state’s $11 billion budget gap. After losing $1.5 million from the state, Haddonfield’s school district initiated a campaign to attract tuition-paying students from outside the district for 10 students per grade between sixth and 10th grades, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The primary reason is to raise revenue because of the loss of state aid,” said Superintendent Richard Perry.

School officials in the Los Angeles United School District – second largest in America – had hoped to raise up to $18 million by seeking corporate sponsorships to make a dent in budget cuts. In November, 2010, 1,000 employees were let go in a new round of layoffs, the NY Times reported.

School board members who approved the corporate sponsorship program in December found the move distasteful. “The reality is public funding is not funding public education,” Steve Zimmer said. Smaller school districts have been permitting naming rights for their stadiums for a long time, but Los Angeles is the biggest district to take this step.

The D.C. Council in Washington considered a bill in December 2010 to force homeless families to prove they reside in Washington before they can be admitted to a shelter, according to The Washington Post. Council members argued during a meeting that the homeless shelters are frequently overwhelmed.

“We cannot be the hotel for Virginia and Maryland residents,” said bill co-sponsor Tommy Wells, a Democrat.

Mary M Cheh, also a Democrat, said, “I think in its various applications it’s going to be cruel.”

When New Yorkers suffered through a mammoth snowstorm, the city could pull in $500,000 from issuing 9,910 summonses to people who failed to move their vehicles when its alternate-side parking rules resumed on Monday, Feb. 7, 2011, following the deluge of snow and ice, the Times reported.

Spoiled motorists whined that their cars were still trapped by snow and ice, and therefore they could not move them to legal spots. Talk about entrapment.    

American Vision – Prologue

Prologue of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

Bruce Ticker has written a new book American Vision. He has given us permission to publish this work as a weekly series. Here is the prologue.

Even on a day when almost nothing happens, the course of American history can be set for more than two centuries.

One such day was July 17, 1787. The birth of the Connecticut Compromise is customarily dated to July 16, 1787, when the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved a fresh but flawed legislative system, as part of a broader package of provisions for the budding Constitution.

Prior to 10 a.m. on the 17th, delegates from the most populous states to the Convention gathered at what is now Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to assess the convention’s vote from the day before.

The Connecticut Compromise created a split form of government: Each member of the House of Representatives would represent the same number of Americans, on a proportionate basis, and each state would be represented by the same number of senators regardless of population.

More after the jump.
The compromise split the difference between the Virginia Plan for proportionate representation in both chambers and the response to the Virginia delegates, the New Jersey Plan. New Jersey’s delegates, afraid that the large states would overwhelm smaller states like New Jersey, demanded equal representation in all chambers.

Under Convention rules, each delegate had the right to raise any issue whenever they wanted, even after a decisive vote was taken. That means the issue could be reopened on any given day, and that day was July 17.

The main players of this caucus – Virginians James Madison and Edmund Randolph, Pennsylvanians James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris, and Rufus King of Massachusetts – reopened the issue, however briefly. They met to discuss how to react to the July 16 vote on the basis of their insistence that both the House and Senate should represent the people on a proportionate basis.

As constitutional scholar Richard Beeman writes, Madison reported that “the time was wasted in vague conversation on the subject, without any specific proposition or agreement.”

In his book “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution,” Beeman characterizes the outcome this way: “He discovered much to his chagrin that only a handful of delegates felt as strongly about the issue as he did, and no one was willing to risk the outcome of the Convention on it.”

So on March 4, 1789, the newly-revamped Congress convened in New York City for the first time at Wall and Nassau streets, eight blocks southeast of the future site of the demolished World Trade Center. Actually, it took roughly a month before either chamber had a quorum. Come April 30, George Washington was inaugurated at the same site as the first president of the United States.

Madison and the other four were apprehensive about a Senate where each state is authorized to send the same number of senators to Congress. As Beeman puts it, “They held the principled view that it was wrong to give any state government, be it a large state or a small one, too much weight and authority within the national government. The only way to avoid that injustice was to represent the people according to their numbers.”

History would repeatedly prove Madison and associates to be right. For example, the senators from New Jersey, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and Maryland, Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, discovered in 2010 that the wealthy would retain their tax cuts and health-care reform would be watered down. Delaware Sens. Thomas R. Carper and Christopher A. Coons advocate for most of the same concerns affecting the three states.

Such lapses are mainly rooted in how the Senate is composed in combination with its much-abused filibuster rule.

More than two centuries earlier, the chief opponents of proportionate representation in the Senate represented Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Though Delaware ranks 45th in population with 844,000 residents, New Jersey now ranks 11th with 8.7 million people and Maryland is 19th, population 5.6 million, according to Census Bureau figures. With 19.5 million people, New York is now the third most populous state.

Many of the 37.5 million Americans from these states are paying today in large part because of the Connecticut Compromise.

Independents: Might 2012 be the Year of the 3rd Party Candidate?

Two-Party System— Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

The current winner take all system for U.S. Presidential elections certainly encourages a two-party system. Candidate from smaller parties do run, along with independent candidates, but their vote totals are usually a small footnote in the records of history.

Might this coming election be one of the occasions where a third-party candidate or independent candidate can make a major splash, affect the election or even win? According to Politico:

The public has had it with Washington and conventional politics. It has lost trust and respect in the conventional governing class. There is mounting evidence voters don’t see President Barack Obama or the current crop of GOP candidates as the clear and easy solution. As Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg argues, it seems likely if not inevitable an atmosphere this toxic and destabilized will produce an independent presidential candidate who could shake the political system.

Polito suggests six possible independent candidates and invites readers to nominate their own.

I see three kinds of candidates who might be motivated to run for President:

  • Far Left,
  • Right, and
  • Far Right.

Right

Their is a heated battle for the soul of the Republican party between establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman which represent its corporate base, and Tea party candidates with a lot of grassroots momentum behind them.

If a tea party candidate like Rick Perry,  Michelle Bachmann or Herman Cain wins the Republican Nomination and the economy continues to show weakness, many experts would see an opportunity for a third-party to seize the center. One possibility is Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NY). He was a registered Democrat until he ran for Mayor of New York City in 2001 as a Republican, and has been an independent since 2007. He has a net worth of over $18 billion, so he could easily get in late and still run a self-finance (Perot-style) campaign.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) has had a peculiar performance at the Republican Presidential debates often criticizing the Republican party as a whole for its backwards stands on issues from global warming, evolution and homosexuality. This does not sound like a good strategy for winning the Republican nomination, but it does lay the ground for a possible third-party bid next year.

Similarly, more “moderate” candidates like Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Mayor Rudy Giulliani (R-NY), and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) refused to run in a race in which they would be more moderate than the majority of Republican primary and caucus goers. Similarly, Gov. Tim Pawlenty performed anemically and had to drop out. However, they may be willing to try their luck to pick up a plurality of the vote against President Obama and a tea party candidate especially if the economy continues to show weakness.

Far Right

Mitt Romney is the current leader in the Republican primary. He is polling around 25%, has considerable money behind him and the prediction market inTrade gives him a 55.8% chance of getting the nomination. However, most Tea Party supporters can not tolerate moderate positions which Romney holds (or at least once held when he was Governor of Massachusetts). For example, some of them equate abortion to murder and consider Romney to be insufficiently pro-Life. They would consider opposing Romney to be a moral imperative and could jump behind a third-party candidate on the extreme right.

Perhaps Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) is waiting for just such an opportunity. We could also see current Republican party candidates such as Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) or Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) willing to jump ship and run as an independent against Romney. Other people mentioned in the past like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Donald Trump could or have considered running as an independent.

With all these possible candidates being discussed, how much of an impact will they make. Will they pass by unnoticed? Will they be kingmakers? Do they have any chance to win? Prediction market inTrade shows a 2.7% chance of a successful Presidential bid by a third-party or independent candidate, so I guess “the market has spoken”. A win by a third-party or independent candidate is not totally out of the question.

Keep your eyes and ears open. This may be an election which will make history yet again.

More after the jump.
Far Left

Some supporters of Obama in 2008 are unhappy Obama’s willingness to compromise with Republicans, but getting nothing in return. They are upset that the Defense of Marriage Act has not been repealed, the Bush tax cuts were extended, no cap has been placed on carbon emissions, we did not get a single payer health care system, and we have not pulled out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanimo.

Perennial candidate Ralph Nader will surely run again. Perhaps he will be joined by film-maker Michael Moore, or Democracy for America founder, former DNC Chairman Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT), or Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Already, Nader is planning “to run a slate of six primary “challengers” to the president, with each focusing on issues of ideological concern. The point of this initiative is not so much to displace the president as it is to move Obama and the party toward the left — an in so doing to provide the themes and the energy to excite the Democratic base and draw new voters to the polls in 2012.”

Even candidates with small amounts of support can affect to overall result of the election. For example, the “official result” of the 2000 race between Al Gore, Jr. and George W. Bush hinged on a 537 vote margin in the State of Florida. This margin was dwarfed not only by the vote count of the 3rd party candidate Ralph Nader (Green Party, 97,488 votes) but also by

  • 4th place Pat Buchanan (Reform Party, 17,484 votes),
  • 5th place Harry Browne (Libertarian, 16,415 votes),
  • 6th place John Hagelin (Natural Law/Reform Party, 2,281 votes)
  • 7th place Monica Moorehead (Workers World Party, 1,804 votes),
  • 8th place Howard Phillips (Constitution Party, 1,371 votes),
  • 9th place David McReynolds (Socialist Party USA 622 votes),
  • and even 10th place James E. Harris, Jr. (Florida Socialist Workers Party, 562 votes).

History of Third-Party and Independent Presidential Campaigns

Sometimes third-party candidates achieve stronger results. These are the candidates since the Civil War which gathered double-digit support on election day:

  • 1992: Businessman Ross Perot ran as an independent. He got 18.9% of popular vote, and came in second place in Maine (ahead of George H. W. Bush) and Utah (ahead of Bill Clinton).

  • 1968: Former Gov. George Wallace ran on the American Independent Party line. He got 13.5% of the popular vote, winning 5 states totally 46 electoral votes (AR, LA, MS, AL, GA).

  • 1924: Sen. Robert M. La Follette (WI) ran as a progressive, splitting the Democratic vote, leading to the reelection of Republican incumbant President Calvin Coolidge. He got 16.6% of the popular vote and won his home state of Wisconsin (13 electoral votes).

  • 1912: Theodore Roosevelt ran as the Bull Moose Party candidate hoping to return to the White House. He finished with 27.4% of the popular vote (winning 6 states totaling 88 EV). He bettered the incumbent William Howard Tart (23.0% of popular vote, 8 EV) but in the end he lost of the Democrat Woodrow Wilson (42.0% of popular vote, 435 EV).

  • 1860: Abraham Lincoln (R-IL) won in a 4-way race with 39.8% of the popular vote, carrying 18 states which gave him a majority in the Electoral College (180 electoral votes). John C. Breckinridge (Southern Democrat-KY) took 18.1% of the popular vote during 11 southern states (72 electoral votes). John Bell (Constitutional Union-TN) took 12.6% of the popular vote carrying his home state of Tennessee as well as Virginia and Kentucky (39 electoral votes). Finally, Stephen Douglas (D-IL) took 29.5% of the popular vote but only carried Missouri (and splitting New Jersey with Lincoln).